‘When did skateboarding stop hopping fences?’
That’s the title of a work-in-progress political poem that Micaela Ramirez, Founder and President of skate NGO Poseiden Foundation, has been writing over the past few months. It’s a question which cuts to the core of skateboarding right now. Women’s olympic skateboarding took the Games by storm this year, but with new regulations and federal bodies crawling into the sport, it raises concern over which parts of the culture are beneficial, and which are boundaries that must be overcome, fences that must be hopped.
With over 25 years of experience in the culture to draw upon, Micaela has seen every side of skateboarding – from being asked to sit on the US Olympics skateboarding federation as board-member in 2017, to organizing the first National Competition in the Dominican Republic, to donating skateboards to homeless children around the world. She’s a poet. She’s a mom. She’s a skater. Inspired and slightly overwhelmed by all she does, we had a lot of questions. But one really kicked off our conversation: “What is the soul of skateboarding, Micaela?”
No to the status quo
“I believe the soul of skateboarding comes from the heart,” she says. “You either love it or you don’t.” Challenging the mainstream origins of the sport, she draws on her experience working in Latin American countries: “A lot of people believe skating started in Orange Country through the surfers and the drought. But when you start to dig into international histories, you find a lot of evidence for people skating back in like 1930, even 1912, in Latin America.”
It may not have had the name ‘skateboarding’, but it appears that there was a “like minded consciousness” which drove people towards the activity at around the same time, in many different places. For Micaela, it seems that returning to that shared drive for skating is crucial: “You just have to have fun with it.” The rest, you could say, is decoration.
Micaela Ramirez founded Poseiden Foundation in 2005 as a force for good, first and foremost. Scrolling through their website, the sheer breadth of their operation is startling. On the one hand, they’ve run humanitarian outreach programs and skate clinics in underprivileged countries; on the other, they’ve spearheaded the Ladies Day events at legendary LA skatepark, The Berrics.
“Ladies Day is our flagship. It’s a completely open competition, with legitimate professional athletes judging. It’s about curating fun, not about winning. There are so many unspoken rules already in skating, we don’t want to add a whole load more… it’s too easy to lose sight of what the fuck skateboarding even is?”
The girls next door
Micaela grew up in Vista, California with her 3 brothers, surrounded by surf and skate culture. “I lived next door to 3 girls who were also first generation Latina. My parents weren’t into skateboarding. So my brothers would skate and hide their boards from my parents. Meanwhile, the girls next door would hide their surfboards at my house.” Surfing, perceived more as a sport for women, would be the ticket into a childhood of longboarding for Micaela. “It was funny, there was a lot of frustration from my brothers because I was allowed to longboard but they couldn’t skateboard.”
It wasn’t until after Micaela had lived in Colorado, fallen in love with snowboarding, and returned to California at the age of 15, that her path really crossed that of other women skateboarders. “I came back to visit and ended up at this jam at a local skatepark. They gave us the best hours – 1-3pm, 105 degrees outside, on metal ramps.” Normally closed during these hours because of the heat, it wasn’t long before Micaela fell to the mercy of the scorching hot half-pipe.
“It was the first time I met Heidi Fitzgerald, Lyn-Z Adams (now Pastrana), Cara-Beth Burnside. I’d followed CB for years through snowboarding, seeing her skating blew me away. She convinced me to drop in for the first time on a 7 ½ ft ramp. I thought, ‘CB’s a professional skater, she knows what she’s talking about. Next thing I know, I hit the flat at the bottom, and had a huge blister from the burn of the metal touching my skin. I fell in love instantly.”
Moving forward, giving back
Micaela was hooked, and started organizing events with All Girls Skate Jam and working closely with the peers and mentors around her to empower women in the skate community. In 2005, the Poseiden Foundation was born after a spell of working with Ecuadorian non-profit, ‘Children of the Street’. “These were kids who were in human trafficking, were abused, but we created a safe space where they got a meal and could sleep.” Micaela would help educate these children, and asked them about their dreams and passions. “What’s your drive? I would ask. And they would say they wanted shoes, clothing, a mom and dad, a roof over their heads. A normal life.”
