GLTR Girls: Girls Learn to Ride Creates Oceans of Self Esteem

Surfing. Wakeboarding. Snowboarding. Skateboarding. Skiing. All are ‘wannabe’ favorites of GLTR girls that opt for ‘X-treme’ sports over the ‘girly girl’ glitter-fest, like my 13-year old ‘Billabong blonde’ who’s ready to try most any new sports venture now that she’s gained so much self-worth.

She’s been waterskiing long before her baby teeth were out, and looks forward to summer fun where she can introduce her gal pals (and guy friends) to our waterfront training ground for all things ride-able.

I found the Girls Learn to Ride (GLTR faq here) action sports clinics and camps online a couple years back when I first started the blog, and have watched the expansion (and branding blitz) of this all-female sports entity as it thrives on Facebook, on MySpace, on YouTube and more…I was ecstatic to find a healthy outlet to put some of that edgy teen angst brewing in my sometimes surly offspring, so to me, it’s an ‘aspirational’ hub to beat back some of those toxic girl culture cues in teen mags.

Every summer we try to expose new kids to the waterways here, and thrive on the ‘can-do’ surge of spirited girls of all shapes, sizes and backgrounds ready to give it a go. GLTR girls shines the spotlight on empowering teens like 16-year old Carissa Moore, who could be signing the biggest contract in female surfing history (alas, with sponsors RedBull and Nike, didn’t say it was ALL good news) and on media mavens like Nancy Chang, co-director of Skate Like a Girl (she could use your vote before 11-24 in the Women of Worth program to have a shot at $25K to further girls skating and alternative sports!)

Nancy Chang’s Skate Like A Girl offers skateboarding lessons to underprivileged girls, instructional clinics and camps to female groups, and enables girls to establish themselves in public spaces usually dominated by young men. (here’s more about SLAG, if you’ve ever been to a skate park, you know how hard it is for girls to ‘stake their claim’)

Check out this incredible 11 min. trailer (below) of 50 years of skateboarding’s evolution through girls’ eyes that I just found on the GLTR site. (GLTR has events by sport, news by sport, even mountain biking with the ‘Iron Horse Maidens’ )

Like our own documentary in development, Body Blitz, this skateboarding film is only their trailer, they have an unfinished 90 minute version seeking partners to finish the film. I hope they have it posted on IndieGoGo (indie film fundraising social network) so I can ‘friend’ it and  kick in some cash to the cause!

Some of the pioneers of the sport are in the film, using poetic phrases like, “when we couldn’t be on the water we were riding the waves of the mind…” Can’t wait to show it to my daughter when she gets home from school today…($5 she uses the word ‘awesome.’)

I’ve written a lot about sports empowering girls self-esteem, like our own local Shaping Youth partner organizations, San Mateo Starlings Volleyball (“giving girls a chance to soar” by helping those who can’t afford pricey ‘club teams’) and Girls Are Champions…so Skate Like A Girl’s goals align with intervention, channeling that self-confidence and leadership that sports can provide into GLTR pursuits…(You can vote for Nancy Chang here)

I’ve SEEN how personal challenges and ‘throw down the gauntlet’ cajoling nudges to try can literally change girls’ lives and lift them into safer, stable, healthy environs both socially and psychologically for a body and mind win-win…doesn’t matter WHAT the sport is!

These Girls Learn to Ride opportunities particularly appeal, because they’re about alternative sports that girls can identify with individually, which also fills the gap for girls not wild about school teams.

Personal bests are achievable in stages that are NOT contingent upon the resources of an entire group dynamic and that in itself makes it a haven for those who may not fit in ‘form and function’ as a core player on a team. (on the other hand, my daughter has learned necessary teamwork in volleyball and basketball that she can apply to life; which was much needed in her ‘only child’ outlook of the world!)

Anyway, I’m not a life coach like Dr. Jenn For Girls, or a REAL coach like my gal pal Lisa Izzi at Shaping Youth’s local partner org GAC, but I’m clearly a GLTR girl having grown up in Hawaii ‘following the sun’ and ‘checking out the surf reports’ (they didn’t have livecams like this back then!) to see whether we’d head North to Waimea Bay, east to Makapu’u or just lounge in the flatlands and socialize in Waikiki. (yah, it was pre-SPF days; I still have flashbacks of white-zinc-oxide noses, syrupy Hawaiian Tropic tans, frying ourselves like imbecilic crispy critters who now have all the wrinkles and skin cancer issues to show for it!)

As a water-rat, swimmer and safety maven, I’ve seen directly what working with preteens can do to their confidence when we get them out in the boat or on the training boom.

Beginners and reticent girls learn from seasoned pals, and the peer to peer mentoring melts away all of that ‘mean girl middle school’ stuff they’ve been exposed to, as they root for each other with genuine encouragement and sincere, authentic peer pressure of the POSITIVE kind. (that’s ‘my GLTR girl’ on the right introducing the sport to her friend Gabby)

Sometimes it’s a matter of starting slowly as an observational spotter just ‘helping out’ as they warm up to the concept, get used to life-vests, gear, tow lines and the works…and eventually, even the most hesitant girls have ended up suiting up and giving it a go after awhile…it just looks too fun to pass up!

Bonus? When guys come over and realize it’s not as easy as it looks, Aretha’s R-E-S-P-E-C-T starts playing in my mind in full rock out mode, knowing full well that changes in school culture dynamics have just transpired as well. 😉

We’ve dragged kids on inner-tubes, kneeboards, Sky-skis, slaloms…put ‘em in rowing shells, recumbent canoes, kayaks, sailboats and virtually ALL things water…It’s all about ‘find your passion’…that’s my daughter on the left, with her godsister (long ago, as you can tell by the wakeboarding shot above in the green wetsuit!)

