It was the end of an evening of skating at Escombro, a DIY skatepark in Madrid. We sat around catching up and watching other skaters take turns on the ramps and rails. I was wearing fresh new Vans, my first pair. I was new to the world of skating, but thanks to “Girls Sk8 Madrid,” an Instagram and network of girls skating together in the city, I’d already found a crew. Silvana rolled a cigarette and began to explain her vision for a “skate-cation,” a weekend trip to Valencia to try out some new skateparks and escape the Madrid heat.
Our new crew — or in Spanish, our piña — is eclectic. I grew up in Portland, Oregon. Davina is from Canada and is my best friend in Madrid. Silvana, who’s Argentinian, and Bea, who’s Spanish, are best friends and know each other from skating in Madrid. Giulia is Italian and was accompanied by her 10-year-old schnauzer, Weasly. We all speak some level of Spanish, but all with different accents and quirks. I translated some of Silvana’s vision to Davina; we loved the idea. Two weeks later, the six of us road-tripped to Valencia.
Valencia is a city on the southwest coast of Spain about three hours from Madrid. It’s most famous for beautiful beaches, architectural landmarks, and being the origin of Paella, a rice dish symbolic of the region. It’s a popular destination for skaters and punks alike, home to a number of squats and a famous “DIY Skatepark” — AKA it’s a skatepark that was constructed by and for skaters without city permits or official city planning. And with the history of the “Ruta del Bakalao,” a famous pilgrimage club-goers made every weekend through Valencia in the ’80s and ’90s to party at techno clubs, the commitment to a party/DIY lifestyle makes for a great skate-cation destination.
Friday afternoon, we met at Silvana’s house right after she got off work. As she changed out of her professional attire and into her “Beer and Skate” mid-calf socks, we admired her living room decorated with her old skate decks. “¡Vamos!” Silvana commanded. We packed up a cooler and threw our boards in the back of a borrowed van. With the AC cranked up and our favorite Spanish pop artist, Luna Ki, blasting out of the bluetooth speaker, we were off.
After a lively ride screaming song after song, we arrived at the house we’d be staying at for the weekend. It was small, so we stashed the boards in the kitchen. “Boards in the kitchen — Skate Kitchen!” we laughed at the skater girl reference. It was late, but not late enough for us to miss out on a trip to the beach. Madrid is a landlocked desert with limited swimming options, so la playa was an obvious immediate destination. Masks on, we skated down the street, through the marina, and arrived at La Playa de las Arenas just in time for a late-night swim.
Over breakfast, we debated how the skate scene had changed for women over the years. Davina explained that when she started skating 14 years ago, she was almost always the only girl at the skatepark. “There’s been a huge shift. Today. there are almost always other girls skating at the park,” she said. “And not only are there more girls out, but there’s a built-in community among those of us who skate.”
Giulia recounted a moment when she was trying to land a new trick, and after numerous failed attempts, a girl skated over and started tapping her board on the ground and cheering her on. It was that energy that pushed Guilia to jump a little higher and land her new trick. “My first year skating I tried to learn alone, and you just can’t learn alone,” she explains. “You need each other both for some basic advice and for moral support.” These are the moments that remind us that we’re not simply partaking in a sport, but that we’re reliant on each other in the face of sexism and homophobia in order to get to the next level. Community isn’t something second to the sport, but rather the sport and a girl’s skating community go hand in hand; one will not exist without the other.
I thought about that conversation a few hours later at Skatepark Paterna when Guilia grabbed my hands and talked me through the science behind an ollie – a move where both skater and board lift into the air without the skater using her hands. For years I’ve wanted to skate, but I would have never been able to start without Davina getting me a board and without the regular requests to all go out and skate together. This group of women was all but demanding that I improve. Bea told me to follow her and skate up and down the ramps. I fell off the board, but Davina was right there to pick me up. “It’s time for lunch!”
Drinks And A New Member Of Our Chosen Family
We drove the van to the next skatepark and found a bar nearby. One round of drinks became two, then three, and we were soon the center of attention. One woman, in particular, took a liking to us; she wanted to know where we were from and how we ended up in this neighborhood bar. We told her we’d driven down from Madrid to skate at a nearby park. She was delighted. She left our table, only to return moments later with chocolate croissants for each of us. Before you knew it, we were calling her “Madre Valenciana.”
Through laughter and more drinks, Davina spilled some of the chocolate from her croissant on her shirt. Madre Valenciana was quick to assist. Davina, whose Spanish is improving, was led into Madre Valenciana’s house to get her shirt cleaned. When she returned, she was wearing the cutest white tee with rainbow stripes across the front. “She could tell that you’re gay,” I joked in English, and we all laughed. Madre Valenciana’s expression made it clear that she felt excluded from the joke, Silvana translated for her, and she responded with a new level of understanding: “Oh, ¿te gustan almejas?” This literally means, “Do you like clams?,” but to someone with a better understanding of slang, this means “Do you like pussy?” Davina did not understand the slang and responded shyly in Spanish, “Yeah, they’re my favorite food.” We all laughed and explained that yes, Davina is gay, and that she also really likes seafood. Madre Valenciana lit up; she explained that Davina’s new shirt previously belonged to her daughter who’s also gay! And she pulled out her phone to show us photos of her daughter and her daughter’s girlfriend.
At this point, we’d met everyone at the bar. Chairs moved and groups merged. One by one, Madre Valenciana braided our hair. Silvana and Guilia ran to the car to get our boards so we could show that we were in fact here to skate. At this little bar a few miles outside the center of Valencia, we found a queer-friendly crew ready to open their hearts to a couple of international skater girls in town for the weekend. With fuller hearts, we grabbed our boards and headed to the next skatepark.
Topless Sundays and DIY Skateparks
Our final skating destination was La Exkombrera, a squat and DIY skatepark — one that had been built by skaters on an abandoned factory whose walls were torn down but the smooth floor left intact. I found this park especially cool given that it’s not on maps and you have to literally go through a hole in a wall in order to access it. We were the only ones there under the hot sun, so why not skate topless? Bea sang the lyrics to Princess Nokia’s “Tomboy” — “My little titties and my fat belly” — and Davina got her topless boardslide in.
We had planned to go to the beach before driving home, but as we went to drive away, our van wouldn’t start. At this point, we were in our bikinis standing in a field near the skatepark. As two men in the distance men walked towards us, Guilia and her dog sauntered towards them. She batted her eyes and asked them for help with her smooth Italian accent. We laughed that this could be the start of a skater girl porno. Of course, by some magical patriarchal touch, these men managed to start our car. We thanked them and joked about our queer girls lives. “Do we need husbands? Is it that simple?” We hopped back in the van and headed off to see one more skatepark before making our way to the beach for a final topless swim.
The dog beach was our final destination of the trip — a playa devoted to canines and their owners. As we bobbed up and down in the waves, Davina and I talked about how pleased we were with the weekend. We had found a community in a country with a language barrier that, at times, hinders our ability to make friends. And we owed that to the queer girl community that’s already built into women’s skating culture. It was clear that I needed this community if I was going to learn how to skate. We learned with each other, and I was struck by the beauty in the impossibility of skating without each other. Back on the shore, we cracked open a final beer and cheers-ed to our queer girl skate-cation.