Kim Petersen stood balanced on top of her skateboard, not moving an inch while she watched a young girl practice coming to a stop and getting off her board. She leaped off her board, sending it sliding toward one of several hills built into the Mobash Skate Park on Orange Street.
“I like your approach,” Petersen said. “Next time, try this out.”
Petersen put her weight on one foot, bringing one end of the skateboard to the ground.
Petersen, along with several other members of Girls on Shred, hosted a skating clinic Sunday, open to women and those who identify as non-binary. The club, which operates through Board of Missoula, provided free skateboards and gear for the more than 15 people who attended, most of them in junior high and elementary school.
After handing out boards, helmets and elbow pads, the skaters spread out across the park. For the clinic, they had the park almost entirely to themselves, free to try out the sport and take as much time as they needed.
“We respectfully ask the other people here to give us the space for our two hours. That way, we take away a lot of the intimidation,” Petersen said.
For the past nine years, Girls on Shred has hosted free snowboarding clinics for women. Created by the wife of the former owner of Boards of Missoula, the club began holding skating clinics under the shop's current manager Samantha Veysey Gibbons four years ago. To branch out to skating, Veysey Gibbons reached out to Petersen, who has been on a skateboard for over 23 years.
“During my lifetime, I’ve traveled a lot and been a part of a lot of skating communities, and I wanted to bring that here. Skating is a sport for everybody, and events like today aren’t about keeping anyone out. They’re about inclusion and empowerment,” said Petersen, who also teaches at Sussex School.
One of her first grade students, Ruby Stone, joined her Sunday for a lesson in skateboarding.
Starting in April, Girls on Shred has hosted at least one event a month, and plans on maintaining that standard. So far, their clinics have taken them from the ramp in Boards of Missoula, to skate parks as far as Coeur d'Alene. A clinic held in St. Ignatius June 1 brought out over 30 people.
According to Petersen, ages can range from skaters as young as 4, who can already take to a ramp or bowl, to 24-year-olds who are standing on a board for the first time.
Veysey Gibbons said she sees attendees at the clinics becoming younger and younger, with their parents either former skaters themselves, or hearing about the events through social media.
“There’s absolutely no judgement here. You don’t even need to get on a skateboard,” Veysey Gibbons said.
For Sunday’s clinic, nearly every child did grab a board.
Petersen, Veysey Gibbons and the rest of the volunteers kept instruction informal, coasting around the park and offering help where it was needed.
“We aren’t here to hover over them. Typically, the skaters will link up with somebody close to their age, whether they know them or not, and they’ll work and learn together,” Veysey Gibbons said. “And that’s how it should be. There’s no right way when it comes to skateboarding. It’s all free form, and that’s where style comes from.”
Jessica Redding-Newhouse brought both of her kids, Emmy and Kai, to Mobash Sunday after being a part of the St. Ignatius clinic a few weeks prior. Along with hosting a non-competitive and positive environment for her kids, who just recently started skating, Redding-Newhouse said she also appreciates that the instructors at Girls on Shred can introduce them to the sport safely.
"When it's just me watching them try to skate, I tend to freak out," Redding-Newhouse said. "But here, they're surrounded by people who know what they're doing."
Those interested in volunteering for Girls on Shred, or learning about the next free clinic, can contact the group through their Facebook page.