Kristin Ebeling On Going Pro and Dethroning the Bros

Thrasher Magazine Kristin Ebeling Portrait Header
Kristin Ebeling is a powerhouse in the women’s skate movement. Her CV is too long to list, but most crucially her work with Seattle’s Skate Like A Girl is as inspiring as it gets. From teaching young girls and trans skaters in the Northwest, to starting a zine that represents their scene and making the KOTR-esque Wheels of Fortune event, Kebs’ drive to dismantle the skatriarchy is unrelenting. And to top it all off, she just fuckin’ rips! Longtime friend Alex White calls her up to talk about being the only girl at the park, insecurities, sobriety and theme-parking with a nice Canadian husband.


Kristin hits hard in her new part. Turn it up

Kristin, what is your name, your age and where are you from?
My name is Kristin Ebeling—she/her. I am 32 years old and I reside in Occupied Duwamish Territory, known more commonly as Seattle.

And what does that mean?
Basically, we live, work and play on unceded indigenous territory land. There's a whole movement called Real Rent Duwamish where folks give money every month to support the Duwamish tribe, so I want to support and shine a light on that anytime that I have the opportunity to do so.

Kristin Ebeling Bs 5050 outledgeKebs hops on a sublime backside 50-50       photo: Greengage

That’s awesome. Do you pay rent?
Yeah, I do. I wish I could give more.

How did you first get into skateboarding?
I got into skating because I didn't really fit in with girls who were my age. I just always felt really uncomfortable and out of place. So I ended up hanging out with all the guys playing football at recess, things like that in elementary school. When all of them started to try skating or listening to Sublime or whatever, I was like, Oh shit, I want to try this. I would just try on their boards a little, trying to figure out ollies and stuff. And then Tony Hawk's Pro Skater came out. I remember us playing it at my friend's house and going through all the characters and happening upon Elissa Steamer. I was like, Wait a minute, I think that was a girl. After that point, I was like, Oh, girls actually skateboard. There's actually a woman pro. And that for whatever reason, in my mind, was like, Oh my God, I want a skateboard now. So my dad took me to Fred Meyer and got me a shitty department-store board.

Do you remember what the department-store board graphic was?
Yeah, it was an X Games board. It had an eight ball on it. He took me on Christmas Eve and I got to pick it out, so I must’ve really identified with an eight ball.

Eight balls and Sublime, you’re really painting a picture. What was the first real board you picked out?
I had been skating for six months, going to the skatepark every single day. My parents just thought it was a fad, but they finally took me to this skateboard/snowboard shop, no joke, called Ride On. There's a guy who worked there who would just do backflips on flat. He'd be like, What’s up? and then do a backflip—so classic. So I bought just the most basic board—Venture trucks, blank or Mini-Logo wheels and a blank deck. When I got home my dad looked at it and said, “There’s not even a graphic on it.” But I didn’t care. He went to the hardware store and bought some stencil letters for spray painting and he wrote “I’m stoked” in stencil letters on the bottom of my board. That was my first real board. Shout out to my dad for the graphic design.

He actually got them from our graphics department. Is your Meow board gonna be the same?
Yes, actually it’s a replica.

So it’s been a few years now. Do you feel like you belong in skating? Did you ever feel like an outsider?
All the time. Like I said, I started skating with mostly guys, but that got kinda awkward around age 14. I felt like I was one of the dudes and was invited to everything, and we were all friends. But a year or two after that point, those boys wanted nothing to do with me. They were super mean to me and exclusive. I think maybe just because they were going through puberty and seeing women in a totally different light than they ever had. Perhaps they just didn’t know what to do with me, because I didn’t fit into the image of what women did. There was a while of getting messages on Myspace about how I sucked at skating or going to the skatepark and they would call me J-Lo because of my butt. Honestly, it was the older dudes at the park who stood up for me, which was cool. Maybe ‘cause they came from the ‘90s scene and dealt with being an outcast or something. But the boys my age were brutal. So I skated by myself in my garage. In high school, I met a different crew of dudes who skated a different park and that was pretty cool. Well, it was chill until one of them tried to kiss me when he was drunk. That was horrible. I definitely always felt like I didn’t fit in 100 percent in those circles, which is probably a good thing. Because that’s why I have been able to create so much at Skate Like A Girl and other projects. I want other people to not have that experience of Oh, where do I fit in? It’s like, Yo, over here. You’re welcome here.

