What it’s like being a female in male dominate sports- the inside look
Natalie Erb getting in a sunset session. Photo by: Logan Bowles
I’ve always been a girl that dislikes “conventional” girl activities. I played with Star Wars action figures instead of dolls, I spent my Saturday afternoons playing catch with my brothers instead of shopping and when my mom asked me if I wanted to be a cheerleader in elementary school I said, “No mom, I’m gonna be the one they cheer for!”
Needless to say, I was a sporty gal and would always push my limits to try new sports or activities. My favorite ones were board sports, particularly wakeboarding, surfing and skating. What I soon realized when trying to get more involved in the sports, was that many times, there were barely any girls around. When I would go out and sit on the surf line up, often times I was the only girl, or one of the very few that was out there. At the cable parks and skate parks, it was the same thing. Why are board sports such male dominated sports?
I interviewed three UF girls that rip and they give us the inside scoop on what it’s like being a girl that actively participates in these male dominated sports.
Photo by: Alex Sanderson
Marielle Magnin: Wakeboarding
Mar is a senior at UF, currently on the Wakeboard club’s exec-board and a team rider.
Photo credit: @theneenabeena's Instagram
Neena Schueller: Skating
Neena is a UF alumn, a sponsored longboarder that rode for Original Skateboards and now rides for Land Yachtz and Freeride Surf and Skate Shop.
Photo by: R.O. Smith Photography
Natalie Erb: Surfing
Nerb is a sophomore, currently on the Surf Club exec and a team rider.
When did you first get into the sport and how’d you figure out you wanted to do it?
Mar: My uncle had a little fishing boat and we’d go behind the boat and mess around for fun which sparked my interest. I went to UF and found that there was a wake club and wanted to get involved! The club was actually looking for girls because not that many girls do it.
Neena: I got into it because saw a girl longboarding on YouTube and thought, “Oh my god I have to do that!” I didn’t have friends who did it so I learned by watching videos and practicing myself. It was a way to be outside and have fun.
Nerb: I don’t know why but I randomly started renting a board out in 8th grade. My best friend from home took me out to surf at her beach house all the time and definitely catapulted my love for surfing and now I’m stuck!
Getting into the sport did you feel a division, did you notice that this was a male dominated sport?
Mar: Definitely, there’s always more male competitions, always more male riders. The sport in general doesn’t have many women in it but the girls that are in it are doing seriously cool things. The first woman just landed the first double flip ever! The girls that are out there doing that stuff are a huge inspiration.
Neena: I noticed it was a male dominated sport especially because of the way the media displays the sport. The only real representation of a women skateboarder I had growing up was Reggie from Rocket Power… a cartoon!
Nerb: For sure! I wonder how males would feel if the entire lineup was female. It’d be weird for them, but we’re used to it!
Why do you think there aren’t as many girls out there?
Mar: Girls aren’t as encouraged to take it up as young because girls are perceived as delicate and people want to sort of protect them instead of pushing them to do sports that are a little more dangerous. Because of this, girls won’t usually take up the sport at a younger age.
Neena: Societies attitudes towards this for sure. Because skating’s a sport where you inevitably get hurt a lot, people think you have to be a man for it because you have to be more tough. It’s the way people grow up thinking what they can and can’t do and what is encouraged with positive reinforcement or not. Different things are encouraged for different people, which can shape a lot of peoples’ thoughts. But people can change their minds, and a lot do.
Nerb: I think there’s more guys because historically women are sort of a minority in most things in general. It’s something that relates to all sports. Women have been encouraged to play the traditional roles of staying at home and having children, no one was encouraging them to go out and surf. In the 50s a movie called Gidget, about a girl that surfs, definitely encouraged lot of girls to get into surfing.
Did you ever feel intimidated? Did being a girl ever hold you back? Did you have any challenges getting into the sport?
