Making a zine is one of the only punk things left in skateboarding.
Zines are made with your hands. They’re distributed through a network of friends and friends-of-friends. They represent local scenes that exist outside of the mainstream. No one knows this more than Kristin Ebeling and Shari White, two women from the northwest who created a zine called The Skate Witches. Kristin, the executive director at Skate Like a Girl, and Shari, who works at a print shop, have both been skating for more years than they have fingers and both ride for Meow Skateboards. So they know a little bit about skating outside of the mainstream. They created The Skate Witches specifically as a place for female skateboarders to share this experience. With help from the internet and their ever-widening network of global collaborators, they’re helping to represent not just the girls, but for anybody who feels like that mainstream doesn’t have a place for them. Which is really what skateboarding is about, isn’t it? While they were in the process of making their newly-released 8th issue, I hit up Kristin and Shari to learn more about the Skate Witches’ world.
Some basics first: Where are you from and when did you start skating?
Kristin: I was born in Atlanta and then grew up a bit in the south and then moved to Seattle.
Shari: I’m from the Gold Coast of Australia. I moved to the United States in 2011 and now I live in Vancouver, Canada.
K: We had surprisingly parallel experiences growing up, despite being on different hemispheres. We both learned to skate in middle school and were “the girl skater” among the bros. Most days you could find us skating around the neighborhood, making home videos, and rockin’ out to Gorilla Biscuits.
How’d you meet?
Shari: I met Kristin when she was in college at a snowboard shop she worked at called “Snowboard Connection”, that also sold skateboard stuff.
K: When Shari came into the shop, I recognized her right away from the internet. I saw her in a video on Girls Skate Network, a website where girls could go to see what’s up. There was usually a video of the month or something like that and there was a sick video of Shari skating. I had seen it recently and it was still kind of fresh in my mind. When I saw Shari and heard her accent I knew it was her. I didn’t tell her I knew her from the internet, though.
What do you do professionally outside of skateboarding and The Skate Witches?
Kristin: I’m the Executive Director of Skate Like a Girl, although I prefer the term “professional teenager”. I oversee our Seattle, Portland, and SF Bay Area chapters, with a mission to create an inclusive skateboarding community through various program models like Ladies’ Night and our Youth Employment Skateboarding (YES) Program. Outside of work, I play drums with Lowest Priority. I also just took up boxing which I highly recommend.
Shari: I’m a manager at a screen printing shop. I mostly organize orders and do artwork preparation but I also print all our Skate Witches stuff in my spare time. I’m taking in as much info as I can right now about VX edits. Filming and editing a video is one of our main goals this year.
What was the genesis for The Skate Witches?
K: Almost 10 years ago my friend showed me a cult YouTube video called Skate Witches, who were these punk badasses who stole skateboards and had pet rats with “Skate and Destroy” playing in the background. Because of that video I ended up getting a broom & skateboard Skate Witches tattoo when I was 19. Fast forward a couple years and Tony at 35th North skate shop in Seattle offered us a spot in the All City Showdown video. Once we had our team figured out, we just needed a name. Naturally, we thought The Skate Witches would be a pretty good fit.
S: I was really stoked on the Skate Witches video and the team name. I had a friend who was making a zine and taught me a way you can make one with an 11 x 17 piece of paper, cut and folded into a small book. I wanted to make one. When we started a couple years ago it was before anyone gave a rat’s ass about girls in skateboarding. All the girls were doing was complaining about not getting sponsored—and I get it—it sucks to only get sponsored as a novelty girl. We encountered so much awkwardness in skateboarding—I think a lot of guys don’t understand that. Instead of complaining and trying to operate within this subculture that we don’t really fit into or feel totally comfortable in, we decided to make our own scene where we do feel totally comfortable. Even though it’s not marketable or whatever we just really wanted to make an outlet.
K: We’re not really an official crew, whoever is down is “in”. The main motive for the zine is to make non-traditional skaters feel badass and inspired to get out and skate.
