Beatrice Domond from Boca Raton, FL
Before spending around three hours with Beatrice Domond at the West Boyton Skatepark in South Florida, I was beginning to wonder if going so far to talk to one person was really worth it. But after talking with Beatrice about the past 15 years of her life spent as a skateboarder, I left feeling so inspired and excited. Beatrice talks about skateboarding with the kind of earnest excitement and wonder of a twelve year old skate rat, but with the maturity of someone who has spent a long time contemplating and theorizing just what it is that makes skateboarding so special to so many people. She watches skate videos and reads magazines daily and obsessively. She skates every single day, rain or shine, early in the morning to avoid the Florida heat and the crowds at the skatepark. And the most amazing part of it all, is that she has always preferred to do most of her skating alone. She cites Rodney Mullen, also from Florida, as an inspiration for the solo-skateboarding experience, and says she’s never skated to impress anyone, or to be cool, but simply for the love and joy of it.
Unfortunately, Beatrice tweaked her knee on her fourth attempt of the first trick we were going to film, so we didn’t get any skate footage. (She’s been dealing with knee injuries for years after an initial injury during a soccer game, and now skates with a brace.) However, just watching her warm up, I got a sense of why so many people are so excited about her skating. She oozes a sort of effortless style and self confidence on a skateboard, but her skating also projects humility, the opposite of showiness. She doesn’t look at anyone else to see their reactions to her trick; she’s totally in her own zone. Even though there were kids much younger than her at the park doing what some might call harder, more-impressive tricks, no one was as fun and inspiring to watch skate as Beatrice.
Beatrice is now 22 and going to school at Florida Atlantic University. The daughter of Haitian immigrants, she has spent her entire life in the suburban community of Boca Raton, Florida. She said she first got into skateboarding when, at the age of seven, she was posing for school portraits and was given a selection of props for the photo, one of which was a skateboard. She was immediately drawn to it. She later asked her dad to buy her a skateboard, and started learning to ride on the sort of cheaply-manufactured boards available at toy stores and Wal-Marts. The most mind-blowing part of Beatrice’s skateboarding origin story is that she didn’t see anyone else skateboard until 2008, about seven years after she first started riding. She had no idea who the pros were, what tricks they were doing, or how they were doing them. She was just rolling around the sidewalk and street outside her house. She said that her first glimpse into the world and culture of skateboarding writ large was when youtube first came out and she typed “skateboarding” into the search bar out of curiosity. From there, her love of skateboarding as an activity extended to a love for the sport, the culture, the styles and personalities involved, as she began to consume skateboard media with a fervent appetite.
Beatrice described the young Floridians she grew up with as “bratty,” kids who get cars for their fifteenth birthdays and spend their weekends partying and going to the beach. Her Floridian upbringing was much different. Beatrice said her mother kept her sheltered, but was incredibly supportive of everything she did. She went to a private Christian high-school of about 200 students. She played soccer and basketball, and was a three-time basketball MVP. In high-school, she skated every day before school and after sports practice. Her basketball coaches would plead with her not to skate before important games, but she was defiant, telling them that if they wanted her to play well, they needed to let her skateboard. Her high school went on mission trips to foreign countries including Costa Rica and The Bahamas, and she always brought her skateboard along with. She was the only girl in her high school who skated, as well as the only one of her friends who skated.
Though she received support from her family and friends for her skating throughout her middle school and high-school years, Beatrice skated by herself and for herself. She made short youtube videos, but they never got more than a couple hundred views. More recently, however, Beatrice’s skating has started to gain recognition and is beginning to reach a much wider audience than her Florida community and her 200 youtube viewers. Over the past few years, Beatrice began and sustained an email exchange with skateboard filmmaker William Strobeck. She began sending him short clips of her skating, which he started showing to other skaters including Jason Dill. She gradually gained a fanbase within a small community of professional skateboarders, mostly based in New York City. Through the backing of Jason Dill and Bill Strobeck, Beatrice became sponsored by Fucking Awesome (a company founded by Jason Dill) on their “flow” team; she gets sent a box of boards and clothing once a month, and could be on track to some day getting included in videos, trips, and potentially seeing paychecks if she were to go “pro”. All this led to talks of Beatrice having a part in Cherry, the video Bill Strobeck produced for the New York City skate shop and clothing brand, Supreme. Beatrice was confined to the Florida suburbs without any dedicated videographer, and so most of what she was able to send Bill were iPhone clips. These clips were still met with excitement, and one of them made it into the final cut of Cherry, making Beatrice the only woman who skateboards in the entire video.
