Fresh website alert! Rokeo skate has officially launched, and the website really is looking super fresh, thanks to Mixed Pixel who designed the site.
To coincide with the launch, and as promised, check out our interview with Rokeo founder, Rhiannon Searle. Yeah, she’s the one pulling the sick ollie below. (All photos from the Rokeo website). It’s a long and interesting one, so grab a beverage and read on…
So Rhiannon, what exactly is Rokeo and how has it evolved?
Rokeo is a female skateboard company that aims to improve the skateboarding community for females, to get more coverage of girl skaters and to encourage more girls to get skateboarding! It started off when I was looking for some new clothes and after chatting with the owner of the local skate shop, I realised there still wasn’t a real girls’ skateboard clothing company. So initially, the idea began with the plan of developing a female skateboard clothing company that truly represents girl skater. Our aim is to create high quality clothing that allows us girl skaters to express our identity as “skateboarders” with our clothing. There will be a lot of collaboration with female artists, who are skaters or appreciate skating, to create some sick designs for our clothing. Rokeo is all about getting more representation of the super talented girls involved in the skateboard community, so working with artists in this way is at the heart of Rokeo.
I also wanted to add in an emphasis on making skate parks a more inclusive environment for girls. So, when I moved to Bristol, I started chatting with the owners of the local indoor parks, Motion and Campus, and they were really keen to work together to set up “girls’ welcome sessions”. More and more of these regular sessions are being arranged with skate parks all over the UK, so through Rokeo, girls will be able to find a park that actively encourages girls through the doors. For me this is so important in helping girls to get skating as skate parks can be really intimidating environments. By knowing that there will be another girl to skate with we can overcome this. Skating with other girls is so awesome – we really help each other improve, look out for each other and have a lot of laughs! So through these sessions, hopefully more girls will be picking up a board and spending more time skating, having more fun with it and even progressing the sport for females.
What have you been up to today?
This morning I got up early to send out some Rokeo emails and check on the happenings in the skate world online. Then I had a team meeting for the work I do with a child with autism. Then it was back home, some beans on toast for lunch (lunch of champions), and had a cheeky nap. Now I’m sat at my kitchen table with a white hot chocolate and marshmallows, while blue skies turn to grey outside, then it’ll be back to Rokeo business – busy busy!
A lot of us who create blogs and buzz about the skate scene have other jobs too, for example, I work as a medical writer type person to pay the bills as well as other volunteer stuff…do you do anything else as well as running Rokeo?
Yep, two afternoons and one full day a week I work with children with autism. Since graduating with a degree in Psychology I had been working full time at an Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) school for children with autism and studying for a Masters degree in ABA. But I decided that I was getting bored with the routine and being in the same small town since starting Uni so I quit and moved back home to figure what I wanted to do and start again! Soon after I ended up moving to Bristol as its such a great city and just by chance I ended up working back in ABA as there is a big demand for private tutors here. I much prefer it to the work I did in schools as I get to work with the children in their homes, take them out in the community on different trips and one of the children I work with also goes into mainstream school. It’s really rewarding to see his peers interact with him so I’m really enjoying it! I feel very lucky that I have a job that I really enjoy and allows me to have quite a lot of time to concentrate on Rokeo too. It’s such a difficult time for young people to find work so finding that balance of loving what you do but having to pay the bills is pretty hard. But this past year has taught me that it’s so important to do what you love so I hope to carry on what I’m doing for as long as possible!
What are your own skateboarding roots? Like, where did you grow up and what was it like to skate there compared to now? How did you get into skateboarding?
I grew up on the Isle of Wight and I started skateboarding when I was about 10. I spent a lot of time growing up with my cousins, who were all boys, and most of my friends were boys too. So it was great that we all were so passionate about the same thing. We would rush home from school and skate the same patch of street every day. We would be seeing who could ollie the most decks, or noseslide the furthest on the curb. I didn’t really skate the few parks very often, partly because I found it really intimidating being the only girl surrounded by a load of guys, who were all a lot better than me! As I got older the gender thing started to become more and more of a pressure, until I gave up skating when I was around 15 because I thought it wasn’t really a sport for girls. I tried to get into surfing as there was always so much coverage of girls surfing so it felt a lot more of a welcoming sport for girls. But, as much as I do love it, surfing is annoying! First, you have to get to the beach. Second, you have to get to the beach on the day when it isn’t flat or too choppy. Third, you have to get into head to toe neoprene. Fourth, you have to paddle out, with arms that are already like jelly because a) you haven’t surfed in ages because of steps one and two and b) you just spent 20 minutes stretching yourself into your wetsuit. THEN when the stars align, you can start to surf! So almost 10 years later, my regular surf magazine wasn’t in stock and I picked up another magazine. In this magazine there were photos and interviews with girl skaters! I couldn’t believe it!! So I started googling and found some footage of girl skaters tearing it up. And that was it, I had to get back to skating! The representation of girl skaters has increased a lot since I was a kid, largely due to the development of the internet – Youtube, Facebook etc. Also there are a lot more skate parks than I seem to remember there being when I was younger. So I’ve been getting used to skating parks more than street, especially with the weather this winter. And being older, I can go wherever I want now so I have been loving travelling around the UK to different places to skate. So it is an exciting time for female skaters! I hope that Rokeo can be the voice to really get us proper recognition and the legitimacy that we deserve so we can really harness how far skating has come since I was a kid.
