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Skate not hate

Verbal abuse puts off skaters.

A group of female skaters say the verbal abuse directed towards them at the Grey Street Skate Park is not OK.

Words like “poser” or “fat”, along with comments of “girls can’t skate” and “you look bisexual” have discouraged some of the younger girls to go back.

Sophee Hills, 21, is a regular user of the skatepark. She loves it and goes down as often as she can.

Before the $2.6 million upgrade gets under way Sophee wants to make sure it is a safe place for everyone to use.

She hopes highlighting the regular verbal abuse by some school-aged boys will result in better supervision by people who are able to communicate this behaviour is not acceptable.

“It’s mainly school kids and it’s mainly verbal abuse.

“It happens quite a bit. A lot of younger girls get very offended and discouraged and we don’t want them to stop skating.”

Sophee is one of the organisers of a group of girls called Surely Skate. It has about 10 regular members aged from 10 to 21, with the numbers swelling to as many as 30 sometimes.

Myah Houthuijzen, 16, is part of that group, and also a regular user of the skatepark.

“It’s really fun. You can just zone out and do your thing.

“I’ve learned how to block those comments out but sometimes it bugs you. It’s immature comments from some of the boys that girls shouldn’t be out here, or that we are posers — which means you have a skateboard but don’t actually skate.”

Young women like Myah and Sophee continue to skate and prove the boys wrong.

Their concerns are for the younger members of their group who are put off.

Last week a 10-year-old girl at the skatepark was body-shamed, says Sophee.

“She was told ‘you look bisexual’ and they made comments about weight.

“The young girls get very insecure about those comments.

“The other day one of my friends was on the half pipe by herself. A younger boy sat right in front of her.

“She asked him to move and he didn’t. Then all his other mates started swearing at her and saying ‘girls can’t skate’, and ‘you girls suck at skating’.”

“We always skate in a group so when it happens, we have each other.”

Tairawhiti Adventure Trust member Shane Kingsbeer has been skating most of his life.

The 36-year-old has used the skatepark for 25 years.

As the father of two daughters he has a vested interest in the culture of the place, and that it is in good hands for the future.

“The amount of use down there warrants more supervision and usage is only going to increase.”

Mr Kingsbeer said the pipe was a lot better than it used to be, with most skatepark users good at looking after each other.

He was a big fan of the Surely Skate girls who had helped break down traditonal stereotypes around skating and helped inspire a new wave of skaters.

“It can be quite an intimidating space to walk into if you have never done it before.

“They’ve changed the culture of the place for the better.

“We need to make sure as a skateboard community we provide an environment they feel safe in.”

Gisborne District Council community assets and resources manager Laird Kennedy says if issues arise during supervised times, park users should make the supervisors aware.

“We want the park to be a safe and inclusive environment for all users.”

■ The skatepark is supervised from 3.30pm to 5.30pm weekdays and from 12pm to 5pm on weekends during winter (1pm – 6pm in summer).

Myah Houthuijzen (left) and Sophee Hills are regular users of the community skatepark on Grey Street but have had enough of the verbal abuse from some boys towards girl skaters. Fearing it will put off younger girls from going to the park, they are calling for increased supervision to make it a safer place for everyone to enjoy.Picture by Rebecca Grunwell

  1. Lesley says:

    Well done ladies. When I read this article I was so proud of you two.
    Proud extended mum

  2. Possum, Whitianga says:

    That’s embarrassing for people who truly love skating. If you’re really into skate boarding you would be stoked to see people of any sex, race, size or age.
    The guy skaters in Gizzy should be stoked to have some up and coming females. I met a woman from there skating the Whitianga park last summer, totally cool human. Keep skating, enjoy.

  3. Wanda Douglass, Buffalo NY USA says:

    These younger girls should not be intimidated by boys who feel inferior to them. All skaters should feel secure and safe while doing something they love. This skate park should be supervised.

    Concerned grandmother