For Alyssa Nicoly, a senior at Animas High School, Durango’s skate park is friendlier at night.
Then, she can practice skateboarding freely – without hearing more experienced male skaters judge her form on tricks or saying she’s only there because of her brother.
“For me personally, just seeing men I get intimidated right away because I’m not that experienced of a skater,” said Nicoly, who started skating in May 2020. She still calls herself a beginner. “I want to be able to go there to learn things.”
For her senior project, she decided to revive an old idea: skate nights where girls and gender nonbinary people can meet each other and get inspired in a male-dominated sport.
In 2017, another Animas High School student launched a series of Ladies Skate Nights, but the weekly events petered out when the founder went to college. Nicoly started her own series of Wednesday night gatherings, called Women on Wheels, April 28. She is throwing a kick-off event from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday in collaboration with local groups to encourage girls to join.
“Finding a community of girls who skate is really hard because I think a lot of girls are super intimidated to go,” Nicoly said.
Women have been skateboarding since the sport was invented in the 1940s, but in lower numbers than their male counterparts.
Over decades, they have slowly, but steadily, pushed their way into the industry. In 1964, Patti McGee became the first female professional skateboarder. In the 1980s, Thrasher, a skateboarding magazine, featured the first woman on its cover. In 2008, professional women skateboarders won equal pay, according to a MasterClass history of women in the sport.
Skateboarding, including women’s skateboarding, was scheduled as part of the 2020 Olympics for the first time. And now young skateboarders can look up to the likes of Leo Baker, born Lacey Baker, the first openly gender-queer nonbinary skater, and Samarria Bevar, the first professional African American woman skateboarder to sign with a major skate brand.
In rural Durango, Nicoly said women at the skate park are few and far between. There might be three girls maximum among five to 15 boys, Nicoly said.
The skate park, by Schneider Park and the Animas River, is the only place in town to learn. There’s no bowl anywhere else waiting for her to try some new tricks, she said.
“If there were a lot of girls, I feel like it’d be a lot more comfortable. You can go up and ask, ‘Can you teach me how to do this?’” Nicoly said. “If there’s a dedicated time for learning and skating with other girls, I feel like it might be easier to learn or to teach.”
The first Women on Wheels event Wednesday pulled in about eight people, said Lindsay Levine, an Animas High School student who attended. All of the weekly events will take place from 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday.
“It was great. ... There were a bunch of kids there at first and it was fun to see all the little crushers,” Levine said. “The park cleared out a little bit, and all of the girls who were there got to do whatever they want.”
Roller skates are Levine’s wheels of choice. She started two months ago and has been trying to get herself “hyped up” to drop in from 6 feet.
“I would like for skate parks to be less intimidating for women and nonbinary folks,” Levine said. “It can make you feel you’re out of place and you don’t have the right to be there. I would like to see ladies dominating the place and just feeling welcome. That’s my goal.”
Nicoly was feeling nervous but excited before the first meeting and the upcoming kick-off event, she said. The Hive, a local youth activities organization, has helped with advertising and reaching out to local bands.
She already has a “line of succession” planned for next year, after she goes to college. Eventually, she hopes to see 10 to 20 women skaters meeting up regularly, skating together for a bit and mentoring young skaters.
For the boys at the skate park, Nicoly wants Women on Wheels to show them ladies have a right to be there, she said.
“I really hope it inspires some young girls in the community to start skating,” Nicoly said. “It is super scary. It is considered a men’s sport, so in my opinion, it’s really bold to be a woman in the skating community.”