Lacey Baker is a recent transplant to New York, but you wouldn’t know by the way she skateboards on the Lower East Side, easily navigating potholes and cracked pavement in the shadow of the Manhattan Bridge. Dressed in black jeans and a loose black T-shirt, with short-cropped yellow hair as bright as a tennis ball, she comes to a stop in front of Colman skatepark. School is just getting out on one of the first nice days of spring, and high school boys begin streaming in. She’s got a torn ligament in her ankle – she rolled it skateboarding in January, and hasn’t been able to do much beyond pushing around since – so instead of joining them on the court, she stares through the gates, her eyes following the boys as they cut through the park. A kid rides by and she gives him a nod, the universal skater acknowledgment, but he stops. “Wait, I know you,” he says. “You’re famous!”
With a shaved head and androgynous look, Baker, 25, is known in skateboarding as much for her outspokenness against the misogyny of the corporate industry – which she has called “a bunch of dudes making decisions and judgments” – as her technical finesse on a board. And both as a queer woman and a person who doesn’t necessarily identify with a traditional view of femininity, she’s brought a rebellious approach to a sport that has largely become accepted by the mainstream, becoming one of skateboarding’s youngest outsiders. Yet with a kind manner and an infectious sense of humor, Baker’s got a focus and drive that make her a beloved figure within the scene. “She’s a ball of joy, so much fun to be around,” says Vanessa Torres, her teammate on Meow skateboards. “Her talent is undeniable.”
Since skateboarding first became a trend a half-century ago, women have been participating, but few have achieved prominence. From Patti McGee balancing on the tiny boards of the 1960s, to Cara-Beth Burnside shredding bowls in the 1980s to Jamie Reyes and Elissa Steamer leading the charge through the 1990s, a few women have become pro, though not nearly at the rate of their male counterparts. Most companies have neglected the female skaters, showering endorsements and sponsorship cash on generations of teenage boys while sponsoring no more than a dozen women. But thanks to an increased awareness of women in the industry – due in a large part to social media – Lacey is part of the generation of women to who are going to break through together. “Where we’re at versus like the men’s side of things is actually kind of cool,” she says. “It’s one of the first generations, and now the generations to follow are gonna be a lot more saturated. And the more visibility there is for women skating, the more people are going to realize, ‘Oh, this is actually like a thing.’ It’s something that should have never not been taken seriously.”
Baker started skateboarding a few months after she started walking. She was two, briefly living in foster care in Southern California, and couldn’t stop staring at the half-pipe set up in the backyard. “I was obsessed with watching my foster brothers skate,” she says. “They asked me what I wanted for Easter and immediately my answer was skateboard.” She got the board, and took it outside right away. “I remember it was early as fuck in the morning, they set my board down and I’m like, I’m doing it!” In reality, she wasn’t doing much – she was standing on the skateboard in the center of the half-pipe, not moving at all – but it was a solid start. “That’s where I fell in love with it,” she says. “I’ve been skating ever since.”
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