Creating space in Montreal’s skate scene

Aidan Martin, Creative Director

For a culture that is built on subverting the conventional, the skateboarding community must strive to create more diverse spaces. What is largely depicted in popular magazines and videos disregard the reality of the skate scene. While there are companies and media working to increase visibility, more recognition must be given to femme-identifying, queer, and non-white members of the community.

Although there is a need for structural changes through sponsorships, media, and financial support within the industry, there have been safer spaces emerging around the world to address this lack of representation and establish equal opportunities. Companies like The Skate Witches, Meow Skateboards, and Glue Skateboards, among others, have been founded out of this absence to improve representation without tokenizing skaters by simply fulfilling a quota. Instead, these groups aim to showcase skateboarding from a more realistic and inclusive perspective.

While these issues are universal, Montreal is lucky to have a more inclusive skate scene with individuals who are actively creating these spaces—especially for those who are new to skating, feel intimidated or unsafe at parks, or are looking for a community to share how special skateboarding is. These are some of the women who have greatly impacted my experience skateboarding in Montreal.

Erika Hornecker

“I actually feel less comfortable skating on the street [than back home in Strasbourg]. I think because there’s such a big skate culture here there’s also the drawbacks of that [....] I’ve never heard anybody explicitly [say] ‘Oh that person is a poser’ or whatever but I feel a lot less comfortable cruising around here than I do back home. Whenever I’m just holding my board and not skating and walking, I get so anxious because I’m like ‘I know how to use it’ [....] It’s crazy because I have never once thought that [somebody is a poser] when I’ve seen someone carry a skateboard but for some reason, I feel like people would think that about me. That’s why I bike everywhere.”

“I’ve noticed a lot more non-straight white men skating lately, at first mostly on the internet but now going to parks and stuff. I think that’s really awesome.”

“For instance the [Daisys] skate event we went to [...] people [cheered] for tricks that would be considered basic beginner tricks, but it’s nice to have that kind of support around.”

“I think that there [are] people making an effort to [create] communities for the non-majority in skateboarding which I think is really, really sick. I mean Montreal’s really awesome, I love it. It makes such a big difference to go into a park and have people that you know that you can turn to and ask for advice.”

“Before I started watching ‘Girl Skate Network,’ my only exposure to skate culture was through this PS2 game I had called ‘Skate’ and it was all male characters, and you’d occasionally see videos of guys doing these insane tricks. I think because of that, it felt very unattainable. But with new creators sort of making [videos] that are just them hanging out and skating and doing more humanely possible things, it’s definitely more reassuring to see that.”

“Annie Guglia would organize this [monthly skate]. I used to go to them pretty regularly. They were super fun. I was getting to talk to a pro skater which was really cool. I’m a big fan [of Annie]. I asked her to teach me how to heelflip the other day and she was like, ‘Man I suck at heelflips, I hate them, I try to avoid them at all costs,’ and I was like, ‘Yo! I suck at heelflips too.’ I feel like as far as pro athletes go, skateboarders are some of the most approachable ones.”

“Dude, the number of dreams I have where I’m doing the sickest shit, and [then] I wake up [is a lot….] I honestly think you can manifest a trick. I definitely believe it, because I hadn’t been able to do [frontside 180s]. I’d been trying for the past year and there was always something wrong with what I was doing. I just watched so many videos of people doing them and I had dreams where I was, amongst other things, doing frontside 180s. I was doing 5050s down stuff, and the whole time in the dream I [thought], ‘Wow I didn’t know I could do all this, it’s so easy.’ And then, I went to the park, like, two months ago and landed one and I was like, ‘Oh, that’s how it works.’ You just think about it really, really hard and you envision yourself doing it and you just do it.”

“Skating is so fun that it doesn’t really matter [....] No one tries a trick and lands it on the first try, you know? You need to start somewhere and that start is failure.”

Frédérique (Flor) Guay, Daisys’ Founder

“[The] goal [of Daisys] is to represent minorities, creative and innovative people, share personal stories and discuss the mental and emotional benefits that stem from skateboarding and arts.”

I started skating [at] Van Horne and joined Les Vagabonnes. Les Vagabonnes is a women-led community of skateboarders based in Montreal that started over 15 years ago. I was introduced to some skaters at the park including Frédérique Luyet, one of [the founders of] Les Vagabonnes [....] The level of skating blew my mind [....] It was so powerful. Something I had never seen before. It came clear to me that we needed more visibility.”

“I was deeply in love with skateboarding. Despite the progress being made, the skateboarding scene remained a big picture of white male leaders and I wanted bigger changes.”

“As a woman who always was called ‘a tomboy,’ I really felt like I was engaging with a community who could understand me. The feeling you get when you meet a community that support[s] you and your authenticity despite differences, I wanted to share this feeling with others, who might have felt the same way.”

“One day, we all got together to skate. Fred showed me the new camera she had just received as a gift [....] I remember the moment like it was yesterday. I was having one of the best days of my life. We were all sitting on the ledge by the Van Horne bowl with Dina, Frédérique Luyet, and Veronica and I told them, ‘This, this right here is truly something. I want to make a zine. I want to showcase women’s skateboarding and the creativity behind it. Let’s share this. Let’s talk about this. Let’s open about wellbeing and community.’ They all supported my idea.”

