It's a bright, warm afternoon at Callingwood Skatepark and the Make Something Edmonton team is getting ready to chat with three local skateboarders about the upcoming FISE World Edmonton competition.
The glare from the sun is making it difficult to set up a camera angle that won't blind our interviewees, so after a bit of small talk, I head into the bowl to see if my colleagues are ready to start filming the interview. Our skaters take this as a cue to hop back on their boards. The second I turn my back they're gone — hitting a nearby box.
Gabby Olsen, 10, Ava Cook, 10, and Presley Wellard, 12, were the only three females to skate at FISE Edmonton last year. Competing in the junior division, they took on teenage boys twice their size and shared the ramp with some of the best skaters and BMX riders in the world during the action sports festival.
While riding with the boys isn't something new, or even intimidating, for them, the three friends want to inspire other girls to pick up a skateboard and ride at this year's competition, occurring Sept. 15-17 in Hawrelak Park.
"We all were beginners, but we still did it. It was fun," says Presley.
FISE, which stands for Festival International des Sports Extremes, brings together several popular action sports — including skateboard, BMX and mountain biking — in its events held around the world. While it attracts hundreds of professional international athletes, amateurs like Gabby, Ava and Presley are encouraged to compete, too.
The three girls, who met at Riders on Board, a competitive snowboard club in Edmonton, each have between five to eight years of snowboard experience, but only recently picked up skateboarding.
"Skateboarding for us is about riding around and having fun," says Gabby.
"Kinda like practice," interjects Ava.
"It helps us a lot for snowboarding," adds Presley, tripping over the end of Gabby's sentence. "It keeps us on a board during the summer."
While Ava had previously entered skate competitions, FISE Edmonton marked Gabby and Presley's first time competing on four wheels. They say the experience was nerve-wracking, but fun.
For a while, Ava, who acts as an ambassador for SheShreds, a global community of female action and extreme sport enthusiasts, was the only girl registered to compete. She convinced her friends to step outside their comfort zone and join her.
When asked how it felt to be the one of three girls to participate last year, Ava defiantly replies that she likes showing up all the boys. But it took her a while to gain this confidence notes her dad, Chris Cook.
"A couple years ago she always wanted to ride with other girls and compete with them, which wasn't always possible," he says. "Now her goal is to show girls that they have nothing to be afraid of and that snowboarding and skateboarding are their sports too."
"There's a lot of girls out there who ride," adds Presley. "Even if people don't think that; there is. It's not a boy's sport."
The three friends will be competing again at FISE World Edmonton at Hawrelak Park, Sept. 15-17. This year's skateboard competition features a skateboard ollie contest (Friday, 5-5:40 p.m.), an open street competition (Saturday, 4:30–6 p.m. qualifier), an out contest (Saturday, 2-4 p.m. qualifier) and a contest for best park trick (Saturday, 7-7:50 p.m.).
The Edmonton event is the third stop on the FISE Word Series tour, and will feature BMX freestyle, BMX flatland, skateboard and mountain bike. It's the second year the event has come to Edmonton; last year the free, family-friendly competition drew thousands of people to Hawrelak Park, keen to see incredible tricks.
For more details on all the events happening at FISE World Edmonton, check out their website.
Click here for more info on SheShreds.