The Danger Girls of Skateboarding
A Group of Women are Taking on the Male-Dominated Skateboard Culture in North America
Safelights and red-hot Christmas bulbs lit the apartment. Only a few women graced the throng. It looked like an overcrowded darkroom posing as the lobby of a peep show — minus the photo enlargers and dominatrixes. Lovers hugged the walls sharing long midnight kisses while lonely buddies tightened their grips around a cold one. Figures, some hooded, started spray-painting one-night-socialite Hope Christerson’s walls. No fucks given. Get Born’s Friday The 13th Party had just hit a snag.
“It was crazy,” said Chanelle Rezko. “Some of them climbed on top of people’s shoulders to tag the walls.”
A little over two years ago, Rezko, a human relations student at Concordia, helped found Get Born, a non-profit online magazine dedicated to supporting the skateboarding culture in Montreal and Chicago. She persuaded co-founders Christerson and Liv Seidel—a green-hair-don’t-care idol—to make their mark documenting a lifestyle dominated by men. All three grew up in Chicago but moved to Montreal to study. They faced some heavy setbacks at first.
“It was really hard to get anybody to trust us,” said Seidel, a psychology major at Concordia. “People were like, ‘well, what do you guys know about skateboarding? What am I getting out of this?’”
My iPhone vibrates. A text message appears.
I stare at my cell trying to suppress a smile. One opinionated Tinder-obsessed editor —no doubt intimidated—had just fled. Moments earlier, five members of Get Born had invaded The Link office.
Slumped like a discarded banana peel, my spine shot up when Rezko slammed the doors open. Dressed in shades of black, the girls—all in their early twenties—could have started a riot.
Our runaway editor—he requested his name to be struck from this account—barely managed to mumble a quip to one of the girls.
Athena Gerakis and her friends pose for this week’s cover. Yet only a lion tamer could make her, Liv Seidel, Ayda Omidvar and Laura Buchanan stand in one place. Rezko proves to have the ability to marshal the girls. Her beauty reflects a keyed up attitude reminiscent of that college buddy who carries you home after she gets you plastered.
“I’ve been infatuated with the skate culture since I was 12,” Rezko said as I hang on every word like a newborn pup. I interviewed her a few weeks before the photoshoot. The Link staff hushed when she walked in. “I followed my older brothers to the skatepark to escape chaos at home.”
Similar to what transpired during the interview, I make the best attempt to force my sweat glands from bursting at the photoshoot. Seidel has been a friend of Rezko since their days as outsider tween girls, sipping slurpees on the ramps.
“After we moved here, Chanelle came up to me saying ‘I need to get involved in the skateboarding culture here, I’m thinking about starting a magazine’” Seidel said. “How can we do this?”
Barry Walsh first met Rezko at Underworld Cabaret, where he was DJing. Along with fellow skateboarding legend Marc Tison, Walsh helped save the gnarly Big O—an international skater sanctuary—from getting demolished and sold for parts. Impressed by the girls’ verve, Walsh took them under his wing.
“These are cool chicks basically into covering real skating in the city,” said Walsh. “They focus on the underground community rather than the competitions and all that commercial stuff. They’re creative, young and energetic so I hooked them up with key people.”
With their many connections, Get Born covers both the Chicago and Montreal scenes.
The girls get invitations to several events connected to skateboarding. They were even invited to Street League in Chicago last summer.
“I almost lost my mind because it was just so commercialized. It just seemed like a big mockery of skateboarding culture,” said Rezko. “Every skateboarder looked like a stock car.”
Despite her misgivings concerning big-name companies financing pro athletes, Rezko said she understands that this is a necessary evil.
“If you can make millions of dollars off of your skateboard then good for you, like, you should be sponsored by Nike or Red Bull or Mountain Dew,” she said.
Get Born also had help from Adam Green. They featured the well-known Montreal skateboarder online. Since then, they’ve collaborated on promoting Pool Block, a monthly competition at TRH-Bar. Like Walsh, Green is ecstatic about the potential of this young enterprise. I contacted the veteran over the phone.
“It’s hard to pinpoint what makes it work,” he said, his voice a rasp prone to curse-laden interjections. “I think they’re their own marketing. If you’re a 20-year-old with a boner, are you going on a dude’s site or on hot chicks? I’m not trying to sound sexist or anything, but…”
Omidvar’s probing eyes don’t let their guard down. As per usual, I’m fidgeting with some technical difficulty on my wireless flash transceiver. She stamps her feet and circles toward the exit. I try to reassure her by overcoming my natural pusillanimity. I introduce myself again. Her smile breaks the ice. She remembers me.
“That’s enough! Stop taking photos of me,” she said, loud enough for me to hear at the booming Get Born Friday The 13th Party. Her black cat ear hair clip contrasted with the deep red sheen that engulfed the scene.
She walked past me and into the crowd.
It’s still a wonder how revelers found the place. The girls had posted the wrong address on the Facebook event page. It was at Christerson’s apartment. The other location didn’t exist and the sheer number of people who showed up to this place of limbo had attracted a police cruiser.
Finding it had felt like a treasure hunt.
I snapped a few shots and got acquainted with a hookah to tamper my stage fright. This backfired. I lurched for the exit soon after.
Sometime later, a few idle hands broke the door leading to Christerson’s bedroom. The first few taggers created a domino effect.
“I’m still sick about it,” said Seidel. “At about 2:30, within five minutes walls were covered in graffiti. The front door is pretty much ruined. We all felt really disrespected. There’s like fucking ‘grape’ on the wall. I’m like, really?”
Sheep mentality prompted other taggers to join in. A confrontation at the door forced the vandals out.
“I was at the bar, I couldn’t see,” said Rezko. “But the guys who started it were friends with the DJ. So, we were able to track them down.”
The party poopers came back and painted over the walls.
“They actually said that ‘we’ve done this to a ton of houses and this is the first time we’ve ever gone to clean it up,’” said Seidel.
Get Born raised $420 from the party. They intend on using profits to fund future blowouts and concerts. In the long run, they want to open their own skateboarding shop and start a clothing line.
Despite the accolades they’ve received in Montreal, Get Born still encounter some resistance in Chicago. The close-knit cliques in the Windy City have proven harder to crack.
“Wheel whores,” said Seidel, the epithet almost burning my eardrums. “We’ve been called a lot of derogatory names just because we’re women. I mean, there’s not much we can do about it. We just continue to create content and stick to our message. Hopefully what we’re doing comes through to people.”