Every year in May, hundreds of skaters from all around the world gather in Seattle for Wheels of Fortune (WOF) – the longest running and largest women’s skate event for women, trans, and/or gender non-conforming skaters in the world. Kristin Ebeling of The Skate Witchesstarted WOF in 2009, because contests specific for non-male skaters were few and far between. With contestants ranging from age 7 - 49, it is still one of the only events open to our community. WOF runs annually from a Friday evening to Sunday evening and includes a welcoming party, demos, video premieres, fingerboarding comp, art shows, the “Witch Hunt” (skate-themed scavenger hunt), and, finally, the contest. This three day, almost music festival-esque lineup lends a non-competitive, uniting foundation around contest skating, satiating those normally riled with nerves and anxiety. Upon arrival at ground zero – All Together Skatepark – I feel a buzz in the air and it’s probably a little voice in my head telling me there are about to be more X chromosomes than I’ve ever encountered in my life. Just mere feet away from me are Nora, Poppy, Mariah, Jenn, Fabi and a swarm of others. I can hardly comprehend that this many womxn skate. It’s what I imagine sorority sisters feel when they are pledging-- if they pledged to skate!
What is happening? ––– Where am I?
The first year I attended I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of womxn skating around me. Most of the time I was either in shock, or unable to think or speak properly. Perhaps a normal reaction given how unusual it is to be surrounded by over 200 non-dudes that skate. You can pinpoint a nuanced, exerted confidence in every single person. WOF exudes an elevated sense of existence that is not only liberating but uplifting in that ‘freshly concluded the self-help book of all self-help books’ kind of way. Everyone – whether pro, amateur, novice, or noob – was completely open and willing to chat, skate, hug or help with my vertically challenged ollie. The love for each other and for skateboarding was spilling over in abundance.
A good percentage of the WOF attendees continue on their pilgrimage to Vancouver to spend the next week galavanting around BC on the lead up to Stop, Drop & Roll (SDR), an event started by Rosie Archie three years ago.Inspired by what Kristin Ebeling had created with WOF, every morning she’d commence a virtual team meeting until a destination was chosen, and with a raucous 3rd iteration this year, the wheels continue to roll!
While WOF is akin to going to the womxn’s skate version of Sunday service, the week in between WOF & SDR is like skate summer camp. Every one of our abodes was filled to the brim, spilling out of bedrooms and couches onto the floors, tiptoeing into whatever unfilled inch of space you could to set up camp. This was my favorite part of the whole week-and-a-half mission: there’s no pressure or schedule, and it’s all about letting the big squad energy taking over. Each new or old connection is deepened with every experience, and a real family is formed. Stop, Drop & Roll finally arrives as the whirlwind continues, concluding with more females, trans, and non-binary folx skating Plaza than ever before. By the end, all of our personalities fit into a skate puzzle that’s completed. We’re all a little too sore, but so full of each other that it feels like a loss when it’s time to leave. There’s some somber kickflips and happy sad goodbyes. Then you wake up the next morning, realize you haven’t slept properly in a week, and start dreaming about next year’s Pilgrimage.
Womxn's skateboarding is a grassroots movement striving for equality, diversity, and inclusivity without bounds. It’s a beautiful thing to witness and be a part of such an exponential growth in the industry, specifically within our own, local scene. Words hardly do it justice – this intangible confidence and kinship that resonates whilst skating in the presence of other womxn. There is an energy, a precise softness that makes skating more dynamic. I often laud Instagram for the growth of womxn in skating, because it brought representation to the masses. Womxn all around the world can now share and watch the progress and previously unreachable feats of their contemporaries at the tap of a finger.
I’ve pondered why didn’t start skating earlier – Why wait until 25? Why did I find skating so intimidating, even during my time working at a skate shop? The answer to the above questions was confidence and community. Because I didn’t see anyone who looked like me, I never felt as though I could do it. Skating isn't the most approachable sport. Along with being dangerous itself, people at parks can be awkward and silent. Being in your own head can perpetuate a narrative that caters to the self, the individual, instead of to each other. It’s for this reason the community needs to support the kind of changes that makes everyone feel welcome. Adding different voices creates a fuller sound. The environment surrounding skating today is filled with more inclusivity, safer spaces, and platforms than ever before. Social media can be used to broadcast your unique-ness and herd like minds together quickly. That is represented by the exponential number of women I see organizing meetups and skating Plaza every day. Each one of us is responsible for starting and supporting the events that we want to be part of, ones that collectively inspire the culture to grow and change. I look forward to the day I take a photo at any skatepark and see every type of human represented in it. — Jess Sung
All photos by Jess Sung