Skateboarding: the subculture strengthening global communities

Kelly Macbeth Mackay, Founder of Halftime London, at Gym Class Skate Session, Vancouver 2019

Kelly Macbeth Mackay, Founder of Halftime London, at Gym Class Skate Session, Vancouver 2019

Moving from London to Vancouver was a very last minute decision for me this February. I decided to use the work permit I’d had for a year, packed 20kg and booked my flight for the day of its invitation expiry. But leaving the comfort of home was something I thought I was good at before moving. I am constantly chasing the next challenging experience and try exceptionally hard not to look back with regret.

The strongest thing I have realised since moving is that community is everything. We exist amongst so many others that we forget the people we surround ourselves with are how we become who we are. This brings me onto the glorious subculture of skateboarding. As I write this with a pillow wedged under my knee awaiting a date for an MRI scan (an injury caused by a footballer trying her hand at skateboarding) I feel no resentment towards the topic. This is because the women I met whilst attempting a new skill taught me, even in such a short time, that when you have passion for something new, no one doubts you in the slightest; the mutual determination for personal achievement and development is really felt within the community of skateboarding.

Bianca Dela Cruz, 25, from North Vancouver, Founder of Gym Class

Bianca Dela Cruz, 25, from North Vancouver, Founder of Gym Class

For this article I had the pleasure of talking to North Vancouver born, Bianca Dela Cruz, Founder of Gym Class, and Joana Fongern, a skater from Late Skate, NY, Founder of fashion brand Nayf and Wavey, and fellow University of the Arts London’s football alumni. Bianca Dela Cruz is a North Vancouver- born legend who splits her year up with touring with the band Peach Pit selling merchandise, working part-time at BC’s biggest outdoor goods supplier, MEC, and picking wild mushrooms in interior BC. I had the pleasure of skating with her at the self-initiated weekly skate event, Gym Class, and here’s what she had to say about how it started and what it means to her.

Kelly: How did you get into skateboarding and what does it represent for you?

Bianca: A lot of my friends skate and skating, in general, has been something I’ve always admired people doing. It’s incredibly liberating and careless and I’m still figuring it out but I love it.

K: What does community mean to you?

B: In a general sense, I think it's cool when it happens naturally, and letting it grow and not being fixated on who leaves and who joins. Overcoming manic exclusivity, like picking and choosing who is allowed to come in rather than whose just down to come. Regardless, I think that it’s hard to avoid, and you tend to surround yourself by more like-minded people but I’d like to fully come to that place one day.

Instagram @Gymclasss_

Instagram @Gymclasss_


K: How did Gym Class (GC) start?

B: A lot of friend inspiration, and helpful

K: Which element of GC brings you the most satisfaction?

B: I love watching everyone try new things or practice get out of their comfort zone.

K: What’s your advice for someone wanting to start skating?

B: Do it! In whatever setting or way that feels most comfortable, wear all the safety gear, go with your pals, hit up the events that happen in your city.

K: What’s your advice to someone wanting to start their own GC?

B: Just go for it, ask around

K: What does GC represent for you?

B: A safe space to build confidence and overcome personal barriers

K: Does who you skate with matter to you?

B: No, but I definitely have some usuals I skate with out of comfort. If you’re down to skate lets skate!

Gym Class Session, Vancouver, 2019

Gym Class Session, Vancouver, 2019

K: Does community affect/benefit individual progress?

B: I guess it’d be personal preference, I love skating with friends I find it a really positive setting to get hyped on each other and help each other progress. I also find it beneficial to go skate somewhere alone and loose sense of time trying to get a trick down.

K: How do you feel when you see people skating in gym class?

B: Stoked! I love seeing everyone get hyped.

K: You were challenged by allowing men to get involved - how did you overcome this?

B: Conversation with people who were down to speak up about why this was important to them. I think it was necessary to shape the overall setting of a *ladies/queer/non-binary specific event. Personally, it was important for me to realize the overall

K: Does gender segregation matter in skating?

B: I can’t speak for everyone but *maybe more so in the beginning, to get comfortable and build confidence and finding the space to allow you to explore that. Bare bones, I really believe skating is not a gender-specific sport but I think it’s important for people to be aware and recognize the impact with actions or attitude what that might have on someone, especially with something like skating where there is a very obvious ‘skate persona’. So I don’t think it matters at all in the long run, but I think it’s cool to have events specific that spotlight the rad lady*, non-binary, queer, or male people because I think it’s important for everyone to see.

