They call themselves the Babes Brigade—the name, a delightful spin off the 2012 skateboarding doc by Stacy Peralta (of the skateboarding company Powell Peralta) Bones Brigade. While the group spawned from a desire to meet like-minded people, it has grown beyond its supportive role to an organization making skateboarding more accessible to women throughout Toronto, and beyond.
We met up with Stephanie Battieste and other group members at a skatepark in Toronto during one of their weekly meet-ups.
VICE Sports: What's it like being a female in the skateboarding community in Toronto?
Stephanie Battieste (founder): Well, it was quite different before when it was just me, and I'd just randomly run into girls at the skate park. But now, I've got a whole group of girls and it's a completely different story.
What made you want to seek out other women on Facebook who were interested in skateboarding?
Well, I knew it was a good platform, socially, to connect to each other. Whether we have each other's phone numbers or not, even if I see you randomly, I can let you know where the Facebook page is—you can check it out, and then you can just become part of the community and be aware of where we are meeting up.
What has the response been like?
Well, when it just began I spent a lot of time talking to the guys that I knew in the skate industry, because they really helped me out with a lot of it. As I put myself out there—and the group out there—it pretty quickly picked up. Within the first month or two there was about ten girls on average that would come out every week, so I started to realize that there were a lot more girls out there than I thought.
Where did the name Babes Brigade come from?
It was one of those things where I just had an idea in my head, where I thought 'Babes Brigade!' I was thinking Powell Peralta, they have the Bones Brigade, and I was thinking about it and then all of a sudden, out of nowhere, Babes Brigade came to mind. And I was like, 'You know what? That's pretty catchy.' Five years later, I decided to start the girls group, and the name came to mind and I thought, 'I'm going to do something similar,' because it's recognizable, it's fun, and I just thought the name was catchy enough to be memorable.
You're not just stopping with the Facebook group. Where do you see this group moving on in the future? Where would you like to take it?
Well, the Facebook group is used to connect us, so they know that every week we're going to be meeting up somewhere. So, once I launched it, every week, we do meet-ups somewhere. We've [had] a girls skate contest since then. Since, I've had so much positive feedback and the group is growing at a pretty quick pace—I also come from a fashion background, and I had a clothing company that I totally put to the side to focus on this—so I also want to turn it into a brand. I want to sell shirts and stuff. I want to grow into [British Columbia] and places like that. I'd like it to go from a meet-up once a week, doing events with youth and having a skate contests for women, [to having a] women's [skate] industry created in Toronto. And, if I can help with that, that's what I want to do. I want it to grow into a brand, as well. I want to have more exposure, because exposure it what shows other girls that are interested in it that there is actually an industry, that there are other girls at the park, and that just encourages more and more to come out.
What was your goal when you started Babes Brigade?
I wanted to connect women in the city. I was encouraged to do it at a certain time, which specifically was last year because I started to meet more and more girls at the park. Previous to that, I didn't really see them so I didn't really know they were out there. Once I started the Facebook group, we connected, and then I realized that there is actually girls out there who want to skate. It's just hard to connect because some might be in the city, others might be up north, and that is the case. We're all from different areas, different ages, and different backgrounds, so it's cool that we have one platform that can connect us all.
What is the importance of that connection?
It's become way more than just skateboarding, actually, which I didn't even realize at first. For some people that might have social anxiety, that might be nervous or insecure, or lack a little bit of confidence, to be themselves even though they might not have a woman out there that they've seen at the park, they might want to do that. It's really just to connect each other, encourage each other, inspire each other, and have a face so it's easier to not feel like it's so out of grasp to be a girl and be a skateboarder just because you haven't seen it previously.
What kind of feedback have you received from the girls that have been involved?
Super positive. Going back to what I was saying, I didn't really realize how it would affect people. I've had girls thank me and tell me how it's been a positive change for them—that, if they didn't have somewhere to go, they might not have even come out of the house that day, for example. You know, you never really know how a little thing or one thing, that might just be—for me—a simple idea to have a group of girls come together and skate, to something way beyond that where we all bond and realize how similar we are. We're also all creative and work together, so there's so many things we get out of it outside of skateboarding.
VICE Sports: How did you get involved with Babes Brigade?
Maddy Baltovich (member): We actually had an event a couple weeks ago called Skate Like a Girl and someone tagged me in an Instagram post. I showed up to that, and ever since we've all been hanging out. It's been great.
How long have you been skateboarding?
I skateboarded for a few years when I was 13 and then I kind of stopped—I started mountain bike racing—but now I'm getting back into it. It's been about a month of hard skating.
What do you get out of this group of women meeting up for skateboarding?
Definitely progression. In this one month I've progressed more than in my whole skateboard career, just from skating with these girls. We're all at different levels, so even if you do a trick that you haven't tried, everyone just gets super stoked and it's a big confidence booster.
What has your experience been like so far?
Nothing but good vibes so far. We actually just finished our North Bay tour so we hit, I think, five or six skate parks, and that was really good for bonding. We all got to know each other better. We switched up the cars so we all got to talk and figure out who we are. It was great. Overall, again, just progression. I've progressed a lot with this group of ladies, so it's good.
How do you think it's helped your skateboarding specifically?
With having the frequent weekly meet-ups, it's huge. I'll come to Toronto and it gives me a reason to use amazing parks like this, and even that helps your progression because you're skating bigger parks and different things. It helps you with getting newer tricks and bigger tricks. We don't have parks like this in Brooklyn [Ontario], obviously. So coming out to a big park like Ashbridges, and having all, even the progressive sets is huge. You get to progress and get better, but not having to go from a 3-stair to an 11-stair, which is a huge jump and it's terrifying, so here there is a lot more in between.
Before you met these girls, what was the situation like in your experience with skateboarding, and how has it changed since you've met them?
That's actually a really good one. Part of the reason I stopped skateboarding was because I felt really, almost not included. You go to the skate park, you don't have many friends, you're the only girl ever, and then I found out about this group of ladies and here we are, out here all together. It's amazing. You feel so much more welcomed and you get to hang out with them, too, so it's more of a social thing as well, which definitely is a big part of skateboarding.
What's your favourite trick?
I'd have to go with hospital flip.
They've just announced this year that the Summer Olympics is going to include men's and women's skateboarding in 2020. How does it make you feel? Can you imagine yourself being there one day competing?
Definitely, I think it's great. Never really saw skateboarding as an Olympic sport but it's here now so, got to roll with it. I think, I mean, it's four years away. That's a long time. If I could get there that would be amazing.
Do you have a skateboarding idol?
I have a few, definitely. Vanessa Torres is up there. She always looks like—she's got a cool style. She's always having fun. If I were to pick one it would probably be her.