Breaking more than just nails: ladies’ crews are changing the way we play sport

A recent rise in all-female sports groups proves that Revelstoke is the ‘right place’ to challenge the male dynamic.

Louise on Wheels rider Sophie Marques at the Revelstoke Skatepark. Photo: Kate Ediger

This article first appeared in print in the June 2019 issue of Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine.

All-female crews in Revelstoke are changing the way we see and access outdoors sports. Tearing up the traditionally masculine roots of skating, biking, and skiing, these ladies are growing something fresh from the ground up. Now that’s not to say that they’re taking over — that would be contradictory to the cause. Instead, it seems the goal here is inclusivity and expansion.

So, who are the players that are changing the game? With strong social media presence and, in some cases, swag such as branded T-shirts, stickers and jackets available at certain downtown stores, it’s hard to ignore the visual cues of change.

I spoke with the masterminds behind Louise on Wheels (a skating group that welcomes all abilities levels, from competitive skaters to “Am I too old to try this?” first timers), The Blondes (a sponsored skiing trio comprised of Janelle Yipper, Emily Childs, and Tonje Kvevik), as well as Bikes, Beers, and Babes (five years on and still going strong, this is a weekly mountain biking meet-up event that encourages friends to go ride in a fun, non-competitive environment), to better understand the trend behind emerging female-orientated crews.

Below: The Bikes, Beers, and Babes crew out for their weekly Tuesday ride. Photo: Robyn Goldsmith

RM: Was your group born out of a need to change the male dynamic? Or did it come together organically, as simply a group of girls who enjoyed the sport?

Louise On Wheels: Being a girl starting out in a male-dominated sport can be super intimidating; we created Louise on Wheels so that it doesn’t have to be. The intimidation factor disappears when you have a group of ladies feeding off one another’s energy, stoke, and support. Together, we make taking those pushes on the board feel just as much empowering as they are fun!

Bikes, Beers, and Babes: Bikes, Beers, and Babes was formed to make mountain biking less intimidating for women starting out. It was also a great way meet new people and riding buddies.

The Blondes: The three of us found each other amongst some of the best of times, during the ebbs and flows of the winter highs. We realized that we could all ski at a similar level and challenged one another to push it — so we naturally decided to combine forces. It started mostly as a joke. We said we would form an all-girls ski crew — “The Cariboo Blondes” — with our only sponsor being beer. Yet because of the current demand for something like us in the industry, it blossomed. We received a lot of positive feedback from people in town and professionals that we look up to. I think the industry was calling out for somebody to challenge the male dynamic and we just happened to be in the right place for it.

Above: Two of the trio The Blondes, who are Janelle Yipper, Emily Childs, and Tonje Kvevik. Photo: Sabine Burns

RM: Would your all-female crew be celebrated the same way if it were all-male?

LOW: Probably not. We women are strong and powerful, but at the same time we can also be delicate like a flower. What is more beautiful than a single flower? A whole garden of unique flowers blossoming together. Through skateboarding together in Revelstoke, a sisterhood has flourished — and the truth is, most guys just don’t appreciate flowers the way girls do!

BBB: We don’t really know if we are celebrated, but people definitely are starting to take notice. There has been huge growth in the number of women mountain biking in recent years and we think it makes sense that it should be highlighted. If there has been an increase in the number of men mountain biking too, the media would take less notice as it is a sport that has previously been male dominated.

TB: I think it gets everyone fired up because it’s new and exciting and we’ve experienced decades of male coverage and maybe it’s time for them to step over a bit and make some room for female representation. That said, we pride ourselves on skiing and making content that equates to the same quality and excitement.

RM: Why do we keep seeing more female-only groups popping up across a variety of sports?

LOW: No matter what sport you’re into, all girl gangs have something in common: we’re here for each other. We’re all part of a movement that encourages us to push our limits as females. It takes courage and determination to overcome your fears, it can be a long road of bruises and tears but when your girlfriends are there helping you enjoy the ride, anything feels possible.

BBB: Women who are newer to a sport are sometimes intimidated to go to ride group with men, where the atmosphere can be, or at least seem to be, more competitive. In our experience, women often underestimate their abilities and riding with other women helps them build confidence.

TB: We’re so lucky to have reached this point in the industry where a lot of the hard work has been done by women like Leah Evans, Myshell Parker, Sarah Burke — only to name a few. These real OGs of the sport have been pushing the boundaries of the sport on their own for so long they’ve paved the way for crews like ours to ban together and film as three ladies.

It’s kind of like a domino effect. One group of ladies decides that they’re going to represent themselves and show off their talent and then the next group of ladies is inspired by that. Women are starting to realize that banding together with other like-minded ladies makes it easier and way more fun.

RM: Is it true that all-female sporting groups create a different learning environment to mixed gender groups?

TB: It’s valuable in some circumstances to learn with girls, especially when you’re starting out, because it can offer a less intimidating learning environment. Women tend to propagate their fears, whereas men tend to brush off and ignore fear. However, being surrounded by those above your skill level will always help push your progression; skills develop a lot faster when you’re trying to match the level of male counterparts. Finding a balance between the two is crucial to success.