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Meet Naiomi Glasses, the viral skateboarder from Navajo Nation

Despite being a sport dominated by men and the lack of infrastructure in Navajo Nation, skateboarding is Glasses's passion.

Meet Naiomi Glasses, the viral skateboarder from Navajo Nation
Image Source: naiomiglasses / Instagram

Naiomi Glasses, aged 24, first picked up skateboarding when she was only five years old. She saw her older brother's friend skateboarding and was immediately fascinated. Under her mother's guidance, she picked it up, practicing skateboarding in her kitchen. Now, the Diné skateboarder is going viral for the videos she posts to TikTok. As the nearest skatepark is hours away from her home, Glasses has turned to the desert landscape in Navajo Nation, transforming the environment into her own skatepark. She skateboards in long vibrant skirts and traditional Diné attire, an active choice she has made since becoming more assured in her femininity, Teen Vogue reports.


"When I was younger, I liked trying new things," Glasses said in an interview with the magazine. "I tried skateboarding and thought, ‘This is it!'" When she was growing up, she struggled with bullying at school. Skateboarding served as a tool she used to build confidence in herself. She shared, "When I was six, I was bullied a lot. I have a bilateral cleft pallet and lip, so kids would bully me and I got really down. So, whenever I would skate, it was my one time to decompress as a little kid."


Often, the 24-year-old was the only girl at skateparks. Nonetheless, that did not stop her. She became even more infatuated with skateboarding as a teenager, and would often spend her afternoons at skateparks. "I wanted to skate every second of my life," Glasses affirmed. "So anytime I could skate, I would. It definitely helped me develop a relationship with my environment." There was definitely pressure on her to conform to a certain masculine aesthetic, one that she is currently moving away from: "When I was younger, I felt like I had to dress like a little boy to skate. As I’m getting older, I’m like, 'I’ll skate in my skirt.'"


Growing up on a Native reservation presented another challenge. Many of these reservations lack skateparks and other infrastructure for skateboarding. Skate shops are also rare. "You would have to travel two to three hours off the reservation to a border town to pick up a skateboard over there," she explained. "It’s quite the journey to be a skateboarder on the reservation." However, this does not stop her. She is presently collaborating with Wonders Around the World, a group working on bringing a skatepark to a community within Navajo Nation called Two Grey Hills Tribe.


Although Glasses is not from that tribe, she emphasized the importance of making skateboarding more accessible to all. She asserted, "The Navajo reservation is the size of West Virginia and I only know of five skate parks here. Skateparks can really help kids grow. There are kids that I see at the skatepark who transform [into] completely different people when they’re in their element. I think the joy of skateboarding should be brought to more kids here." Through this project, the 24-year-old hopes to share her love for skateboarding with other young people: "When I skate, I get to breathe and relax and recharge. I know it’s a physical activity but it’s so freeing to me. It’s the one time I get to block out what’s going on and it’s just myself and my skateboard."


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