Wāhine Māori kicking it at the skate park

A crew of wāhine are flipping the script on the once male-dominated sport of skateboarding. 

Māori Girls Skate is a movement to encourage more wāhine Māori to jump onboard, run by Auckland skater Mieka Thomas, Wellington-based Bailey Maipi, and Nelson's Nerys Ngaruhe.

"We made an Instagram page, the three of us, to just talk about what it felt like, feeling like the only Māori girl skaters at the park," Thomas said. 

"I mean, being a girl at the park is one thing and being a Māori girl skater at the park is an even smaller little niche."

They recently held their second Hui Nui for female skateboarders in east Auckland, attracting both former professionals and complete amateurs. 

"I always wanted it to be something where everybody's invited, but I wanted Māori wāhine in particular to feel celebrated at these events," said Thomas.  

"That brings me back to only seeing blonde, blue-eyed Barbie dolls when I was a kid. But I wanted to see people that looked like me doing things that make me feel like I could do it too." 

The number of wāhine skaters has grown massively since former professional skater Georgie Matthews first started out 20 years ago. 

"To be honest, I was probably [the only one], especially in my town.

"But from back then to now, the amount of support and community in skateboarding has definitely increased. There's more girls skateboarding in the skate parks here than there are boys these days."

She said there are more events these days, and that's encouraging women to take more risks.

"We've got a bit more rough. I think girls are getting the courage to try and take on an extreme sport."

For Thomas, skating is not only her life's passion but her therapy. It helped her through a dark period in 2019, where she was overwhelmed with stress after losing her father, and then her job.

"It got so bad to the point where I actually lost all of my hair, all of my hair fell out. I developed alopecia.

"Skating got me through that. I realised none of the people I was skating with really give a toss if I've got hair or not. 

"And it slowly started to come back. It's been a big part of my therapy and what makes me feel good and happy to be out there again."

On top of running events for Māori Girls Skate, Thomas has her own business Skateseen where she runs school and community-based skating programmes. 

"I just want to get as much skating out in the community as possible." 

You can find Māori Girls Skate on Instagram here.

Made with support from New Zealand On Air and Te Māngai Pāho.