Meet the people making Pittsburgh skateboarding more inclusive


Image via 3 Rivers Reform

The 3 Rivers Reform skate club provides a scene for female, non-binary, and trans skaters to socialize and skate together.

By Zainab Hakeem, For The Pitt News

Amber Gedman first became interested in skateboarding at the age of 12, when she started watching the show “Rocket Power,” an animated show on Nickelodeon centered on four kids engaging in extreme sports. All of the main characters were boys except one — rollerblader Reggie Rocket.

Gedman loved Rocket and began rollerblading to be more like her favorite character. This later led her to pick up skateboarding, which she soon came to enjoy more. She said the activity also taught her self-discipline and patience, keeping her from getting involved in bad habits like other people she knew.

“I really feel like skateboarding kinda saved my life,” said Gedman.

There was only one downside — she didn’t know a lot of female skaters.

Gedman wasn’t alone in feeling isolated — about three quarters of skateboarders are male. But the activity has attracted more women and non-binary individuals over the years, meaning more skateboarders are looking to make the culture more inclusive — including in Pittsburgh.

Gedman is one such Pittsburgh skateboarder. As she grew older, she realized that the world of skating desperately needed representation for people who weren’t cis white men. She wanted the local skateboarding scene today to be different for girls and people of color with an interest in skating. 

Her organization, 3 Rivers Reform, grew out of “Womxn and Grrrls” skating events Gedman started hosting, where female, non-binary and trans skaters could find a safe space to socialize and skate together. Its mission statement is “Empowering Womxn, Queer/Trans/Non-Binary humans through Skateboarding.”

In addition to a social media presence where the organization sells stickers, T-shirts and other merchandise, 3 Rivers Reform hosts events where all skaters can come together and celebrate skating. The organization’s first event, “June Bloom Skate Jam,” took place earlier this summer at Overcast Skateboard Shop in Bloomfield, with the help of store owner Dustyn Giles.

“I definitely wanted to help her get it off the ground and host an event,” Giles said.

Gedman called the event a “micro-mini ramp jam,” which also included live music, an artist showcase and skate basket raffles. She has experience in planning these sorts of events — her main project before starting 3 Rivers Reform was creating the monthly “Womxn and Grrrls Skate Night” at Switch and Signal Skatepark with Kerry Weber.

At the four hour-long events, skaters who are usually outnumbered due to their gender or sex during the park’s normal hours are welcome to hang out, skate and help others with tricks.

Weber wants everyone to feel welcome in the world of skating — he founded Switch and Signal Skatepark after realizing that there weren’t any indoor parks that were close to transportation and safe for kids. Weber learned how to skateboard as a child alongside many of the girls in his neighborhood, but noticed his female friends would eventually stop skating as they grew older. Weber thinks it’s due to male skaters treating female skaters differently, making them question their place in the community and pressuring them to give up the sport. 

“Some [white, cis men skaters] like to say ‘I only see skaters [instead of ‘female’ skaters]” and I don’t think that’s true,” Weber said.

Weber became motivated to create a space for the people who are sometimes excluded from skateboarding culture after he learned about Skate Like a Girl, a Portland and San Francisco-based organization aimed at empowering skaters who didn’t fit skating stereotypes, leading to the creation of “Womxn and Grrls Skate Night” with Gedman’s help.

“It’s really important to have your first experience [with skating] to not be that one of questioning your abilities or your validness and access to the park,” Weber said.