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This Is Northern New South Wales

Byron Chicky Babes Bomb Squad

An interview with Maga McWhinnie.

Q- Downhill skateboarding and longboarding racing seems to be making a reconnaissance from the 70’s yet is still a relatively underground sport that most people know little about. For all our readers out there, what exactly constitutes the sports? Why do you think these styles of skating have been re-building in popularity over the last few years and how have they evolved today from their original retro form?

Well longboarding started a couple of decades ago with skateboarding, it was a small crew at that time in longboarding. In the late 80s early 90s street boards took on more popularity over a 10 year period while the longboarders remained as a small group.

With the new technology and the innovation of gear for longboards it has started gaining more popularity over the past 5 years. Street boarding suddenly became a sport oriented to the younger population due to  the amount of accidents and body damages that street boarders go through jumping stairs, bowls, ramps …etc with not much protection. The fact was that longboarding wasn’t made just for skate parks or jumping, instead it gave us a free feeling of rolling on the streets with a better set up for the boards. Therefore, inspired more  kids, girls and adults to get involved and enjoy it. During the last 5 years it’s being growing everywhere around the world, we have a legal and very popular World cup circuit in all different countries in all the continents. I’m going now to the World Cup in Peru.

Downhill skateboarding is one side of longboarding dedicated to speed through gravity, all of the movements are controlled by the position of our body. We use special longboards built for speed and for the positions we take during speed boarding. The set up used for DH skateboards has a different technology prepared to obtain more stability and better response for the body movements that we do to control our board when rolling down a hill. The wheels are bigger, softer and have different texture for a personal response we want from then. Trucks have a different design to give a better and smoother turn, while street boards trucks are more designed for jumping. The bushing have a different density also for the purpose of turning. We also use special equipment for riding DH skateboards: a regular helmet for cruising and full face helmet for high speed, a set of globes with pucks for the sliding required, optional pads to protect knees and elbows or full leather and Kevlar suit designed for downhill skateboarding.

Q-In Sydney you started skating with your husband Rob and his friends. Is this when you originally began skateboarding? Has being encouraged to keep up with these guys shaped your own style and sense of confidence in your abilities as a skater?

Yes, I started skating for the first time in Sydney just going to the shops, the main campus of Sydney Uni’ (where I studied) or Darling Harbor. In fact, the first time I ever tried skating Rob gave me his favorite board and I accidentally let it go all the way to Broadway St where it got run over by a bus AND a car. He acted really cool at that moment with me but when he got home alone he was devo’d. Poor thing! But it wasn’t something constant or very progressive for me.

But yes, in many occasions we would have a beer with our mates (Top longboarders in Australia now) and have a couple of rolls around Bondi hills or Sydney City Bomb Squad (SCBC). They were so good though it was hard to catch up with them so I used to drive behind and bring them up the massive hills. I also went as a spectator to a few World Cups in Mt. Panorama Bathurst.

Later last year, in the last world cup in Australia, I was so inspired by everyone especially by the girls. Since then I became a curious to start exploring longboarding and Downhill speed boarding more. I noticed I really liked it and with great examples (like those girls) I could train myself to be as good as them. But, Sydney was for us a busy place to live  and really hard to find a crew to train from the start with me at that time.

Q- You’ve been in Byron less than a year and seem to have made such a family of friends already. How did the Byron Chicky Babes Bomb Squad come into existence? Where do you skate?

When we arrived in Byron we found out that skaters we’d met before in some comps also lived here. So we decided to start a group like SCBS but from Byron.

Sadly Rob, who was healing a broken Tibia had a weird accident and broke the same bone again. Since I still wanted to train for  downhill skateboarding, I asked the beautiful girls I’d met if they wanted to skate down the hill with me (some of them were already skating). I brought them first to the top of my local hill Shelley Drive, and I was amazed to see how each girl rode down the hill (I was expecting they would also bomb like I’d learnt).

Vicky Anderson was carving all the way down with a great style, Kate Daniel used to ride down the hills barefoot dancing on top of her deck and shaking her hips and Mel Pope surprise me bombing down hills so fearlessly. With a few sessions I realized how amazing it was to skate down a road and have so many different styles, that inspired me to start a group for girls longboarding and learn from each other.

Session by session we meet new girls excited to join us like the sisters bowl riders Phoebe and Tilly Johnson, the gorgeous flamenco dancer Natalia Lopes (who was in love with her short board), Kaidee Peel who discovered a new passion in longboarding, our mate Louise Barret who accidentally explored more speed than any of us at the time, professional dancer Tiia Finne with a fast ability to slide, 13 year old Jemma Pollock and great singer Kayla Talve. Soon girls from the Gold Coast joined us and turned out to be really talented at  fast speeds: Gemma Holland, Rat Fink, Linn Ullberg….plus more.

