EXPOSURE 2018 - As Told by Natalie of Late Skate
San Diego, Cali-
The days were hot and the nights were chilly, I was having a hard time deciding if I over packed or under packed. Under the afternoon beaming sun, I knew I would want my jeans and jacket at sundown. My first trip to Cali in my lifetime and my mission to skate was cut short by my broken arm just two weeks ago. But I was intent on not letting that ruin the trip. I set out to understand and see the heights of skating, at the all female skate competition called Exposure with my skate crew of amazing friends under our group name, Late Skate.
As we entered the Encinitas skate park for the first day of competition, some of us quickly became star stuck as we saw our whole Instagram feed standing before us. There was Noravexplora getting a line in her classic lavender attire, skating passed tweakermom, breezeana hitting a steezy grind across the park, Samarriabrevard not too far off. Here everyone was, all female skaters, pro or not, gathered to push the limits under competition circumstances.
Some of the girls I was with attended a few years ago and were quickly greeted by the friends they made last time. It was like walking into your local bar where everyone knows your name. One of my Instagram favorites came right up to my friend and they reconnected. I was so nervous to meet her, intimidated by her talent, however my boundary of self doubt was shattered by her sincere friendliness. As I tried to remain cool I realized she’s just like me, down to skate and have fun. The guard of prestige didn't exist in a place like this. Everyone shared the love of skateboarding and here everyone was welcome.
We watched the early rounds of competition, even the youngest age groups were competing at an amazing skill level. As we took a break from the spectating, we traveled through the merch area where there were numerous booths of femme powered brands like autonomy skateboards, which had extremely desirable decks, clothing, and were passing out free stickers and whoopie cushions. There wasn’t an item for sale where I was frustrated by the graphics, namely in the vein of objectifying women or violent graphics. In fact most of the merch inspired me and all the booth owners were incredibly friendly and on the buzz of excitement that emanated through the park. There were several athletic and health conscious booths that were there to help treat us skateboarders as athletes; everything from coconut matcha water to cryotherapy stations from Bones Love Milk, to a more holistic incense tent that was blazing the Palo Santo.
It was like swimming in a pool of good energy, and new friends could be anyone you met eyes with.
As we came back for the second day of the event, we prioritized seeing the Vans pro bowl competition. As we turned into the entrance of the bowl, it was an open seating arrangement of skating’s highest caliber. Glancing around the pool as people were locating seats were every pro skater you could think of; Tony Hawk, Steve Caballero, Bucky Lasek, Christian Hosoi, just to name a few, all there to support the best female skaters. Lizzie Armanto was warming up alongside Allysha Le, Nicole Hause, and Arianna Carmona amongst other notable competitors. It was an amazing moment to think what my purpose was there. Though I may not be a pro skater, I had a place at the pool. Me and my fellow girls of Late Skate are a part of the new generation of skateboarding, female skateboarding. Writing history by participating, growing, and pushing our limits in the male dominated sport.
We found space to camp out at the side of the bowl right in front of the red line that marked to not get closer as to not interfere with the skaters. I couldn’t help but wonder if the purpose of the red line was also to protect the audience from the front side airs, steep rock to fakies, and the occasional no comply where trucks raced by at speeds that could merit a painful blow to the face. It was honestly terrifying to see the skaters charging towards our direction at full speed in order to fly above the pool. I had never experienced such professional skating at such a close view. There is nothing that can compare to seeing it with your own eyes, not any instagram post, photo, or professional video, there really was energy radiating through the park.
Everyone was working on their signature runs during the practice round, bailing on the tougher stunts. I couldn't help but wonder if my startled reaction from them flying by my face was contributing to their bails. I had to retain composure as to not affect their run, or so it seemed. I was skeptical that they would complete a full run during the competition, seeing as it looked challenging for them; but when the pressure was on, so we're they; the mark of a professional.
During the competition, the women were in their own world. I could tell by their laser locked eyes, intent on focusing on the part of the bowl they were aiming for. Each of their four 40 second runs flew by as they cruised through the runs and had time to freestyle after they landed their planned tricks. My favorite was when Kody Tamanaha landed several slashes, one long crisp board slide, a frontside Smith grind revert out, to a shove onto the coping. This was another moment that expanded my knowledge of what was possible in a bowl.
It’s always an incredible moment to see someone so in the zone, it doesn't matter if you are watching or not. At one point, one if the contenders shot right in front of me to do a hand plant, it was as if everything froze in time only to resume, as I heard her exhale after letting go to drop back into the deep end.
As the final moments of the competition came to a close, winners were announced, I had an overwhelmed and satisfied feeling. I was not expecting to see everyone I look up to in skateboarding in two days, and none the less meet them, become friends with them, and be front row for a competition by my favorite skaters. Late Skate and I returned to the street portion of the park to sesh on the same ground as everyone who had completed that weekend. We were all so abuzz of inspiration. We left the park with a fervor, a sweet disposition to skate even better after seeing everyone compete at the event, with the newfound thought- that maybe next time that could be one of us.