I remember as if it was yesterday: I was in the fifth grade and watched all the cool boys skateboard in the schoolyard. To be honest, there wasn’t much of a setup, but there was a box set and a rail they could play around with. I also remember a lot of other girls also being there as observers, but not one of them dared to hop on a board and join them. The same was true in sixth grade and the first two years of high school. Not one girl would skate, except for me, when I wasn’t too shy… Needless to say I was scared shitless to participate in the skate competitions the school would organize. Nah, I preferred watching the boys do their thing.
It’s amazing how things have changed over the past ten years or so. Having worked at Taz skatepark, one of the biggest indoor parks in Quebec, I’ve seen plenty of young girls skate there. I firmly believe that now more than ever, girls are stepping up to the plate - or the ramp - and changing the male-centric image of skateboarding. Sure, most of the headlines may focus on the men, but women are starting to make their mark and achieve great things. One good example is Erica Yary, “who has become one the most prominent women in skateboarding, having built a successful career with some of the most well-established skate companies” and who was just recently interviewed by a fellow contributor at Get Born, Chanelle Rezko. New eras bring change and it’s always incredibly refreshing.
At a local level – in this case, Montreal - there are many girls who skate and stand out. One of them happens to be a good friend of mine who never ceases to amaze me in all she does from her skills on a board to the projects she undertakes. Annie Guglia is a great person to be around. Regardless of our friendship, her accomplishments made it obvious I had to interview her for the Rolling around together, now and forever column. Resulting this said interview, the following is her take on Montreal’s skate scene and an overview of some of the rad projects she’s involved in.
Annie, this one is for you.
[Get Born]: Let’s kick it off with some basics. Tell me about you. Who is Annie Guglia?
[Annie Guglia]: Annie Guglia is a 24-year-old female skateboarder from Montreal, Canada. She started skateboarding in 2001 and never stopped because skateboarding’s the best. She is also a masters’ student in business strategy. Yep, that could be my Wikipedia definition (laughs).
[GB]: Can you recall your first experience on a skateboard? How was it?
[A.G.]: Actually, I don’t! I probably stepped on it and fell like everyone (laughs). My most distant memory is when my brother got a Tasmanian Devil (the Looney Tunes cartoon) board for Christmas and I remember at some point my parents bought me a red plastic board with holes in it... it was super weird. That was back in 2000. Then in 2001, they bought me a World Industries Flameboy board and that was my first skateboard.
[GB]: What would you say was your hardest bail (Thrasher’s Hall-of-meat style)?
[A.G.]: I actually was in Thrasher’s hall of meat once! I nollied a double set and somehow managed to land really hard just on the side of my leg and it turned into one of the biggest bruises I’ve ever had! Looked gnarly but it wasn’t even that bad!
[GB]: You’ve been part of the Skirtboarders for how many years now? Can you tell me more about the crew?
[A.G.]: I met the Skirtboarders in 2006 at a contest held at Southpark Skatepark in Brossard, just south of Montreal. Skirtboarders is a Montreal-based female skateboard crew. It all started in 2002 when a couple Montreal-based girls met through skateboarding and decided to gather, make a website and a skate movie! «Boy video» came out in 2003, and «Skirtboarders : Le film» followed in 2006. I met the girls in 2006 and they asked me if I wanted to have a part in their upcoming movie (Skirtboarders : Le Film). I was so stoked! We went street skating for 3 days straight and that’s how I filmed my part. They all became my really good friends. A lot of the girls are really busy now with work, school and/or family, but we still manage to skate or have beers and dinners sometimes!
[GB]: What’s your take on the emergence of the ‘Vagabonnes’ girls crew?
[A.G.]: Frédérique Luyet started ‘Les Vagabonnes’ last year. She’s a former Skirtboarder, but since Skirtboarders is a group of really tight friends, she wanted to start another crew in which all “girls who ride” (so that includes snowboarding, rollerblading, bmx, etc.) could meet and go shred together! As a result, she started this Facebook group called “Les Vagabonnes” to be more inclusive and invites every girl in Montreal, or anywhere close for that matter, who wants to shred and meet other girls to join in! It’s really cool, I met a lot of new girls through this group and we skated tons this summer!
[GB]: This summer, you got on the Technicals skateboards team and have been touring and skating demos with them. How has the experience been so far?