Since her more recent Supreme-related shine, Beatrice’s skating has gained a more substantial following. Beatrice has over two thousand followers on Instagram, and gets enthusiastic praise and support whenever she posts a video. I asked her about the rise of her Instagram fame, and she told me she owes much of her following to the Cherry video. She started her account after graduating high school to keep up with friends, and started posting skate photos and videos for lack of want or inspiration to post anything else. Other girls I’ve interviewed and spoken to say they watch Beatrice’s clips on Instagram. Like her attitude towards watching skate footage, the footage she produces herself, mostly flatground tricks set in cul-de-sac driveways and sidewalks, embodies a marriage between the kind of innocent obsession with skating required to skate alone in such mundane settings, along with a truly mature style and finesse that makes her tricks so entertaining to watch.
Beatrice’s style and the ease with which she appears to skateboard are a huge part of her growing reputation. When I asked her about how she would articulate the inspiration for the way she looks on a skateboard, she told me a lot of it has to do with wanting to be as comfortable as possible. She said she didn’t really know she had “style” until her skating gained a wider audience. She said she wants to practice every trick until she can do them with her eyes closed. She also said a lot of how she skates relates to spending so much time skating back and forth on her backyard patio, where there isn’t room to push between tricks.
Beatrice’s thoughts on skating as one of the only girls who skates in her area was definitely unique, because she’s always been in the habit of skating alone. She said a lot of the skateparks in driving distance of her house didn’t get built until she was around twelve or thirteen. At that time, she was so excited about the new terrain that she didn’t really consider what anyone else was thinking or how they perceived her. However, as she got older, she started to pick up on a kind of attention from other guys at the park, which she described as “getting vibed hard.” She’s always been able to hang with the park crowd in a peripheral sort of way, but in the midst of her teenage years, she said “getting vibed” really got to her. Since then, she said her mental process has been about getting back to that twelve-year-old mindset, where excitement about skating filters out all the rest of the head games. These days, Beatrice tries to avoid crowds and heat at the skatepark, skating early in the morning. She says when she rolls up to the park, her strategy is to put herself out there for everyone to take in. She’s tall, she’s black, and she’s (almost always) the only girl at the park. She’ll give all the guys about twenty minutes to get adjusted to her presence, and then she’ll lock into her focused skating mode.
Of all the girls I’ve talked to so far, Beatrice is by far the most avid consumer of skate media. She told me she watches “everything except skateline” (a comedic mock-newscast on skateboarding distributed by thrasher magazine) because of its negativity. I asked her to share her thoughts on the side of skate media that can be very immature and objectifying of women. She said it definitely “bums her out.” She seemed defeated and fed up when talking about the kinds of skate ads and videos that feature scantily-clad sexualized women totally unrelated to skateboarding to sell skate products. She said her attitude is mostly to try and filter that kind of thing out. She said she felt like that sort of thing comes with the territory when skate companies are mostly run by guys, selling to guys. She said she isn’t one to tell anyone off, or try to change behavior, but reiterated that it definitely bums her out, and she hopes that as more girls start to infiltrate the skate industry, that kind of media will be less prevalent.
This attitude speaks to an impression I got of Beatrice’s ability to drink in all the positive from the skate industry and filter out the negative. This might come in part from to her relatively isolated position in the world of skating, living in the Florida suburbs, skating alone. But I also came away with a general impression that Beatrice was one of the most positive people I had ever met. When she was warming up in the park, she started talking to a young rollerblader who was visiting from Illinois. When he did a trick, she cheered him on and seemed genuinely impressed. This struck me as super cool, because I’m used to animosity between skaters, rollerbladers, kids on scooters, and bikers. I asked her for her take on the skatepark culture wars, and she told me very adamantly that she supports all modes of skatepark transportation, expressing her admiration for scooter kids ability to deal with hits to their legs when doing tail-whips, and the skill with which rollerbladers are able to lock into grinds. She likes skating with ten-year-olds more than people her own age, because they “don’t know how to not have fun” on a skateboard.
Last winter, Beatrice took her first trip to New York City for the premier of the Supreme video. She met up with Bill Strobeck, and skated the Vans park with all of Supreme’s pros who she had admired from afar. She said it was on one of most surreal experiences of her life. She has tentative plans to transfer to NYU to study film and to skate in New York. Her skate career seems to be on the verge of something very exciting, and I can only imagine the kind of progression she’s capable of in a city like New York, surrounded by fresh terrain and amazing skaters. She has plans to return to New York in August, where I might be able to catch up with her to film a little skating.
Beatrice is a skater’s skater. She lives and loves the culture and the sport. She watches it every day, and seems to think about it whenever she isn’t doing it or watching it. For me, she embodies the best of what skateboarding is, without any of the negativity or hate. I’ve quickly become a huge fan of Beatrice’s and I think her super positive attitude and her skill definitely have the ability to shake-up the industry’s treatment and opinion of girl skaters.