Girls who inspire us by Maga McWhinnie
Downhill skateboarding its a extreme sport that started growing in the last 5 years. It was always seen as a very dangerous sport where boys go hard down the hills riding "crazy" speedboards. As a surprise for many of us we could always find a few girls doing it too. They would be in their leather suits with similar boards and with such great courage that it would blow every boys mind and would inspire every girl around.
Therefore, over the years the number of girls joining in this sport has been growing and growing. Most of these girls did the same tours as the guys until they reached the world cup events from IGSA. I have had the luck to see them racing one of the gnarliest tracks for the world cup series: Mt. Panorama in Bathurst. It would be something I wouldn't miss, especially when they raced the finals on a fully rainy day at Mt. Panorama!
Being married with Rob and good friends with the Australian top riders, encouraged me to get on my board and start testing some little hills around 2008. With our recent move to Byron Bay this year, and Robs double accident, I started inviting some of Byron girls to come and skate with me, meeting up 3 or 4 times a week. The Byron Chiky Babe Bomb Squad was my inspiration to get more involved. Finding amazing girls who love longboarding as much as me, and trying to learn more about the sport, gave me the idea that it was time to push it to a higher level, and with great sponsors like Hopkin, the Early team, Heelside Magazine, Unplugged and with great coaches around, the chicky babes grew up.
With the start of the Australian Girls longboarding, I’ve been posting some videos of the best riders around the world with the purpose to inspire them (as it worked with me). With a bigger number of female riders participating in races all around Australia, and with the constant requests I get every day from new girls wanting to join this group, I decided to contact the World Top Riders that I have the pleasure to know and get them to share their knowledge, experience, mind and love for this Sport.
This is for all the girls around Australia, Peru and other countries that are realizing how much they enjoy their longboards. Let’s share this Joy!
After winning all her races in the world cup I caught up with a lovely friend...
Name: Katie Neilson
Age: 24 June 5, 1987! (Don’t listen to the IGSA event guide that says I was born in ’83!)
Where are you from: Born and raised in Vancouver, baby!
What do you ride: Landyachtz! haha, duh! Nah, I ride a custom little switch 3-7 cause it’s a perfect inbetween to be able to do both freeride and downhill with nothing other than a bushing adjustment. Currently working on my own model of board, and as much as I thought I was just gonna modify the switch 37; the one I just cut out is a small, wide little topmount that I’m having a blast on! Look for it in photos from this weekends Windsport Canada Cup! I’ll be racing on it all weekend!
Sponsors: Landyachtz and Daddies Board Shop! Both have been absolutely amazing in making sure that I am capable of doing what I do best! Both are relationships I am looking forward to being in for a long time to come…
How long have you been skating and how long have you been into downhill: I’ve been skating since I was a teenager, parks and bowls mostly. With parks, I could do the kickflips n’ shit, a boardslide on a handrail here and there but I could never grind anything and found myself more at home in the transition and bowls. I kicked the crap out of myself learning how to take the tight lines on some bowl runs but in the long run, I really think it gave me a sense of board control that I couldn’t have gotten on my longboard without the background experience. When I was 19, I got into longboarding. The first year I was still skating a lot of bowl and wouldn’t be seen in public with a longboard, but it only took a couple seasons for me to completely fall in love with the scene and fully get into it. I haven’t looked back since, and nowadays, the skateboarders I was originally insecure about in regards to their attitude with me longboarding congratulate me on my success in the skateboarding industry… they are happy for me and am glad that I found something I am good at. Im sure they all quietly wish they could be a part of this family as well…
What is it that you love most about this sport: That’s a good question; there are a handful of things I absolutely love about this sport. 1-the family. Never in my life have I encountered a scene that is as close knit yet international as we are. I have friends from all over the world that are the closest people to me, and through good fortune we are able to travel and experience and grow together; It is something I absolutely cannot take for granted! Secondly, the feeling. Oh my god the feeling. You know that cold morning run, or the late night last run where you are just riding either by yourself, or with a couple close friends you’ve just had a rad day with? Your not on your toes scaring yourself, you’re not trying to be first down the hill…your just smiling, confident and rolling through a multitude of memories that make up the smile on your face as your heading down the hill. Not many things can make you feel that way, or can make me feel that way, at least.
Can you call it lifestyle?: Lifestyle, bra! (insert brazier) Haha! Yeah, I can definitely call it lifestyle. All that means is the style in which you live your life, and I live my life 90% skateboarding. Maybe 30% of that is actually on my board, but the rest is surrounded by it somehow, so yes… lifestyle. I think the guns and the liquor and the green just fill in the spaces in between. Everything we do is directed towards what’s coming up next, and what’s coming up next is always skateboarding. You can’t know what you’re doing every weekend between March and November and not define it as ‘lifestyle’.
