Gender-separated space to help women start board sports

Women who have been driven to the benches of spectators for a long time and have had little or no participation in professional competitions are increasingly diverting surfing and skateboarding by creating separate spaces for men and women in Bordeaux and Gironde. However, they are still only a minority facing a practice space that is largely dominated by men.

Gender initiatives have been launched in Bordeaux to encourage and develop women’s practice in surfing and skateboarding. This is the case for a “level up session” where Darwin Skatepark is reserved for women on Sundays from 7pm to 9pm. The Facebook group associated with the session, founded in May 2021, has more than 150 members.

At the same time, in the world of surfing, Margot Gourmelen launched the startup “Womentake off” in Bordeaux in December 2021. This web platform is still building a web platform to further enhance the sport by linking surfers for free and sharing sessions. Easy to access and less intimidating. The creator of this site has already set up an Instagram account that has attracted 2,500 people.

“I’m worried about the competitiveness of boys.”

The origins of these two initiatives have the same observations. There are obstacles that prevent some women from starting or continuing to practice surfing or skateboarding.

“Not all girls need it to get started or motivated, but sometimes they want to meet each other because it reassures them and is easier for them. “I noticed,” says Darwin member Georgina, an association at the origin of the “Lev’elle up session.”

Aurora, a skateboarding novice who met at “Lev’elle up sessions,” was always afraid to face a skatepark full of men while he wanted to learn to skate.

“I’m having trouble with the gaze of men who often give the impression of a piece of meat. What bothers me is the competitiveness that emanates from the skatepark.”

(Stig Nigard / Wikimedia Commons) (Photo of Water Dancer / Wikimedia Commons)

At Darwin’s skatepark, she began to see “level-up sessions” for conferences, a mutual aid framework that made the usual effervescent much quieter and empty. Elsa, a two-year skateboarder who started from her side outside the “Lev’elle up session,” adds:

“When I started, the boy in the skatepark wasn’t paying attention to me, I felt lonely, but it made me stronger.”

The purpose of these initiatives is similar. You can feel safer and more confident in order to reduce isolation in women’s practices.


In addition to beginner problems involving both girls and boys-slow progress, discouragement-women face practice spaces primarily dominated by men:

“In Girondins, few men are in the surf spot, so some women don’t feel comfortable,” says Cecil, who has been surfing in Girondins for four years since October last year after staying in South America. increase. “We have found that the atmosphere can be unpleasant and highly competitive, depending on the surf spots and the best times of the weather.

Although it is difficult to accurately assess the number of surfers and skaters in France, the French Surfing Federation (FFS) figures show the male / female ratio for this sport due to the low proportion of licensees. In 2020, of the 80,000 FFS licensees, 35% were women and 65% were men.

“We are dealing with these women who are blocked for fear of others’ judgment. They don’t feel they are eligible to start this sport when they want. Hmm. These women have the idea that customs between women are benevolent, shared and mutual aid, “explains Margot.

Customs and stereotypes

But why do women practice less than men? “Extreme sports,” of which surfing and skateboarding are part, convey the image of masculinity-related dangers, courage, injuries and misuse of sports.

“Since childhood, we grew up in a world where girls dance and boys do more of what is considered Daredevil. We put the fact that girls don’t want to hurt themselves into our morals. We’ve integrated. When we skateboard, we always get bruised, “says Georgia.

Especially historically, men first started these sports. Boys start practicing earlier than women, so they reach higher levels at the same age. It is also the masculine code that is being disseminated in these sports while the media, especially advertising, maintains a particular expression of surfers and skaters.

“Surf marketing conveys the highly sexual and standardized image of female surfers in a physique that is often described as perfect. Some girls haven’t seen it and are ridiculous in the face of this ideal. I’m afraid to be there, “explains Cecil.

“Things are changing”

If women are still a minority in the practice of these sports, Margot decides that “things are changing.” Access to these sports has been democratized and equipment has evolved to better match the physique and needs of women.

This is especially true for surf suits, which were previously only adapted to the male form. With the growing popularity of surfing today, all brands of surfing equipment have a wide range of products suitable for the female body.

The expression of women in a highly competitive world of surfing and skateboarding has also improved. To please Georgina, especially since 2020 when skateboarding and surfing became the field of the Olympics.

“On TV, we see more diversity at the Olympics. Girls’ levels are gradually catching up with boys’ levels, so every little girl growing up equates with it, and they too are extreme sports. You can tell yourself that you can. »»

If gender-segregated spaces such as “Lev’elle supsessions” and “Womentake off” are aimed at developing women’s skateboarding and surfing practices, they are to facilitate their integration into a mixed environment. .. In other words, give them the confidence to compete in the practice space at the most demanding levels. “The goal is for this session to disappear,” says Georgina, on the horizon where women are like men on the water and in skateparks …