So one of you (Shari) lives in Vancouver and one (Kristin) lives in Seattle. What’s it like working on a zine together from two different places?
K: We think that the fact that we’re apart means we can come at it from fresh perspectives and are inspired by different people and the scenes where we live. We also owe our lives to Google Drive. I come up with a lot of the concepts and language. Shari does most of the layout, drawings, and makes it look nice. It’s a great partnership because we have different strengths and complement each other well.
What’s it like running a zine while both having full-time jobs and being in two locations?
S: Well, it works quite well actually. Kristin handles a lot of the writing and she can squeeze that into her job. And the stuff I do—design, printing, computer stuff—I’m in that all day so I can incorporate that. The actual page layout is a good couple of days of hustling, though.
K: We have online folders that we both add to, and a big Excel sheet with the overall layout for the upcoming issue. When it comes down to putting the pages together, we usually split up the responsibilities and get crackin’ on it. It’s a release from everything else in our lives.
The zine’s voice is mostly playful but there’s a real underlying current of seriousness; it’s clear this isn’t just a joke. How did you come to know what you wanted to put out into the world?
S: We’ve both been skating for over 10 years and we are exhausted from mainstream skate culture. This is our sarcastic response to the BS we’ve encountered. In our opinion, it’s way better than being the “victim” and complaining about it. We didn’t have a chat that was like, “alright here’s the lingo we’re going to use and how we want it to look”. We really don’t put too much thought into it. It comes pretty naturally.
K: The Skate Witches is like our imaginary dream world where girl skaters run shit in skateboarding, dominating skate parks, blasting Beyoncé, and doing whatever we want. Along with that, we don’t have to prove shit to anyone, especially to the dudes. Being a female in this world, you’re conditioned to seek validation from men. Our zine is a middle finger to this. Real talk, the “Boyz Who Skate” interview questions were derived from mainstream interviews of female skateboarders—we just changed the gender pronouns. Basically, we just take mainstream skateboarding and flip it on it’s head.
S: The “voice” we are going for in our zine is definitely snotty, but there’s an overall call for unity among women and to destroy the patriarchy in our scene. We don’t need validation, we don’t care what you think, and we don’t care if we aren’t welcome. We’re here to skate. Get over it.
Even just perusing through the instagram you can tell there’s a lot of style and taste to what you’re doing. Can you talk to me a bit about your creative direction and how you go about working with collaborators?
S: Front to back, we put a lot of our time and definitely go for quality over quantity. We are not scared to take our time and only release an issue when it’s ready. We don’t have a competitive motive, just want to do our best and make a zine that female skateboarders can relate to. We want girls to see it as an outlet to do their best, shoot photos they are stoked on, and have a place where they can get published.
K: The goal was to put out a legit zine with quality photos to show everyone looking their best. Not necessarily the best tricks or the biggest names. We just want to document girls skating where it’s at right now. We are lucky to have social media, because it’s helped us have a comprehensive idea of where the level of girls skating is at and allows us to connect with many contributors and supporters. There are so many collaborators.
What do you want to see for skateboarding in the future?
S: We wanna see girls making legit stuff, female-owned businesses, bros calling out other bros for their BS, and more women in the scene—not just skating, but doing creative things as well. We’d really like to see more girls exploring the possibilities in skateboarding—especially in films, photos, and art. Further, we want to see “professional” as a real option for girls in skateboarding—not just a title, instead, women getting paid to skate—just like the guys do.
K: For a guy, there’s more opportunities in skating if you’re doing it at a high level. It’s not the same for girls. I have no problem with anybody making money in skateboarding with big endorsements or sponsorships, if you can make a bunch of money and skate then good on you. I’d just like to see more of those opportunities, if they’re going to be available, also be available for girls. I’m hoping to see that change in the skate industry within my lifetime. I will say one more thing. We always get DMs from girls with questions and comments like “Show me your ways!” or “How do we do what you’re doing?” My number one piece of advice is to show up. Anyone can hit us up with any questions—firstname.lastname@example.org.