Have you found the scene to be cliquey at all? Intimidating?
I think that some parts of the community could be seen as cliquey as certain groups of people have maybe been skating/competing together for years so it’s natural that when some people get together in their group of friends, they have their in-jokes or want to catch up on things. And other people prefer just to stick their head down and skate, rather than introduce themselves to every new face at the park. For beginners this can make it feel pretty lonely and it is these skaters, who we should be giving extra encouragement to. On the other hand, a lot of people I have met are so excited when they see girls skating that they are super welcoming and friendly. Here in Bristol, there is a group of guys called the Warmley Crew and I hadn’t even met any of them, but they added me to their Facebook group and invited me along with them on a trip to an indoor park one weekend and they are always inviting me whenever they go skating. Another bunch of guys at the local DIY spot also love skating with me and they are great as they love to teach me and see me land new things. At the end of the day, we all have a shared love for skateboarding, which unites us as a pretty rad community. By planning more and more events, hopefully more and more girls can feel welcomed into the community to address the impression of it being cliquey. Do your bit – if you do see a girl skating your local park, be awesome and go introduce yourself! Rokeo will always be about ALL the girl skaters because beginner skaters are just as sick as the top competing skaters!
Is skateboarding an art or a sport?
Most of the time I think of it as a sport, but it’s different to most sports because there aren’t any rules! There’s no concrete goal, only what you set for yourself. So you can be creative with your skating. Some days I might go for a skate and just have fun being creative, not even really having any goal for landing new tricks. Other days I might set out with the intention of landing a new trick. So I guess it is both and, on some days, one more than the other :)
What’s your favourite way to skate?
I usually have the most fun when I’m skating with a bunch of friends. We can have a laugh, they might be trying a trick that I might get inspired to try, but it’s in a relaxed fun setting. I used to skate alone more often, but I find I can push myself too hard sometimes when I’m getting focused when I’m alone and I’m a pretty clumsy skater so I usually end up getting hurt!
Favourite place in the world to skate?
Anywhere new :)
What events have Rokeo got coming up?
In the spring we are launching our first products, which includes an exciting collaboration with Thrashion. I’m really excited about this as money from the products will go to funding more future events and different Rokeo projects. One of the first events I hope to organise comes from a suggestion from one of the girls I met at the Cardiff skate and meet – a Rokeo Girls’ Skate Slumber Party! I can’t wait to start organising that as it is going to be awesome!!!
Do you sponsor or support riders, and if so how exactly? What is it you look for when adding someone to the Rokeo team?
Currently, we have two very special Rokeo Riders; Camilla Mullins and Georgia Noble. One of the first videos I saw on Youtube that inspired me to get back into skateboarding last year was of Camilla Mullins. Then I met her at the Unicorn Girls’ Jam at Mile End in the summer and soon after we emailed a few times and I asked her if she wanted to be the first member of the Rokeo team. I was so stoked to have her on board as she is such an amazing and inspirational skater. She stayed with me for a few days back in November to film her first Rokeo mini-edit and it was so great to have the chance to watch how she skates. From how hard she pushes herself to the way she physically rehearses a trick she’s trying to land, she’s a real competitive skater and I’m so proud to have her on the team. We just released her mini edit and people are so stoked – she’s a real inspiration to female skateboarding. Our most recent addition to the team is Georgia Noble! I met her at the UKSA National Championships in Nottingham in November. She’s just 18 and had traveled from Skegness to skate. In her I saw a lot of other younger skaters, who are fairly newish to skating but so passionate about it. She’s doing a great job of spreading the Rokeo love in Skegness and is going to be heading up some “girls’ welcome” sessions at X-Site soon. As Rokeo is about representing female skateboarding and inspiring girls to skate it’s really important that our team riders are great role models for other girls and are passionate about the future of female skateboarding. So I’m stoked to have two such great inspirational riders on the team! With each rider, I ask them what they want from Rokeo and from their skateboarding and try to make sure Rokeo can help out in any way possible, whether it be arranging a few days of filming or helping to set up girls’ welcome sessions at their local park. As Rokeo grows I look forward to expanding the team and being able to give more and more support to the team riders. One day I hope that Rokeo will be able to make more full time pro female skaters.
Would you let me join the team, haha?!
Haha! Well there’s the Rokeo team and then there’s the Rokeo family and you’re definitely part of the Rokeo family just like all the other awesome girls out there interested in skateboarding! We got a lot of Rokeo sisters in our family!
How can people get involved with Rokeo?
From photographers and videographers to illustrators, graphic designers and web designers, the incredible progress Rokeo has made would not have been possible without help from amazing and talented people. I’m stoked to continue to meet loads more great people as Rokeo continues to grow. People can send suggestions, request a “girls’ welcome” session at their local park, photos of them skating, collaboration ideas, anything! The more people involved the better Rokeo will be! Some of my favourite messages have been people emailing simply to show their support and encouragement so keep these messages coming! Anyone interested in getting involved in any way at all can contact us through our Facebook page or Twitter and soon through our website.
Thanks for taking the time to chat with us…any final comments?
I want to give the most sincere thank you to everyone who has helped me along the way – it’s really my dream to develop skateboarding for females so thank you awesome people for all your support and encouragement. And to those of you I haven’t met yet – I look forward to skating with you in the future!!