As part of our weekly ‘Food for Thought’, empowerment and education initiative GirlDreamer debuted a documentary accompanying their recent project ‘Boarders Without Borders’ – building confidence, community and fitness in BAME (Black Asian Minority Ethnic) girls through long-boarding.
With both halves of the two-woman power team, Kiran Kaur and Amna Akhtar, having significant sporting talents but feeling disconnected and discouraged from the sporting world, they wanted to create a positive physical outlet for the next generation of girls. Akhtar, already being a long-boarder, experienced both the joys of the sport, and the loneliness of being an Asian woman in a white male dominated area. Seeking a community and crew like many long-boarders do, and wanting to reach a group of girls significantly overlooked in physical education, Boarders Without Borders was born.
They (and the film) explain the project’s journey better than I ever could – which upon watching I was so touched by its huge heart. What is such a simple concept, which the groups of white/male long-boarders take for granted, has a profound impact.
Despite feeling removed, under-represented and maybe even unwelcome in the long-boarding world, what the girls created through Boarders Without Borders is the origins of the sport in its purest form – creating an outlet, space and community where there previously wasn’t one.
The concept of long-boarding is nearly 60 years old, birthed from a meeting of traditions new and old, when Hawaiians began using skateboards to mimic the motions of surfing when there were no waves. At the time, this must have been a strange new subculture; a fusion of an ancient sport specific to the land and modern street culture, adapted to fit the needs of the riders. It shows both a love for the temperamental nature of their sport, and a reluctance to be restricted by it – taking the ocean to the land when she won’t be ridden. This peaceful, pure image of surfers in both elements, is just how the Boarders Without Borders girls looked.
Smiling and laughing, gliding between the grass and sun around Cannon Hill park, they appeared just how I imagine the young Hawaiians must have looked on their streets after discovering this new outlet. But to these girls it means something more – it represents freedom and being care-free, common ground free from judgement. As they build confidence, they go faster. They take up space, and people have to move out of their way. Passers-by turn and look; in the words of one boarder, ‘it’s not just something completely different, it’s someone completely different.’ The sport has transcended how many layers of space, community and culture to arrive here at Cannon Hill park, with the same heart and the same result. The girls clearly feel the benefits from this new community, with members taking their boards abroad with them and teaching their sisters.
The scheme is also looking to the future and the next generation. With a shocking statistic featured in the film (only 12.5% Asian women get a healthy amount of exercise), these young riders are up against a plethora of cultural and societal factors. But with the help of obliging retailer SkateHut providing discounted boards (happy with the knowledge that young people are getting outside), the girls are able to keep their boards after the sessions are over. GirlDreamer are also encouraging the current boarders to teach the next participants, developing their confidence into leadership and organisational skills.
Due to the reaction and progression of the boarders, GirlDreamer have found a practical solution to a wide reaching, interpersonal issue. The nature of the group is one that you may not have realised you wanted, with the members saying, ‘I like that it’s all girls’ and ‘never in my life have I seen a bunch of girls cruising through a park’. I’m sure the girls never thought they’d become part of the first all-female BAME long-boarding crew, but here they are and loving it, in trail-blazing spirit – if you can’t see representation, create it.
‘Food for Thought’ occurs every Thursday at 3pm and is open to all (visitors usually make a small donation).