Alana Smith is a blonde, Arizona teen with braces. The same year she started high school, she became a professional skateboarder—but she has been competing with the pros since she was twelve years old. At a competition in 2012, she became the first woman to land a 540 McTwist (essentially a backflip on a skateboard) in a competition. The next year in Barcelona, she became the youngest athlete to win a medal at X Games, for which she still holds the Guinness World Record.
Now Smith is taking on a new challenge. For the first time ever, Street League Skateboarding, the official street skateboarding world championship as recognized by the International Skateboarding Federation, will include a women's division. That means female skaters will now be able to compete on par with the boys for the title of the SLS Nike SB Super Crown World Champion and the $30,000 cash prize. As the 14-year-old Smith puts it, this is really "crazy"—in a great way.
We're all just here to have fun. It's not always about the mentality of 'I want to beat you.'
"SLS has been developing a road map for competitive skateboarding that brings the best of the best under one roof," explains Brian Atlas, the SLS President and COO, in a press release. "Adding a Women's Division to SLS is the natural next step for League progression and another way SLS is working to grow skateboarding globally. The women competing in SLS will be on the most elite stage in skateboarding, skating for the chance to be crowned World Champion. It is an important skateboarding history that we look forward to further developing."
Founded by Rob Dyrdek in 2010, SLS tournaments have become the gold standard in street skating, and ranking at each event qualifies pro and amateur skaters to vie for the Super Crown. "There's levels of contests and Street League is at the top," Smith says over the phone. "So the fact that they put women in the street league is amazing and I feel like it's going to do so much for girl's skating." In other words, the SLS Nike SB World Championship is like the Super Bowl of street skating.
Smith will be up against other renowned skaters from the US and all over the world, including Leticia Bufoni who was voted Brazil's Female Skater of the Yeart in 2012. But even though the competition is fierce, Smith is prepared to just enjoy the ride. "There's always going to be certain people that might be competitive, but we're all just here to have fun," she explains. "It's not always about the mentality of 'I want to beat you.'"
Before she became a pro skater, Smith started out in dirt bike competitions at the behest of her dad. Then one year, while they were watching the X Games on TV, Smith became fascinated by the Women's Vert skateboarding event. "I begged my parents to let me skate [after that]. So my mom got me a board, and I started going out to skate parks. Soon I started meeting more and more girls—I didn't even know there were any other girls. It was crazy."
Seeing women skate, and skate well, is partly why the SLS Women's Championship isn't just another competition. It's a another opportunity for young girls like Smith. Even after meeting other girls with the same interests at the skatepark, Smith says she still encounters guys who don't think the sport has room for women. "There's always going to be someone out there who's going to give you crap," Smith explains. "When I used to go to skateparks I would get bullied for being a girl. Guys would tell me that skating shouldn't be for girls and that I should stop."
Now, Smith is training for the competition, which takes place on October 4th in Chicago, and she has the last laugh. "It's pretty crazy to think that all the hard work I did paid off. I still have a long ways to go, but it's amazing to see what hard work can do," she says.
"I have younger sisters so that gives me a sense of responsibility. I want them to feel like they can reach for their goals and not feel like they can't."