Girl & Queer Skate Sesh Is Making the Sport Inclusive
|IN Los Angeles, skateboarding is ubiquitous, but Briana King never felt like she could partake in it. Raised in the Boyle Heights neighborhood, an area King said had a large gang presence, she spent the majority of her childhood on her doorstep. While the boys were free to go outside as they pleased in limited recreational areas, she could only dream of kickflips.
Then, King’s next-door neighbor gifted her a skateboard in seventh grade. “I’d always get bullied out of it. I really wouldn’t be welcomed or I felt uncomfortable because, first of all, there’s not many Black people in skateboarding. There’s not many women skateboarding,” King said. “So, I always gave up. I probably got into skateboarding on three different occasions.”
Fast forward years later, and King became a model. Upon moving to New York, she worked as an extra in the 2018 movie “Skate Kitchen” starring Jaden Smith. Surrounded and accompanied by “all of the queers, girls, gays and theys,” King said the feeling of being in that space was unforgettable. On a mission to replicate that environment, King started Girl Queer Skate Sesh, determined to diversify and democratize the sport for good.
"IT’S SO CRAZY WHEN EVERYONE IS TELLING ME 'THANK YOU' BECAUSE ALL THE PEOPLE THAT COME TO THE EVENT ARE SO WELCOMING AND SO HAPPY. THEY MAKE ME FEEL SO EMPOWERED. IT MADE ME VALUE MYSELF SO MUCH MORE KNOWING I’M ABLE TO TEACH OTHER PEOPLE." BRIANA KING
“The reason why I started it was, honestly, there’s almost no women skateboarding. A lot of people that are gay or queer don’t feel invited into skateboarding,” King said. “Skateboarders are kind of gnarly and a lot of white cis men. I just want to create a space where everyone just feels comfortable doing something that isn’t the most comfortable doing. We can just create our own little world.”
From the 1998 teen drama “Brink!” airing on the Disney Channel to the countless Tony Hawk video games available on PlayStation, skating has long been regarded as a sport reserved for white men. However, as series such as HBO’s “Betty” and Marsai Martin’s forthcoming project “Sundays” enter the zeitgeist, the perception of what a skater looks like is slowly changing.
Stepping back from the modeling scene, King became a skateboarder full time. With a sizable social media following, she fostered community on Instagram, spreading the word about various skateboarding teach-in sessions. Eventually, King launched a Girl & Queer Skate Sesh tour in collaboration with The Ones, Zappos’ curated, classic sneaker brand.
“The Ones just reached out one day, and they’re like, ‘Hey, we love what you’re doing.’ I’d been traveling the whole entire world, just running the meetups on my own out of my own pocket or doing everything on my own, which was really exhausting,” King said. “And they’re like, ‘Let’s collaborate and do this big.’”
From its humble beginnings in 2019, drawing in small crowds of 50 to 100 skaters, Girl & Queer Skate Sesh soon lured in thousands. King embarked on a cross-country tour, from Seattle to Miami, Atlanta, Los Angeles and more, teaching attendees of all skill levels, ages, races and gender identities. King utilizes her platform to publicize callouts for equipment, garnering partnerships from brands such as Deluxe to provide free boards, pads and more, eradicating financial barriers to skateboarding and creating a space for everyone to come as they are.
"GETTING INTO SKATING IS PRETTY INTIMIDATING. THERE’S TONS OF DUDES WHO’RE SUPER GOOD AND IT’S OVERCROWDED AND YOU DON’T KNOW WHERE YOU FIT IN WHEN YOU START OUT. I’M A QUEER BLACK GIRL, AND I THOUGHT THIS WOULD BE A COOL IDEA, AND I LIKE THE IDEA THAT THERE’S A TEACHING SECTION AT THE BEGINNING SO IT WELCOMES BEGINNERS SO I FEEL MORE AT HOME. THIS IS MY FIRST TIME HERE AND THIS IS MY SECOND TIME EVER GOING TO A SKATE EVENT." ANAIAH
"I PUT MYSELF OUT THERE MORE AS A GIRL TEACHER BECAUSE I JUST FEEL LIKE THERE’S NOT SO MANY GIRL TEACHERS, AND I FEEL LIKE THERE’S A LOT OF GIRLS OUT THERE THAT WANT TO SKATE BUT THEY’RE NOT COMFORTABLE WITH A MALE TEACHER OR A MALE INSTRUCTOR, BUT I GENERALLY LIKE TEACHING ANYBODY." BROOKLINN
"I’VE BEEN SKATING FOR OVER 30 YEARS, BUT I’VE NEVER DONE IT WITH QUEER PEOPLE OR WOMEN BEFORE. MY 15- YEAR-OLD SELF IS IN HEAVEN, AND I’M 39 NOW." SARAH
"THIS IS MY FIRST TIME COMING TO THE MEETUP. THERE’S NOT A LOT OF SPACES WHERE YOU CAN GO TO SKATE THAT AREN'T PREDOMINANTLY MALE, AND THERE’S QUEER PEOPLE HERE TOO, ALL IN ONE SPOT. IT FEELS COMFY AND YOU DON’T FEEL AS NERVOUS TO TRY THINGS THAT YOU WOULDN’T NORMALLY TRY." ADISON
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