GRL SWIRL: Skate Feminine.
GRL SWIRL is a female skate group based out of Venice, LA. With a mission statement like ‘Female skate sisterhood focused on bringing femininity to skate’, you just know we’d be instantly obsessed. Twice a month they host skate groups, bringing girls both old and new to the group into a community of support & laughter. We had a chat with 9 of the GRLS about how it all came about, what femininity in skating really means, what their board has brought them and what it’s like living in Venice.
How did the idea for GRL SWIRL come about? Were you filling a gap? How did you all connect and come together?
Lucy Osinski: I’m a fairly new skater and I definitely don’t fit the typical skateboarder mould. I was a pro ballerina terrified to get on a board, but once taught correctly I fell in love with how liberating and empowering skating felt. I was skating every day, and very quickly started noticing the unwanted attention I was attracting as a feminine, female skater, skating alone. I started recruiting other women to join me in the hopes of finding more comfort in numbers. As it happened, I wasn’t just sharing the streets with other ladies, but I was sharing the empowerment and freedom I’d found in skateboarding. Suddenly, we were a force, not a minority, and it felt revolutionary. We’ve been growing in numbers ever since, and it’s been incredible to see the support and excitement from around not just our city, but worldwide!!
What does femininity mean to you, and why do you feel it is so important to prioritise bringing it to skateboarding?
Shannon Moss: Femininity to me means embracing being a woman. Women come in all shapes, all sizes, from all backgrounds, so femininity to me sweeps across all those lines as well - it’s a word that morphs it’s meaning for each and every woman out there. It’s all-embracing, all-encompassing. When we say we want to bring femininity to skating, I see it as bringing more women in to skate, showing them that there is no rigid definition of being feminine. It can mean cutting up your knees and coming home with bruises. It can mean showing up to a male dominated scene and being yourself. It can mean wearing a dress, ripped jeans, vans or ballet flats. It can mean anything.
What drew you to skate culture?
Myriah Marquez: When I was eleven, I became really ill and had to take multiple medications, which caused my weight to fluctuate. I was bullied by my classmates, so my parents decided I should switch schools. I wanted something that made me look and feel tough, so that the kids at my new school wouldn't mess with me. Little did I know how truly liberating it would be. #thankyouskateboarding
As a skater, how does where you live influence your vibe and vision?
Monroe Alvarez: Living in Venice has influenced me on so many levels. It’s allowed me to become a calmer individual, both to others and myself. Venice has offered me a community of individuals that are creative, inspiring and supportive, and I definitely wouldn’t be who I am today if I didn’t live here. I used to live in NYC, and moving closer to the ocean has balanced me in ways that are only understood by experiencing it for yourself. There’s a reason why Venice is over-populated… people are drawn to the energy and want a piece of it for themselves.
Do you feel like your mission transcends more than just skating, seeing you also have a focus on feminism?
Danielle Francine Schwartz: I definitely feel like our mission goes beyond skating. We all love to skate, but we also have individual missions that are important to us. We do a lot of philanthropic work locally with both enviornmental and social organizations, particularly with young girls. I have a one year old daughter, so it means a lot to me to be a part of creating something that will be both inspiring and empowering for her when she grows up. When I was young, I think the closest role model I found that encompassed all the aspects of diverse femininity that Grlswirl explores was Gwen Stefani! She had a bit of a bad-ass tomboy vibe, while still being ‘girly’.
But we as a group are also doing a lot of creative work that I feel super proud of. I think our message is, no matter what your fears or doubts are, if you go after it you can accomplish so much more than you think is possible. Especially when you have a bad ass group of women going after it with you. I whole heartedly believe in this idea and think if more people believe in it, it can truly change the world! Viva le revolucion!
What are you trying to achieve with this female skate group? Like, what would be your utmost dream for this?
Kelsey Nichols: The absolute dream is to be able to continue spreading and growing the grlswirl community and movement worldwide. We hope to be able to inspire women and girls on a broader level to feel confident to be able to get outside of their comfort zone, try something new and not be embarrassed of what others will think. Feeling confident while skating can carry over into feeling confident and more conformable in your own skin, in many areas of life.
I saw on your Instagram that you have 150 members and counting… how do girls get involved with GRL SWIRL?
Lindsey Kluick: This is something that has taken shape in many forms. I know girls get involved because they feel the pull to join the GRLSWIRL movement; it feels good to be surrounded by a community of women with the common ground being skateboarding. It feels radical! Currently, we hold two Group Skates a month where GRLS come to meet up, skate, and have an all-round good time. We are growing strong roots here in Venice, where skating pulses through the streets and alleyways.
However, being able to skate with us isn’t the only way to be part of GRLSWIRL. We all speak the same language when we skate! We have GRLS from all over the world sending us pictures of them skating and sharing their stories with us, and we’re so inspired by the community of women skaters all over the world. These are our GRLS too! Being able to connect with GRLS via social media has been huge in getting GRLS involved with GRLSWIRL. Come skate with us in Venice! If you aren't able to do this and feel the pull to skate, my message to all the GRLS out there is go buy that first board or ride the one you've been riding, alone or with friends, and know that we have big dreams of skating with GRLS all over the world!
What's something you wish more girls knew?
Tobi Ann: Two things that I think go hand in hand: It’s never ever too late to learn something new and it is beautiful to be inspired by someone’s talents and success but not to want to be exactly like them. You will find true happiness and success when you allow yourself to explore new things while being 100% yourself.
I always wanted to skate growing up but was afraid of failing. When I got over that fear in college, I was "too old" to learn. I finally woke up one day and said, to hell with that attitude, I'm going to start skating. I picked up a board at 29 years old, met a group of girls that support and excite me at the age of 30, and now it’s one of my favourite things to do (and I'll admit, I’ve surprised myself and don't think I'm too bad at it!).
I spent a lot of my life watching girls surfing and skating and thinking they looked so cool doing it, but was discouraged to try because I would never be "that cool". That’s ridiculous! You will never be good at something if you're trying to be someone else. Wake up and get on your board because it makes you happy and you have fun! If you stand goofy, regular, stick your tongue out when you concentrate, always bend your knees or stand straight all the time, don’t wear shoes because you like to feel your board, don’t like going fast, feel more confident in full pads and gear - whatever. If anyone says you’re doing it wrong, they’re wrong. Whatever it is that you do on that board is correct, because it’s your style. It’s what makes skating fun for you, and that makes you beautiful.