Lily Joiner (left) gets some skateboarding tips from Sophee Hills ahead of proper lessons which start this week at Skatezone, Napier. Photo/Warren Buckland
A forward-thinking skateboarder makes waves at Napier’s world-class roller sports park on Marine Parade.
Sophee Hills is turning heads and aiming to change minds by teaching girls to skate.
free lessons every week at Napier’s Bay Skate for girls aged 12-18.
Hills has been skating since 2019 and helping other girls build the confidence to skate in a public skate park.
The 23-year-old said she started skating with her sister and friends in Gisborne.
“We had no one to teach us, and we were so scared to go to the skatepark alone,” Hills said.
While in Gisborne, Hills and her friends were inspired by Amber Clyde, founder of Girls Skate NZ, who lives in Auckland and teaches girls to skate. They created a girl group to encourage more girls to go to the skate park and thus provide them with a safe space.
“They could skate with us and not be alone,” she said.
When Hills started the girl group, she didn’t skate and just hung out for the first three months.
“I thought I should try to skate and do things that I could inspire them to do.”
Following her boyfriend, she decided to look for jobs in Napier and got in touch with Bay Skate.
Hills was looking for a job in skateboarding or events, as she has held skate competitions before.
Its ambitions are simple.
“I just want to see more girls skating, that’s all.”
The group also wants to make friends with other girls who skate.
“Once you get to know all the skaters and skate regularly, you have something you can do together, a reason to hang out,” Hills said.
Hills didn’t think teaching girls skateboarding would become a job, but she hoped it would.
As a certified hairstylist, she always had something to fall back on if coaching girls to skateboard didn’t work out.
Sport Hawke’s Bay and the Tū Manawa Fund helped develop Shred Sessions, a 10-week learn-to-skate program focused on girls ages 12-18 and non-binary youth.
The lessons could be a way to introduce more girls to what has been predominantly a male world.
“Girls are afraid to go out and skate because they’re judged by boys who say, ‘Oh, you can’t skate, you can even kickflip, you can even olly?’ »
“A boy asked me a week ago (after seeing his daughters’ Shred Sessions skateboarding lessons poster on the Bay Skate wall) ‘When’s boys’ night out?’ ‘ and I said, ‘Are there any girls [skating] outside?’ He said ‘no’, I said ‘exactly – every day is boys’ day, we need a girls’ day and night'”.
Hills is frustrated with attitudes towards girls skating.
“So many times I get asked if I can do tricks, and I have to prove myself even though I shouldn’t have to, that’s what’s annoying,” she said.
Hills says skating is something she can do anywhere, alone or with friends.
“It helps clear my mind and makes me feel free and happy.”
A girls-only skating competition would go a long way to changing attitudes, she said.
Bay Skate says its goal is to promote skateboarding as a fun and accessible activity that provides lifelong enjoyment of physical activity.
If Hills’ lessons become popular, her dream is to go to the Olympics, not as a skater but as a coach.
One day, Hills hopes to be as good as some of Hawke’s Bay skaters.
“I think I will be; we’ll see,” she said.
The girls-only Shred sessions are free on Thursdays from 5-7pm, Saturdays from 10am-12pm and Sundays from 12-2pm and will run for 10 weeks. If you want to participate, all you have to do is show up for one of the sessions.