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Bay Area Skateboarding Camp Breaks Mold Of Male-Dominated Sport

OAKLAND (KPIX 5) -- The skateboarding industry has traditionally been dominated by men, but these days they're not the only ones showing up at skate parks and showing off their skills.

There are a lot of fearless little skaters making big moves at Skate Like A Girl's summer skateboard camp in West Oakland.

"I like that you feel like you're floating, above ground," said 8-year-old Charlie Ku.

Ku has been riding since she was 4 years old.

"It helps me find courage to do stuff that usually boys would do and stuff that girls would usually not do, and even stuff that kids wouldn't do," she added.

She's one of dozens of skaters ramping up their skills and confidence, and getting up every time they fall.

"Skate Like A Girl is really about making skateboarding accessible and welcoming for all. But what we do is we really put young people, we put women, we put trans folks -- people who have historically not been at the center -- at the center of skateboarding," said Ashley Masters, Director of Programming for Skate Like A Girl's Bay Area Chapter.

Masters Director of Development Kim Woozy teamed up to revamp the non-profit's Bay Area Chapter three years ago. They have taught more than 5,000 people how to skateboard in that time.

Woozy found skateboarding at a young age, but couldn't escape the stereotypes.

"Often just being like, 'Your daughter's a tomboy' or 'She's sporty;' all these labels right? And I think at the end of the day, what we're trying to create here in our programs and this organization is that you can be however you want," said Woozy.

Jai Ledesma is a lead instructor and identifies as non-binary.

"My pronouns are they/them. They're also on my knuckles. So skateboarding and Skate Like A Girl have helped me figure out who I am," said Ledesma.

Ledesma added that beyond skateboarding, there are also lessons of acceptance.

"I started skating and I was like the only queer kid in my community; the only person that looked like me. So I just want these kids to keep skateboarding going," Ledesma added.

Most people who come to Skate Like A Girl have never set foot on a board. The youngest participant is 6, and the oldest has been 65.

Skateboarding among girls in particular is gaining ground, as the sport makes it debut in the Tokyo Olympic Games next summer. One of the industry's most popular skateboarders is 11-year-old Sky Brown.

She has her sights on taking part in the competition as part of Great Britain's national team. She also has more than 400,000 followers on Instagram.

"Now that we have all these self-publishing platforms, we're starting to see different types of people skate, different types of skateboarding and it really just removes those walls of what skateboarding is and isn't," said Woozy.

17-year-old Sophie Kovacevich is giving back as a volunteer instructor.

"It's so gratifying and I love to teach and they're like 'Wait, can you show me one more time?' And I'm like, 'Gladly! I love to skate, I'll show you a trillion times,'" Kovacevich said.

Skate Like A Girl Bay Area offers programming year-round, including free skate clinics in Oakland and San Francisco.

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