Surfing, skating, snowboarding, the three board sports that are labeled under “extreme” sports and which are still relatively dominated by the male gender. Not anymore, women are coming up and showing the men what they can do and Kim Woozy is documenting the Women’s Action Sports World.
Being an ABT (American Born Taiwanese) and growing up in the Western world, Kim was never your standard ABT. She grew up skiing and snowboarding, worked in the Action Sports Industry and now is running Mahfia.TV showcasing the world’s best women in surfing, skating and snowboarding. In our interview she takes the time to tell us more about her past growing up as an Asian in the Western culture, her view’s on Women in action sports here in Asia and also gives some advice to all the women out there who want to make it in the boarding world. Thanks Kim for taking the time to do an interview and keep up the good work showcasing the world’s best women action sports! 中文
Who are you and where are you currently right now?
Kim Woozy — currently in Berkeley, California.
Which one did you first get interested in: Skating, Surfing, or Snowboarding?
I fell in love with snowboarding first, when I was 13. Then I started skating in high school and surfed for the first time in college.
You are an ABT (American Born Taiwanese) how was it growing up as a girl living in a mostly white culture in America? Who did you look up to and were your role models when you were younger?
When I was a kid, I didn’t really notice race/ethnicity. Fremont, the town I grew up in was predominantly white but there was a growing immigrant community and overall Bay Area is one of the most racially diverse places in the world. My parents worked hard when they got to America and adapted to the culture. They both went to college in Taipei and again in California so their English is great. My mom worked as a DJ when she was a college student in Taipei and listened to American radio growing up – her favorite band is the Beatles and my dad’s favorite singer is Stevie Nicks. We spoke mandarin at home (my first language) but we did all the things that the other families did – bbqs, camping, skiing, celebrating Thanksgiving and Christmas, etc – both my brother and I played little league youth baseball. I fell in love with sports at an early age and my parents were always very supportive of it and continued to be when I got older. There came a point where they let me choose between playing piano or sports and seriously, I am so grateful they let me make that decision.
When I got older, I started to be more aware of my race and identity. The cultural norm for an asian girl is to be feminine, submissive, quiet and polite – qualities that don’t really transfer to playing sports. Luckily, my parents are not typical Asian parents and never pushed any gender stereotypes on me. They supported me in every way, often times I was the only Asian girl on my team and we were the only Asian family at the soccer tournament. In high school, my closest friends were my teammates, who were mostly white. I struggled to fit in with Asian kids and ended up just embracing my uniqueness. During the late 90s/early 00’s era there were a lot of female athletes of all ethnicities represented in mainstream media that I was exposed to – thanks to big events like the Olympics and the Women’s World Cup. I looked up to people like Kristi Yamaguchi, Michelle Kwan, The US National Women’s Soccer team, WNBA players — the list goes on. I also had a subscription to SG Magazine, an action sports magazine for girls that ran in the early 2000’s that featured the top girls in board sports and I thought it was the coolest thing ever. Back then I felt like there was a good amount of coverage for professional female athletes – I also had a subscription to Sports Illustrated for Women. Having access to this media during these impressionable year played a major role in shaping the person I am.
Most Asian parents won’t let their kids get on a skateboard or do extreme sports. They’ll most likely make you play violin or piano or going to cram school. How did you parents react when you started skating/snowboarding/surfing?
Well both of my parents skied so they weren’t really average Asian parents. I remember seeing a guy on a snowboard for the first time when I was on the ski lift with my mom in Tahoe. He was bombing down the hill at full speed and my mom said “I really hope you don’t do that.” But it just looked 100x cooler than skiing so of course I switched out my skis for a snowboard and never looked back. They have always been supportive of me pursuing things that make me happy and trust me to use my best judgment to not get injured. In general, I don’t take huge crazy risks when I ride and I still love it just as much as anyone else. I think that’s important for girls (and boys) to understand about action sports – you don’t have to be super extreme, once you learn the basics you can just go out and cruise and hang with your friends and it can be very fun and rewarding. If you are smart about knowing your limits and pacing yourself while learning/progressing, it can be safe.
How did you start working in the action sports industry?
I went to school at UC San Diego and there was a gear shop on campus that rented surfboards/snowboards and camping gear. I worked there throughout college and was the shop manager during my senior year. Then I landed an internship at Osiris Shoes, and ended up working there for 3 years, as a graphic designer and eventually the Girls Brand Marketing Manager.
When did you start MAHFIA.TV and why did you start it?
