A longer version of this interview originally appeared as part of a series profiling awesome women in the online publication Trep Life.
I want Kim Woozy to be my friend. If you meet her you’ll understand why, because there’s a part of you that knows you’re a little cooler just by standing next to her. Maybe that’s for selfish reasons. But she also gets to do something every day that is just so cool. Like hang out and film people literally taking flight on boards of all shapes and sizes—skateboards, surfboards, snowboards—in places like Austin, Seattle, and Oslo. <insert green with envy emoji here>
Within the action sports scene in general, men tend to become legends as they age (think: Tony Hawk), and women—well, women tend to get cut. This isn’t anything new. That tends to be the case for many endeavors. And Woozy thinks this is nonsense.
The WeWork Berkeley member and co-founder of Mahfia—“the global destination for girls action sports media”—is on a mission to advance women’s equality within the burgeoning female action sports scene, create jobs, place women in positions of influence and power, and inspire new generations of young women and girls to pursue action sports for both fun and a career.
What female skater had the greatest influence on you growing up?
Cara-Beth Burnside because I snowboarded first and she was pro in both snow and skate. There have been few that have done both since, and she is a legend and pioneer in our culture.
For you, what does authenticity mean, and what does it look like?
Authenticity means really embracing what your truth is—not convincing yourself to be or act in ways that go against your inner self. The good, the bad, and the ugly. To me, authenticity is keeping it real and when exuded, it looks like confidence, strength, ease, and comfort, regardless of the status quo.
You mentioned your family is from Taiwan, and they were a little trepidatious about your interest in skating and action sports. How did you navigate that with them?
I actually first got into action sports when I was a kid because of my parents. They took my brother and I on a family ski trip to Lake Tahoe when we were young, and when I was about 12, I saw snowboarding for the first time while skiing with my mom and she said, “I hope you don’t do that.” So naturally, I did, and haven’t turned back since.
Overall, they are very supportive of me being active. The irony is that my mom is sometimes overly concerned for my safety, but was the same when she was younger—she rode motorcycles in Taipei and skied too. At the end of the day, I’ve never broken any bones (knock on wood), so over time, they’ve learned to trust that I know what I’m doing. I smartened up after a few hard bails, and I always ride with a helmet now. I can always fall back on the excuse of telling them that they started me on this path.
What market opportunity do you see in female action sports right now?
The action sports industry is young. Specifically, skateboarding began in the ’70s and has had its ups and downs throughout the years, but really only has come into mainstream culture in America in the past decade. While rooted in male aggression and rebellion, it’s shifting and for the first time, it’s an activity that is acceptable for young girls to participate in. The industry has never prioritized the female demographic and has arguably excluded us to this day (both unintentionally and intentionally).
But the tides are shifting, female participation is on the rise—parents are encouraging their daughters to skate, more skate parks are being built around the world, and the female demographic has the most potential, while male participation is plateauing and even declining. The opportunity for the women’s side of the industry to grow is there, and it’s happening. From female owned/led businesses, female skaters being able to make a professional living, grassroots/community organizations spearheaded and led by females—it’s all happening right now, and we are just seeing the tip of the iceberg.
You were an athlete in high school, college, and your early 20s. Specifically, soccer, basketball, and lacrosse. (We won’t mention the short stint with water polo.) How did the experience in team sports influence your approach to collaborating with other women professionally?
I’ve been playing team sports since childhood, and there is no doubt that has affected my ability to work with others towards a common goal. At an early age, I started learning how to deal with difficult interpersonal situations and also experienced the joy that comes with having a “squad.” If you have a disagreement with a teammate, you can’t just walk away and write them off—you have to figure out how to resolve it because you are going to be seeing them every day. On a team, you aren’t necessarily best friends with every teammate—but when you get on the field, you put any personal differences aside and you figure out how to work together to win. Everyone has a different skill to bring to the table, and once you can get everyone in the right position to do what they are good at—it’s gold. This mentality has stayed with me throughout my life and career. If I don’t have friends/teammates to share the struggles and moments of glory with, I don’t see the point.
I believe that women are naturally very good at working together—we are empathetic and highly communicative which makes for strong team dynamics—a.k.a getting [stuff] done. Often times, you see women finding the need to compete with each other in the workplace. In the action sports industry or any industry that is male-dominated, there is simply no room for competition between women. We are already the minority, so why not support each other when possible? No one else will.
Does your identity as someone in the action sports arena compete with your identity as a founder and entrepreneur?
No competition there. I’ve found that most people who skate, snowboard, surf, etc. are entrepreneurs in some way. From making your own stickers and giving them out to your friends to becoming a CEO of a corporation, I’ve found that most of my friends in this community are naturally already creating something of their own in some way. Just the action of riding your board takes individuality, confidence, and creativity—there is no wrong or right way to do it, and the more unique and creative you are the better. A trick that’s never been done before? No problem—you can be the first to innovate it. And that is highly celebrated in our community—much more than replication.
Photos: Nam-Chi Van, Malachi Leopold