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Lisa Whitaker

creating the demand

It’s 2 a.m. in the US when I call Lisa in Norwalk, California. Her son can’t sleep, but she tries to make him sleepy by watching Finding Nemo while she’s doing the interview. Since she’s a mother now, the time for skating herself got less and less, but she’s looking forward to being able to go out more again when her son’s a bit older. But also off the board, she has been and is still doing a lot for skateboarding and a lot for women in particular. If you don’t know Lisa, she is a filmer, started girlsskatenetwork.com, founded Meow Skateboards, works with Women’s Skateboarding Alliance, and also worked several jobs in the industry for years. It’s cool to have all those new girls that get sponsored now, but it’s maybe even more important to have women like Lisa who put all their heart in, trying to promote them in the best way possible.

I imagine that having a hard time to find a board sponsor could have something to do with not that many guys buying a women’s pro board.

No, we actually sell quite a few boards to guys. Look at Nora Vasconcellos’s board – the majority of the people who are buying it are guys. Nora has proven that there’s a market. She even has the top-selling board on Welcome. I think it has more to do with the person than it does with gender.

Was it hard to get Meow into skate shops?

I knew it would be hard at first, so I didn’t even try. I just focused on building a team, making quality product, creating content, and building a demand. With the internet and social media, you’re not at the mercy of the others. You don’t need to be included in a major skate magazine or convince a shop buyer to try your new brand to get in front of customers. We were able to create enough demand that most of the shops and distributors we work with today approached us after getting requests from customers.

Do you think social media is the most important thing that helped to make female skateboarding grow?

Yeah, that’s the biggest factor. The girls being able to create their own content and get it out to the world without going through a middleman for approval. There’s a bunch of girls who are not at the top level of skateboarding, but what they do is still inspiring to others. Social media just opens the door to all types of skateboarding.

Talking about creating a demand for Meow Skateboards, I think there’s also a demand for women’s skate fashion, but nobody has done it so far.

I think that’s a huge untapped market. It’s slowly going to start to develop. Vanessa Torres has something in the works and there are a couple brands working with female pros to create capsule collections. It’s a little harder with girls. I can’t say guys are one size fits all, but women come in a bunch of different shapes and sizes. I doubt any two of my riders wear the same jean cut and size, you need to be able to offer more than one fit to be successful.

More and more girls get sponsored, but there are not many working in the industry. Why do you think that is?

For the longest time, there were a lot less girls interested in skateboarding, but now as the pool is growing, hopefully that will start to be reflected in the industry.

There’s also barely any female photographers or filmers, as far as I know. Is that an issue?

I’m not sure I would say it was an issue, but I would love to see more. This is another one that I think has more to do with personality than gender. I think if the skater’s and photographer’s/filmer’s personality click, they can be really productive. If they don’t, it can be torture. There are lots of supportive guys that the girls work really well with. But it’s awesome when more girls get into it because there’s a different type of connection to it. Zorah Olivia and Monique O’Toole are good examples of an upcoming photographer and filmer who are really good friends with a lot of the girls, so they make them feel comfortable and go out of their way to help them get the shots. They are also great possibility models for younger girls, which I feel is really important.

You’re in the filming business for a long time. Have you experienced a different treatment from the industry compared to the male filmers?

For the most part, I’ve felt supported whether it was when I was skating, filming, or working in the industry. Early on, there might have been a trip or two I got passed upon for a male filmer with less experience. I’m sure they were thinking a girl wouldn’t want to be stuck in a van with a bunch of stinky guys and they wouldn’t need to get an extra hotel room. I understand and I benefited from that thinking as well because I filmed a bunch of girls trips for TV shows when I know there were much more qualified guys than me.

What do you think has the media to learn in order to present female skateboarding properly?