We organized a couple of downhill skate trips to a 3km long hill in Noosa (first real downhill experience with speed for the girls) as well as a few local races.

After a few articles on the Australian Skateboard Racing Association (ASRA) website and in a local newspaper many girls around Australia start showing some interest through our Facebook group; traveling to join some sessions and starting different local groups around their areas. It was amazing to see how many girls around the country were starting to longboard, and are succeeding and training really seriously now. I started a group for the whole country called Australian Girls Longboarding, where we post competitions where girls are involved, announce events all over the country, national and international videos and photos of girls longboarding. Also we feature interviews with famous female longboarders and all the girls from around Australia we can get together and meet each other. With great joy it has become the official group for all these female longboarders around the country!

ABOVE : Byron Chicky Babes Vid By Flavio Biehl for Early Skateboards.

Q- In chatting you touched on the idea that men and women definitely approach certain situations differently – especially those that involve an element of danger. How does gliding with your girlfriends compare to skating with guys?

First I used to ride with the boys. At that time these guys were ripping, skating hardcore and competing even at the World Cup Series. It was hard to catch up with them especially when they could go +80km per hour.

I think if a boy was to get into longboarding, most of them would like to experience speed before they even practice their way to brake or slide, they’d ride from the top of any hill even though the experience they have (may not be great).

Most of the girls I’ve met, including myself, have learned how to foot break, slide to stop or how to take corners properly and then we commit to explore speed gradually. The fact that you can skate and learn with someone who cares about going fast and safe (same as you) gives you more trust to push yourselves together as a group.

The truth is boys skaters don’t mind (as much as girls skaters) the possibly of hurting any part of our body. For girls our body is more sacred. Watching girls ridding/sliding so well from a higher spot or faster than you makes you realize if she can do it so can you! In conclusion, occasionally there is more chance to inspire a girl to try harder following one pro female rider than just following the vast amount of pro male riders.

Q- Tell us about your love of  ‘downhill’ .Participating in an extreme sport comes with obvious risks so what ignites your passion?

Well it is a great feeling going down a hill on top of your board controlling it with just a few movements of your body, that’s one of the things that amazes me. It’s only you and your board in your head.

Downhill skateboarding is gravity sport, you obviously need a special longboard, your helmet and pads (sometimes you even need a DH leather suit). You pick a road in a hill where you can trust going down and if it have good corners even better. As soon as you jump on your board and you reach speed thanks to gravity, you can bend your body towards any side of your board to control your turnings or your slides. The amazing thing about it is that going so fast with gravity gives you more chances of bending your board without falling off. The faster the better. (Like motorbikes when they race they bend so much the riders could touch the road with their knees with out falling off.) In DH your body movements control it all and its so beautiful how much each side of your body can move.

That combination of these factors: speed, gravity, taking corners, movements of your body and the freedom that you get to yourself: equals an Amazing feeling!!! I don’t think I cant explain it so well to anyone who hasn’t tried it, unless you try it yourself. And yes, the as the adrenaline runs through your veins, there is one word to express it all: Stoked!!!

It’s an extreme sport yes, like any extreme sports they are risks we confront, that’s why we always encourage to wear protection, to never do anything you don’t feel comfortable doing and to learn gradually before you jump to 80km/h. I think when you have fun in something like that the risk decreases. It’s a passion for some of us and we are so lucky to be so devoted and motivated to follow one of the things we love most.

Q- At the moment you’re nursing a broken shoulder blade and thumb from a downhill accident. Harsh things happen when flesh hits gravel at high enough speeds. You mentioned that you feel that many of these accidents are avoidable just by making educated, conscious decisions. Is this the worst injury you’ve had so far and what advice do you give to others to make the sport safer for all?

Yes, I’ve had heaps of road rash ha ha, but that’s part of learning. If you don’t crash you also don’t learn how to fall which is something every skater should be prepared to do in any occasion, especially with an extreme sport.

My accident was very silly though, but I guess that’s how it always happens. I came from a skate trip from Noosa with Mel and Rob. It went so well we managed to skate all the time, really good at high speed and with a lot of corners. On the way back I drove for like 7 hours after our car broke down a couple of times and we got it fixed. When we were passing through Brisbane I contacted some local girl riders, the talented Rat Fink and the fast Gemma Holland who I was soexcited to meet for a few sessions on this little hill in a national park. Even though I was exhausted from the trip I agreed to meet with them. After having a few sessions on this fast footpath I decided to stop. But as it always happens, I wanted to have another last run, so I rode my board and my mind went blank for a moment… Instead of riding as I always do I decided to jump off my board (the thing that I always recommend NOT to do) and landed in some “bushes”. Turned out these bushes were more like a bank or a wall and luckily my helmet save my head again from the impact. I ended up with a fractured thumb and scapula.

