'Don't grab my boob!'

Tan Weiyun
World-leading female skateboarder began with a board, a suitcase and a one-way train ticket to California.
Tan Weiyun
'Don't grab my boob!'
Ti Gong

Nora Vasconcellos

With only a suitcase and a skateboard in hand and a one-way train ticket from Massachusetts all away west across the United States to sunny California in 2012, Nora Vasconcellos probably had no idea that seven years later she would be a global icon of women's skateboarding.

She has won many awards, including the 2017 Vans Park Series Women's World Championship title and has been invited to join the teams of several top brands. Last year, she joined the Swatch Proteam.

Now, after Swatch announced its creative partnership with the 2019 Vans Park Series, the 26-year-old Swatch Proteam pro-rider is rolling her way through the whole tour in the 2019 Vans Park Series Women's global Pro Tour, which kicks off its first stop in Shanghai this May and will crown its world champion in Salt Lake City, Utah, in September.

"I feel like it's a way to make the best of what is around you," she said.

Vasconcellos' obsession with skateboarding started when she was a teen, watching a cartoon called "Rocket Power" that told the stories of four friends and their daily lives playing extreme sports.

To follow her passion skateboarding, Vasconcellos packed her things, left her hometown on the east coast and moved across the country to California in 2012, where she started her climb to the top from a nobody to a bright rising star in the world of women's skateboarding.

Good at including all of the eras of skateboarding that she grew up watching, Vasconcellos rides powerfully and gracefully with speed, style, flow and creativity. She loves wearing a scarf in a contest, one way to make herself more feminine without it getting in the way.

It's challenging to fit into an industry dominated by men.

"Everything has pros and cons," she said.

"The good thing about it is women's skateboarding is probably the highest splash part of the market. So it's very easy to be recognized."

But the con, she said, is that it's hard to be taken seriously as a skateboarder with the bias that girls should go into showbiz or lots of people just don’t believe a woman could love doing it.

But Vasconcellos doesn’t mind it at all. She rolls, skates, competes and wins. She dominates the skating scene and has become a role model more young girls look up to.

When she came to the industry seven years ago, there were no more than 10 girls out of 100 skateboarders in a contest.

Now it’s almost 20.

“The skateboarding community has really grown, and we have more girls, who are competing and learning at a young age,” Vasconcellos said.

The field has opened up and some of the forward-looking brands are grabbing the opportunity with both hands.

Combining its love for sports and art, Swatch has been the creative partner with the VPS Pro Tour for two years, and its Proteam includes competitors in classics such as beach volleyball, skiing and surfing as well as new sports such as drone racing.

“It’s a good time to be a female skateboarder, because the market is growing, and we’re being very well-received,” she said.

Last year, she joined an all-girl skateboarding tour, made up of the world’s best competitors, who put together an amazing edit — “Please Don't Grab My Boob!” — an over 10-minute video that featured pure skateboarding around backyard pools, on the streets and in ditches.

It was Vasconcellos who came up with the sensational name for the video, which was inspired by an incident on that trip.

"Before jumping into the screaming pit of teenage boys, only one thought flashed through my mind: Please don't grab my boob!" she said.

"And I must say, I was extremely impressed with the young men's behavior. My friend and I were even gently placed back on the ground after the crowd surfing ceased — no groping involved. I think they are getting it, all these kids. Men, too."

'Don't grab my boob!'
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