The youngster grabbed the world's attention earlier this month when a video showed her calmly dropping into a skate ramp like an absolute queen.
Paige Tobin, a 6-year-old skateboarding phenomenon who recently took the internet by storm, has been honing her skills for about four years now. "When Paige was about 2, she picked up an old skateboard in the garage and started standing up on it," her mother, Emma, told CNN. "It kinda started there." While other kids her age spend their free time playing with blocks or watching cartoons, this fearless youngster keeps busy dropping into 12-foot high skateboard ramps and amassing a 238k followers strong Instagram fanbase while challenging gender stereotypes.
The adorable little girl from Lake Macquarie, Australia, grabbed the world's attention earlier this month when a video of her skating in a frilly pink party dress went viral on social media. The video showed Paige calmly dropping into a skate ramp like an absolute queen while a young boy looked on in amazement at her flitty across the ramp effortlessly. Despite her young age, Paige has already made a name for herself in the skateboarding community. She has won the King of Concrete skateboarding competition in Melbourne in the under-9 field and bagged a handful of sponsorship deals with the likes of S1 Helmets, Pride Socks, and Fringe Skateboards.
"Paige is definitely skating exceptionally well, not just for the age but for skateboarding in general," said Neftalie Williams, a lecturer at the University of Southern California Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism who studies race and diversity in the world of skateboarding. "Those kinds of moments are when people see that skateboarding is for any age and any background. It shows that skateboarding is globally accessible." While the skateboarding community has come a long way in encouraging females and non-gender conforming people to join the sport, it still has a long way to go, and young skaters like Paige are helping spread the message.
A 2017 study called "Beyond the Board: Skateboarding, Schools, and Society," which was co-authored by Williams, cited figures from the Sports and Fitness Industry Association (SFIA), which found that "male participants accounted for roughly 4.6 million skateboarders, while female participation was noted at approximately 1.7 million. In that same report, SFIA highlighted that 77.8% of males and 22.2% of females who completed the survey identified as core/frequent (more than 26 times a year) skateboarders." Thankfully, things have been slowly but surely changing since the International Olympic Committee added male and female skateboarding as a summer Olympic sport in 2016.
Being part of the Olympics gave the sport a new level of legitimacy and exposure, Williams said. Popular Instagram hashtags like #girlswhocanskate have also get more girls and non-gender-conforming individuals to take up the sport. "One of the most important things about seeing Paige skating is how it's a reminder that there has been an explosion in women, girls, and gender non-conforming skaters as well," Williams said. "That has really shaped and changed the way people perceive skateboarding culture."
Meanwhile, Paige—whose family lives along Australia's southeastern coast—said skateboarding makes her "really happy." The young skater revealed that she's currently working to master a move called a "blunt to fakie" which involves riding the board up to the edge of a ramp, stalling the board on the ledge while balancing on it, and then popping the board off the ramp to ride back down. As for her mom, Emma admitted that she's had doubts about letting Paige skate given the dangers involved. "It definitely goes through your mind, 'if anything were to happen to her, would I blame myself?'" she said. "I just have to hold my breath and keep rolling with it."
The mother-daughter duo plan to visit the US this summer to do some photography, film work, and hopefully meet one of Paige's skateboarding idols, Tony Hawk. Sharing some advice for other youngsters thinking of getting into skateboarding, Paige said: "Never give up."