‘We want to reshape the scene’: bringing diversity to board riding

Marie Mayassi, who describes herself as being “born in Paris but originally from Congo”, pushes along the smooth, flat ground of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, London. 

When she took up skateboarding four years ago, she noticed straight away the scene’s lack of diversity. “Representation is all: you cannot be what you cannot see,” she said. 

So, Mayassi resolved to be the change. Mayassi started Melanin Skate Gals and Pals; a black-led initiative to increase participation by peoples of colour. Mayassi (far right) is shown above with Indigo King and Christana Amadi from the group. 

“By encouraging anyone who doesn’t feel like they belong or are represented in the skate community, we want to reshape, decolonise and de-gender skate culture and the scene,” Mayassi said. 

The group’s meetups, on the former Olympic grounds in east London, provide a safe space, a chance for more people to see skateboarding as something for them. 

The sport has made progress towards inclusivity in recent years with a significant increase in participation by women and girls (at one stage it was the fastest growing action sport demographic). But, a real conversation about racism, intersectionality, and representation is still needed. 

We want to reshape and decolonise the skate culture and scene

Mayassi and her crew were photographed recently for To Balance is Trust, a series of photographs that featured women and non-binary skating athletes and their stories. 

“We wanted to show there’s not just one way to be a skater. Anyone with a board is a skater and no one should let people tell them otherwise,” Mayassi explained.

Main image: Hannah Bailey