Nicole Hause isn’t here to break up the boys’ club.
The Stillwater-born pro skater is happy riding her aggressive style through the crowds of boys populating skateparks everywhere. Standing out is Hause’s norm, as she did while continuing to skate long after her Minnesota classmates moved on from the skateboards they’d received as holiday gifts. She will stand out again when she competes in her third straight X Games this week at U.S. Bank Stadium.
The 10-year-old girl who was inspired by “Rocket Power,” a cartoon with youngsters carving up streets, a decade later is setting a local example she didn’t really have as a younger ripper.
These days the 20-year-old phenom is not alone. From the women’s professional ranks to the Twin Cities’ own local skate scene, participation and high-level competition have come a long way since Hause used to catch Monday rides across the metro for “Girls Skate Free” night at 3rd Lair Skatepark in Golden Valley. “I used to be the only one to show up for that,” Hause said.
Anna Ngo is now among the women skating every Monday.
A 19-year-old skateboarder from Brooklyn Park, Ngo wanted to flex her creativity. So she switched from longboarding to skating at 15 years old, found the indoor skating haven in Golden Valley and eventually became a 3rd Lair employee.
On a recent Monday night, Ngo led a 14-year-old Maple Grove girl through her first lesson since moving from Vail, Colo.
“I think it’s just tougher for girls to come out of their shell to skate,” Ngo said after the lesson. “We’re out there.”
Ellen Puls is out there on her skateboard two to three times a week.
Puls, a graphic designer at Minneapolis’ Kazoo Branding, hasn’t stopped skating since jumping back on her board a few years ago. The adrenaline drew her back to an old childhood hobby she had enjoyed with her older brother.
“It’s really scary, but in a way where you’re overcoming this fear,” Puls said. “It’s so exciting to overcome it and really rewarding. It can be extremely frustrating, but once you learn a new trick you’ve been working on, you’re on top of the world.”
More women are achieving that feeling around Minneapolis, Puls said, because the industry is starting to better represent them.
“Another big change I’ve seen is being able to see women skateboarding in the media,” Puls said. “You’ll see women in advertisements. I think that’s a more recent development.”
They’re making progress.
“Minneapolis Is Skateboarding’s Best Kept Secret” reads a headline on Red Bull’s website from a few years ago. It’s for a five-minute compilation video of 10-plus Twin Cities skaters — all men — turning the city’s benches, railings and ramps into an artful playground.
Femme Fatale, a local all-girls skate group doing the same, might be the better-kept secret.
The group is open to local female skaters, regardless of skill level. The members started rolling to the indoor Familia Skatepark every Wednesday this winter in the St. Anthony neighborhood. Summer takeovers happen every Wednesday at various local spots from Elliott Park in downtown Minneapolis to the Maple Grove skating plaza. You can also find them individually on social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram.
“That’s actually how my skate group got started,” Ngo said.
They first got together last winter when Ngo and a friend gauged interest of other female skaters they knew mostly through social media.
There was plenty of interest. Eight women making up the original skating clique and their network has since grown as they meet more skaters across the Twin Cities. The group settled on the name “Femme Fatale,” a common literature archetype defined by Merriam- Webster as ladies capable of “luring men into compromising situations.”
“It’s our goal to get more girls to come out of their shell to skateboard,” Ngo said. “We want to share our love of skateboarding with the rest of the world by inviting them to come skate and join our group of empowering women.”
Ngo said it’s a dream of hers to skate with professional Nora Vasconcellos, who became the first woman to join Adidas’ skateboarding team and is also an artist. Vasconcellos last participated in the X Games in 2016, but Ngo credits the current competitors with stirring conversation among local women.
“I think the women’s division has encouraged a lot of us to go out and skateboard and be more involved in the skating community,” Ngo said. “It’s important to have and create a safe and fun image for skaters as well as observers.”
The new wave of female stars is starting to shine, even if women still only comprise about 10 percent of the summer X Games’ 230 invited athletes.
Hause, who finished fourth in last year’s Skateboard Park event, is expecting 120 family and friends in attendance at U.S. Bank Stadium this week to watch her runs. Samarria Brevard, a 24-year old from Riverside, Calif., returns after she became the first black female to medal last summer. Brighton Zeuner is another rising star, going from the youngest female in an X Games competition at 11 years old in 2016 to her first gold medal last year in Minneapolis.
They join Leticia Bufoni, a Brazilian who has regularly made the podium since winning six straight Women’s Skateboard Street medals from 2010 to ’14.
The one who helped launch Hause’s career was women’s skating pioneer Cara-Beth Burnside.
When Hause graduated from Stillwater High School and could finally migrate to the skating mecca of California, it was Burnside’s residence where Hause began her career in earnest. She had met Burnside when she was a 12-year-old newbie visiting California on a family trip.
The friendship soon grew into a foundation for Hause.
“I lived there for like a year and a half,” Hause said. “She killed it, so I’ve always looked up to her in the sense of her career.”
Burnside was the first woman on the cover of the popular skating magazine Thrasher in 1989 and the first woman with her own signature skate shoe in 1999. She was also the first X Games athlete, man or woman, to win a gold medal in both snowboard and skateboard competitions.
“Before Shaun White did,” Hause said. “First one to do that.”
Sounds like there is no better example to follow.
Now aspiring female skaters will have even more greatness to model in Hause, Brevard, Zeuner, Bufoni and others.
“It’s definitely progressing in the right direction for women,” Hause said. “Not as fast in Minnesota, but I’ve been talking to the dudes that own 3rd Lair and on Monday nights they say they have about 10 girls nowadays. They’re seeing growth.”