I think we can’t totally avoid accidents in skateboarding or in general in our life. They could happen walking, dancing, driving (which has the biggest rate)…. I think what we should learn is how to avoid major impacts using protective helmets (this is the most important thing) pads, gloves. Also never try something you don’t feel comfortable with or you haven’t got the training to do. Know how to fall off, like rolling with your body avoiding the impact on your arm and leg bones. Learn how to slow down or break by foot breaking or sliding. Listen to the advice of the most experienced riders. Don’t do it when you’re tired, remember all the way down a hill your head is thinking and concentrating so much on how to move your body.

 Q- What advice do you give to girls who wish to get into the sport? Where should they start out?

Girls longboarding its a great thing, the feeling of rolling freely around –it’s awesome. Find out what you like about your longboarding and what you want to accomplish. Help up girls who are just starting too and check out videos, groups, photos or try to meet other girls who are in the sport to see what they’ve accomplished.

The 2 most important things:
1. Have heaps of fun because that’s what its all about.
2. Wear a helmet, give a good example to the rest! Remember someone could follow your lead and everyone including me has seen dirty accidents from not wearing one, as a good friend says “Helmet or Hell – met” (Katie Nielson).

If you want to get into Downhill: Don’t push yourself too hard, do it gradually in your own time, bend your knees and go faster when you’re ready and you will find out how many things you can accomplish.You could practice in car parks on your way to work or anywhere you feel save. Remember always to skate safe and skate every day.

Join Australian Girls longboarding to meet the rest of the crew and find out more of the scene around Australia and the world. Also join ASRA the official skateboarding association to meet our big family and find out about events and news.

Q- You and your husband Rob are going to Peru next month to compete in the world cup. You must be excited – tell us about what’s in store for you both there?

Well I am from Peru, so we will be catching up with family and friends. Later in October we’ve got heaps of friends coming that I really want to catch up with and I will be in the World Cup at Tarma. We will be skating with amazing girls like the Peruvian crew, the world champion 2010-2011 Katie Nielson, the great talented Marisa Nunez and some of our Hopkin Racing Team Jacko Shapiera (number 2 in the world) Luca Coleman and my beautiful Rob. And we will enjoy and discover the amazing secret spots in Peru and def’ skating them.
It would be my first World Cup and first race with my own costume made from leathers that my sponsors got me. I will be training hard and trying to get ready for this long 3km road with  double hairpins, very steep and speed of 85km/h. It will be exciting and I will try to keep concentrated on riding it well, improve my speed as well as my riding and enjoy it to the final line.

After that we will go and compete in Chile in a regional race and road trip in south America discovering new roads and crew.Later we will return for the world cup here in Oz in Mt Keira and maybe Mt. Panorama. I’ll be posting in the Australian girls longboarding, ASRA and Heelside Magazine.

Nothing of this could have been done without my awesome sponsors: Hopkin Skate, Unnpluged Byron Bay, Early Team, Heelside Magazines, the Bayleaf Cafe (Marvell Roasters) and my major inspiration Rob McWhinnie.

Q-  What do you hope for the future of skating locally?

I hope the town we will be able to support us much as some families have done. With the 5 races, the Friday’s bomb squad and the 2 local skateboarding groups Rob and I have started, we realize how many families we join, how many friends we gather and how much community we want to build. It’s not hard to organize these events it’s all about commitment, love for the sport and spreading the joy. With great Pro’s from Early in town what a great opportunity to guide many kids and girls in a safe way and get our Byron Team well known around Australia and the world.

We already have a few articles in one of the most important skate magazines in the world Heelside, a few articles in the local papers and finally some space as a team in ASRA.

The only thing we really miss is a safe place to skate. Skate parks usually are not the best for longboarders, we don’t kick or jump, we roll in long and wide areas, especially with a deep ends and corners like most of our car parks.
If all neighbours and locals could contribute, one day a week at least to support us, boys, girls, kids and families could get together and have a fun day, it would be amazing. Police, please don’t treat us as delinquents we are not jumping on or damaging walls or breaking things. We are responsible riders who wear protection and ride in a green environmental way.

Hopefully when we return next year we will find a bigger community and an agreement for us to enjoy our sport.

Maga and Rob are currently still overseas, missing Byron but having an amazing time riding, traveling and having fun… We look forward to catching up with them upon return next year!

The Byron Chicky Babes Bomb Squad Film is courtesy of Flavio Biehl and the awesome shots by Rob Mcwhinnie.

Interview with Maga McWhinnie  by Claire Snel.