What has been the best moment in all your skateboarding experience?: My first though was that this question was easy, but now it’s becoming hard. The best moment….whoa, there have been so many! I’ll tell you what, my best moment in life; my most recent growing moment, came at the hands of skateboarding…indirectly. Being in Europe and walking around Prague changed my life in a way I could not have ever imagined. I had never seen buildings so old that they could actually house the medieval legends I have only heard about in books or movies. I knew this other world existed in the back of my mind, but until last month, I really didn’t have a clue. I have expanded my mind so much just by seeing a god damn castle that I can’t even explain the difference between the me yesterday, and the me today. Thanks Skateboard, I owe you one…
Who’s riding inspires you?: I am lucky to be so blessed by being surrounded by truly some of the most amazing downhiller’s on this planet. I find that I pick up the style of whoever is riding next to me so I really have adopted a style that is just a mash of the people who have influenced me from day 1; the only thing that defines it is the question of whether im on a top mount or a dropped deck for the day. So many people on the EH TEAM would be my favorite skaters even if I wasn’t on the EH TEAM, and it’s always been that way. Mike McGoldrick has an infectious level of support that I try to take with me when encouraging others, because the reality is, it really does help me out when we’re on the hill and I wanna get into something good. Travis Craig has this aura of not giving a rats ass that I really dig and if I could take anything from him it would just be the smile on his face, even in a sticky situation. Kyle Martin is out of this world; I could watch him do back side stand ups all fucking day and never once get bored, or jealous of the fact that I can’t even get close to what he’s doing. Him on film is one thing, but listening to his wheels in person is entirely another. Dillon Stephens rides with a consistency and quiet confidence that I have really tried to adopt a little… Even throughout the last 6 months where he was just sick and on the sidelines, I would look to him as the person that I wanted to be consistent for. I was always so ‘go, go, go!’ to the point where I was falling in places where I shouldn’t have been and it’s been through the influence of him that I have just calmed myself down, on and off board to a point of a good, steady flow. G-Mack, George Mackenzie is another one. Always stoked, always having a good time and always ripping it up hard…If half the world was as cool as he is, everyone would be having a hell of a good time. I guess that means Fern St. for the win, eh?
Favorite Places to skate?: There are obviously a lot of really cool places to skate in Vancouver. BP/CF Runs in West Van will probably never get old, and hitting up the south van alleys when it’s raining is just an unbelievably fun experience. Capitol Hill is an area in Burnaby that we head to when we wanna get straight up pitted; I’m talking minimum 50 foot stand up slides and some of the steepest roads you could imagine yourself ever being on. Outside of Vancouver, my best times skating down a hill would have to be the Bathurst Newtons Nation Track in Australia, James Kelly’s home road in Petaluma, California and most recently, Col de la Bonnette in the French Alps. 37km of beautiful hairpins, pavement, and my favorite…visibility!!! You can see every corner from like, a mile away! No surprises so you can just tear shit up and not worry about it.
How long have you been competing and how many times have you made the podium?: This season, 2011, is my 5th year competing in racing. I’ve made the womens’ podium since the beginning but this year has been my biggest year at an undefeated 7 races, with 4 world cup wins so far. I have a bunch more racing to do this season but I have had to be really picky and choosy with which ones I do because last year I did quite the toll on my body when I was getting heavy into learning the big toeside pre drifts and stand up slides… unfortunately I can’t just pick up my board and head down the hill every weekend right now, I really have to be aware of what my body is telling me.
Best tricks accomplished?: haha, tricks are for kids yo! Especially when you have a blowing knee! I used to be able to Ollie of like, 4 or 5 stairs; I can still kickflip and other than that…I guess in longboard status… big stand up slides? Haha… I don’t know what to say about that one. We’re longboarders, we ride down hills. Going 109km/h was a pretty good trick.
In your opinion, whats the most important thing about downhill: Helmet or hell met.
Whats the gnarliest injury you’ve had?: had? How about have? I’m currently operating on a shoulder that’s come out 4 times and a knee that’s just had an MRI confirm that I have a torn MCL and some surface disruption on my ACL. As I was saying in the earlier question about how long I’ve been competing, last year really took a toll on my body and I think a lot of it has to do with a combination of me being so small, and me being so stupid at times. They say ‘If you’re not falling, you’re not learning’ and I’ve definitely done my fair share of learning…what not to do.
Do you still get scared sometimes riding?: Yes, all the time. Pretty much every time I get on my skateboard, I stand at the top of the hill unsure of if I am capable of getting down. Usually the story goes like this; I approach a new hill I’ve never skated, the boys are stoked and all of a sudden I’m just quiet. I am not a quiet person, so for future reference… if I’m quiet it’s the result of one of two things; I am really hurt, or I am really scared. Take your pick based on the situation.
What Scares you and how do you confront it?: What scares me the most is knowing the absolutely dangerously painful learning curve I had to go through to get to where I am now and I am terrified that some kids just aren’t going to give the roads the respect they deserve. I’m not convinced that skateboarders and motorists will ever be able to completely co-exist in peace because the reality is, what we do is dangerous…especially when there is no awareness for the public as to what we are doing. I think we are going to need a future of recreational pathways specific to gravity sports and established neighborhoods where the residents are cool with what we do and don’t panic when they see us on the roads. All this can happen in time, and if done right and in a respectful manor, one neighborhood will turn into 2, then 3, then 4 etc. The list goes on, especially as this becomes so popular for the younger generation… different blocks will have no choice but to be aware of what it’s kids are up to. It’s just a shame that its usually the stuck up, super rich areas that have all the good hills…
What do you still want to achieve in your DH career?: I don’t know, I guess get the championship title this year and then just map out my route next year to hit all the places where I know I have the most fun. I want to freeride more and film more and get involved with producing some soft goods along the line. I think my future career is going to have a good mix of skateboarding and creative work… we’ll see.
What do you think is still missing from the downhill scene?: Missing? Nothing. It’s our own thing and it is what it is. I guess more regional circuts. We gotta mario kart this shit…the numbers are getting large enough! Mushroom cup, star cup, lightning cup. Like…you can’t go to the next stage without being a champion in the other.
How would you describe the DH family?: You can’t describe it, you just gotta get in the van and know that your family will keep you safe and smiling.
What message would you leave to the girls in Australia and the rest of the world?: Make safe, confident passes and trust your gut! Oh, and go faster!!! It makes it a hell of a lot easier!!!
Stay tunned for next interview with Peruvian Shredder : Marisa Nuñes
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