What was once a Facebook group joined by a handful of female skateboarders, has since grown into a diverse and vibrant community of women who support each other both on and off the board, breaking barriers in the skateboarding community along the way. In a sport that is often intimidating and male dominated, Babes Brigade has created a space that connects women who navigate the skating world while building confidence and skill, with female skateboarders in the community ranging all the way from 5 to 50 years old.
Stephanie Battieste, the founder and owner of Babes Brigade, began the group from the ground up in 2015. Having been an avid skateboarder since she was a teenager in the early 2000s, Stephanie very much felt isolated as one of the only girls at the skatepark. “The classic story of me being the only girl at the skatepark, that was definitely me for many years”, Stephanie said. Thus, when she started to notice a trickle of girls and women showing up at the park 6 years ago, she realized that she could leverage the advances in social media as a way for them to connect and keep in contact with each other. In the beginning stages, Stephanie would simply advertise that she would be at certain skateparks in Downtown Toronto, and soon garnered a large network as many people began joining her meet-ups.
As the years progressed, in 2017 Babes Brigade expanded to encourage young girls to skate by holding lessons. Stephanie first started teaching free of charge at Skate Loft in Scarborough, but eventually many kids and adults became interested in lessons and the business side of Babes Brigade truly took off. “It’s blown up in that way too, I have parents who want me to teach their 5 year old daughter how to skate. It’s pretty awesome”, Stephanie exclaimed.
By not only supporting existing women in the sport but also inspiring participation in youth, Babes Brigade is using skateboarding as a vessel to foster mental strength and confidence. “What I love about skating is its physical and it’s mental. When you’re trying a trick over and over again and you finally land it, it gives you this confidence that you’re capable of doing things. If you fall and you get hurt and you get back up, it just builds your character, it builds your mental and physical capabilities”, Stephanie explained.
One major milestone that Babes Brigade challenged and overcame was hosting the first ever women’s only skateboarding competition in Toronto. Previously in Toronto there had only been either fully male competitions, or co-ed competitions where very few women would show up. “Different events would say ‘there’s gonna be a guy’s and a women’s contest’, but then only like 3 women would show up”, Stephanie explained, “I just wanted to give more exposure to female skateboarders, especially some of the best ones that we have in Toronto ”. The first contest was held at Dundas and Bathurst skatepark, locally known as ‘DunBat’, and was a huge success. Babes Brigade saw strong attendance from female skateboarders, and was able to bring people together as it allowed many women to make friends with other skateboarders. Through holding women’s only contents, Babes Brigade’s main goal was to build attendance of women up, which has definitely increased within Toronto since then, as well as to create an openness to show up and feel confident.
Though Babes Brigade maintains a focus on the celebration of female skateboarding, the group has blossomed into a web of support and allies for female skateboarders emotionally and mentally as well. “I realized pretty quickly that Babes Brigade was not just skateboarding, it was also a support group, so a lot of women were thanking me for that and telling me how comfortable they felt.”, Stephanie said. Also explaining how the group has helped to alleviate loneliness among many, she said “some people just feel like they don’t belong anywhere, and compared to other sports, this is one of the few things where you can just run into friends at the park and have a great day. This is very much like a community”.
While the skateboarding community has progressed drastically within the last 6 years, with female skateboarders now competing in the Olympics and receiving sponsorships, when Stephanie Batiste formed Babes Brigade there was far less exposure and opportunity for women on the board. Thanks to the pioneering of herself and many like her all around the world, women in the skateboarding community have been able to connect and come together in order to find support, unity and competition in what can be an intimidating sport for those who are in the minority.
To learn more about Babes Brigade and how you can get involved, please visit their website.