The world of extreme sports, traditionally a man’s world, is slowly opening up to women. In Texas, and the cities of Houston, Dallas and Austin, women are becoming increasingly interested in three of the six X-Game categories: speed climbing, wakeboarding and in-line skating. A group of women was also invited to demonstrate their talent in freestyle motocross and both vertical (or “vert”) and street skateboarding. Although the women showed they were capable of creating excitement in the audience with their feats, the money available to female competitors is still an issue in championship events.
At a recent Xbox World Championship of Skateboarding, for example, the top three male street skaters took home a total of $34,000, while the top three females took home $3,600.
While young women have participated in alternative and extreme sports from the very beginning, they have not been given the same recognition as their male colleagues, although many are doing their part to break through.
The category “alternative sports” may have been around for decades but only recently has it been called “extreme.” Publicity around the word “extreme” extends into the world of marketing, with the “extreme flavor” of a brand of chips or a drink being given “extreme taste.” For the industry, an extreme sport is defined as a “non-traditional sport that focuses on extreme and varying conditions, and challenges both the mental and physical abilities of its participants.”
While most extreme athletes average in their early 20s, some involved are much younger, even in their early teens.
It’s not necessarily the money that drives young women to compete. Another motivation is to break the stereotypes about men being the only ones out to get a rush of adrenaline. Despite having a love of extreme sports, young women competing in extreme sports seem to have accepted the fact that the money is not (yet) there for them. Sponsors now may pay entry fees, travel expenses and equipment, but the big money is still reserved for male competitors who often get paid by sponsors.
Part of the problem, observers say, is that extreme sports are driven by big business, the point being that if the industry doesn’t expect a large enough audience – – consumers ready and willing to buy the products — they don’t think its worth supporting the athletes. Others say the world of extreme sports has its share of sexism, with judging seemingly based on how women look rather than on their athletic ability.
Some women say they feel uncomfortable about the way skate magazines and images on the skate decks portray women. Advertising can also be an issue for some; clothing companies are known to hire models to wear the clothes in ads rather than the female athletes – – something observers say would not occur with men’s sporting apparel. That can create a problem when it comes to young girls choosing female athletes as role models: if they pick up a magazine, the only females they see are models skimpily dressed or in fashion photography, not competing.
Other women have taken the initiative, one being the founder of Chickabiddy, a surfing and snowboarding clothing company geared to women. Along with a line of women’s clothing, Chickabiddy sells a rash guard, a top worn during surfing to help prevent chaffing, and made especially for women’s bodies. Chickabiddy sponsors eight girls in both snowboarding and surfing, and also has a website for the “female action sports enthusiast.”
There are other people with the aims of Chickadiddy founders on the web, making the Internet one place where women interested in extreme sports can start changing their world. One place is Mxgirls.com, which focuses on the world of women in motocross, its founder having created the site due to a lack of Internet exposure.
Women are slowly breaking into the world of extreme sports, a world where men have long dominated. The more of an audience they build, the more likely it will be that interest continues to build. If you’re a young woman looking to “push the limits” maybe you should check to make sure you’re ready in every part of your life, including health insurance. Take a look at the revolutionary, comprehensive and highly affordable individual health insurance solutions created by Precedent specifically for you.