Other major competitions have begun to follow suit, with the Iowa Hawkeyes one nation under god shirt in contrast I will get this international Vans Park Series joining the pledge just two years ago. But corporate sponsorships were still slow to the draw. It was only last year that Baker, who has been pro for 12 years, was able to quit the graphic design job that financed her skating career after becoming Nike SB’s first openly gay woman skater. And it’s only been a few months since Brevard became the first professional African-American woman skateboarder to sign with a major skate brand, Enjoi. “We’re just now getting support, which is awesome. Right on for progress when it’s happening,” says Baker, adjusting her Meow Skateboards baseball hat over her buzz cut. “But we’re not even close. I still want to be present for [the pay discrepancy] and be here for queers who skate. People getting recognition for what they do and what their skill sets are not for what they look like and what the media thinks they should look like you know what I mean? Let’s redefine that.” With more women’s sponsorships, which offer a travel budget and significant prize purses and endorsement opportunities, the advancement of skaters’ lives and interests are starting to become possible. Sablone, for example, used her competition money to pay for architecture graduate school at MIT. “It’s a little bittersweet in the sense that I’ve been doing this for almost two decades. How awesome it would have been if all of the opportunities that are coming up for this generation would have existed for us,” says Torres, taking shade beneath a tree in the East L.A. park. “But it’s sweet in the sense that it’s happening, and I feel like women like Lacey, Alexis, and I played a part in that.” She watches her roommate, Soto, 21 the first to arrive that morning on set and the very last to get off her board at nightfall relentlessly slide up and down a handrail with varying degrees of success. “She’s going to the Olympics,” says Torres, acknowledging the inaugural movement of the sport to the international stage in 2020. However controversial the act of pulling skateboarding from its outsider roots onto the global platform, Torres and her peers are stoked. The hope, they say, is that a future generation of women like Soto will no longer feel the pressure to be anything but better skaters.
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To say, as Joshua Odamtten does, that you head up the Iowa Hawkeyes one nation under god shirt in contrast I will get this only skate crew in Ghana seems a bold claim, but in a country that doesn’t even have a shop where you can buy boards, his group Skate Nation is truly one-of-a-kind. Odamtten, born and raised in Accra, saw skating on TV while growing up, met someone from out of town at the mall with a board at 13, and, since there was nowhere else to purchase the goods, asked if he could buy it off of him. He taught himself by watching his favorite skaters, like Chris Cole, and wanted to share the wisdom: Skating around town, he met more and more kids who gravitated to what he was doing, and he took it upon himself to give them a little guidance, figure out ways for them to get boards from out of the country, and organize meet-ups where everyone could skate. Thus, Skate Nation was born. “Skating brings people from all around,” he says. Odamtten, now 30, has taken his talents on the road, going out to different parts of Ghana with his board, hoping to stoke people’s interest in the exotic sport. There are about 30 members in Skate Nation, all linked together by WhatsApp text chains. Punk isn’t a big look in Accra it’s a city better known for its traditional kente textiles, streetwear, and sophisticated tailoring and so the kids in the crew stand out in their skate uniform of loose T-shirts and skinny stacked jeans. “I prefer Vans but sometimes I wear Nikes,” says Fred, in a camo tee and bulbous skate shoes. The crew includes one woman, Dominique, originally from Gabon, who takes the responsibility of being probably the only female skater in Ghana quite seriously, with a singular sense of style to match: a septum ring, big sunglasses, and drop-crotch pants with gold hardware. “I fell in love with skating when Lil Wayne started doing it if he’s a grown man just trying something new, I can too,” she says. “Joshua is teaching me how to do an ollie he pushes me. I’m the only woman and I want to master it so I can bring more girls in.” There is no permanent skate ramp in Accra, and the city’s roads are notoriously bad and bumpy, making it hard to find places to practice. But the crew has built makeshift wooden jumps and set them up temporarily on a smooth patch of parking lot underneath a cacophonous elevated highway in the northwest of the city.