Five years ago, while a student at Flagler College, Elise Crigar began tooling around on a skateboard at Treaty Park even as she was still learning how to negotiate ramps and curves at the popular skateboarding park.
A few bumps and bruises notwithstanding, Crigar stuck with skating, got hooked on the adrenaline of it all, as well as the boost in confidence she got in participating in what’s traditionally been a male-dominated sport.
Now living in Vilano Beach after graduating in 2015 from Flagler with a bachelor’s degree in graphic design, Crigar is hoping a project she recently completed might put a little extra wind in the sails of other young women who prefer nailing an ollie to practicing a cheerleading routine.
“I want to share that confidence with other girls,” said Crigar, 24. “It shouldn’t be that way — that if we fall or whatever, we get compared to others. It should be about having fun.”
Crigar compiled the photos and designed the layout for “It’s Not About Pretty,” a recently published coffee table book (Girl Is Not a Four Letter Word, $35) that showcases and celebrates the culture of female skaters in 144 pages of photographs of skateboarders from age 5 to 50.
In addition to her graphic design skills, Crigar is the staff photographer for Void magazine, which focuses on the pop culture of Northeast Florida, including its surfing and skating scene.
Crigar explained how she got involved with the project, which was conceived of and published by Cindy Whitehead, a pro skater and member of the Skateboarding Hall of Fame. Whitehead’s husband, Ian Logan, took the photographs of the young women featured in the book at skate parks, tournaments and other venues across the country.
When she heard about Whitehead’s label, Girl Is Not a Four Letter Word, which is both a brand and a movement, Crigar reached out to the skater-turned-activist and asked if she could help her with anything related to her campaign. After working on a couple of smaller projects, Crigar was asked by Whitehead if she wanted to be the book designer for “It’s Not About Pretty.”
“So I basically cleared my schedule so that I could do it,” recalled Crigar with a laugh.
The resulting volume, available on Amazon.com since February, according to Whitehead, documents “girls (who are) smashing gender stereotypes into tiny bits, hitting glass ceilings so hard they shatter into a million pieces.”
There is a sense of empowerment in young women striving for even footing with their male counterparts in the skateboarding world, according to Lauren Canoura, a 25-year-old St. Augustine native.
Canoura, who moved to New Smyrna Beach last year, first met Crigar at Treaty Park. Several years ago, they were among just a handful of female skaters “breaking the ice,” as Canoura puts it.
But she’s seen that changing recently, and some of that encouragement is coming from male skaters themselves.
“It’s actually a compliment for a guy to be like, ‘You skate like a guy,’ ” Canoura said.
Crigar is hoping to instill that spirit of feistiness in young women here locally. She’s organized a first-ever event she’s calling Girls Skate Jam for May 26 at Kona Skate Park in Jacksonville, which will also serve as a book signing opportunity. The event, from 6 to 10 p.m., will feature all-girl bands, an all-girl skate clinic and product giveaways.