how lizzie armanto is breaking down skateboarding's gender bias
Vans Team rider Lizzie Armanto out-skates and out-snacks her competition.
Girls don't get any radder than pro-skateboarder Lizzie Armanto. Not only does Lizzie's signature sea-foam ombre give us major hair envy ("It's a lot of work! It took me, like, eight hours to get it this light."), but the lone female team rider for Vans is proving herself one of the biggest talents to hit the sport. And the boy's club is taking notice.
The 22-year-old prodigy has been skating since she was 14, when her dad bought she and her younger brother boards from Toys "R" Us. Her baby bro quit after falling and chipping a tooth, but for Lizzie it was love at first ride. She skated her first contest in 2009 and won her first pro contest in 2010. Since then, she's already brought home more than 30 skateboarding awards, including an X Games Gold Medal in Barcelona and first place for two years straight at the 2014 Doren Invitational US Open in Huntington Beach, CA. In otherwise all-male competitions, she's often the only female contender. Though she doesn't come in first, she doesn't place last either. "I skate better with guys, the level of competition pushes me."
Despite her impressive track record, Lizzie still observes an abundance of gender bias in skateboarding. Though she's got better things to do than complain -- like skate -- she does find it slightly annoying. "There's really no marketing toward girls skateboarding," she says. And when there is, magazines often use models rather than real skateboarders. "If you're not a skateboarder, you don't know the etiquette. This major magazine put out this editorial where they were trying to embrace skateboarding culture in high-fashion, but the models didn't know how to skate and just ended up making girls skateboarding look stupid."
The good news is that in the last year or two, Lizzie's started to notice a gradual shift in attitudes. "When I was trying to get sponsors to work with me in the beginning, it was a challenge. Everyone was like, 'Yeah, we don't really have a budget for girl skating.' I have a great ability to skateboard, but because I'm a girl they see it as if they're only marketing toward girls." If Instagram is any measure of success or influence (and we have to say, we think it is), Lizzie's 103K followers certainly demonstrate her broad appeal. "It's not like girls only get inspired by girls and boys only get inspired by boys. If a boy sees me skate and I do something he wants to know how to do, he gets inspired also." She describes one sponsor who early on expressed doubt and skepticism about her talent. That very same sponsor has recently asked her about creating signature product. "It's cool to see the change, and it's exciting to know that there will be more opportunity for others, as well."
While she's certainly happy to see a more inclusive attitude toward women, and in playing a role in making this happen, Lizzie doesn't spend too much time dwelling on the politics of it all. Instead, she focuses on her visceral love of the sport and why she got into it to begin with. "It's totally cool that other people are starting to skate because they see more girls skating and are encouraged to, but at the end of the day I like skateboarding because it makes me happy. It's a crazy culture and community, and you're always pushing yourself and learning something new, and I hope that's what inspires others the most. It's really rewarding."
When Lizzie isn't traveling, hitting bowls and vert ramps around the world, she dabbles in photography, makes homemade toffee, heads to the beach, and continues to refine her palate for boba tea. In general, she excels at kicking ass while not taking life too seriously. "I probably get boba every single day," Lizzie says. "Someone made panda boba. They rolled the tapioca and made them into little pandas. I saw it on a blog and I completely freaked out."
For the best boba in Los Angeles, Lizzie says Boba 7 is a must. "If you go to a shitty donut shop it's just going to be like straight goo, but Boba 7 is the best. Everytime I go there I religiously check in on Yelp. I'm kind of like the duchess of it." Maybe they should sponsor her… "If they sponsored me I'd just go there and get drunk on their boba tea beer. It would probably be really bad."
Text Jane Helpern
Photography Alex Aristei