Gym Class session, Vancouver, 2019

Gym Class session, Vancouver, 2019

K: Notoriously, skating can be quite intimidating. What do you think about this and is it present in GC?

B: I think that everyone is always somewhat hyper-aware when starting something new. Whether it’s the people involved, the setting or just overall atmosphere. After a lot of conversations, I realized how important it is to give people the space they need, to feel safe and accepted

K: Tips on getting your first board?

B: Go with a pal or 2 to a skate shop or do a little social media call out! A lot of people have extra boards laying around, I’m sure they’re down to give it new life.

K: Tips on finding a crew?

B: Go to all the different events that happen around your city, specific nights or events or take your mom, sister, friend, dad or brother out.

Joana Fongern, CEO and Founder of Nayf and Wavey, 26, from Germany

Joana Fongern, CEO and Founder of Nayf and Wavey, 26, from Germany

Kelly: How did you get into skateboarding and what does it represent for you?

Joana: Funny story actually. In September 2017, I moved to NYC- after going through a hell long visa process (haha) -  to undergo an internship in fashion design. When I first moved there, I told myself I was gonna try and do something I always wanted to do and had never done, because I thought I wouldn’t be able to. I didn’t want to play  soccer anymore because I have played it since I was 9-years-old and it was rather a casual thing for me at this time rather than a sport I wanna do every day again. So, I thought of Skateboarding, because I got in contact with it when I was 15 years old, living in Missouri/USA and all of my guy friends skated. I pushed around for a little bit but never really continued - which I wish now I would’ve done haha- because I played junior varsity soccer and that took so much time.

So, in my lunch breaks and every single free minute I watched those skate videos on youtube from Leticia Buffoni and it got me so hyped that I made this a ritual. But also this one dude I got to know at a party told me I should look up ‘The Skate Kitchen’. So, I kept watching the videos of ‘The Skate Kitchen’ and Leticia, that I literally couldn’t sit still no more. Then Christmas 2017 came around the corner and I wanted to buy myself a sweet ass christmas present and this happened to be a super sick 8.25’’ Mark Gonzalez Krooked skateboard from Labor Skateshop in Chinatown. And this is how everything started.

Skateboarding represents community, family, inclusivity and most importantly freedom to me.

K: What does community mean to you?

J: Community means being a family supporting, helping, empowering and pushing each other to do better no matter of your gender, colour or belief. We are all one enjoying the same :-)

K: How did Late Skate (LS) /Boyhood (BH) start?

J: Well, a couple of my friends Founded Late Skate randomly when they met each other and I think that was a fucking great idea. I happened to be part of it, because I met two of those ladies - Aryam and Natalie - on the first night I started skating at an all girls session hosted by Nina from ‘The Skate Kitchen’. We exchanged numbers and Natalie started to invite me to the skate sessions and then we started to hang out outside of skating too. I really wanted to be a part of this crew, so I asked Chris (one of the founders) one time if I could be a part of it and she started laughing so hard because she literally said : Of course you can be part of our crew - you don’t have to ask you don’t have to do something special to be part of it - you’re just in. And this is how I became a part of Late Skate and they became family. :-)

Boyhood started with a couple of other girls I skated with - we decided to Found it while we we hung  at a McDonalds close to Washington Square, because I think the main idea was to empower women skating and have a skate crew - as I felt there was like a silent movement happening in New York, because so many girls skaters started to show up and it made my heart so happy- and it always feels good to be part of something you feel connected with. Sadly we’re not that good in keeping up with the content on social media haha.

K: Which element of LS/BH brings you the most satisfaction?

J: The elements that satisfied me the most through those crews, were: the community, the hold, the family feeling, the empowering, the support, the inclusivity, the feeling you can do everything and the trust for each other.

K: What’s your advice for someone wanting to start skating?

J: If you are a beginner and you do not know how to start, just look for skate crews in your city and message them that you would love to start skating. There are also so many new skate meetups happening that help beginners to find friends and it creates a safe space to start skating.

Briana King does a lot of skate meet-ups in the Los Angeles Area, Late Skate is in New York City, Skategirls Berlin in Berlin - there is so much happening everywhere! Social Media makes everything so simple nowadays. Also, skating is hard work and you have to be very patient - that is a hard thing for me too haha - but never give up and let NO ONE tell you that you suck at skating because YOU DON’T.

K: What’s your advice to someone wanting to start their own skate crew?

