nose grinding with world class skater samarria brevard
British photographer Hannah Bailey spent the day with legendary skater Samarria Brevard as she competed in this year’s Street League Women’s Division contest.
Photography Hannah Bailey
In the summer of 2014 I was in Los Angeles for the first time. Kim Woozy, founder of Mahfia TV and legendary skater Mimi Knoop invited me to an East LA skatepark to interview and shoot Lacey Baker, Vanessa Torres and Samarria Brevard. To be honest, I didn't know much about Samarria, but I left feeling impressed. She was genuine and friendly to me, a stranger with a camera in hand and questions to be answered. That day, she landed new tricks in the park and took us on a trip to a local street spot, where I captured one of my favourite skate shots to date.
Since that sunny session I've seen Samarria compete at all the Women's Division contests at Street League since they began in 2015. Despite her growing recognition over the past two or three years, during which Thrasher noticed her talent and numerous mainstream media outlets have come knocking, Samarria's feet have remained firmly on her board.
During the most recent Street League contest, I had the pleasure of following Samarria around, once again with a camera in hand and more questions to be answered.
On the morning of September 15th, I made my way to the Galen Center in the heart of USC in Los Angeles for the practice session. As I entered the artificially lit arena my eyes took a few seconds to adjust and take it all in. Ten of the world's best skaters were ahead of me. As Samarria greeted me warmly I warned her I'd be stalking her over the next couple of days. Totally unfazed, she carried on skating.
Things have changed since I last shot her. " Thrasher hit me up for a contest last year and they put me onKing of the Road," she says. "Since then, so many doors have been opened and amazing opportunities have come my way." Over the last year, Samarria has been to the UK twice, once with Viceland and the other as a special guest on the Enjoi trip. So, how was it? "I love London, we explored the city, we went to House of Vans and Southbank. But I won't lie, Manchester stole my heart. The scene is amazing. It was everything I remember about being little and skateboarding. Everyone being together and pushing each other."
Samarria started skating when she was just 13 years old, that's 11 years ago. She'd spied her brother, cousin and their friends rolling around on four wheels back in Riverside, California and decided she wanted in. "It allowed me to hang out with my family and we got to bond over this one thing," she recalls. "It was something we all enjoyed. I think that's what mostly kept us going. We all loved it and all pushed each other."
In 2009, at one of her first ever skating competitions, Samarria met Lisa Whitaker, founder of Girls Skate Network, who invited Samarria to an event at The Berrics. This was the moment Samarria realised skating was all she wanted to do in life.
Legendary skater Mimi Knoop, who first introduced me to Samarria back in 2015, was also on the course that day. As co-founder of the Women's Skateboard Alliance (alongside YuLin Olliver), she has been pushing for competitive opportunities for women's skateboarding for over a decade. It's through her efforts that this competition exists and that female skaters can now compete on bigger platforms. "We met each other, hung out and bonded," Samarria recalls. "She is such a big figure in my life, she's taught me so much, without even trying to teach me. I don't even think I'd be where I am at right now without her."
As I watched Samarria in practice, I could see the same confidence and determination she showed the day I met her. She charged around the course with videographers and photographers in tow, landing trick after trick. "It feels good to be back," she exclaims. "I feel like I can do what I want and showcase what I am capable of on this course."
However, Street League hasn't always been the best showcase of Samarria's skills. In 2015 she broke her back during practice, the second year she was made an alternate and didn't get the chance to compete. But this year she was finally ready. "I'm excited that I have the chance to compete. I am just going to go out there and do my best!"
The pressure to land tricks in front of the arena crowd, plus the million and one eyes over the TV network, is as much a challenge as the trick itself. "It's always nerve-racking, because it's all eyes on you," she explains. "You have a whole crowd of people staring at you. I try to tune it out and stay focused, but there are moments where you're like, 'Fuck, there are so many people!'"
Despite being on form during practice, by Friday night the competition intensified and Samarria struggled to land all the tricks she'd done in practice, coming in 6th overall with a 15.3. Undeterred, as fellow competitors Lacey Baker, Leticia Bufoni and Mariah Duran took to the winners' podium, Samarria beamed with pride. "This past year I have changed my mindset," she explains. "As long as you do your best and do good, it doesn't matter the results."
Every female skater has something different to offer, a different perspective to appeal to and stereotype to battle -- that's what inspires me to tell the stories of the women who skate. "The way that the girls are leading the charge is inspiring me," Samarria exclaims. "I want to be a part of that story so bad. Seeing all my friends progress, even from last year to this year, and seeing everyone in the contest.. we have all stepped it up!"
Until next year.