Kristin Ebeling Boardslide curve ledgeStoked out boardslide around the bend and then some       photo: Greengage

What is Skate Like a Girl and what do you do with them?
So Skate Like a Girl is a nonprofit, and the whole goal is to make skateboarding more inclusive, which we do in a bunch of different ways. Some of that is giving skateboards to people who can’t afford them or don’t have access. Some of it’s doing skate sessions for queer, women and/or trans skaters. So the whole idea is just creating an easy way for people to get into skating. We've been around for about 20 years and primarily work in Seattle, Portland and the SF Bay area. Those are the three main areas, but we also do stuff online and put on the Wheels of Fortune event. That’s a contest and gathering for women and/or trans skaters.

It seems like Wheels of Fortune has brought a huge community of people together. Was the purpose just to make something that brought everyone together or were you trying to make a contest?
I think it had a lot to do with my own personal desire to feel like I'm welcomed and included and just knowing that I'm most likely not the only person who feels like they don't belong. So I just wanted to create a weekend that feels like a dream for skaters who maybe haven’t had events where they felt that. I want people to feel how I felt when I first found Skate Like a Girl. I just remember walking up to the Skate Like a Girl event when I was a teenager and all these women were just ripping, and little kids too; a girl ollied the eight stair, a girl was doing nollie flips and some were ripping in the bowl, all with a girl on the microphone. I was like, Where has this been?! So when I created Wheels of Fortune I just wanted it to have that feeling—for people to walk in and be in a dream. It’s like, you walk in and there’s a pro skater over there, or some cool-looking people over there and then something fun to do somewhere else. I just wanted it to feel like an experience you don’t normally get in skating. Because most of the time you go to the skatepark and it can feel really hostile or scary if you're a beginner or you don't look like the other people who are there. And maybe people will be inspired to go back to where they’re from and start their own thing.

I love Wheels of Fortune. I think it’s the best event. I like how your brain works where you turn the traumatic stuff from your experience into positive events for other people. It seems sort of altruistic.
I mean, or you could see it as selfish. Like, I wanted friends, I wanted a community, I wanted to feel safe around skating and I think in general I do feel better. I'm one of those personalities where I just feel really fulfilled when I feel like everyone is gelling and there’s a real sense of community. I would have never imagined how much the scene has blown up. I feel like every day someone mentions some new woman or trans or queer skater that I've never heard of. And I'm like, Oh, my God, I want to meet them.
 
Thrasher Magazine Interview kristin ebeling quote I don't do well with spare time
So you are the busiest person I know, with the most ongoing projects that you are currently working on. How are you managing everything?
So, I'm the executive director of Skate Like a Girl, I’m the team manager at Krux, I’m the bassist in Punitive Damage and I’ve been working on a video part for Meow skateboards. Those are the main things. I do some other projects here and there—speaking and hosting panels, creating other media with Skate Witches or anything else that sounds like it's up my alley. I try to keep a good balance. I like to stay busy. I feel like it helps me stay motivated. I don’t do well with spare time. My dad was a pilot and he was gone for work a lot, so I grew up around my mom and she worked in real estate—constantly pulling moves, always on the phone, just bossing it. So I think it just seems normal to me. And when I'm not doing enough, I don't feel fulfilled. 

