Candy Jacobs has big plans to rise to the top of the professional skateboarding scene. And she sees the recent decision to make skateboarding an Olympic event as an integral piece to that plan.
Beginning with the 2020 Games in Tokyo, professional skateboarders will have the opportunity to compete against each other for an Olympic medal. Jacobs, a 26-year-old professional skater from the Netherlands, thinks that this decision is the next logical step, but she's happy nonetheless. Mostly, Jacobs sees the move as one that will ultimately benefit more female skaters like her.
As a professional skater, Jacobs is active in a sport that's still largely dominated by men—a problem often criticized by other skaters and initiatives like SuckMyTrucks. Because the Games will include events for men and women, the sport's entry into the Olympics will likely give female skaters greater public visibility and open the doors to more events in the future.
"I think it will create more opportunities for female skaters," Jacob says over email. "Competitions will now have to include women in order to give a more equal representation of the sport, and maybe this will also mean more sponsorship deals."
Jacobs developed a passion for skating at 13, when her mom dropped her off along with a skateboard at her local skatepark. "That was the day I fell in love with skateboarding," she says. The fact that she was the only female skater among her friends didn't stop her from diving headfirst into the sport. "Back then, I honestly didn't think about whether there were any other girls who also skated. A few years later, I saw a 411VM video that Elissa Steamer was in."
A short time later, Jacobs saw skater Evelien Bouilliart at an event in Belgium. She was spellbound. Seeing other women in the scene who had already "made it" motivated Jacobs to work harder and refine her skills. "In order to make it, you need a strong will, determination, and dedication. Most importantly, though, is a passion and devotion for the sport."
Today, Jacobs' love for skating still dictates her life. In 2009, she placed first in the European Championships in Basel. Two years later, she took part in the prestigious X-Games in Los Angeles for the first time—and came in sixth. In the following years, she either won or finished with high marks in competitions in Berlin, Montreal, Barcelona, and Austin. She is currently the reigning Dutch skateboarding champion and is fourth in the world women's rankings.
However, as much as she feels accepted by others in the scene, there are still times in which it's clear to Jacobs that there's a notable difference in how male and female skaters are treated.
"Women don't necessarily have it harder in skateboarding; it's just different. There's not much going on marketing-wise, so it's almost impossible to live from skateboarding, especially in Europe—even though there are women like Leticia Bufoni, who's extremely successful. Quite a lot is happening though; [...] the competitions are getting bigger and the community is also growing," says Jacobs. "But in most competitions, the prize money still varies massively between men and women. You don't see female skateboarders in advertisements, and they don't get much coverage in magazines, either. Companies just aren't ready to invest in female skaters."
This causes a consistent challenge for Jacobs, who gave up her full-time job to concentrate on her skating career. She currently hopes to bring in funds on her own through a GoFundMe campaign. If she meets her goal, she would have the means to travel to and from the competitions that are advantageous to her career to attend. Some skaters are able to finance their travel costs through sponsorship deals.
"It's not totally necessary to have the backing of a big company, but it definitely makes you able to travel, take part in competitions, and shoot videos," Jacobs says. Because Jacobs is currently sponsored by companies like Etnies and Blackriver, she doesn't need to worry about her equipment. But it frustrates her that for many companies there still seems to be an assumption that sponsoring female skaters isn't worth the time or money. "I honestly believe that most companies think women's skateboarding isn't interesting enough, even though that's definitely not true. If they just featured real women skaters in their advertisements, supported local skater girls, and showed the world that we actually do exist, they would realize that there's a market out there."
It remains to be seen how quickly attitudes can change within the male-dominated skateboarding industry, and many see the 2020 Olympics as a possible turning point. For Candy, it's further incentive to remain completely committed to her own skating career. "My goals are still the same as ever: I want to skate as much as possible, challenge myself daily, constantly try to improve, and do my bit to make sure that the next generation has a platform. But if I was given the chance to compete in the 2020 Olympic Games, I'd grab it with both hands and enjoy every minute of it!"
This article originally appeared on Broadly Germany.