Courtney Atencio rides on the ground, swerving in and out of the long deserted roads of California. In one video, he grabs the back of a Toyota Camry and walks behind it. In another, he is with his friends, practicing at a local skate park. Each time, Atencio’s clips are undeniably interesting and are quickly flooded with comments from fans asking for tips on how to start skating. Atencio didn’t start skating or on her TikTok account to achieve fame, but she quickly found community in both that she never experienced when she was little.
“When I was 1
Skate culture has found a new life on TikTok, where short videos of awesome cheats, painful eliminations and hangouts at the local skatepark have collectively brought billions of views. The explosion of skateboarding videos has encouraged old-time skaters to take up the hobby and convinced newbies to try it for the first time – and unlike the male-dominated world that has been the face of skate culture for decades, many of the stars of TikTok are women and queer people.
Hashtags like #girlswhoskate and #skatergirl are constantly growing, creating an endless sea of videos starring girls and women. Scroll on and you’ll find skaters like Brianna King, an incredibly popular creator known for offering tips that newcomers can use when starting out, or skateboobs, an all-female skateboarding group in Scotland, who regularly post videos of their time skating. But many creators are more like Atencio, who simply posts videos of solo rides at his home in the suburbs of Los Angeles or his time spent at the skatepark with friends.
“I see more women skateboarding on TikTok than I’ve ever seen as a child,” said Faeth Perryman, who also posts skateboarding videos on TikTok. The Verge. “I don’t really know if it’s because there are a lot of girls on TikTok in general, or if TikTok just made skateboarding videos more accessible.”
Thanks to TikTok’s recommendation algorithm, more than 250,000 people I watched a video of Perryman skateboarding along a deserted road in Acadia, Maine, the Atlantic Ocean stretching for miles behind her as the sun rises. The app is constantly offering new videos to people interacting with similar types of content. Basically, if you like, comment or share a couple of skateboard videos, TikTok will fill your feed with more and more.
After declining in the late 00s and beyond, skate culture has had a resurgence in recent years. The success of streetwear brands like Supreme that rely heavily on skateboarding aesthetics has helped spark a new interest in skateboarding, the pandemic has given people more time to finally try and a remaster of the first two. Tony Hawk’s professional skater the games offered even more nostalgia. Skateboarding was about to make its Olympic debut this year until the games were canceled.
It’s not that trans women and skaters haven’t existed in the last half century, but men have dominated the covers of Thrasher Magazine, men who starred in the coveted VHS compilations that would make it to skate shops, and men who composed almost all the skaters featured in the hugely popular Tony Hawk Games. TikTok has helped lower visibility skaters find more inclusive communities.
Perryman grew up around skateboarding – her brothers and dad all skated – but she still felt intimidated by the male-dominated culture. On TikTok, she found herself with a new platform and a group of young girls who wanted to emulate her style. Atencio, who has 76,000 followers, says she is constantly surprised by the number of girls who contact her asking which format they should buy.
C, a non-binary trans artist, said he was inspired by the trans skaters that appeared in the app’s main feed and thought, “I might be able to do it myself.” While C grew up skateboarding, they fell as adults. It was only when the pandemic broke out and C found more time to resume old hobbies that they returned.
“Skating is such a punk, anti-society thing and, in my opinion, so is being trans and specifically existing off the track,” said C. The Verge. “Seeing these two things happening on TikTok was so good.”
The problems that have existed in the skate culture for years are also present on TikTok. Men introduce themselves in the comments by calling the girls posers and commenting negatively on the way women skate. Perryman tries not to pay attention to comments, but Atencio argues that the positive comments he receives outweigh the negative ones.
“For every negative comment there will be 20 times more free comments where people push me and tell me a good job,” Atencio said.
But creators like Atencio and Perryman want to encourage people to get off TikTok and try skateboarding. Skating for Perryman and Atencio means getting on a board and meeting others as much as watching people. It is Atencio’s closest friends – the ones she found in skateparks, she says – who push her “to do what I do on TikTok”.