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Bo Roark takes the slams in stride alongside her all-girl skate crew

//Bo Roark, a skateboarder of six years, lays next to her board at Redstone Park Skatepark in Highlands Ranch on Oct. 31. Photos by Karson Hallaway | karsonhallaway@gmail.com

Bo Roark is a self-proclaimed skater girl. While the skateboarding industry is radically male-dominated, this 33-year-old Denver local is paving the way for more representation on the rails. 

Roark’s journey started in Breckenridge six years ago when she traded the slopes for bowls. At the time, she would show up to the mountain town skatepark every day only to be surrounded by men. To no surprise, only 16.6% of all core skaters, defined as those who skate once a week or more on average, are female. Eventually, she grew tired of it. 

“Every time I would see a girl at the park watching her boyfriend skate, I would ask her if she’d want to learn how to skate,” Roark said. “More times than not they would say ‘yes.’ I ended up building this little skate girl gang in Breckenridge.”

Her crew was composed of about eight to 10 women—all of whom she personally taught to skate. Self-taught, Roark became addicted to the adrenaline from stepping out of her comfort zone, and simply wanted to share the thrill with others. No matter the barriers whether from age or gender norms, she believes anyone can step onto a board and roll with it. 

She brought that same energy to Denver, where she moved a year ago to have better access to milder weather and a wider range of skateparks. In fact, Downtown Denver Skatepark was named one of the best skateparks in the country. Roark says her Breckenridge girl gang still comes down often to visit the city and ride together. 

//Skateboarder Bo Roark skates at Redstone Park Skatepark in Highlands Ranch on Oct. 31. “There is nothing more frustrating but also nothing as fulfilling as skateboarding. It teaches you to laugh at yourself and just have fun,” said Bo.

“The main reason people, in general, don’t skateboard is because it’s highly intimidating,” Roark said. “Denver on its own has a huge girl skate scene; there are so many amazing girl skateboarders.”

Roark herself just landed her first kickflip—a classic trick where the board flips a full 360-degree rotation—last August, already years into her practice. The video went viral on Instagram with 1.1 million views and counting. You can hear her partner cheering her on in the background of the 10-second clip. One comment says, “I keep circling back to this video because it’s so fucking inspiring to me.”

While expectedly she received some harsh criticism, like what many other women and LGBTQ+ people experience, there was an overwhelmingly positive response from pro-skateboarders commending her courage to step into an arena known for machismo.

When skateboarding was officially approved for inclusion in the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, a number of female-identifying athletes took to the stage—evolving the sport from counterculture to mainstream. Today, skateboarders like Samarria Brevard and Alexis Sablone have become household names.

Skateboarding is a dangerous sport with a similar increased risk of bone fractures and traumatic brain injuries to other extreme sports. Safety precautions like wearing proper gear and avoiding large ramps help curve the danger. Like any activity, Roark suggests listening to one’s body and trusting their gut. 

“The best advice I can give to someone that wants to start skateboarding is, ‘You deserve to be there just as much as everyone else,’” she said. “As long as you’re having fun, you’re doing it right.”

Her next piece of advice: understand skateboarding etiquette. The self-governing sport, while free and open to all, does have some spoken rules those interested should follow.

“You don’t want to snake people, which is if someone else is going, you don’t want to try to go right before them and cut them off,” Roark said as an example. 

She recommends reading signs at one’s local skatepark and asking mentors in the community for support.

“There are so many things you can do on your skateboard—you pushing down the street is skateboarding,” she said. “There’s no definition of skateboarding that’s like, if you can do this, this and this, you’re a skateboarder. As long as you’re passionate about stepping on your board and you’re having fun, that makes you a skateboarder. I don’t think there are any limitations to that.”

 

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