Skating through: Nathalie Herring founded Girls Skate NYC two years ago to empower women and girls who longboard in the city.
Khaleeq R. Alfred

She’s uniting women one board at a time.

A Queens-born longboarder is inspiring other like-minded women who board, to empower themselves within the sport of skating. East New Yorker Nathalie Herring first caught an interest in longboarding when she was 18 years old and purchased her first longboard a year later. The 31-year-old said as a student attending college in Miami at the time, she was going through a time of personal discovery and in search of her true identity.

“I was far away from home and I wasn’t fully experiencing who I wanted to be and I was not happy,” she said.

Herring said after witnessing a fellow classmate riding a longboard on campus one day, she felt a sudden connection and wanted to try it out for herself.

“He seemed free and empowered and I stopped and stared at him, even though it was just a movement that he chose to go to class that day,” she said. “But I felt that’s how I wanted to be and from that moment I decided to come a longboarder.”

After researching and learning more about the mode of transport, she said that her interest continued to grow and while she did not know much about it prior, her new pastime was worth a shot, said Herring.

Returning to New York a new person, she practiced her boarding skills at Flushing Meadows Corona park. But she found herself isolated not only as a solo female longboarder, but also as a black woman. Her anxiety grew more as she was met with many stares about her newfound hobby. And as a child of Jamaican parentage, she said a few of her relatives received her interest with confusion.

“I dealt with a lot of resistance getting into the movement to become a longboarder, it was not accepted by my family,” said Herring.

But she adds that isolation was a plus for her to make errors and learn more about perfecting her skills and personality.

“My first year me owning a longboard, I was afforded the ability of being made fun of because I didn’t live in community that was skate-cultured and I had to become who I wanted for myself,” said Herring.

Eventually she did find a community of boarders, and even earned a sponsorship with a leading board company, which she maintains up to now. But Herring still felt like an outcast and wanted to meet other women with an interest in longboard.

Immediately she thought of an idea to find those women and gather them together. So in 2015 she formed Girls Skate NYC, an empowering movement for female longboarders of all ages and backgrounds. She started the mission to get women together and encourage them to be more visible.

Her first meeting was a decently sized group and about 50 women showed up with boards and skated around the city. Herring says she was happy to lead them on a longboarding quest and get them to experience boarding adventures that she herself took time to get accustomed to.

“Only a few girls showed up but they dug my energy, but I was happy to take them on this journey,” she said. “I just really want to get more girls and women into action and out of their comfort zone.”

Herring adds that because of the lack of women visible in longboarding culture, her aim is to continue encouraging them and hopes that with Girls Skate NYC, she helps amplify the voices and visibility of women in longboarding.

“I think once people read and are able to get experience this type of lifestyle, it leaves them with wanting to be inspired,” said Herring.

The meet-ups are held annually in Central Park and her website goes live in January.

Reach reporter Alexandra Simon at (718) 260–8310 or e-mail her at asimo[email protected]

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