How Lizzie Armanto became a protégé of Tony Hawk

Lizzie is one of a handful of skateboarders in the world to successfully complete Tony Hawk's infamous 360 loop.

by Nathan Copelin
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26 November 2019, 10:00am

“See that pool over there?” skateboarder Lizzie Armanto asks, “It’s actually the first pool I ever dropped in on and I once fell from the very top right to the bottom. It was kind of gnarly.”

Lizzie is sat overlooking The Cove skatepark in Santa Monica. As the first spot she ever skated at, it’s a special place for her. “My brother and I would spend so much time here,” she says, gesturing towards an area of wooden ramps. “They’ve actually added onto it over there, see? There’s always been this flow course, two bowls, a pool. It’s super fun to skate.”

A lot has changed since Lizzie first stepped onto a board at The Cove. She’s won countless contests, been recognised by Tony Hawk and asked to join his board company. She’s become an icon to young woman skaters around the world and, at just 26, her domination is showing no signs of slowing down. But becoming a professional skateboarder was never a consideration when she first started spending her evenings at the park. “At first was just an obvious choice over being here or at the library,” she says. “But then I found a sense of community here, more so than school. I fell in with this cool bunch of people that actually wanted to be there, pushing each other and having fun at the same time.”

It was at The Cove she had her big realisation about pursuing skateboarding professionally. “I was sat here watching someone skate the bowl, and they were just flowing around and in my head I just got it, and realised that if I kept on trying it really wasn’t that hard. Seeing that person skate, and make it look so easy, is when I had the spark.” After picking up a local board sponsor, she entered a contest at a different skatepark. “It was the biggest bowl contest of the year, so I tried to learn as many tricks as I could,” she says. “Once I had a taste of contest skating, I realised that these are the people that I wanted to be around all the time, and I really liked the skateboarding industry.”

lizzie armanto by devyn galindo

Though things are changing, slowly, thanks to trailblazers like Lizzie, skateboarding remains a very patriarchal space. “At the time there was never any woman skaters on any of the big companies, and there seemed to be this stigma that the level of skating wasn’t as high as with the guys. I told my friend that if I was going to be signed to any company, it would probably be Tony Hawk’s Birdhouse, because they had a team that skated similar to me.”

When word got to Tony that Lizzie was interested in joining his team, he started sending her boards, before asking her to skate with him and the team at demos. The opportunity was, naturally, a big deal for Lizzie and not long after, Tony presented her with a signature board. And so began her professional career. Her latest accolades include a Thrasher magazine cover -- the first female cover in over 20 years -- and a deal with Vans to create a signature skate colour way. “Getting to see my idea become a real-life product was really cool,” she says. “Seeing the shoe in shops is crazy, but it’s even crazier seeing someone walking around wearing it. I had someone the other day say, ‘I bought these the other day because I liked them, then I realised that they were your shoe!’.”

But perhaps Lizzie’s biggest accomplishment to date last year was pure, technical skill, when she became the first woman to complete Tony Hawk’s loop, a death-defying, vertical 360 ramp which requires the skater to go upside down at full speed. It’s something that only a handful of skaters have achieved, and just attempting it is a terrifying prospect. “I definitely knew how high the risk factor was. You make one mistake and it will chew you up. I knew that I’d either slam really hard or make it. Landing it was so surreal.”

As we prepare to go our separate ways, Lizzie notices a skateboarder carving in the bowl in front of us with great style. I ask Lizzie how important style is in skateboarding. “Anyone can skateboard if they have the time or the patience to practise, but when you see someone that can skateboard with style, it’s like poetry in motion.”

Credits


Photography Devyn Galindo

Tagged:
Skateboarding
Lizzie Armanto
devyn galindo