[A.G.]: I love it! They approached me this winter and asked me if I would be down to skate with them this summer, and I told them I was super down. I knew most of the guys on the team already, so it was a no brainer. They really pushed me to skate a lot this summer.
These guys are so good at skateboarding; it motivates me to skate harder and more often. I kinda needed that. With school, I felt like I stopped progressing for years. Yet this summer, I skated demos and contests and got better than I’ve ever been at skateboarding; it feels great!
[GB]: In what way do you feel skateboarding is essential to your life and what’s your philosophy about the sport?
[A.G.]: Skateboarding is LIFE! Skateboarding’s how I met most of my friends. Skateboarding is what I do when I travel, when I’m happy, when I’m stressed. You can skate whenever you want, wherever you want, it’s the best! It totally defines who I am. I frankly have no clue what kind of person I’d be without skateboarding.
[GB]: Alright, so I understand skateboarding is crucial to your well-being, but what keeps you involved in the Montreal skateboarding scene after all these years?
[A.G.]: Skirtboarders has always a big part of my involvement in the skate scene. Otherwise, I’m newly a skateboard instructor through Technical Skateboards, so I teach kids how to skate! It’s awesome and so hard at the same time, because skateboarding is mostly about practice and perseverance. I can teach you the right way to do something, how to place your feet, how to keep your balance, but then only you can actually do it and become successful at it.
[GB]: We were talking about your master’s thesis a few months back. Can you tell me more about it and why you chose to do it on the skateboarding industry?
I started my business strategy master last year, and the first semester, I had a mad crush on sustainable development. I wanted to study that branch of management, simply because it’s the future. Businesses are more than ever expected to act responsibly, so sustainability is a must now. But when I had to choose my master’s thesis specific subject, I realized I knew nothing about sustainability, and I got scared I would be stuck with a subject that I wouldn’t be passionate about… so I decided to change subject to study the skateboard industry one week before the deadline.
To my surprise, my supervisor thought it was a great idea! First of all, it’s never been done. But we also believe the skateboarding industry can teach management researchers a lot of stuff. Therefore, my goal is to map the industry and reveal its characteristics and dynamics through interviews with owners and top management of all types of businesses within the North American skateboard industry, from retailers to manufacturers.
[GB]: In your opinion, what are some of the biggest challenges for the Quebec skateboarding industry?
[A.G.]: Without a doubt skateparks! No wonder so few Quebecers have had access to the professional skateboarder status… The ones who did had to move to California or elsewhere to do so. And let’s not blame it all on winter. It’s apparently so complicated to build something in Quebec, and especially Montreal...
It’s getting better though. We’re starting to have a couple of relatively good concrete parks outside of Montreal - Repentigny, Valleyfield and Boisbriand to name a few - but we’re still critically lacking skateparks in Quebec, and to my opinion, that dramatically slows the growth of skateboarding here. It’s a wheel: the more legitimate infrastructures you have, the more people are going to start skateboarding, thus buy skateboard and shoes and clothes, etc.
You’ll always have the core skaters who’ll go street skating, and that’s great, but it’s like any other sport; you can play tennis in a school yard, but if all the tennis courts in Montreal were triangle-shaped and you only had access to a real tennis court when you travelled, it’d be much harder to progress and become as good - or better - than everyone else on the planet. You would have to be twice as good and creative to evolve as fast…
[GB]: That being said, what’s one skateboarding city you wished you could live in? Why?
[A.G.]: I’d say Portland (OR), or San Francisco! Last year, I went on a solo trip to both these cities and I felt like I could totally move there. I’d say the Los Angeles area too, because skateparks are amazing and the weather’s always nice there, but I liked the SF and Portland’s vibes better.
[GB]: What are your projects for the end of the summer? Any upcoming travel plans?
[A.G.]: Yep! I’m going going, ba-back to cali, cali! I have interviews to do there for my thesis. Maybe Vancouver too. It always depends on who accepts to participate in my study and where they are, but I have friends on the West Coast that I see once every million years so I’ll try to stay a little bit longer and skate with them!
Otherwise, we still have a couple of stops left with the Technical Skateboards Tour here in Quebec, so I’ll be there too!
Annie Guglia is sponsored by Axis Boardshop & Technical Skateboards.
To know more about the Skirtboarders’ crew: http://www.skirtboarders.com/crew/