Skateboarding is scary. It just is. You literally go at god-speed towards inanimate objects and in some ways it is the least natural and the most natural of movements, simultaneously. I’ve always found this fear as a challenge. A way to prove to myself that no matter how impossible something seems (and sometimes is seems reaaal impossible), with practice and some problem solving you can achieve it. I have always liked these types of challenges and about six months ago I decided to take on another challenge, moving abroad. I packed up my very-average French language experience and decided to spend a semester of school in Paris, France.
Now, I didn’t want to leave behind skateboarding. While I have only been on the board for about a year, it has become an activity really important to me and I thought maybe now would be an opportunity to combine two challenges. So I decided that I would pack my skateboard along with my, let me say it again for emphasis, veryyyy-average French skills.
Surprisingly, finding a community of female skateboarders wasn’t hard at all. On my second day in Paris I found a girl’s skateboarding clinic just 5 minutes from my apartment (which was pretty incredible given that Paris is HUGE). Titled, “Girly Sessions” (which may have been a French attempt at the phrase “Lady’s Night”), these clinics where hosted by the organization Paris Skate Culture (PSC). Every Friday night a group of 8-10 of us girls got together to skateboard.
(Right: Agnes, Me, Isabelle)
The first thing I noticed where the adorable French children saying skate terminology in ridiculously cute French accents. Kickflip becomes “Keeek-fleeep” and ollie becomes “OHH-lieee.” And “Bravo!” should definitely be a staple English skate-vocabulary amongst board-to-ground slapping and cheering. As I started going to the classes regularly I became used to saying everything with a French accent, but on a deeper level, I realized that language wasn’t really a problem at all. My French was still pretty bad, but it didn’t seem to matter. Language really wasn’t a barrier at all when it came to skateboarding. Without needing to use language, the girls and I learned to problem solve, overcome obstacles and watch each-other grow. Not only were we improving at skating, but we were also becoming friends. Our shared experiences were a basis for us to grow closer.
Language was no longer a real necessity. I think the challenges that skateboarding in particular provides us are opportunities to work as a team. To skateboard is really to allow yourself to be vulnerable. You learn, you fall and you grow in front of and with others. I held hands with other women, younger and older, as they learned to skate their first ramp. I asked for advice from girls half my age when dropping into my first mini-ramp. I’ve never seen an activity that is individualistic and so heavily community-based at the same time.
Skateboarding is like an entry ticket to wherever you want to go. It is an experience and a passion that one shares with others of all levels at the skate park. It can be a conversation starter or just and activity to do together. My best friend in France’s name is Agnes. I met her through skateboarding. We started at “Girly Sessions” and ended up taking our own time to skate by the Seine, visit other skate parks or just meet up for lunch. I don’t think I would have made friends like Agnes if I hadn’t gone out skateboarding and we hadn’t learned to overcome obstacles together, including the language barrier!