I love being able to offer a freebie hangout for water fun to keep girls from entering the dreaded dormancy zone of click-n-drag couch potato-dom or ‘I’m bored’ moanings…

Now that it’s autumn heading into winter ski season I’ll admit I’m hoping some other family has a passion for SNOW, as I’m a Hawaiian at heart and though I think the white stuff is very pretty, I’m not eager to freeze my okole off landing in it to learn snowboarding at this age.

Still, my daughter desperately wants to go for it…so who knows. Maybe she can hook up with one of the GLTR offerings of newbie clinics/camps, and social networking connections between online girls sharing the ‘sure I’ll try it’ mentality.

The GLTR hub has blogs and news streamed in by the nanosecond, whether it’s about 16-year old champion Carissa Moore (at left) or about ChicaBrava the first all girls surf camp opening in Nicaragua, or the brand new snowboarding documentary about X- Games gold medalist Tara Dakides called Against the Grain which opens on Tuesday Nov. 25th See interview here with Tara, who is one of snowboarding’s most celebrated athletes. Inspiring for girls everywhere…One of my favorites that my daughter is going to love is called “Attack of the 14-year olds” in the digital edition of their magazine FOAM, all about Australia and Hawaii teens knocking out the ‘big girls’ of surfing. (and no, she doesn’t surf…yet)

This DM industry article reveals why female action sports is such a hot market:

“Mark Sperling, founder of GLTR says, “Over the past eight years we’ve seen phenomenal growth of female participation in all action sports segments throughout all age groups. Since the beginning we’ve had the intent of being the primary resource of information for females in our industry. With the absence of a female-focused action sports print publication, GLTR online will be that voice. We have already created a community of tens of thousands of girls and women–they are hungry for this content and we’re thrilled to be their source.

The female action sports market is still far from being fully tapped. Through research done by GLTR, 86% of the women surveyed currently participated in multiple sports, and 80% said they wanted to learn a new sport. This growing and active demographic has great spending power. By creating an environment in which novice participants are embraced, GLTR and now WLTR are vital platforms for continued exponential growth in women’s action sports.”

GLTR is obviously funded by these branding alliances, and even their social networking community PiperGirls is branded out the wazoo, but to me, there’s a big diff between a ‘lifestyle’ being sponsored by Casio as they’ve done in the GLTR ‘gathering place’, versus a sponsorship of an athlete like Carissa Moore by RedBull, because so many teens will ‘relate’ to her aspirationally. Last thing we need is more energy drink/caffeine overload being marketed to teens.

Sure wish all parties would hold themselves accountable on the funding front, and more benign sponsors would step forward for funding athletes and events that are positive influences in media.

That said, I know this industry well, and even if you think you have a ‘benign’ one lassoed, try as you might, today’s ‘healthy icon is tomorrow’s controversy’…

Look no further than our own readergirlz friend Justina Chen Headley who got snowed (er, more like avalanched) by aligning her fabulous Girl Overboard book tour (a Junior Library Guild Premier Selection) with Burton snowboards aptly called “Go Overboard challenge grant” only to have ‘Love’ hit the slopes and plow the whole girl empowerment message into this.

I can’t imagine how betrayed and frustrated she must’ve felt…

Obviously I’m reticent about sponsorship going awry, or Shaping Youth would’ve been fully funded long ago and I wouldn’t be wondering how to keep the lights on! (Think ‘Parent Trap/Lindsay, Disney/Britney & Miley, etc.)

Sure would be ‘the easy way’ for me to bring our content to the masses faster, but I’m a stubborn fool and keep brainstorming creative new ways for sustainability. (any marketing colleagues, feel free to pitch your favorite ad-free model in this direction, ‘k? I’m looking for some profit-sharing alliances with benign/healthy startups too!)

Clearly, GLTR goes way beyond sea, snow and cement in terms of sponsorships enabling these events to even ‘happen’…and they even have an eco-friendly magazine called FOAM in ‘girl meets beach’ mode ranging from fashion, art and music to role models, adventures and sports photos seen through the refreshing eyes of FEMALE photographers…(which means it SHOULD preclude the Danica Patrick racy bit, oui?)

I think we may have found a new bunch of girlfriends!

We haven’t tried any of the GLTR getaways and such, but I’ve been collecting a file of ‘mother daughter’ outings that could put us both in learning mode, so I’ll have to see what GLTR has to offer there, too.

“Ancora Imparo” is my Latin midlife motto, so for all those teens who think their moms are ancient life forms who ‘can’t relate’ you might be surprised how much we have in common with you at this age and stage, ya know?

Girls Learn to Ride at all ages. We’re just a bit more…um…careful.

Oh! And btw, here’s a quick :30 second Animoto clip of my OWN daughter! GLTR indeed!

A Girls Skateboard Documentary Trailer (about 11min; exc. retrospective! I hope this gets funded!)

Video via JstarxXx

Visual credit: Screenshots from GLTR and SLAG websites



  1. Boy (or should I say “Girl”)…you have one of the most “together” websites! Always very informative!

  2. This was really hard to find there was a lot of crap posts on this I am excited I finally stumbledupon a entry worthy of being under this search. Good stuff bookmarked cause I have a feeling several posts on here will benefit other queries I have faster then looking bing.

  3. This article reminds of another one I had read, about an eight year old girl, considered a child prodigy in skateboarding, Her name is Kamali Moorthy. She is being trained by renowned skater Jamie Thomas.

  4. Ryan Murphy says

    Awesome post and informative at the same time. I had a great time reading this one. Thank you for sharing your story in your journey.

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