J: Just get your friends together and start the crew ;)

K: What does LS/BH represent for you?

J: Family and badass women.

K: Does who you skate with matter to you?

J: Not really, I love to skate with everyone as long as there is no hate or racism included because I got no space for that. :-) It’s all about the fun!

K: Does community affect/benefit individual progress?

J: Oh hell yeah. I feel like you progress faster and learn to grow surrounded by the people that makes you the most comfortable. As I mentioned before it’s all about the support, empowerment and inclusivity. That all affects your progress :-)

K: How do you feel when you see people skating together in LS/BH?

J: I wanna cry, it makes my heart jump and I just feel pure joy and happiness.

Joana and her mates from Late Skate NYC

Joana and her mates from Late Skate NYC

K: Now that you’re back in Berlin, have you set up or joined any other crews?

J: I haven’t set up a crew yet and I haven’t joined any but I found a handful of girls I skate with. The skate community over here, for sure, is different but I haven’t put my feelers out yet if people were down to create a skate crew? I’m slowly trying :-D

K: Do you think there’s gender segregation in skating?

J: There is but there is not at the same time. I feel like it really depends where you are skating but I always get a feeling that there is more inclusivity than exclusivity. Female skating has gotten so much more recognition in the past few years that the gap is closing more and more. Still, there is much work to do though and there are always gonna be people - not only in skating - that do not wanna pick up equality.

In the end we all skate together, share the same park,  and we all do the same thing - we play with a wooden toy.

K: Notoriously, skating can be quite intimidating. What do you think about this and is it present in any of your crews?

J: Oh, skating is very intimidating haha. When I see people doing the sickest shit in the park or just in videos I get hella intimidated because I am over here trying to ollie on a mini-pad and eating shit all the time and then there is this dude doing a kickflip blunt to fakie.

But I keep forgetting, that most likely those people that can do the sickest shit, have been skating for like 15-20 years. But this shouldn’t intimidate you - it should inspire you to try new things and try to progress in your speed. I think, everyone in the skate crew gets intimidated at some point - I did and I still do. But that’s why I am saying that if you skate in a crew and you try new tricks you won’t be as intimidated as if you were trying stuff by yourself, because skating in a crew empowers.

K: Tips on getting your first board?

J: I would suggest to go to a skate shop and just get recommendations - that’s what I did. Literally, I had no idea what size or what company to get. So, it even took me almost an hour to decide what deck to get haha.

K: Tips on finding a crew?

J: Social media, skate meetups, skateparks

Joana’s friend Briana King wearing Nayf and Wavey

Joana’s friend Briana King wearing Nayf and Wavey

K: You run your own fashion brand, Nayf and Wavey. Tell me a bit about that.

J: Nayf and Wavey is a unisex high end fashion streetwear brand inspired by subcultures. But for me it’s most important that you can also skate in those garments and feel empowered.

Well, Nayf and Wavey is my brain child and the idea grew while I pursued my Masters. It was rather a side project I enjoyed doing rather than an actual full-time job as I was doing internships in NYC. But over time, I figured I do not want to work for anyone anymore, rather I knew that my brand had potential and I enjoyed producing single pieces. So this is where it lead to that my brain child actually became cherished.

K: Did you create it as a skate brand?

J: Not really, it’s not really a skate brand. It’s a brand inspired by subcultures and something you should be able to wear while skating. Like, every time I buy things, I think like, Oh can I skate in it? Does it look cute but can I skate in it? Is it comfy to skate in?

So I want my clothes to look sick but you should be able to feel comfy and skate in it.

K: When are you most inspired to create?

J: Honestly, I get the most inspired by the people I surround myself with, the music I play at the time  or the place and headspace I am in.

E.g. New York City, . has inspired me like non-stop (architecture, music, subcultures, places).

K: We met on the UAL women’s football team. Are you still playing?

J: No, unfortunately I quit and haven’t actually played ever since. It’s more a hobby and I play here and then. But writing this now, I really would love to play a game again but I would probably be out of breath after 5 min :D.

K: How do you divide your time to multitask all these passions?

J: I try to maintain 3 jobs, a social life, skateboarding and my label - I do it somehow haha.

If you are looking to join a skate crew in your area but are hesitant to contact them directly, then get in touch with us @halftimldn and we will be more than happy to reach out to them on your behalf. Ultimately, we are all in this life to experience new things and enjoy the company of others who share the same ambitions and passions as us, so let us not waste time holding ourselves back from our own potential.