What do you think is good in skateboarding right now?
I think what's really cool is I feel like there's a lot of people in skating that maybe have been around for a long time that are going like, Oh, shit, we need to do better. And they're leveraging their power to get more people on the teams, get more people into jobs—like yourself. There's more people like us taking up space. I think what's really cool about that is that it's just gonna make skateboarding more broad and more sustainable. If there's only one type of skating, or a few types of skaters that are acceptable, whether it’s being really good, or wearing this kind of outfit, it creates a scenario where people could come in, think it’s really fun but drop it because they don't find community and they can't find a part of the culture that resonates with them. I think what's really beneficial to skateboarding overall is that I think it's just going to keep people skating; it's going to keep people excited and motivated to be a part of something. Right now, it feels like we are in an era of diversity and decentralization and there’s some really cool byproducts of that. If there’s only one big video, I might not submit stuff to it. But if there’s a bunch of smaller projects and some where you are at a similar ability level as the others, it creates some motivation to get creative and push yourself with your friends. I was the only girl at the park when I was 13, but a 13-year-old girl now knows that it’s totally normal that they skateboard.

What’s not so good in skateboarding?
Skateboarding has such a long history of being not inclusive to everyone, and to having a very prescribed specific way that you can get shine in skating. So there's been a lot of barriers for people. I think we're trying to undo a lot of those. Naturally, because not everyone is an expert in diversity and inclusion, when they want to do well in skateboarding, unfortunately they’re maybe not equipped to do it really thoughtfully and really well. I see some of the bigger brands having almost like a diversity checkbox. Which as wack as that sounds, it does actually benefit people that maybe wouldn't have had an opportunity in the past. But then because it's more of a checkbox and not something that's coming authentically from people in those leadership positions, I think the way that it can come across is that it feels really cheap. Like, Oh, we put the girl on the team. Done! But, my questions are like, Does she get a video part in the video? Are they getting a photographer out to her? Are they getting her a filmer for a video part? You know, there's things like that. I think we have a long way to go. And I think potentially a shortcut is getting more people in positions of leadership that know the community.
 
1500 DSC 4355 1
It's normal for girl's to skate, but Kristin still slides abnormally long across this Phoenix lawn       photo: Seidler 

You mentioned Skate Witches. For people who don’t know, what is it?
Skate WItches was a zine that Shari White and I created almost ten years ago now. Mainly it was an excuse for our friends and people that we thought were cool skaters to get a photo because we didn’t see a lot of people like us in the mags at the time. So we just started our own thing. People that have been on the cover are people like Fabiana, Adelaide, Samarria, Clara and a bunch of other awesome people. We’ve written different articles and sold them all over the world and made some videos here and there. This last year we worked with Vans to create some tutorials on how to film and shoot photos or write articles, just to help inspire people to start their own thing. So much in life is about showing up, so creating excuses for people to show up is what I like to do.

I don't think a lot of people know how much that you've created over the years. You just have a lot of creative energy around skating. Where does that come from?
I have these specific experiences etched in my brain for whatever reason. I have this memory of going to the skatepark that I grew up at. It was right next to this grocery store. I would go there almost every day I went to the skatepark and I would find the skate magazines and just tear through them looking for Jaime Reyes or Jessie Van. If I found them, I would buy the mag or steal the page, just rip it out and put it in my pocket then put it on my bedroom wall. That memory is just super motivating to me. It's like, We can make the thing that people look at and it’s not just one girl skater. And it has good photos and a cool aesthetic that’s not just pink. I think also seeing what has been done in skateboarding can motivate me, like WKND skits, Girl Skateboards skits, Dime or people who have humor in their skating. I really relate to that. I just always think instead of complaining about something, You can always create something. You got to put yourself out there and be willing to fail and cry, which I do a lot.

You're an emotional person as well. Can you talk a little bit about how you get in your head?
In my head, when I walk up to a skate space, I immediately am thinking about what everyone is thinking about me. And not that I'm so self-obsessed and think that everyone is staring at me or something, but for whatever reason I'm like, Oh my God, I'm such a fucking kook. Why am I here? I mean, I constantly feel like I don't belong and I'm not good enough. And I like to stay busy, maybe because I have those thoughts. Instead of sitting with those feelings of inadequacy, I’m like, Well, fuck it, I can just create a space where I am included by the very nature of the thing that is happening. And I’m thinking about what I could create for someone else so someone doesn't have to have the same negative experiences that I had. And that's just, for whatever reason, extremely motivating to me. It's really soothing, maybe therapeutic. I think skateboarding is really fucking scary and really hard and I just don't think we need to make it any harder.

