Heated discontent is the name of the mood among pro skating ranks this week, with ESPN's announcement that it has eliminated the women’s vert skateboarding from X Games, scheduled to begin July 28 in Los Angeles. The news comes just after Dew Tour’s cancellation of its women’s street event.
Women’s skate vert has been a fixture since 2003, but after several years of popularity attention began to decline, according to a recent article posted on ESPN's website:
“We look for sports that have a solid year-round infrastructure, a growing participant base, an established annual competition schedule, rising youth talent pools, ample access to courses, low barriers of entry into the sport and myriad other factors,” a statement from ESPN X Games read. “After thoughtful discussions and evaluation of many of those factors, we have decided to discontinue the women’s skateboard vert competition from X Games 17.”
In 2006 women’s skateboarders were the lone female athletes competing at the summer X Games, an extreme-sports multi-feature event that's been overwhelmingly male-dominated since its inception.
A movement for equality at the X Games was led by the Action Sports Alliance, a non-profit organization founded in 2005 to create equal opportunities for women skaters. The Alliance was co-founded by Cara-Beth Burnside, the matriarch of women’s skateboarding who's racked up three X Games gold medals in vert. Important achievements of the Alliance included negotiations with ESPN executives to secure higher prize purses for women athletes across all sports at both the Winter and summer Games. Women and men now receive equal prize money at X Games events.
The tide has begun to turn, however, as evidenced by few female skaters emerging to fill the vert ranks as Burnside, now 42, has aged beyond her prime. As a result, Burnside lost her major sponsor, Vans Shoes, earlier this year, a sign of things to come.
“I think it’s a shame, especially with the amount of interest in women’s skating and new talent lately,” vert skateboarding icon Tony Hawk texted about the decision to drop women’s vert skating.
Change.org currently has a petition to bring back women's vert skateboarding and increase the presence of women at the X Games. Anyone can sign the online petition and help fight for women's rights within the X Games.