Mimi Knoop: professional skateboarder, artist, co-founder of hoopla skateboards and The Alliance, and 5 time X Games medal winner. This girl has it all! She chats to us about getting recognition as a female skateboarder, her and Cara-Beth Burnside’s success (personal and professional), and encouraging women and girls to pick up a skateboard to make the movement of women skateboarders larger and acknowledged properly!
PlanetNotion: How did you get into skateboarding?
Mimi Knoop: I first got into skateboarding when a neighborhood friend got a skateboard. I think I was 6? I got to try it and thought it was the best feeling I ever had- the closest thing to flying in fact. I’ve been hooked ever since!
PN: When you first started, did you get much support from guys?
MK: The first several years I skated, there were no skateparks. I would skate with boys from school and we would either skate street, or build our own launch ramps or street obstacles. It was never weird for me being a girl; we actually never thought of it as an issue- I was just skating and so were they.
PN: What is the most important aspect of skateboarding for you?
MK: Freedom of expression, progression, and probably maybe most importantly… fun!
PN: Was it difficult to get recognition as a girl in such a male dominant sport?
MK: It wasn’t super difficult to get recognition since at the time I got into competing, there were only a small number of girls/women skating professionally. It was more difficult trying to make a living from skateboarding, though.
PN: Over the last 40-50 years, since Patti McGee became the first female pro-skateboarder, how do you feel the industry has changed when it comes to women in skateboarding?
MK: What I have really seen change over the past several years is the increase of girls out there skateboarding. When I was a kid, there weren’t any girl skaters. Now they are literally everywhere! It puts a smile on my face. I think one day girls skateboarding will be as widespread and as encouraged as girls soccer.
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 an be lady-like at the same time?
MK: I think that in the end it could possibly be all about money. Skateboarding has been a male dominated sport for so long, so companies have used men/boys as the models/role models to promote their products to other skaters- it’s the safe thing to do because the numbers were there. I think the time has finally come when girls are out there skating in high numbers too: it’s only a matter of time before brands see this as an opportunity that is fresh and new. I think some of them already have.
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?
MK: Higher visibility. We have a new outlet now with the internet and social media; the girls need to create their own content and promote ourselves individually. That will get the ball rolling in my opinion. We can’t sit around and wait for the opportunities to come to us; we have to be proactive and creative and make it happen in our own way.
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 organisations? Or do you feel you do not particularly need the support of male skaters to gain impartiality in skateboarding?
MK: I think many of the guys have already publicly supported the girls- most of the male skaters/pros are really supportive and cool that way. It’s just a matter of visibility, and participation numbers. Girls skateboarding is growing very quickly without much attention from the industry. I think it will reach a tipping point soon on it’s own from the sheer number of girls entering the sport; and then possibly will be more accepted since it will hold more value as a demographic to brands.
PN: When and how were the (Action Sports) Alliance and hoopla Skateboards founded?
MK: The Alliance was founded in 2005. Hoopla skateboards was founded around 2007. Two totally separate things; but both were started with the similar intention of supporting girls in skateboarding.
PN: What is the aim of the Alliance?
MK: The Alliance was originally formed to create a “voice” for female professional skateboarders. Our mission is ”The Alliance is a non-profit association of professional women skateboarders and other action sports athletes who have united to develop and promote their sport by empowering and encouraging young women’s participation as well as increasing professional opportunities”. We operate under that philosophy by working with ESPN at X Games, and more recently we held an online video contest that received entries from all around the world. The winner was selected by our X Games selection committee and got to skate with the pro women during X Games LA street practice. We plan to continue evolving and creating more great things for the girls as we go.
PN: How has hoopla Skateboards expanded, changed and become successful since it first started?
MK: Hoopla started out with just myself and Cara-Beth working together with Skate One Corp. We have slowly built up the hoopla team with girls that absolutely rip- and they all also have great attitudes. We are still growing and always searching for more ways to support women & girls in skateboarding. We are coming out with new products later this fall including a hoopla cruiser board that I helped design. (Our team helped as well!). We want to show other girls that they can skate; and that they should skate!
PN: Have the aims been reached with both organisations or are you reaching higher and higher constantly?
MK: We have had great successes small and large. We achieved prize purse parity for men and women at X Games through the Alliance and ESPN. We have put together one of the very best female skateboard teams on the planet with hoopla. We have helped make change by working together and believing in what we stand for. But you can never reach too high! Of course we will be constantly striving for new things, new ideas, and also adapting to each challenge we meet along the way.
PN: What’s hoopla’s motto?
MK: Hoopla was created with the intent to encourage both girl’s participation and progression in skateboarding, while simultaneously offering fun graphics for all skaters. created by female professional skateboarders, Mimi Knoop and Cara-Beth Burnside, hoopla has deep roots in skateboarding. Whether ridden by a novice or a pro, hoopla makes skaters feel confident and comfortable about riding a skateboard. Hoopla is centered around having fun and being creative!
- Nina Hoogstraate