At eight years old, Amelia Brodka would “borrow” her brother’s skateboard. She started out riding around on her knees.
A few years later, she began learning how to ride it like everyone else, and although she liked playing a Tony Hawk (skateboarding) video game and watching the X Games (an annual extreme sports event in the United States), it was seeing a women’s vert demonstration (riding on a ramp and transitioning from horizontal to vertical to perform tricks) at the Philadelphia X Games that sparked a skateboarding fire in her.
“Watching Lyn-Z Adams Hawkins and Cara-Beth Burnside skate a vert ramp in person suddenly made skateboarding feel accessible to me. Seeing them do airs and inverts on a huge ramp made me feel that it was possible for me to be able to do that one day,” she says. “At that moment, I became completely obsessed with skateboarding.”
A few years ago, she was moved to film a documentary about the lack of opportunities and resources for women and girls in skateboarding. Underexposed: A Women’s Skateboarding Documentary looked at the industry’s approach to marketing, funding, supporting and promoting women’s skateboarding; interviewed and filmed female skateboarders; and explored the business side of the sport through contact with the heads of top skateboarding brands.
After the film, she teamed up with a philanthropist to co-found Exposure Skate, a non-profit that hosts events and provides programming for women and girls in skateboarding and raises money to support victims of domestic violence.
Brodka, 28, lives in Vista, California, with her fiance Alec Beck, and their cat and dog. She took some time to talk about her love of skateboarding, her passion for supporting women and girls in the sport, and her organisation’s monthly Skate Rising event.
What compelled you to make the documentary Underexposed?
Brodka: The documentary was inspired by a year during which all women’s divisions were cancelled from the top skateboarding events. During the same year, I witnessed a growth in the skill level of female skaters alongside an increased amount of girls and women skateboarding.
Despite the growth, it seemed like there was no way for a female to “make it” in skateboarding because, at that time, the top women were not getting support from sponsors, media or skateboarding events. The only way that women appeared in skate magazines or in media were as scantily clad models posing in advertisements. I thought that perhaps the industry was not seeing the growth that was happening and I felt it deserved to be showcased.
How did you go from documentary filmmaker to co-founding a non-profit?
The final message of the documentary stated, “If you want something to happen, you have to create the change.” Seeing that a majority of the documentary focused on a lack of events, I decided I wanted to create an event to fill the void. I figured that a unique, women’s-only event that drew the world’s top female skaters from all disciplines together would generate media interest and therefore “exposure” for the girls pushing the limits of women’s skateboarding.
The release of Underexposed piqued the interest of like-minded philanthropists who wanted to support the vision, and one of those was Lesli Cohen, who co-founded a women’s roller hockey team, which led to the development of a national women’s league. Her vision and mission aligned with mine and ... we wanted the event to reach beyond skateboarding as well as help a community in need. After a successful event in 2012, we decided that the best way to fulfill our mutual vision to empower women and girls through skateboarding was to co-found a non-profit.
Why did you continue to remain in skateboarding over the years?
I fell in love with skateboarding when I experienced that even a trick that initially seems impossible could be accomplished through persistent practice. The sense of accomplishment in landing a new trick is unlike anything I have ever experienced. Skateboarding taught me something new every day. There was always a new trick to learn, a new spot to experience and a new way to perfect a trick. It also taught me that adversity can be overcome with willpower and commitment. Despite hours of failed attempts, falls and fears, you could push through obstacles and reach your goal. The nature of skateboarding involves you to push against the edge of your abilities and comfort zone each day.
Tell us about your monthly Skate Rising events.
Skate Rising is Exposure’s youth programme dedicated to teaching compassion through service and empowerment through skateboarding. It is the brainchild of Calli Kelsay, who ran the first Skate Rising event in August 2016. After that event, Calli and I met and realised that our missions of empowering girls and giving back to the community align perfectly and we decided to partner under the Exposure non-profit. Since then, Calli has been designing the curriculum and running the monthly events in Encinitas. We recently re-launched our Skate Rising events in Phoenix as well.
What can people expect at a Skate Rising event?
These events are designed to serve girls four to 18 years old. Each event features a teaching moment during which a guest speaker addresses a need in the community, a community service project designed to alleviate that need, and a learn-to-skate clinic. Past community service projects included kits for the homeless, bracelets for victims of bullying, and activity kits for children of Rady Children’s Hospital. A recent weekend’s event presented by Tea Collection focused on building the girls’ self-esteem with the message: “Be YOUrself, You are YOUnique and beYOUtiful”. Girls made vision boards that represented their goals and dreams and then honed their skateboarding skills with the Neal Mims Skate Academy.
Your website says that you want to empower women through skateboarding. How?
Skateboarding is a vehicle that teaches self-confidence, perseverance and wellness. Through skateboarding, girls learn to set and achieve goals, boldly confront challenges, and connect with peers who share their drive and aspirations. In skateboarding, you constantly set goals that are at the edge of your ability, goals that scare you. This process teaches you that “failure” is not an end-all and even the biggest goals can be accomplished. This is an important lesson because it can be translated to your studies, business and everyday life. Skateboarding is a process of pushing away fear and self-doubt in the name of progress.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Honestly, it is the age-old saying: Follow your passion. I believe that if you dedicate yourself to what you love, it will lead you to happiness and fulfillment. My love for skateboarding led me to scholarships to Gould Academy and University of Southern California, creating a documentary film, co-founding a nonprofit, meeting the love of my life and travelling the world. – Tribune News Service/The San Diego Union-Tribune/Lisa Deaderick