ENCINITAS — A 6-year-old girl, dressed in a rainbow colored tutu riding a skateboard and dropping in on one of the mini ramps or bowls — that’s just about the norm at the Encinitas Community skate park.
Girls skateboarding at the park, or any other around North County for that matter, is becoming just about the norm, too.
“It’s absolutely increasing,” said Kendra Sebelius, referring to the number of girls picking up skateboarding. “Ten years ago, this wouldn’t have been the case.”
Sebelius, 36, is a CCO with the Girls Riders Organization (GRO), a nonprofit organization that’s taken on the mission of helping open up the world of skateboarding and other alternative action sports to young girls.
“I know that people look at skateboarding as a piece of wood and wheels, but it’s so much more than that,” she said. “It’s mentoring kids and especially the girls to have a voice and have a space at these parks where it can be really intimidating,” she said.
And the culture of skateboarding is still dominated by the boys, Sebelius said.
Sebelius, a self-described “blue-haired, tattooed girl” that’s been skating for a year now, said that whenever she goes to skate parks, the younger girls just gravitate towards her.
And it was from that, that she knew there was a need for action.
The result: The GRO crews — organized groups of girl skaters that hold events and skate sessions wherever they’re formed.
It’s why Sebelius, the former Vista resident, was in Encinitas on Wednesday, helping to organize the creation of Encinitas’ own GRO crew.
And on Saturday, the Encinitas GRO crew will be hosting their inaugural all-girls skate session at the Encinitas Community skate park.
The event will serve as a litmus test of sorts to gauge the interest of girls wanting to be a part of the crew.
It’s something that Calli Kelsay, a mother of four, has wanted for her skateboarding daughters for a while now.
Especially for her daughters, Aubrey, 8, and Kirra, 6, who have really taken to the sport seriously, Kelsay explained.
“Just seeing my girls get so into skateboarding has sparked the fire to create a stronger community feel for my girls,” Kelsay said.
Kelsay will be helping to oversee the Encinitas GRO crew as it gets going. The plan is to host monthly skate sessions for girls.
“I think that it’s going to be an awesome opportunity for girls in the community to see, first of all, other girls skating and wanting to be part of that strong community,” she said. “What I really want for my girls is the sense of belonging to something that’s really positive and uplifting, and I see that a lot with skateboarding.”
That transition from girls being intimidated to being accepted and welcomed is starting to take hold on the skate parks in Encinitas.
Nate Stewart, 18, has been skateboarding for seven years, and is a regular at the Encinitas Community skate park and the YMCA where the girls “kill it” on the transition ramps, pools and vert ramps, he said.
“I think it’s pretty awesome,” Stewart added. “I feel like a lot of girls are scared to skateboard because of the stigma that skateboarding’s a guy thing, but I think it’s just a matter of getting over your fear of falling, and I think anybody can get good at it.”
Kelsay said even she’s noticed a change in attitudes when her daughters skate at the parks.
“As my girls have committed and gotten better at skating I have seen a change for sure,” she said. “When the guys at the skate park see my 6-year-old in a tutu dress drop into the pool, you can tell there is a level of respect that wasn’t there before. All the sudden their faces change from being mildly annoyed that we showed up to respecting her talent.”
Those attitude shifts are coming, in part, Kelsay thinks, to what Exposure Skate, a women’s skateboarding competition and event, brings to the community.
Sebelius believes that the shift has been brought about thanks to the efforts of girl skaters in the past, who fought to get to the spot where they are now.
“I believe that it’s all of us females that at one point didn’t feel like we belonged at a skate park and felt over-dominated and run over, and basically intimidated by the parks, the boys, the culture, not understanding it, all of us were like, ‘hey, there’s a great benefit here.’ We’ve gained so much from skateboarding,” Sebelius said.
“Girls could easily skate just as good as guys and with our society, it doesn’t seem to be that way, but it totally is,” Stewart said. “There’s a ton of girls out there breaking those standards and barriers, which is dope.”
The Encinitas GRO crew’s girl skate session is July 9 from 10 a.m. to noon at the Encinitas Community skate park, 425 Santa Fe Drive. It’s free and open to all levels of skaters. Visit girlsriders.org for more information.