UGANDA: My Father Saw My Worth When Others Saw a…
Q: Tammy, you’re a skateboarder?
A: Yes. I consider myself more of a surfer than a skateboarder.
Skateboarding was created by surfers to practice their sport but it has become much more than that. The culture of the sport has become a way of self-expression and creativity and I love that aspect of it. I am very grateful for the outlet that skateboarding gave me to express myself and I love the artistic nature of the sport.
Q: How did you get started?
A: I grew up on the east coast of Florida and during the summer of 1978 I spent all my free time at the beach playing in the sea and the sand. I learned to surf when I was 7 years old and I took up skateboarding at age 9 as a way to sidewalk-surf when the waves where flat. I would watch the surfers catching waves and I looked up to them because they had figured out how to be “one” with the ocean and I knew I wanted that.
I asked my Mom for a surfboard and even though she didn’t have the funds as a single Mom she managed to find a friend that had an old beat-up board that he was willing to give me. The board was faded and dinged but to me it was perfect! I put my “new” board on my head and carried it down to the surf, full of stoke.
Thanks to Florida’s warm and friendly waves I stood up on the first wave that I paddled for and during the summer of ’78, I became a surfer girl!
That first wave changed my life and defined who I am to this day. Two summers later my Mom and I moved a few miles inland so I wasn’t able to walk my surfboard down to the beach and that’s when I discovered skateboarding.
Skateboarding was my way to sidewalk-surf when I couldn’t make it to the beach. It gave me the feeling of being on a wave and it allowed me to practice my balance and maneuvers as if I was surfing.
Q: Were there a lot of other girls skating in your neighborhood?
A: No. For years I was the only girl surfing and skating in my neighborhood.
It wasn’t until the mid-1980s when I started competing in surfing that I was introduced to other surfer-girls. In the sport of skateboarding there where fewer girls involved than surfing and I only had one girlfriend that skated. Both surfing and skating were male-dominated sports but I didn’t care because I grew up a “tomboy” and I never let the fact that I was the only girl get in the way for my love for a sport.
Q: I heard Skateboarding is a crime in some countries (for girls).
A: It saddens me that girls and women still do not have the same human rights as men on our planet. There is never any excuse for keeping a human from their basic rights of freedom, safety and security.
On a lighter note, I always found the bumper sticker “Skateboarding is not a Crime” to be pretty funny. As a skateboarder you look for any opportunity to skate the perfect bowl, ramp or half-pipe, or grind the perfect rail, etc. It just happens that sometimes those “perfect” spots are on government property and not at a skate park… ha-ha.
The fact is we need more skate parks! More FREE skate parks!
“If we can build baseball parks, we can put in more skate parks –
they take up less room and are equally important for our youth
to exercise and self-express.” – Tammy Z.
I’ve lived in California for over 14 years and the government has done an amazing job implementing skate parks into our public parks. I would love to see more of that here in California and in other states around our country.
Q: Have you ever been hurt skating or surfing?
A: Yes! The only downside to skateboarding is that you can’t get good without losing some skin or possibly breaking a bone. Concrete is not as forgiving as water! I have a lot of scars and I remember every story that goes along with each scar.
My most memorable scar-story would be two years ago when
I broke both my wrists while skateboarding.
I was attempting to power-slide on a longboard when the skateboard slipped out from under me. Since I was leaning back to perform the trick, my hands were behind me and they took all the impact. Both my wrists snapped as soon as they hit the pavement.
If you want to take up skateboarding,
wear your pads… all of them!
I chose to not wear my pads that day because I didn’t think that I needed them and I was wrong. No one is too good or too cool to not wear his or her pads while skateboarding. Getting hurt is not fun and injuries keep you from doing what you love, like skating.
Q: Have you been afraid skateboarding?
Yes. After I broke both of my wrists I had a hard time getting back on a skateboard. I have always been able to bounce back after an injury but the severity of breaking both wrists really put in perspective my love of surfing vs. skating. Since the accident I have chosen to surf more than skate for safety reasons.
Q: Have you been bullied skateboarding?
Yes, but its been a long time ago. When I started skateboarding and surfing there where no other girls and the boys didn’t know how to react to that. It was like a boys only club and I was invading their territory. I understood their confusion but I wasn’t going to let a few bad attitudes stop me from doing what I loved.
At the same time, I had some super cool guy-friends that invited me to surf and skate and they were really critical in my success of both sports. I learned from them that in any sport if you are respectful and you can prove that you are seriously committed then the other athletes will welcome you.
Q: I’d like to learn to skate. Any advice?
A: Awesome! The more girls skateboarding the better!
The best advice when learning to skateboard is to purchase or rent the proper safety pads and a helmet. Once you have your safety gear... you’ll want to determine if you want to do tricks or cruise or both. This will determine the right board for you.
Short boards are usually more for tricks and
longboards are usually more for cruising,
but you can do both with each board.
The next step is to determine if you are regular foot (right foot will be placed on the back of the board) or goofy foot (left foot will be placed on the back of the board). There are a couple of tests to determine your stance, but the one I prefer is what I call the “push test.” The push test is when you ask someone you trust to stand behind you and gently push you forward. The foot that naturally goes forward is usually the foot that will be the lead on the board and the one that stays closest to you will be placed on the back of the board.
Once you determine if you are regular or goofy footed, stand on the skateboard and begin learning how to balance. After you get a feel for the board, push off to keep the board moving. Most skaters prefer to use their back foot to push off and keep their front foot on for stability. Try to find a flat, smooth surface when learning to give yourself the best opportunity to succeed.
Remember, you are going to fall and it’s totally normal. Try not to let your spills discourage you and keep practicing….it gets easier.
LOOK for skateboard school in your area. If you can get a couple of lessons then you will learn a lot faster. Even better, find an all girls skateboard organization like Skate Like a Girl in Seattle, Washington or Portland, Oregon. Good luck…you will rock!
Q: Are you a changemaker? What’s your next adventure?
A: I wouldn’t consider myself a changemaker but others might.
It’s possible that my passion and determination to participate in sports that were male-dominated in the 1970s and 1980s helped pave the way for future girls interested in those sports. I hope I helped make a difference!
If you have passion about an activity, don’t give up. Be persistent and stay positive! I never let the fact that I was the only girl stop me from doing the activities that I love.
If it’s something you love and believe in, then go for it!
Never let others’ opinions stop you from being you!
4GGL thanks Tammy Zybura for this inspiring story.
Growing up on the east coast of Florida, Tammy’s love of surfing and skateboarding began at age 7. She began competing in surfing in 1983 at the age of 13, and became the East Coast Jr. Women’s Surfing Champion in 1997. She was instrumental in starting the first all women’s east coast surf contests in 1997 called The East Coast Wahine Championships in Wrightsville Beach, NC. Today, Tammy lives in Southern California where she enjoys being a part of the rich surf and skate culture. She loves sharing time with her husband and animals and has a passion for hiking and photography. Tammy and her husband are active with the youth at their church where they have taught many of the kids to skateboard.
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