Interview with Disaster Fred


Frédérique Luyet — @disasterfred


Can you tell us how you got started with skateboarding?

I am from a small town, and there was no skateboarding there. I was a loner, not a fan of sports of any kind. I studied opera and spent time with my 5 friends. In 2000, my older brother had to bring me with him to see a Zero demo. I saw the energy of the crowd, the skaters, the crazy tricks, and that is when I started getting interested. In 2001, my brother sold me his old complete for $20. Best deal I ever made! But I was still living in the small town and couldn’t find anything to skate, not even good asphalt. In 2002, I decided to move to Montréal with my dad and do my last high school year there, and this is where I really started skateboarding.

What’s the most positive part about skateboarding for you?

Everywhere you go, if you meet a skateboarder, you feel like family. I have traveled alone and with my crew all around the world and the skate community is always there to share good times, a couch, spots, etc. The community is amazing in general, and the women’s community is even better because we all know the struggle of being the only girl at the park. This is why we’ve created some amazing crews like Skirtboarders, Vagabonnes, and Skate like a Girl.

Have you had any negative experiences?

My first contest was a mini ramp battle, and I had to do it with a fake name because the promotor of the event did not want a woman in the contest. I went because my team manager put me in, and when they called my “name”, I showed up on the ramp. I was to battle against the best ramp rider (the one who won the contest) and my level was not there yet. That day, I only won the right to participate. If it was an isolated case, it would be funny, but there were so many contests I had to fight to get in with the boys, fight to have a women’s division, fight for equal cash prize…

Still, in 2019-2020 there are some contests with a different cash prize or even no cash prize for women. Hello? Hoedown at the Hoof? Tampa Pro? I’m not even gonna speak about the haters you get by just existing as a female skateboarder, because they are not important and frankly just a bunch of losers. They sometimes said it is a question of skill level or number of participants… How can you convince girls to participate and try crazy tricks if the prize is so low? If they don’t feel welcome in the scene? If no one ever encourages them to get on a board or get better at it?

I and many women I know have created our own events, zines, videos, crew, etc., because if we do not, no one will do it for us. But it would have been so much easier and faster with the help of the industry and without the trolls who hate online (and in real life). Women have been skateboarding since 1960s, but it is only in the last couple of years that the industry is making an effort to promote women in skateboarding.

If you think that girls have it easy because some get sponsors for “showing skin” or by being pretty, just go watch the comment section on any woman-related video on Thrasher or The Berrics.

Do you think skateboarding has helped you develop life skills?

Skateboarding has helped me get more social, more creative, more resilient, and persistent. I developed a sense of community, a taste for exploring the world and my surroundings, making more with less, and building stuff. I started doing photography, filming, building DIY spots... I learned how to teach and had it as my main job for 10 years. In 2002 I couldn’t speak English at all (I am from a small town in Quebec), and now I can speak and read it, and it is mainly because of skateboarding.

With more women in skateboarding, do you think the skate community and industry are providing enough support? If not, what do you think they could be doing better?

I have seen a real progression in women’s skateboarding in the last 15 years. We’ve created our own spaces, promoted ourselves, and battled for our rights for many years but now the industry is more open and ready to help. It is starting to be more visible: there are more photos in magazines, more videos, and more contests. Girls are starting to skate younger, the skill level of the riders is getting better, and we are more included in the scene in general.

Thanks goes to all the girls who were there before us, the girls who are pushing their limits, and the guys who are supporting us in the process, since day one. I am proud to see all that and to be part of it.


What do you think needs to change about skateboarding culture in 2020?

Discovering that there are still many women who don’t feel safe, who suffer violence by skaters using their fame, or were silenced by the “boys club” shook me to my core, and shook not just the girls but also the men who discover the gravity of the problem. I now see a lot of male skaters speak with each other about it, or start thinking about their past behaviour and try to become better. It is never too late for introspection. What I want for the future is a skate scene that is safe, inclusive, and proactive in fighting against inequality. There is still progress that needs to be made regarding racism, homophobia, and violence against women. We need to push forward.

IMPACT SKATEBOARD CLUB

2-731 Broadview Ave, Toronto, ON

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photography by Rebecca Tisdelle-Macias