I think it's relatable, though. There's this mythology that’s like, We're all skaters, so we get along and we're the same. But that's not how it feels a lot of the time.
Especially as women skaters, or whatever, they expect everyone to be really good friends. I definitely bought into skating because I didn’t fit in with girls. I just get hella anxiety and feel like I’m not a real girl or whatever. Then you’re in skating for a while, because you're an outcast, but they also expect you to be friends and have confidence. Some people really rock it, but I am not good at that. I also choose to live a life that's pretty atypical in skateboarding, so that's on me.

Thrasher Magazine Kristin Ebeling Interview Quote quitting drinking just gave me so much more energy and more time to skate
Yeah, tell me about the choices that you've made. I mean, you chose to marry a Canadian, you chose not to drink and be vegan.
I mean, before I met my husband, I was in an abusive relationship for like three years of my life with someone who was super manipulative and I picked up a drinking habit for whatever reason—lack of self worth maybe. I just stayed in that relationship because it’s all I knew. The only way I could get through was with drinking and other self-harming things like smoking and stuff. When I was finally brave enough to get out of that relationship, I found myself drinking alone a lot. I was lucky to have sober friends at the time, that kind of mentioned that they were sober and weren’t drinking around me. I decided one day that I didn’t wanna be a victim of life. I wanted to be in control of my life. I wanted to skate more, because obviously in my previous relationship I wasn’t skating as much. So I stopped drinking and smoking and adopted a stricter diet. I’m vegan, but that’s a little separate thing—I wanted to do that for the environment and because I like animals. That just felt more in sync with my heart and mind, nothing I want to cram down anyone's throat. It's 100-percent personal and just works for me. It’s kinda hard to be in skating, because so much of it has this attitude of, Fuck the rules. Let’s party. I was all about that until about 25. I don’t judge anyone who chooses a different path. And, you know, solidarity with anyone struggling with addiction. Quitting drinking just gave me so much more energy and more time to skate and more money.

I think it's good for people to hear. So, you're married to a wonderful Canadian man. Tell us, is he polite in the streets as well as the sheets?
Yes, and yes. He’s great and we are in love. We met on a little-known dating app called Tinder. He doesn’t skate much but he can ollie and drop in. Sometimes we’ll be out skating and I’ll ask him if he can say something mean, because I grew up with an older brother, and nothing motivates you more than your older sibling just saying, “You fuckin’ idiot, just fuckin’ land it right here.”
 
750 Kristin ebeling Kickflip Front Board 2
She's here and she's skating a tree. Fuck it, kickflip front board 

Will he be mean when you ask him? 
Only if I ask, and it’s still not that mean.

What’s the meanest thing he can say to motivate you?
I think he can just say, “Stop bullshitting and just fucking do it,” but that’s about as mean as he can get. He’s a sweetheart and I’m really grateful to have someone who supports me in skating and all my side projects. I know a lot of people skate and as soon as they get in a relationship, they don't skate as much or quit altogether. But he gives me a lot of time and space to do what I love to do. Right when we got married, we went to California to go to Exposure. So, our whole honeymoon was basically going to LA for me to film and skate. I was filming with Shane and fucked up my ankle. I ended up getting hurt, and then my husband had to push me around with a wheelchair for a week while we were in California. But I don't know, he loves me and I'm really grateful.

You're both vegan and straight-edge. What do you do for fun? 
Nothing. We have zero fun. No, we like surfing and going to theme parks.

Tell me about your theme-park conquests. 
I just grew up having a lot of fear. For whatever reason I had nightmares a lot and was always scared our house was gonna get bombed or I was gonna die in a plane crash. WIth all these irrational fears, I was naturally not getting on any roller coasters as a kid. I wouldn’t even jump into water. As an adult, my brother tricked me into going on one of the tallest roller coasters at Magic Mountain. Ever since then, I was like, I'm gonna get over fears by forcing myself to ride different roller coasters. Now I've been on some of the tallest and fastest roller coasters in the world and it has really helped me have more confidence and get over my fears.