“Within a few months, a diverse and inclusive community was gathered. The zine was released in the fall along a video premiere we had filmed over the summer. The zine ended up being the first womxn’s skate zine ever made in Montreal.”

“We had the chance to work along Vans and hosted art workshops and skate sessions. With the help of Rollin Skateshop and many [others], we collected unwanted gear and donated new and used equipment to those in need. We wanted to create and use space to push for diversity. We wanted to provide a platform to espouse inclusivity, positivity, and unity. To this day, Daisys is still the most loving family I have yet been in. We are working together to help and build self-awareness and self-esteem. We want to normalize communications and want you to feel the space you are allowed to use and grow within the skate community.”

Liesl VanWyk

“From an outside perspective, [skateboarding is] still definitely male-dominated, very intimidating, and a very scary atmosphere [....] Being the only girl at the skatepark sucks a lot of the time. But on the flip side, it's really awesome. It seems like it’s really cool to be part of the community at a time right now where things are kind of shifting and being in the middle of it while that’s happening.”

“Being a queer woman in the skate scene is really cool because, I don’t know about other areas, but in Montreal so many of the people in the woman skate scene are queer and it’s cool to just have that environment where everyone is just chilling and having fun [....] It’s kind of like a double-edged sword of being a woman, a queer woman, [which] has been a disadvantage at times because [the skate scene is] so intimidating, but now I feel like there’s so much benefit and its just such a cool community and to be a part of that.”

“The skate scene in Montreal is better than my wildest dreams. It’s crazy that I feel like I have such a sense of community and a group of people that I can skate with during a pandemic [....] It’s just so inclusive and positive and heartwarming, I don’t know. It’s so weird, like is this a dream? Like what is happening?”

“[Skateboarding has] taught me [to] invest in myself, [to] not be so hard on myself, and [to] just be okay with progressing at whatever rate I'm progressing at. Knowing that if I put in the effort and the time in doing something that is really hard and seems impossible at the time, and I just keep on working at it, then eventually I just can do it [....] The sky is the limit [....] It’s just been such a great tool for my mental health. I notice such a direct correlation between how much I’m skating and how well I’m doing mentally.”

“I keep skating because if I don’t skate, I’ll literally die. My favourite thing about skateboarding is having an outlet for all of my energy, both physical and creative energy, and having a way to connect with people [....] With skateboarding, I feel like I have that release and like, ‘Ok, I’m here with my board, it’s just me and I can do whatever the fuck I want to do.’ I don’t know man, it’s so therapeutic, it’s fucking crazy.”

Annie Guglia

“When I started skating, we didn’t have social media or YouTube to get inspiration from. It took me two years after I started skating to see a video part from a woman (Vanessa Torres) in the movie Elementality. Two years! Social media really democratized visibility in skateboarding and I think that’s why we’re seeing such a big growth of women [and] non-cis white men in skateboarding right now.”

“[G]rowing up I had a group of girls to skate with. We called ourselves The Skirtboarders, and I know how important being part of this group has been for me, so when I had the platform to do so around 2014, I started organizing girls skate meet-ups, and that initiative evolved into Vans monthly meet-ups, which evolved into safe spaces for anyone who wants to skate/learn how to skate through Daisys Angels.”

“In 2016, I was finishing my master’s right about the time when it was announced that skateboarding would make its Olympic debut at the Tokyo 2020 Games. I wasn’t sure what to think about it at first. Skateboarders in my time had a dominant discourse about hating corporations trying to enter and change our sport [or] subculture, [such as] Nike [and] the Olympics. I still went to our first Canadian championships in 2018, just to see [...], and I won, which opened doors for me to start the qualifying process for the Olympics. In parallel, I started seeing bursaries for contests becoming equal because of the Olympics, a huge growth in visibility for women in skateboarding and also [those] from countries that were [previously] ignored, as well as an impressive amount of new skateparks being built. I realized that this ‘mainstream’ wave of attention would probably be good for skateboarding after all.”

“Physically, [skateboarding] keeps me moving. Socially, it’s my community and my lifestyle. I met most of my friends through skateboarding, I travel for skateboarding, it’s the reason for 90 per cent of my social interactions if I’m being honest. Mentally, it’s just a great self-development tool. It teaches resilience, patience, perseverance, trust, confidence, risks, which then translates into other aspects of life.”

Favourite Skateboarders & Videos:

Erika: Leo Baker and Vanessa Torres, ‘One Stop’ by Adidas
Flor: Cher Strauberry, Chris Milic and Marbie, “SMUT” by Glue Skateboards, There Skateboards Euro Video
Liesl: Fabiana Delfino and Daewon Song, ‘Vans Presents: Credits’ by Shari White
Annie: Franky Villani, Tom Knox, Mark Suciu and Samarria Brevard, “Quit Your Day Job

Photos: Aidan Martin / The McGill Tribune