Whenever I’m asked this question about women in snowboarding, I think people expect a sort of struggle story. But I never felt like there was a struggle story in snowboarding because I always felt like snowboarding was pretty inclusive with the guys and the girls. Sure, it was different than it is now. But not only for women. For everyone. There were less of us — less guys, too — so it was a really tight knit-community, not as widespread.
It has always been an accepting community. It’s not all rainbows and sunshine, but I never really felt like I struggled because I was a girl in snowboarding. I actually felt like I had doors open for me because people were psyched about snowboarding in general.
And I was psyched for any and all chances to ride, as both women and men were at the time. I got to see the first U.S. Extreme Championships in ’95… there were only five women that felt that they wanted to do that, or that they were even qualified to do that. My first big air contest was sponsored by Nike who ended up being my sponsor years later but they didn’t invite women to it; they instead let me do it and gave me some shoes and a couple sweatshirts. I wanted to do it, and Nike wanted me there; there was simply the issue of enough women pushing their snowboarding to make an event of it. When I got into the X Games in 1997, there were only three of us in big air. So I think there was a bigger gap between where the women were at with regard to how they were snowboarding, at least compared to the men back then. I mean there weren’t that many men’s big air events either. And I was always inspired by women who were riding like the guys. But I think that all of us that were, especially in it that wanted to be progressing were influenced by the guys — though there were always a number of girls who I looked up to too.
We’ve all progressed since then and pushed what we’re doing, but by the fact that there were fewer girls doing it then, I always felt pretty accepted. Men were psyched to see girls out there pushing it at any level and participating. We were all in this together to grow the sport of snowboarding. And it felt like at that stage in the early ’90s, it was getting a new level of exposure. People in the community were simply excited to see snowboarding’s potential, to see it grow.
However, the mainstream media was just getting introduced to snowboarding, so I think they had this kind of common belief that we were this extreme and wild and crazy and super agro group. But I’ve always been kind of mellow. While I don’t feel like I was ever pushed into a box even then, I’m sure there were interviews where I was made to seem like I was more wacky than I really was. To be honest, I think it was the women-only publications that came out that did to put women into a “box” more than anything else. There are the angles that publications take, but I’ve always felt that the snowboarding needs to speak for itself — and given the chance, it will. And the sport, in turn, needs to put that riding in the spotlight. Any other kind of exposure they get I just hope it represents who they are, not who somebody else is creating.
I talk to a few girls that I’m closer with and have reached that level of media exposure. And, frankly, they’re doing a good job without the constant oversight. They’re in control. They’re different people and are therefore portrayed differently — but it’s the same in that they are pro snowboarders, and that is the way it was when I was in their position.
But going back to being a women snowboarder in the snowboard (not mainstream) community: in my experience, competitive women snowboarders are darn supportive of each other. But that’s not to say there isn’t that competitiveness. This is an individual sport — everyone is basically out for themselves so of course there’s going to be ego involved. Whenever you have a handful of twnety -something women — twenty-something women or men competing against each other, of course there are going to be a competitive vibe. In some respects, there has always been an emphasis on whether an individual is a woman, because that is marketing.
And confident women are worth marketing. If they want to take it to the point where they’re promoting themselves as a sex objects — which is often where these sorts of conversations are headed when discussing women in snowboarding or most sports for that matter — so be it. I wouldn’t condemn it. The problem is not what the women are doing, but that as soon as a girl strips down to her tank top, the media and critics latch onto it instead of focusing on the snowboarding. But I don’t see the problem in the women doing it. It’s their call. And it has been since day one.
For the most part, I feel like I have been true to myself. There weren’t as many outlets to promote oneself through, or for sponsors to promote me through. I mean, I would film all year for a movie part that premiered the following year. There was not this immediate opportunity for instant exposure there until the television networks began picking it up. The X Games were some of the first live-casted events I ever did and it was truly crazy that first year — and that was huge. There wasn’t any lead up to that that made me aware of what this television exposure would or could be like. But again, not for women, but snowboarding. In that sense, there is no huge distinction for me between women and men in snowboarding.
When I’m asked about my legacy in snowboarding (which is really weird for me to think about), it’s in snowboarding, not necessarily as a women. And it’s not like I ever left snowboarding. I haven’t had years to kick back and reflect on it: I’ve always been in it, even when I moved from being a team rider to helping build a team and working on product and working with my sponsors. I worked with Nike for a while, and I still work with Gnu and Mervin Manufacturing. They were two of my very early sponsors, and because of that I feel like I’ve been able to watch and participate in women’s snowboarding all along. So I haven’t really kicked back and reflected on my impact. And hopefully my impact isn’t done yet, because I’m still doing things to support womens snowboarding in a lot of different ways — whatever it is that “womens snowboarding” means.