How the GRLSWIRL collective hopes to empower women and marginalized groups.
By Emma Moneuse.
For too long, skateboarding has been a male-dominated sport. Which is why the founders of GRLSWIRL banded together to empower women and marginalized groups to skate. The skate collective was founded completely by women: Kelsey Harkin, Lucy Osinski, Tobi Ann, Julia Ama, Shannon Moss, Lindsey Klucik, Myriah Marquez, Monroe Alvarez, and Danielle Schwartz. Starting in Venice, California, these nine women have expanded their group across the country with additional chapters in San Diego and New York city.
GRLSWIRL’s mission is not only to get women involved in the sport, but to allow skateboarding to make them feel powerful in all aspects of their life. As the founders explain, “No matter who you are or what you look like, the feeling of being on a board is freeing! It’s given us the feeling that we can do whatever we want, try something new at any age, and bring people together.”
As being a female skater becomes more normalized, GRLSWIRL hopes to emphasize that women of all backgrounds can skate. Community head Kelsey Harkin explains that over time the group has learned “how important it is that any marginalized group that wants to find their crew and form friendships and skate should feel supported to do just that.” GRLWSWIRL wants not only cis women, but also non-binary and trans people to feel welcomed into the community.
GRLSWIRL chapters form community through skate meet-ups, beach clean ups, and volunteering events. Apart from their chapters, the collective also has a mentorship program which aims to teach young girls in underserved communities how to skateboard. According to their website, GRLSWIRL volunteers have taught over 300 girls in the United States and Mexico through their mentorship program. Similar to the goal of GRLSWIRL chapters, the mentorship program is not just about skateboarding, but providing girls with the courage to do anything they dream, regardless of what they have been taught to believe about their gender.
As the collective physically reaches across borders, the founders also value their social media outreach. With over 155,000 Instagram followers, GRLSWIRL believes social media is a place where people from all over the world can connect and feel a sense of community. “We want to use social media to breed connections and tear down the implicit narcissism and insecurities that generally arrive in a scroll hole. No comparing, no wishing or wanting,” they explain on their website.
According to co-founder Monroe Alvarez, “The most rewarding thing so far has been to witness the impact we make on people and seeing how much GRLSWIRL has grown from day one! We had always hoped we would become nationally known but it’s another thing to actually watch it happen.”
For the future, that GRLSWIRL becomes a global network that can connect anyone who wants to skate. “We hope that skateboarding continues to be an incredible tool for learning, meeting new people, and empowerment for anyone who is called to skate.”
Image credit: GRLSWIRL