PUMA X BUTTER GOODS: Eschewing Skateboarding Stereotypes with Melanin Skate Gals & Pals

21 April 2022

In support of Puma’s collaboration with Butter Goods, we sat down with Melanin Skate Gals & Pals founder, Marie Mayassi, to discuss inclusivity, community and breaking free from stereotypes.

Puma x Butter Goods
Skateboarding is something that’s incredibly rewarding and enjoyable, but it’s no secret that it isn’t easy. When starting out, you have the difficulty of trying, and what can feel like failing endlessly, to land tricks. Couple this with the challenges marginalised communities can face, however — a lack of representation in the sport, both in real life and via social media platforms — and the intimidation surrounding it becomes exacerbated, making access to and enjoying skateboarding even more difficult for minorities.

Melanin Skate Gals & Pals is a London-based collective that removes this lack of representation in skateboarding, doing so by providing a safe space for BIPOC and a platform for minority voices to be heard. Since being founded in 2021, the collective has been steadfast in redefining what it means to be a skater — or, in fact, highlighting that this is something that ought not to be defined — empowering minority communities, like BIPOC, LGBTQI and non-binary people, by bringing them together and helping break down any barriers they face in skateboarding.

This collective mindset helps to remove the hurdles faced by marginalised communities, not only through the sharing of knowledge and experience, but also by outlining that there are other skaters out there representative of their community. END. sits down with Melanin Skate Gals & Pals’ co-founder, Marie Mayassi, to discuss the importance in forming an inclusive community and breaking free from stereotypes in skateboarding.

Puma x Butter Goods
Puma x Butter Goods
Puma x Butter Goods

For those that don’t know, can you explain who Melanin Skate Gals and Pals are?

So, Melanin Skate Gals & Pals is a skate collective aimed at empowering marginalised communities within the skate world. We do skateboarding of any form and welcome skaters of all ability levels. Melanin Skate Gals & Pals is a part of Skate Gals & Pals, our sister organisation, and focuses on the wellbeing, both physical and mental, of Black people and people of colour, or BIPOC.

How did you first become interested in skateboarding?

When I moved into a new house in second year, we had no Wi-Fi for a brief period. My housemate had a skateboard and I thought, “I’m going to try and do something without the internet”, so I went out and tried to skate. Ever since that day, I’ve been a skater.

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Puma x Butter Goods

What advice would you give to others looking to form their own inclusive skate crew?

First, have a look around you — if there are other non-traditional skate crews that exist around you, then maybe you can join that crew. But, if you feel like there isn’t a community that looks like you, or you can’t find one that looks like you, then definitely create your own. It’s way easier than people may think — it’s a matter of creating an Instagram page and making a poster so people can come along to your meet up. It’s very scary at the beginning — the thought that nobody will want to come and join your skate crew — but once I created it and I got some attention, I realised that whatever you think this world doesn’t need it probably does. Wherever you feel like you don’t belong then create your own space and people will join.

Can you talk about your weekly skate sessions and how others can get involved?

We’ve got two weekly skate sessions that we do with Tower Hamlets Council and Hackney Council, but that’s for all girls and marginalised genders that are under 18 — so if you have a child, then they can come along. There’s no restriction on the identity of the child, it just depends on where they live.

We also hold a skate session for BIPOC adults on the Saturday, which is great fun. It’s very easy to join, you just sign up on the Doodle form on our Instagram page. The requirement is to not be white — I think this is important as we’re trying to create a safe space. As long as someone is part of the BIPOC community, then they can join. It’s really cool, as it’s more of an opportunity to socialise, rather than pressured skate time. You can come if you haven’t skated before, if you’re a pro or even if you don’t have any skating gear as people will always share with you. It’s a good way to be introduced into the community. 

Puma x Butter Goods
Puma x Butter Goods

How has being part of a community improved your confidence and skills in skating?  

Being part of a community really helped with being able to take space. I’ve been skating for quite a while, around five years, so I see more of the benefit that it has for others as being part of a community, especially those who have just started skating — those that feel like they can’t take up as much space as they want or feel a bit intimidated. Skateboarding is very intimidating, there are so many slender white dudes who are so good at skating when you go to the skatepark. You feel like: “Wow, this is not the space for me”, because you realise you are the only demographic of your own kind. But when you have a community, you can go to the skatepark, try things out and not worry about what people think. In terms of confidence, it’s so good. I do love skating on my own, too, but when you are in a community you go way beyond your capabilities. When you skate with those that are better than you, you progress well, but also those that are less advanced can remind you of skating techniques you may have forgotten.

Can you discuss the importance of breaking free from skateboarding stereotypes?

I think, to me, it’s all about recreating playfulness and play in adult lives. Especially with marginalised communities, these adults tend to have been put in an adult position from a really young age — through marginalisation and oppression from the world. Especially when you’re a displaced person, it’s even harder to access play — a lot of times, play is not going to be something that’s going to be put forward, it will be something that’s frowned upon. Growing up, I realised the importance skateboarding had in being more in touch with the child version of myself.

I saw it as another activity that was accessible to white people — the people that had so much leisure time in their lives, the people who were pushed from a young age to take up playful activities. That’s when I realised I wanted to decentralise skating — introduce more people to it and understand the benefit of it. In terms of visibility, it’s also very important, especially since skating is going to be at the Olympics. It’s very important for everyone to have opportunity here — I don’t want to be watching the Olympics in 20 years and see only white people, or no African countries whatsoever competing. That’s when the sport stays elite, but skating is not an elite sport. When you’re trying to make skating more diverse, you’re actually strengthening the sport’s core ethos in terms of resistance and being anarchic. It’s all about not following the way society tells us to live, reinforcing all the principles that were already there in the beginning so we can move forward and make skateboarding more whole.

Puma x Butter Goods
Puma x Butter Goods
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