On. Jan 24, 30 youth participants and a staff member of Seattle’s chapter of Skate Like A Girl — a non-profit organization centered on empowering young women, queer and trans individuals through the art of skateboarding — had to abruptly evacuate its indoor skatepark located in the Chinatown-International District (CID) when a King County Metro bus crashed into the warehouse. The collision has put an indefinite pause on Skate Like a Girl’s programming, forcing the organization to cancel all of its winter sessions and leaving more than 3,500 skaters without an inclusive space to safely practice their skateboarding skills, according to Skate Like A Girl.
The organization is actively seeking an alternative space for its program participants, which has not proven to be an easy task. Program manager Spirit Miska said the program will have to consider how much space is necessary to hold a skate session. The new location would also have to be accessible by public transportation; the current warehouse is located near multiple bus stops and the light rail station in the CID, which many of the young folks at Skate Like a Girl rely on. Miska also emphasized safety as another underlying factor the team needs to take into consideration.
“Skateboarding is really a seasonal sport. [Here] it rains a majority of the year and that means that we can’t skate outside because it’s not safe, especially for young people,” Miska said. “Being outside in the rain, your wheels can slip and you could get hurt. The warehouse was truly a seasonal place for us to hold all our programs.”
Miska was stationed at the main entrance of the skate park at the time of the crash and was the only staff member presiding over that day’s skate session. For a moment, Miska said she didn’t believe it was real, but it took only a few seconds to realize that she needed to do something. She expressed she didn’t want any of the young people to see an ounce of her anxiousness in a moment where confusion and fear was already running rampant. Skate Like A Girl confirmed none of the 30 youth participants were injured during the crash. However, Miska said, this community of skaters has lost a significant space where they can go and enjoy their favorite hobby.
“When we come into the warehouse space, it feels like we can kind of shut off that anxiety and that armor. We can get sweaty, we can have fun, we can fall and not be scared because we know that people around us will continue to cheer us on and provide support,” Miska said.
Skate Like A Girl, founded at Evergreen State College in 2000 by Holly Sheehan and Fleur Larsen, dismantles many of the prejudices and hostility that young women and trans and queer people may face at typical skateparks. Miska said members mention the feeling of being watched at other skateparks, which are often predominately white, cisgender male spaces that leave these young women skaters unable to explore a sport they’re passionate about. Miska recalled hearing someone refer to her skating as “girly,” saying she “skates like a girl.” This infamous phrase used against young women in skating has now been reclaimed and embraced by the organization.
“Something that was meant to take away our power [and] to discredit our abilities [is] now a term that brings a lot of joy and empowerment to people,” said Miska. “Over the past two decades, there’s been a slow shift [in] raising our understanding and compassion for other people, and it’s all in the young people. The youth carry a lot of that passion and knowledge, and we try to nurture and acknowledge that with every youth.”
Stephanie Mack, a coach for Skate Like A Girl, works closely with youth participants and has connected with young skaters through art workshops meant to help broaden their ability to express themselves.
“It’s meeting students where they’re at — we talk a lot about equity opposed to equality, and I think that’s something that’s really important when meeting kids at different levels. [It] allows more kids to join in and to participate without the pressure [of] having to fit inside these specific boxes,” Mack said.
Mack and her students created murals for the warehouse to give it a distinctive character. In fact, the wall the bus crashed into had been one of those spaces decorated by students and staff members. The mural had Seattle as a backdrop with a skater girl flying over the buildings and a plethora of balloons, flowers and colors.
“[The crash] takes away a space where we can stand up, be physical, just express ourselves so freely and be okay to make mistakes,” Mack said. “We’d all worked together, and it’s definitely sad for our students. Some parents have reached out letting me know that their kids were really bummed to hear that the mural was gone. We’re definitely going to have to recreate something else.”
On Feb. 1, King County Metro removed the bus from the warehouse; there are plans to make temporary repairs to the building. According to a press release by King County Metro, it is communicating with Skate Like A Girl to support its needs as it approaches the end of its lease in April. Skate Like A Girl already intended to vacate its current warehouse in the spring since its agreement only extended to using the building during the winter, according to Miska. But she shared that the organization doesn’t have a confirmed timeline for when it can fully use the warehouse before its lease is up. This lack of communication has only added to the organization’s stress over finding a new location within the CID or Central District to host future indoor programs.
Until it’s able to return to its indoor skatepark, Skate Like A Girl will be hosting skate sessions at the All Together skatepark in Fremont and is actively seeking donations to cover the cost that the crash caused.
Read more of the Feb. 7–13, 2024 issue.