Watch: XDubai skatepark becoming hit with girls inspired by Instagram stars
Cool, streetwise young women on social media are helping attract a new breed of skateboarders to take up the sport, with Kite Beach proving a great venue to perfect their skills.
Operators of XDubai’s skatepark have noticed a marked increase in the numbers of young girls taking up the sport and dropping into the purpose-built beachside skatepark.
Numbers have been steadily increasing since the park first opened two years ago, with more girls now taking up the sport, according to South African Candi Fanucci, operations manager at XDubai Skatepark.
“The whole women’s skateboarding fraternity in Dubai is increasing, and the stigma attached to the kind of girls who used to skate has changed,” she said.
“Over the past six months or so, we’ve seen a huge increase in very young girls on scooters wanting to use the park, and older girls on skateboards.
“We are working towards some girl-only events at the skatepark. They are not always as easy going as the boys, and will not just jump on a skateboard and need more encouragement.
“A structured environment is more appealing to the girls, and we are providing that.”
Women were at the forefront of developing the sport in its early days.
American Patti McGee was an early pioneer of the sport, and became the 1965 Woman's first National Skateboard Champion in Santa Monica, California.
Since then the sport has become largely dominated by men but that is changing, with more girls becoming inspired to take up skateboarding thanks to a new breed of social media stars.
One of those inspiring more women to take up the sport is Brazilian star Leticia Bufoni, with 1.4 million Instagram followers.
Another is Australian youngster Poppy Starr Olsen, who is popular with her 21,000 followers for her impressive range of halfpipe skills.
“Skateboarding has always been a social sport,” Ms Fanucci said.
“The XGames has helped change the perception by developing female-only skateboarding events and a brand. Female icons have changed the perception and their hard work is paying off now.
“The way the XDubai skatepark has been built, with greenery and its close proximity to the beach, lends itself to a social environment. It encourages kids to go outdoors, do sport and enjoy themselves.
“They can socialise in a different, safe environment. On Thursday through to Saturday you can’t move in the park it is so busy. Skateboarding helps to build social skills in a healthy environment for young people.”
Last year the International Olympic Committee (IOC) voted unanimously to include skateboarding in the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo. That decision has also been a key factor in more young people taking up the sport.
The Kite Beach park was XDubai’s first foray into the development and sponsoring of community activities, with support and experience from action sport park developer Convic. The Australian company specialises in the design and delivery of skateparks and youth-oriented facilities around the world.
Embodying principles of social sustainability, the facility offers opportunities for all participants and visitors creating a central community hub competitions and social opportunities.
The park provides a low profile skate plaza with unique street elements and transition flow areas containing banks, blocks and quarter-pipes seamlessly connect to create continuous skate runs. It is the perfect beginners’ park with unique obstacles for novice riders to learn and develop skills.
Parents are also learning the right way from the start in how to get their kids involved.
Turkish mother Ece Aloc, who lives in Jumeirah Beach Residence, said her daughter Alize, 12, took up skateboarding just a few months ago. The Dubai American Academy pupil is now more fearless than her male contemporaries, her mother said.
“Alize learnt how to skate from some classes a while ago, but it was impossible for her to do it on the street,” she said.
“The skatepark is perfect for her, as she is safe there and there are lots of options for her. She is learning more all the time, and she said it is exciting and fun.
“I know it is a safe environment for her. When she was learning, there were not many girls, but now there are plenty and it is fun to see them enjoying the same activity as the boys.
“When I was a little girl, I was skateboarding too so it is not surprising. The sport is not restricted to just boys."
Lida Salem, from Lebanon, said her daughter Lea, 13, has recently taken up the sport.
“Her brother skates and she wanted to try it, so why not?” she said.
“A lot of boys use the park, so it could be a little bigger. Girls are pushing themselves to try it, if they don’t try it, they will never know.”