Micaela realized just how real and widespread of a problem poverty was. And returning to the US, the new wave of women’s skate activism seemed suddenly bittersweet: “Girls were fighting for boards. But rather than taking an empowerment stance, it was an entitled stance. They didn’t have the humility to realise how fortunate they actually were in the face of real poverty.” Poseiden was started as a means to support these female empowerment movements, while also teaching the next generation of skaters to give back.
“I would go to the action sports trade shows and people would always ask me if I was from a Christian group because nobody at that time was doing things to give back to the community.”
It wasn’t long before Micaela found herself supported by NGOs and had gathered herself teams of dedicated people around the globe, many of these skateboarder ambassadors willing to donate their time and work to their communities. Ladies Day was officially launched at The Berrics, and then, years on, the Olympics came calling.
“We did all the paperwork for the qualifiers of the Dominican Republic. We had a professional skatepark builder fly out to rebuild the skatepark there. There were huge holes, cracks, it was gnarly.” This skatepark was something out of an apocalyptic movie. The coping was loose, there were parts of the park missing. It wouldn’t do for the National Championships, nor for budding Olympic skateboarding athletes.
Working with money donated by the application YOURIPapp, Poseiden Foundation got to work. “The skatepark builder taught the local people there how to reconstruct the skatepark from the ground up. That was really important for us, to leave them with the skills we had.”
A new generation is born
The National Championships were a success, not only were they first of their kind for the country, but they were the first time girls could compete. A 13 year old girl took home the women’s Gold medal. This was a sign of things to come, with the Olympic finals seeing both Street and Park podiums full of teenage women athletes.
“When the president of the skate federation made the public TV announcement congratulating the male champions, I went right up to him and said: ‘Aren’t you going to congratulate this girl for winning?’ So often people get caught up and don’t say anything when they have a platform to. I made him do it that day.”
We wish we could give Micaela a crystal ball and have her tell us where skateboarding will be by the time of the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles. But we’ll take her best guess: “If we don’t start doing something now, only the rich will be able to participate in the Olympics. It will create a greater divide between socioeconomic communities.”
Nonprofits like Poseiden, as well as all those The Skateroom supports via our social entrepreneurship model, are still very much leading the way to necessary change. If the playing field is to be levelled, and lesser developed countries are to see their athletes compete, then infrastructure, outreach and safe sport initiatives must be introduced and supported. We in the more privileged regions can make real lasting change.
“Skateboarding comes with a certain ‘give-a-fuck’ attitude. But that doesn’t mean we can’t take a progressive approach, rather than a laissez faire approach, to our global communities. That’s what’s so awesome about the AntiRacism Commitment with the Goodpush Alliance. Finally, an agreement to protect victims of abuse in skateboarding.”
Keep it fun!
When did skateboarding stop hopping fences? It’s a good question. With all the noise and money and media attention that skateboarding has garnered in recent years, the ‘soul’ of skating may have gotten lost in the mainstream. However, the activism that bred Poseiden, that to this day sees incredible social change all over the world, has never died. Speaking with Micaela, it’s clear that the more communities can unite under the shared love of skateboarding, the more barriers can be broken down, the more progress can be made.
“This is where I return to Ladies Day. Just a day of fun. If you identify as a lady, you are welcome. It’s your day. It’s all about skateboarding, it’s about the soul. And we end it with a Pinata.” And for all those of you who aren’t fortunate enough to live next to the world’s most famous skatepark – The Berrics – you can take part in Poseidon Foundations social challenge on the YOURIPapp. “For every upload of a skate video to our Poseiden Foundation skate challenge, we donate a skateboard to homeless, foster, orphan or at-risk youth, globally. Get involved!”
We encourage you to explore all the projects you’ve read about in this article, and all those we support as part of our social entrepreneurship model at The Skateroom. You can, right now, make a difference by shopping our limited edition artworks – of which at least 10% of all revenue goes to these projects
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