Mar: I remember going to a skate park once and a bunch of guys showed up and I got super intimidated. But then I asked myself, “Why am I intimidated?” And just went out and started skating! It turns out all the guys were super nice and encouraging.
I don’t know why we have that fear of going out and trying, because mostly the boys are all super nice. I guess it’s bread into you, how you were raised. We are raised not to be fearless like guys are, so you definitely have to fight against that and convince yourself to go out there. There really is nothing stopping you if other people are doing it. Once you fight against that initial intimidation, and overcome it, it’s really satisfying and you’ll usually find a really welcoming community. You just have to put yourself out there. Being a girl, you already start out at a disadvantage when you’re out there with a bunch of guys you don’t know. Often times they already underestimate you and you have to know what you’re doing so they respect you and invite you out again. The barriers we face are not from individuals but rather from society- which is harder to quantify. It’s the way we were raised that we have to fight against rather than a specific person that is barring us from entry.
Neena: Intimidation, a lot of the time, depends on who you’re surrounded by. Some people will give you a hard time whether they realize it or not. Being discredited can be really frustrating, often times people assume you don’t know what you’re talking about or that you don’t have any experience. At the same time though, a lot of people do see that it’s less common to have girls out there so a lot of people give positive support. There’s always a community of women out there! Sexism really affects the way people want to include you but as I got better it went away a bit. As I got better, I realized people respected me more. And it really shouldn’t be like that, people should respect women whether they’re good or not!
Things are changing though. With social media becoming more popular with younger generations, everyone can see different people doing these sports, encouraging more girls to get out there.
Nerb: I’m not really intimidated, I mean, I’m sort of desensitized to there always being more guys. It’s what I’m used to, it’s how it is. I’m actually even more intimidated when there’s a good amount of girls out there because it’s a change up!
Any advice for girls that want to go out there and start shredding?
Mar: Most people that are out there practicing the sport are just trying to do their own thing, trying to improve at their own pace. Once you’re comfortable enough to be like, “I don’t care we’re all just trying to get better”, it helps to not be intimidated.
Also, finding a community. We have nice guys that aren’t trying to exclude us and help you get better, but at the beginning it can be hard to find that. For sure find a “girl gang”, they’ll make you feel confident. As long as you love the sport and are sending it and trying to get better, people will respect that.
Neena: For sure putting myself out there and trying to make friends with anyone. Being extroverted helps a lot. If you want support, make an effort to reach out to people that want to support you. There is a lot of community, it’s just a big fragmented, you have to find it.
I’ve found that most people in the sport want other people to do it too. I’ve found that I can ask people for help and they’d give me advice. Don’t be afraid to ask for help!
The most important thing is to wear safety gear! It keeps your body going longer so that you can improve faster and there’s a mental advantage to it. You’re more encouraged to try harder things if you know you’ll be protected! Also, if you are shy and want to get better at first without judgement, hit the skate park really early in the morning so no one is there and you’ll have the whole park to yourself so you can get comfortable skating without any pressure.
Nerb: Get out there, meet people and have fun! There’s an awesome lady logger squad in Florida. I moved to Jax in the summer and met a whole group of girls that were awesome, always out by the pier. We keep in touch with a group chat of girls from all over Florida that are all amazing surfers. Don’t worry about what other people think. If you need help, people are willing to help you. Don’t be afraid to go at it! Jumping in, that first step, is always the hardest part. You learn, make mistakes, learn, make mistakes and keep learning.
The BIGGEST THING: don’t take things too seriously. It sounds cliché but a lot of times I’d get mad at myself If I wasn’t surfing well, but I realized it doesn’t matter at all, it’s all just for fun, so who cares!
These girls are great examples of what it means to push past the conventional, push past societal expectations and follow your passions. Something they all said in common was, when growing up, no one specifically encouraged them to try out board sports. In every case, it was sort of a personal drive. So, if you want to get out there and start ripping, send it! No one’s stopping you but yourself.