Amelia Brodka, born in Poland but raised in the US, a full time skateboarder and documentary film-maker behind ‘Underexposed’, the story of how women in skateboarding are not as widely publicized as male skateboarders in the industry. I talked to Amelia about her introduction to skateboarding, her inspiration to make the film, and how the industry is changing.
PlanetNotion: How did you first get into skateboarding?
Amelia Brodka: I got really interested in skateboarding after seeing the women’s vert demo at the X-Games in Philadelphia about 10 years ago. Seeing Lyn-Z Adams and Cara Beth Burnside skate vert made it seem like it was something I could aspire to do one day.
PN: When you first started, did you get much support from guys?
AB: For the first few years of my skateboarding, I felt like I had to prove to the guys that I could hang with them. For a long time, I was usually the only girl at any spot or skatepark. Now, there are always other girls at the park and people seem a lot more welcoming.
PN: What is the most important aspect of skateboarding for you?
PN: Was it difficult to get recognition as a girl in such a male-dominated sport?
AB: Actually, girls who skate get a lot of recognition because they are still a relative minority. But that recognition doesn’t exactly translate to long-term opportunity. So the support and excitement about the growth of female skateboarding is definitely there but it’s still limited.
PN: Over the last 40-50 years, how do you feel the industry has changed when it comes to women in skateboarding?
AB: Skate companies, at least apparel and footwear, have developed women’s lines and products specifically for women. Hopefully they will soon start to actually pump the profits they make from the girls line back into supporting female skaters.
PN: In your opinion, why do you think men in board sports have generally achieved more recognition and support than women? Do you think maybe it has something to do with the stereotype of women needing to be ‘feminine’ and therefore they can’t skate and be lady-like at the same time?
AB: Well there are a lot more men skating at a much much more progressive level than the women. They are the ones pushing the physical boundaries of skateboarding. I know plenty of girls who are feminine and skate amazingly, but companies are so used to following the typical fashion marketing model in which guys are portrayed as active and athletic and women as passive and static.
PN: What can be done to create more support and acknowledgment for women in skateboarding and board sports in general, for them to become equal competitors with men?
AB: I’d like to see the companies that make girls’ skate products and apparel support females who skate by advertising their products using girl skaters instead of just models clumsily clutching a board. As for women becoming equal competitors with men, that will take quite some time. It will require a combination of companies stepping in to support females coupled with the women and girls really pushing themselves to progress and skate harder. Without any opportunity for financial backing, life can inevitably derail the women striving to progress now from focusing on progressing and skating at a higher level.
PN: Do you think that if male pro skaters gave public support to women in the same sport there would be further interest and backing from skate teams and organizations? Or do you feel you do not particularly need the support of male skaters to gain impartiality in skateboarding?
AB: Male skaters are very supportive I think we’re on the right track.
PN: What made you want to make ‘Underexposed’?
AB: I’ve seen a dramatic growth in the level and number of girls and women skateboarding in the past few years. Yet, all I’ve seen are cutbacks from the industry side. Fewer contests, keeping “pro” women on a “flow” level, etc, I thought that there was maybe a disconnect between what people within the industry thought of women’s skateboarding and what was actually happening, maybe they weren’t aware of the kind of growth that I was seeing. So I decided to juxtapose the two: get the industry perspective while showing the global growth in the amount of female skaters and the progressive level at which they were riding.
PN: Have you found out anything new since making the documentary?
AB: Well I discovered that everyone is very supportive of women’s skateboarding and that there was, in fact, a disconnect. The primary reason for the disconnect is the lack of media exposure. Hence the title of the film.
PN: What do you hope ‘Underexposed’ will do?
AB: I hope it will inspire more little girls to pick up a skateboard for the first time. I also hope it will make the industry realize that it is only beneficial for them to support women’s skateboarding.
PN: Since you put out the trailer and the word got out there that you made a documentary focusing on the underexposure of girl skaters, have you noticed that anything has changed for you or the industry?
AB: Absolutely. Some of the changes began while we were filming so I won’t go into those because I don’t want to spoil the ending. The documentary has gotten a lot of media attention as well so I guess you can say there has been an increase in the amount of exposure of women’s skateboarding.
Watch the trailer to Amelia’s ‘Underexposed’ below:
- Nina Hoogstraate
Photo: Xavier Lannes