On Sunday, a group of four women rolled up to the U.S./Mexico border on their skateboards just south of San Diego. They had spent the last 16 days on their boards, pushing down the 300 miles of California coastline that separates Santa Barbara from the Mexican border. The founders of a nonprofit known as Duchess Ride, they had completed the feat for a unique cause: empowering young women by encouraging them to skate, snowboard and surf as hard as they possibly can.
Claire Altenau, 28; Carissa Bisnar, 32; Carly Finke, 23; and Jaime Schulte, 26, are the co-founders of Duchess Ride. Altenau, Finke and Schulte met Bisnar while on a chairlift in Utah and bonded over their love of supporting fellow female snowboarders.
“Claire and I had grown up riding together in Colorado,” Schulte told GrindTV. “We had a crew we rode with that we called PPP: Positive Peer Pressure. And we all kind of rallied on the mountain under the banner of, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to get more girls to shred together?’ When we met Carissa on that chairlift, we sucked her in.”
The way the group saw it, more often than not girls were told what they couldn’t do, both by society and by their compatriots, instead of what they could do. They saw a culture among younger girls that was afraid to fail — and quick to criticize those who did.
“Before we met each other, we were all riding exclusively with guys,” said Schulte. “And that was kind of a bummer. Now, when we ride with each other, we still talk to each other like we’re a bunch of dudes. We don’t really bite our tongues, and we take any criticism as fun.”
The group saw that openness and sense of camaraderie amongst their male snowboarding companions as the driving factor that encouraged progression. Consequently, they attribute what they see as a lack of that same camaraderie among young girls as being the leading cause for why girls are more than twice as likely to drop out of youth sports as boys.
“We feel like girls are pitted against each other when they’re younger,” Bisnar told GrindTV. “They’re told to be competitive, but not in a positive sense. Instead of girls just trying to progress and improve, they’re afraid to fail and [they] stay clear of the sport.”
“It’s intimidating,” Altenau told GrindTV. “You know, you go surfing and paddle out and it’s like, ‘Ooh, there’s a girl out here,’ or you head to a skatepark and you’re the only girl in the park.”
So, to combat that, the foursome took to the road to raise money for their nonprofit. The ultimate goal: to fund Duchess Ride’s first six-week pilot program for young girls.
“Come January, we’re hoping to start two separate six-week progression sessions on snow,” said Schulte. “Basically, we’re looking to pay to take six girls from age[s] 10 to 12 in each progression session and get them into the mentality that it’s OK to fail, so long as you persevere and improve through it.”
According to Schulte, the progression sessions will consist of one day on the snow each week, as well as one day off the snow.
While on the mountain, Schulte and the rest of the crew will teach the girls everything from how to drop into a jump to the intricacies of snowboarding in powder. While off the mountain, they’ll preach positivity, meditation and the importance of stepping out of their shells.
“When we have them away from the mountain, we’ll teach them things like how to make their own video edits,” said Schulte. “But ultimately our goal is to have these girls be ambassadors for all the good that snowboarding can do for a young woman. We want them going out to their friends and forming their own crew of girls to ride with, and just preaching positivity and progression.”
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