In Taiwan and around the world sex is still being used to market and promote products to women. What would you want to see more in women’s marketing in the action sports industry?
I want brands to show real consumers and participants for whatever product they are selling. If you are selling swimwear, show a girl who swims and surfs and show her actually doing these things while wearing the product. Identify what the majority of girls who surf ACTUALLY look like, not just what you want them to look like in your dreams. Are the girls who are next to you in the line up all blonde, 5’9”, 120 lbs with huge boobs and a big butt? Is she surfing in a thong? If not, then think about how you can diversify your advertising to show your female customer someone who actually looks like her – someone she can actually relate to. 中文
It continues to baffle my mind how the industry went wrong on the women’s side of things and has struggled to find it’s way back. What if Quiksilver had used male models instead surfers like Kelly Slater? How would the brand would have turned out? One of the main problems is that action sports brands are owned by larger corporations that own other fashion brands and they are playing (or trying to play) on the same field with the big box players in the youth fashion industry. They are focusing on trends and sales numbers forgetting about their brand mission and history and forgetting to cultivate participation for females in the action sports community. In some ways, this is good because right now is the perfect time for small, independent brands who want to support and market female athletes to come up. There is this huge untapped demographic with insane potential. The number of girls around the world picking up boards is growing exponentially every year – progressing at a rate faster than guys.
Who do you think is leading the way in women’s action sports now?
The way I see it any person, brand or organization who is unwilling to accept the idea that “that’s just how it is” or “this is what everyone else is doing” and instead chooses to make their own path and find a way to make it work is leading the way. Skateistan is a hugely successful example of this. Skateistan’s founder, Ollie Petrokovich, agrees that skateboarding is and should be for everyone. By emphasizing the importance of creating a safe, encouraging and equal opportunity environment for girls to skate, today, 50% of Afghanistan’s skateboarders are female. This statistic is beyond amazing, considering that females in Afghanistan have no rights — they aren’t even allowed to ride bikes. Now some of the biggest skate brands want to work with them and the first thing he asks them is, do you support female skaters?
Why should a girl get into surfing, skating or snowboarding?
Surfing, skateboarding and snowboarding are not just sports, it’s a way of life. When you become a part of this culture, you see things differently than other people, you find happiness in ways that other people cannot. It teaches you lesson you can apply to other aspects of your life. You become creative, adaptable and learn how to overcome hardships in your life. You will feel good about yourself and make all sorts of new friends – guys, girls, people from other countries who don’t even speak the same language as you. It’s difficult to put into words, I just hope that you can try and see for yourself.
How did you start working with Lizzie Armanto and Penny Skateboards?
I met Lizzie in 2013 through Allysha Bergado, who I’ve known since she was a kid and I sponsored her when I worked at Osiris. Lizzie started skating when she was a little bit older but progressed really quickly. At the time, she had no paid sponsors and was just coming onto the scene — still relatively unknown but was starting to win contests and get a lot of attention. I played a pseudo manager/agent role for her in those first few years, helping her connect with sponsors, do press/interviews, etc. Penny was interested in working with her so I helped facilitate a partnership between them and MAHFIA ended up shooting a series of videos featuring Lizzie skating and traveling around the world. It was a great experience.
If you weren’t doing MAHFIA TV, what would you think you would be doing?
If I wasn’t doing MAHFIA and working in the action sports industry, I’d either be working in team sports, outdoor/adventure or the travel industry shooting photos, making videos or doing graphic design. At the end of the day, I love being creative — that’s what got me into this in the first place. I think I’d be stoked on any type of job where I get to put out my creativity for people to see and hopefully enjoy.
I saw your TedX video and you mentioned actions sports have become “Counter Culture to Mainstream” and said “…it’s losing its soul” How important is “authenticity” and “creativity” in the action sports industry? And you also said “Competing isn’t everything” can you explain more what you meant by this?
Authenticity and creativity are the essence of action sports culture. Being weird, different, unique and an outsider is a huge part of why these activities were invented in the first place. Copying someone else is literally the worst thing you can do. This applies to companies as well. A lot of brands are making the same things as their competitor or chasing trends, forgetting about the fact that the culture is rooted in uniqueness. Large scale competitions are great for progression and exposure to a new audience but because they attract large amounts of money from mainstream corporate companies, they tend to hold a lot of power in the industry. Don’t get me wrong, I think contests of all sizes (international and local) are very important and necessary. But, I also want people to have the opportunity to learn about the other side of the culture – amazing photos/videos, traveling, camaraderie, artistic expression, community, etc. I started snowboarding/skating/surfing because of these reasons and not because I wanted to compete and be the best. I want people to see and understand this and not just think that action sports is about winning medals and getting paid. Competing brings out greatness in all sports but the difference with skate/snow/surf is that unlike traditional sports, it’s not the root of it, there is so much more to our culture.
Being a woman in the action sports industry isn’t an easy job. Especially when it’s time to have a child. How have you seen women coup with having a child but still finding time to pursue their passions in the action sports industry?
I think that all women (and people) are capable of doing something if they really want it. Anything is possible, if you are passionate and committed. So many people end up living their lives without control and it’s really sad. If you want to surf, surf. If you want to have a baby, have a baby! If you want to surf and have a baby, then do it! There are many people doing exactly this and much much harder things in the world, you are only restricted to the limits you set for yourself. If anything, action sports is fully encouraging to women and young moms and dads. You can skate, snowboard and surf with your kids and have a blast doing it.
Women’s action sports in Asia is slowly growing and getting larger and more mainstream but still sex is being sold to them. What’s your advice to all the Asian girls reading this?
My advice to Asian girls is to take the time to understand the images and media you are seeing around you. Why is the image the way it is, who designed it and for what reason? Ask yourself questions like: why is the girl in the ad half naked and how does that make me feel? Do I know anyone in real life that looks or acts like her? Is someone trying to make a buck off me? Does this image make me feel better or worse about myself? What actually makes me feel good? For any girl or guy, find something you really like and block out all the other noise. In the end you have the control to buy or not buy, to watch or not watch, to listen or not listen… don’t be passive and let yourself become a rat on a wheel. Listen to your inner voice and do what you want.
If you could be one type of ice cream what would you be and why?
I’d be froyo – dole whip (pineapple flavor), because it’s delicious and healthy.
What can we expect to see from you in the future? I know you document skating but anything with surfing in the future?
I’m hoping to produce more content in Asia in general. Being Asian-American, obviously I’m super interested in what’s going on in Asia for action sports and hope to be a part of the progression and growth for females. I’d love to shoot more surf, I had been planning to come out to Hainan for the WSL contest but it didn’t work out this time. I don’t know exactly when or for what yet but I know I plan on coming back to Asia a lot in the future!
What are your last words of advice/wisdom for the Taiwanese reading this?
Find something you really like doing and pursue it! Don’t just conform to what society or your parents think is best for you. In the end you are the one living your life, so take control and make it great.