On a sunny Friday, clusters of skateboarders bearing colorful name tags spread out in the Xfinity parking lot as they learned skills and practiced tricks tailored to their skill levels.
It was We Skate at UMD’s second “edusk8,” designed to teach new skaters how to become more comfortable on their skateboards. The club aims to alter the skate scene by creating an empowering and inclusive space for women, nonbinary, gender non-conforming and LGBTQ+ skaters.
Now, nearing its first anniversary, the group has grown to more than just a group of people learning how to skate, but to a social “web” of people.
“It’s like a connection point … for people to talk to each other and interact,” said Emma Yockman, We Skate’s interim president.
The group is a mix of a social and activity club, with events such as edusk8 where members have time to learn while meeting new people.
Ryan Vu, a junior mechanical engineering major, attended edusk8, and spent the event helping people get started with skating. He began by teaching beginners how to stand on a board and then gave advice on how to fall properly.
“You’re gonna fall at some point. That’s always gonna happen,” they said. “So if you’re gonna fall you might as well know how to do it safely.”
Vu, the club’s social media manager, says it’s important to let skaters progress at their own pace, whether that means holding onto a friend or standing stationary on a board in the grass.
Eunice Hawkson was in Vu’s group of beginners. Hawkson, a junior physiology and neurobiology major, is a semi-experienced skater and had never attended a We Skate event before. She decided to come to meet new people and have fun skating — something she’s been wanting to do for a long time.
Hawkson said Vu was “very patient,” adding she has plans to return to another We Skate event in the future.
Since the group’s inception in April 2021, the club has seen substantial membership growth. With more than 430 members in the GroupMe and about 150 active members, students have flocked to this skating community.
“People were … joining the GroupMe left and right,” Yockman said. “It’s just sort of blown up.”
Before they started the club, some of its founders discussed why We Skate needed to exist alongside other skate clubs at this university. While other clubs hold more competitive skating events, they wanted to gear their programming toward skaters who want to get started with the sport, Yockman explained.
The skateboarding space is male dominated. About 77 percent of all skaters are male, and the percent of male “core skaters” – people who skate at least once a week, on average – is even higher at about 83 percent, according to a Public Skatepark guide.
“Women and LGBTQ people are always gonna feel a little bit out of place in the normal skateboarding environment,” Yockman said. “So we exist to make it a little bit more comfortable.”
Jade Brown, the club’s communications chair, says the sport is “dominated and shaped by straight white men.” She remembers what it was like trying to join the sport as a 10-year-old Black girl from West Baltimore.
“It was very hard for me to break into the sport because there weren’t a lot of people like me, and I didn’t have many people to look up to,” the sophomore communications major said.
We Skate gave Brown friends in the skating community that she was able to bond with in a relatively short period of time, something she is extremely grateful for.
“I’m also hoping that the organization leaves a legacy of one that is welcoming and diverse, and includes people of all backgrounds,” Brown added.