What’s your go-to vegan theme-park food. 
The pretzels are usually vegan. Disneyland has pretty good food, but it’s usually the pretzels for me.

Thrasher Magazine Kristin Ebeling Interview Quote A lot of the spots that the men I skate with go to are just really gnarly
Can you have an Icee?
No, there’s eggs and milk those. Just kidding, yeah, those are fine.

What's your approach to filming this video part and how do you find time to film with all your other stuff going on?
First and foremost, I had no idea that I was filming for it. I finished my Pump On This part and I just wanted to work on something else. Then COVID happened and I basically only skated alone outside my house for a while. Eventually, Shane made it up to Seattle in the summer of 2020 and we started working on a new part. A few months later I was in LA with Meow and I was just chilling in the Airbnb and everyone came in holding my board. That was really crazy. Anyway, the boards weren’t done yet for a wider release, because of COVID delays, so they were like, If you want to keep filming, we can put it out as a part. So that's what I did. My approach has just been to learn tricks and then find spots where I can realistically do them. Which isn’t always easy. A lot of the spots that men that I skate with or film with are just really gnarly. So you just gotta trust your gut or find your own spots. Don’t feel like just because someone takes you to a spot you gotta jump on it. So finding spots is big. You can also build and fix up spots too. We were definitely just getting crafty—learning how to fix stuff up and collaborating with Shane on doing that stuff has been rad. I'm really lucky to have Shane to work with in terms of spots.

2000 Kristin Shane Switch Blunt Shane Switch backside blunt front 180 out with her trusty Skate Rat in tow       photo: Ballard

Now that you’re TM for Krux, I’ve heard you explain to some people how to film a video part. But for the younger skaters who might come to you that only film on their phone, how do you tell them to film a part?
Let me explain it in a general way and then I'll go super nerd mode on you. Generally, it's just about figuring out what trick you want to do and finding a spot that will showcase that trick. And so that's like one way to do it—trick first and then find a spot. You can do it the other way around, too, but that’s where I start. A lot of it has to do with taking tricks that you know and making them look interesting. There's something to be said about an interesting spot—the texture, the sound, the lighting. The obstacles can be an element of surprise. But it kind of depends on what skater you are. Like, if you’re a ledge skater, probably the surprise will have to do with the technicality of what you’re doing, versus if you’re a skater like Rollersurfer or Milk Snake, your surprise could be something else like doing a trick where people go, What was that? What I’m saying is that there are so many ways to get creative with your footage or video parts. 

750 Kristin Front Crook Seq Pinched in and clipped up, Kristin secures the crook after a battle

But going full nerd mode, I wrote out a lot of the tricks in my parts and started lining up spots that could work for those, because I’m trying to showcase a variety of everything I can do. I don’t want to repeat tricks if I don’t have to. Sometimes I'll go to a spot and be like, Oh, what do I do? And I'll just go to the note in my phone and be like, Yeah, here's what I'll do. So much of it is also just willing to try. Like, that gap bench that was that Spitfire ad, I saw it and didn’t think I had a trick for it. I tried a couple front crooks and it was a little discouraging and I ate shit, but after an hour I just pinched one that felt good. From there, I knew it was possible. It's honestly just about going out, trying your best and having the confidence to say no when you're done. And last, having a filmer that will encourage you and keep pointing the camera at you if you're feeling it is huge.

Thrasher Magazine Kristin Ebeling Interview Quote I love street skating; one of the hardest things you could ever do is get a clip
I’ve heard you say, “camera adds ten tries.”
Camera definitely adds ten tries, if not more. That’s a huge thing too—learning to film with a fisheye or fisheye at night. That’s hella hard. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Filming street skating just takes so much extra work—batteries die, you get kicked out, you gotta fix the spot, bring Bondo, wax, lacquer or a rub brick. It’s like going to the skatepark plus a job. Worst thing that happens at a skatepark is there's some kook with headphones who's snaking you. So there's a certain level of respect and reverence you have for street skating and VX parts when you realize how much time goes into it.

