Babes Skate North

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Babes Skate North 2.0

Story by Aimee Robinson

Photos by Stella Grob and Chantal Garcia

Video by Chantal Garcia

Staring at the bowl of Huntsville Skatepark ahead of me, my nerves are intensified by the blazing sun. “Oh damn,” I think. I’m never gunna get this. I push forward and execute a pretty feeble Rock to Fakie up the graffiti-ridden ramp…

But then, from behind me, a round of applause erupts…

“You go girl.”

“You’re killin’ it”.

Whistles and cheers of empowerment and support. And that’s when my anxiety subsides and I realise that this is what it’s all about.

Pretty seasoned in the world of skating, but not so much in the art itself, I was invited to join the Babes Brigade 2.0 skate trip to North Bay in July. The first collective of its type that I, at least, had ever heard of in a city that I lived.

Babes Brigade is a women’s skateboarding group and brand founded back in July 2015 by Stephanie Battieste, who noticed the growing population of female skateboarders in Toronto, and wanted a way to connect and empower the community.

As the off-centre leader of the pack, while Stephanie is the brain behind the initial operation, she’s not about hogging the spotlight, and instead is keen to celebrate the achievements of her sisters.

The inaugural Babes Go North trip came to existence in the summer of 2016, when team members and North Bay natives Amber Moffatt and Chantal Garcia had a light-bulb moment. The group would gather a collective of sick lady-shredders from the city, drive them north into nature, and hit up as many skate spots as possible on the way. Babes on tour, literally.

With the help of Stephanie’s organizational wizardry, one year on, and the trip had levelled up- 2.0 style.

But this year, things got real exciting, when Vans, impressed by countless other events from the group, decided to get involved. To the outside world it might just look like a pair of shoes for each skater and some merchandise, but for the 14 of us, man, it was like Christmas came early. And it was validation for everyone involved, this shit is making an impact.

Trip day started off at Dunbat Skatepark, in the centre of Toronto, and although we hadn’t even set off yet, already some warm up skating was underway. Camera in hand and feet firmly glued to her board, the way she would remain for the entire trip, Chantal was already lining up some sick shots for the edit.

And the crew themselves were all armed with a set of challenges, ‘King of the Road’ style.

Four skaters to a car, the first stop on our journey was Bracebridge Skatepark, a small-town spot, home to a unique wavy ledge over a suspicious looking gap- we lovingly named it “The Dungeon”. Try to Ollie the nearby stair set and there’s a high chance you’ll end up eating shit.

Already everyone was fighting to complete their team challenges- a shared trick from Parm Kaur and Sam Patterson, which saw them attempting an Ollie in unison from the same deck, and Bast, the designated skate-pup, a black and white Jack Tzu, lapping up the attention on hand from all the girls.

‘Get a stranger’s phone number’, ‘do a shared trick’ and ‘find your male look alike’ all checked off the list for some teams, it was time to hit up the nearby Go Karting track at family vacation spot, Santa’s Village.

In our teams we took to the track in an attempt to gain the fastest time. Helmets on, with two teenage workers trying to still the anarchy this pack of 14 skater chicks were unleashing on their place of employment; we went hard. While I’m pretty sure it became impossible to determine exactly who won, it was one of the biggest laughs of the trip, and totally brought everyone’s competitive streak to the forefront.

After stopping to refuel, and obviously attempting as many parking lot tricks as possible, the Babes headed back to Amber’s house and passed out- most of us too tired to even party.

Day two saw us descend on Bonfield Skatepark, a structure reminiscent of an enclosed parking lot set in the middle of the most beautiful ever-green nature. The park offers enough equipment for all skill levels, and we pretty much had the whole place to ourselves. Ramps were skated, ledges grinded and some sick Frontside 360s over a waterlogged patch, before we embarked on the most scenic part of the trip- Talon Chute.

The Talon Chute is a beautiful waterfall on the Mattawa River, about a half hour drive east from North Bay. The scene itself is pretty surreal, it’s like something out of Lord of the Rings, but minus all the Orcs and shit.

The spot saw Chantal and Maddy Balt attempt an Ollie from a 30ft drop right into the water. This alone amassed enough interest from locals to attract a family of canoes to dock up and watch us. I guess its not every day you see some girls hurling themselves from a cliff-face aboard a skateboard.

And in that moment, there it was again. Support. Every time Chantal got a little nervous, or Maddy had to climb back up and try again: “You’re killin’ it”, “You have it this time”, “Fuck yeah”.

The thing about this trip is that it was about so much more than skateboarding. It was about exploring some of the most beautiful spots in Northern Ontario; it was about meeting new people; and most of all, it was empowering each other and growing as a team.

Which brings me back to Huntsville. After three days of heavy skating under the beating sun, everyone was aching, but we weren’t about to give up- there were still challenges to be checked off the list. And there were some sweet stair sets, a buttery bowl and some ground ideal for a killer line.

With so many chicks pulling out so many gnarly tricks, it’s hard to pinpoint just one standout. It could be Maddy Ollieing that 30 ft. drop at the Talon Chute, it could be Amber blowing everyone away on a standard grocery shop with her epic Ollie between two parking lot speed bumps, or it could be Dana Alwazani pulling out an unexpected 180 boneless over a pole. Those were just a handful of memorable moments.

At the end of it all, gross Shad Flies eaten and countless tricks landed, overall it looked like Amber and Stephanie would take home the Babes Go North trophy for most challenges completed.

And while no team completed all of the challenges (way too many mosquitos to sleep outside without a tent, and we were all too drunk to figure out who exactly did the fastest beer shotgun), what we did all achieve was a new dose of inspiration and a strengthened sense of recognition and team spirit.

Babes Skate North 2.0: success. 

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Photo by Stella Grob