What you are doing with this issue and bringing Sarah Meurle on as a guest editor is great. Female-focused issues are powerful, but it’s also great to integrate them in a way so it’s not a separate guys/girls thing. I think in 2018, most media is open to showing more female skate content. The biggest piece missing is getting more girls connected with professional photographers and videographers to create the content.

"“I always wanted to skate, but my parents told me that it’s only for boys. I found your website, showed them, now they’re gonna buy me my first skateboard.”"

Do you think social media is the most important thing that helped to make female skateboarding grow?

Yeah, that’s the biggest factor. The girls being able to create their own content and get it out to the world without going through a middleman for approval. There’s a bunch of girls who are not at the top level of skateboarding, but what they do is still inspiring to others. Social media just opens the door to all types of skateboarding.

Talking about creating a demand for Meow Skateboards, I think there’s also a demand for women’s skate fashion, but nobody has done it so far.

I think that’s a huge untapped market. It’s slowly going to start to develop. Vanessa Torres has something in the works and there are a couple brands working with female pros to create capsule collections. It’s a little harder with girls. I can’t say guys are one size fits all, but women come in a bunch of different shapes and sizes. I doubt any two of my riders wear the same jean cut and size, you need to be able to offer more than one fit to be successful.

More and more girls get sponsored, but there are not many working in the industry. Why do you think that is?

For the longest time, there were a lot less girls interested in skateboarding, but now as the pool is growing, hopefully that will start to be reflected in the industry.

Do you think social media is the most important thing that helped to make female skateboarding grow?

Yeah, that’s the biggest factor. The girls being able to create their own content and get it out to the world without going through a middleman for approval. There’s a bunch of girls who are not at the top level of skateboarding, but what they do is still inspiring to others. Social media just opens the door to all types of skateboarding.

Talking about creating a demand for Meow Skateboards, I think there’s also a demand for women’s skate fashion, but nobody has done it so far.

I think that’s a huge untapped market. It’s slowly going to start to develop. Vanessa Torres has something in the works and there are a couple brands working with female pros to create capsule collections. It’s a little harder with girls. I can’t say guys are one size fits all, but women come in a bunch of different shapes and sizes. I doubt any two of my riders wear the same jean cut and size, you need to be able to offer more than one fit to be successful.

More and more girls get sponsored, but there are not many working in the industry. Why do you think that is?

For the longest time, there were a lot less girls interested in skateboarding, but now as the pool is growing, hopefully that will start to be reflected in the industry.

There’s also barely any female photographers or filmers, as far as I know. Is that an issue?

I’m not sure I would say it was an issue, but I would love to see more. This is another one that I think has more to do with personality than gender. I think if the skater’s and photographer’s/filmer’s personality click, they can be really productive. If they don’t, it can be torture. There are lots of supportive guys that the girls work really well with. But it’s awesome when more girls get into it because there’s a different type of connection to it. Zorah Olivia and Monique O’Toole are good examples of an upcoming photographer and filmer who are really good friends with a lot of the girls, so they make them feel comfortable and go out of their way to help them get the shots. They are also great possibility models for younger girls, which I feel is really important.

You’re in the filming business for a long time. Have you experienced a different treatment from the industry compared to the male filmers?

For the most part, I’ve felt supported whether it was when I was skating, filming, or working in the industry. Early on, there might have been a trip or two I got passed upon for a male filmer with less experience. I’m sure they were thinking a girl wouldn’t want to be stuck in a van with a bunch of stinky guys and they wouldn’t need to get an extra hotel room. I understand and I benefited from that thinking as well because I filmed a bunch of girls trips for TV shows when I know there were much more qualified guys than me.

What do you think has the media to learn in order to present female skateboarding properly?

What you are doing with this issue and bringing Sarah Meurle on as a guest editor is great. Female-focused issues are powerful, but it’s also great to integrate them in a way so it’s not a separate guys/girls thing. I think in 2018, most media is open to showing more female skate content. The biggest piece missing is getting more girls connected with professional photographers and videographers to create the content.

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