I started MAHFIA in 2010 with my college buddy Johnny Varsity. We were both video/film majors and had put in time working for other companies and were eager to start our own thing. When we launched in 2010, the company was focused on doing commercial video production within action sports and other related cultures: music, fashion, dance and DJing. By 2012, we saw an increase in the popularity of girls action sports both in participation and content on the internet (thanks to social media, smart phones, camera technology, etc). So we decided to evolve our business model to creating a web destination for all this amazing content that was out there — ultimately providing a place for girls to come and watch videos, learn about the culture, get inspired and stay stoked. Today MAHFIA operates with two branches. We continue to do video production under MAHFIA Productions and now we have MAHFIA.TV — the global destination for girls action sports. I love that there is so much content nowadays that we are able to post new videos of girls skate/snow/surf/wake everyday.
What are your views on the women’s action sports industry now? And what’s your advice for girls who are passionate for action sports and want to do something for women’s action sports industry just like you?
Right now is a great time for the women’s action sports industry. Participation is growing exponentially — although there are still a lot more males riding boards overall, the growth rate for females is progressing much quicker than it is for males, making it the consumer demographic with the most potential. Sky is the limit on the women’s side of things while men’s business has hit a ceiling in a many ways. There are big companies supporting women as well as women starting their own businesses, which is crucial to building a foundation for longevity. It’s important for us to support these companies since these are the companies that will always prioritize supporting females and not just decide to cut the girls program one day when sales are down. My advice for girls who want to be apart of this industry is DO IT! We DEFINITELY need more girls who ride to have a voice in our industry. Either apply at a company or start your own! Even if it’s just a fun side project, you never know where it can grow over time. Now is the best time ever to start your own company – whether it’s making t-shirts, shooting photos, producing videos, or starting a blog, you can do it! What do you wish you had or could see more of? Start with serving your own friends and community – starting small and growing slow and steady is the formula for success.
You’ve traveled around the world documenting women’s action sports. What places stand out the most in your mind and why?
I’m pretty stoked on Asia right now. Aside from Taipei (obviously my favorite city in Asia), one of the most inspiring cities I’ve been to for skate culture is Seoul, South Korea. Seoul has a lot of similarities to Tokyo and recently there has been a major increase in interest and participation for board sports in Korea. There is less of a gender bias because skateboarding is so new there. Similar to China, you can skate pretty much anywhere, cops are chill about it and everything is new, clean and perfect. When I went out there last year I was introduced to a crew of girls who skate. Led by a few veteran street skaters Minhee Lee and Kyungjin Kwon, they started a public facebook group to meet up and skate on the weekends and invite beginners to come join them, I had a blast.
It’s really amazing to see encouraging skate communities for girls like this in countries where skateboarding is new. New participants and local communities are crucial to the sustainability of the skate industry as a whole. Japan will always be one of my favorite places in the world. The culture is so polite, it’s one of the best places in the world to be a tourist. The girls scene in Japan is killing it right now too — the top Asian female action sports athletes are from Japan. There are more skate parks being built and younger girls are given the opportunity and encouragement to skate. One of my favorites to watch is Kisa Nakamura from Kobe. She is competing at all the top pro bowl contests in America and she’s only 15. My friend Yuri Murai who lives in Tokyo, has produced two full length all female Japanese skate films featuring over 60 girls who skate.
There is also Sunny Skateboards supporting girls in Japan, founded by Chihiro Uchida and Miho Kazama and they host camps and clinics for girls throughout the year. Yuri and Chihiro are featured in the Japan episode of our original series “Killin it Softly,” you can check it out here:
You also have documented women skating here in Taiwan. What are your views of Taiwan women in action sports and what’s your advice for Taiwanese women who want to get into action sports?
I think there still exists some cultural bias when it comes to Taiwanese females participating in sports. There is definitely still the idea that beauty, cuteness, obedience and fragility are the most important characteristics for Taiwanese girls (and Asian females in general). This makes skateboarding / action sports and sports in general unattractive to young girls and their parents. I believe that girls should feel like it’s an option for them if they are interested in it. A young person not having a true hobby they are passionate about is really tragic. It will be harder to be happier as you get older, especially for young girls who are taught from an early age that the most important thing is to find a husband and get married (and then layer on 20 lbs of make up – probably get some plastic surgery too, take professional glamour photos and blast them on facebook). When your happiness and self-worth lies in someone else’s hands, this can be very dangerous. Fashion can be creative, artistic and fun but constantly worrying about your looks, how people perceive you, attracting the attention of males and how you rank against other girls will not bring you true happiness. Besides we are all going to get old eventually so you might as well enjoy your youth and take up something like skateboarding and have some damn fun! You will love it, make amazing friends, have unforgettable experiences and be much a much happier and fulfilled person, I PROMISE!!
If you could eat any food forever for the rest of your life from any Taiwan night market what would you choose?
Damn this is a tough one. Can I pick two? For salty, I would go with 生煎包 (shen jian bao), oh man they are so delicious. There aren’t many foods here in the US that you can eat as a snack on the go but also satisfying enough to be a dinner meal. For sweet, my all time favorite is red bean pancakes 紅豆餅 (Hon dou bin) – but with the custard filling. Can’t beat one of those hot off the grill.