Starting earlier this year, Vans put on some uncharacteristically low-key events in a few cities across Canada, but their impact was anything but understated. The Vanguard Monthly Meet Up Series were ladies’ sessions hosted by some of the cities’ more experienced skaters, giving women and non-binary skaters more opportunities to shred, hang, and get to know their community better.
By Madison E.C.
In Toronto it took the form of street sessions hosted by Aimee Garrett, one of very few Canadian female OGs, and as a result ended up being much, much more than “ladies skate for $5” at your local indoor. Getting a chance to skate street meant opening up a world so familiar to the average guy skater, yet completely unexplored by many in the women and non-binary skate community.
Knowledge of street spots is a given to many in the male skater community — intergenerational wisdom passed down about classic, new, and secret spots tucked away or hidden in plain sight in a city. So what of the skaters who have seem to have no previous generation to learn from? The start of a new community, or the rejuvenation of a nearly dead one, means you have to dig for your history. And even then it might only give you part of the picture, especially for Canadian skaters. Every non-dude skater gets stoked when they discover Elissa and Marisa were killing it way back when, or find even more hidden gems like Jaime Reyes, but going back to their footage again and again (and again and again) never delivers the local knowledge readily available when you come up in the well-established guy’s scene in any given city. This scarcity of forefathers (foremothers?) or even older homies who skate has the obvious impact on this generation of new women and non-binary skaters that we don’t, or didn’t, really skate any street — no one ever showed us where to go! You can push around and try to find something cool, but the feeling that it’s contrived is hard to ignore.
Enter the Vanguard Monthly Meet Up Series.
In Toronto we got lucky enough to have Aimee as a host — a Dunbat staple and skate rat of the early 2000s who knows the city well, and was stoked to show us around and hit some spots she used to skate back in the day. For many of us this was our first taste of the grit outside the skatepark, the first time we were challenged to hit something that wasn’t made specifically for skating. As for those of us who had ventured out before by themselves or with a friend, we learned that context is everything — mobbing around with good pals and new faces, feeling like a crew, gassing each other up at the spot, trying stuff you normally wouldn’t or don’t get the chance to — all these things caused a huge “holy shit, this is what I’ve been missing??” moment. Ask anyone who made it out to a session and they’ll tell you it was the highlight of their month.
The novelty of it wasn’t saved only for us — the stoke and surprise from people passing by a spot being skated by a big crew of only girls and n-b folks came in no small amount. We got a lot of smiles, people staying to watch, and even a security guard who was too charmed to kick us out (sexism works in mysterious ways). As if the newness and the excitement of the experience wasn’t clear within the minds of the skaters themselves, the faces of passersby let you know that this hasn’t been the norm in society in general. That’s all changing rapidly by this point, and this is probably the thousandth time this year you’ve read how fast the scene is growing. That remains true, and an important part of this in addition to the obvious element of the number of people getting into it, is the growth in the ways we get to experience skating. Finding out for ourselves how it feels to have your crew amp you up trying tricks on a downtown stair set in the middle of the workday is a far cry from the solo parking lot night ‘seshes’ a lot of us started with.
Skating itself is a good microcosm for the trajectory of its sub-communities — everyone goes about it in a unique way, but at the end of the day we’re out there for the same reason. For the women and n-b skaters of Toronto it took the fortuitous collaboration of the growing local scene and a multinational brand’s event to get us out of the park, and our comfort zones, and out into the streets. Needless to say, the suits in the Financial District can expect to see a lot more of us.