2000 Kristin FrontBoard 1 Two hours of work for a two-second clip, this front board is worth it       photo: Ballard

If you're watching a video part of someone and it’s from a VX filmer, it looks good, the colors are good and you've never seen that spot before, just know that whatever 30-second clip you're watching was probably 30 hours of collective work. There’s so much time between everyone that was involved in fixing that spot, getting that camera ready, all the trials the skater took, all the filming and all the homies cheering you on. That's why I love street skating; one of the hardest things you could ever do is get a clip, at least for me.

I love thinking about that ratio of every ten seconds of footage having ten hours of work. How is it managing people for Krux?
I like it. Sometimes the pandemic makes it hard getting product to everyone or going on trips. But it’s fun creating and coordinating video content and campaigns. A lot of the people on the team are my friends, like Ryan, Adrianna, Travis, Alexa and Marbie. So that makes it easier. I like that the brand is a little silly, where some of the other truck companies are pretty serious. I think we have the market cornered on dorkiness. Which is good because that’s the kind of the skating I like—nothing overly serious. There’s a lot more yeses than nos with Krux and we get to promote interesting skaters.

What does it mean to you to have your name on a board? Is that something you thought would ever happen?
I definitely never thought that would happen. It was just a really special moment, getting surprised with the boards. My husband flew in and Shane, who's like my brother, was there. I was sincerely shocked. Around that time, I was kinda depressed with some tendonitis stuff and Kyle Brown hooked me up with some PT. And then right after the surprise, I was skating alright again. It was like, Did going pro heal my tendonitis? I never thought this would happen. I never thought that I was good enough, and maybe I'm not to some people, and that's okay. I don't really give a fuck. I'm here taking up space and stoked to showcase the type of skateboarding that I like. I just want to keep filming parts and street skating. I'm stoked to be a working-class skater.

1500 DSC 4780 1Ollie up to back lip shove before hoppin' in the Zoom room       photo: Seidler

Can you really have it all?
Yeah, definitely. I think for me it’s really motivating to get off work and be itching to go skate. I just know from personal experience, when I don't have a lot of stuff going on and I don't feel like I gotta find that time to skate, it kinda feels a little too casual. I'll never forget one of the clips on my part. I was in Arizona, and Ryan Lay was actually filming me. I was in Phoenix skating this step-up ledge spot, and I've never done this trick before. It was an ollie up then back lip shove. I was trying it for like an hour. I was looking at my phone and I was like, Fuck, I have a meeting in an hour. Fuck I have a meeting in 30 minutes, 15 minutes. And then right at the last second, I landed one. I blanked out like, I have to do this. So you don’t necessarily have to be a full-time skater to get tricks. For me, these other obligations actually help me stay en pointe. 

Do you block out tricks in the Google Calendar?
I’m not that specific. There are a lot of people who are juggling different hats, John Gardner for instance. And there are so many skaters who have their own projects or brands, too—Leo with Glue, Una makes art and edits, John Shanahan makes pants and so on. I think that makes skateboarding really interesting, and feel less unattainable and more DIY, which I think is inspiring and ultimately keeps people skating and hyped.

I think you nailed it. Any thanks?
Alex, thank you for this interview. You’re fucking funny. Thank you, Shane Auckland, Lisa Whitaker, all my friends who pointed a camera at me—and thank you to my husband Alex. Shout out to my mom, honestly. If I’m ever insecure, she’s like, Go flip the board. When I went to Skatopia, someone interviewed her and asked her how she felt about me going. She thought for a second and then said, “Kristin’s gonna go out there. She’s gonna flip the board and those boys are gonna respect her.” Ever since then, I’ve just been flipping the board.

Kristin Ebeling Fs smith fisheye Mom was right. Kristin flipped the board into the hearts and minds of skaters of all genders, or maybe it was the Smith grinds that did it. Either way, be thankful we got people like Kebs making the skate world better. Now stop complaining and start your own shit!      photo: Greengage