The atmosphere at the skate park has to be just right for Randi Rogers to stick around.
While she’s stretching, she’ll see how others interact with the space — if they’re being disrespectful or rough, she’ll be checking how many exit points there are. But if it’s a welcoming space, she’ll skate, she said.
The last meetup of the season for froSkate fit the bill.
“They make an environment where it’s easy to be a beginner, it’s easy to not know people and find someone to talk to and work on a trick together,” said Rogers, who’s been skating for more than a decade.
On a windy and rainy evening in late October, froSkate, a skate collective centered around people of color, women and queer people, met in Uptown for the last time in 2023. It was a bittersweet cap to an incredible year for Karlie Thornton, the founder of the collective.
The group has had six meetups this year, with hundreds of attendees at some, she said. It’s been a year continuing the growth the group has seen since its inception in 2019. The meetups are free, and all wheels and skill levels are welcome.
“This year was more so about community and building stronger bonds with the people who come to our events,” Thornton said.
The growth hasn’t just been from attendee sizes; the collective has also been cultivating a community outside of Chicago. In 2022, group members traveled to Seattle for a global gathering of women and trans skaters, Wheel of Fortune.
Group members also collaborated with Nike for their own “All Love. No Hate.” Dunk Highs.
And at the Oct. 26 event, they brought out Los Angeles-based pro skateboarder Nicole Hause.
“(Events like this) get the community together,” Hause said, “and I think that’s mostly what skateboarding is about.”
She didn’t skate at the event due to the rain.
The weather wasn’t a problem for 12-year-old Moth Mastro. He’s been skating for about two years, as it gave him something to do during the pandemic.
His favorite trick to do is a “fakie big spin.” He explains that’s when a board turns 360 degrees while the skater turns 180 degrees above it. It was easy to learn, he added.
Sierra Jackson, an assistant manager and storytelling producer with the collective, said many attendees over the years are picking up boards for the first time at these events.
“I think especially with a lot of us being women or femme or queer in some way, some folks have had the narrative told to them that this is not their lane when they were younger,” Jackson said.
In the spaces the group cultivates, people aren’t burdened by the idea of making it pro; it’s a setting to skate for fun and learn from each other, Jackson added.
“Whether it’s a slight head nod or people are actively giving each other tips, it becomes this ‘OK, I see you,’” Jackson said. “I think that aspect of skateboarding is fundamental.”
Another skater at the event, L Brew, has been skating for eight years and has been coming to the group’s events since 2019. It’s changed their life, they said, and has become a coping mechanism when mental health struggles arise.
To Brew, skating is an empowering act.
“Thinking about our identities and how the world already sees us — it’s a little bit scary to be outside in the world skating in the street,” they said. “Letting yourself be seen by people, letting yourself be vulnerable, getting that confidence to skate over the cracks and adapt as you go (is) a really important step to take.”
Interested skaters can join when the next season kicks off in May 2024.