Getting On Board
Skateboarding fan Danni Gallacher talks to Glorious about how she turned her passion into a career that helped build the female skater community
A passion for skateboarding when growing up plus a natural curiosity to learn a wide range of skills helped Danni Gallacher turn her pastime into a female-focused movement. When she started her own website for female skaters, she became an instrumental force in creating a welcoming space for girls and women, building a skating community that has flourished. Danni has taken her vision further: she now creates and hosts retreats where skateboarding, yoga, nature and personal development combine for a relaxing and nurturing experience. We talked to her to find out more….
Glorious: Tell us about your journey into skateboarding?
Danni Gallacher: As a freshly turned teenager in 1999 – 2000, my best friend had a brother in the year above us in school who skated and I used to think it was so cool. We started hanging out with him and his friends and I learnt to push and go down (small!) hills. Learning tricks was never something I really considered that I would be able to do, so I just rolled around and used it to get from A to B. It wasn’t until around 2008 that I learnt there was a small but thriving female skate community in the UK, and I started attending the annual skate jams. Much of my twenties was spent travelling around Europe with the friends I made at those events, competing in skate contests across the UK and much of Europe.
Glorious: Since you started your website you’ve brought the female skater community together in ways no one could have imagined. Are you pleased with how things have worked out?
Danni Gallacher: I honestly couldn’t be more pleased, grateful and humbled by how the community has grown. Those in the scene for 10+ years will know just how drastically it has changed, not just participation numbers but in the availability of dedicated spaces – something that didn’t seem imaginable a decade ago. It’s so heartwarming to see new online skate groups form every week, and the community love and spirit within each one.
Glorious: As the community has grown and developed, has your vision changed? What do you want to see next for the community?
Danni Gallacher: It’s definitely changed. My first vision was as a type of online calendar – a bulletin board if you will – somewhere to announce event dates or showcase the latest video part. It quickly morphed into a platform to connect skaters, a virtual place to shine a spotlight on the members of our growing community, and also real life connection with female skate jams and events. Fast forward to 2021 and we are at a point where Girl Skate UK has become a central hub for all of the sub-communities within it, and whilst we still run events, connect the community and share news, it’s also somewhere beginners can learn how to start their journey into skating with our trick tips and guides. I would absolutely love to see more female coverage in mainstream skate media. Although it’s increasing it’s still not enough – and I’ll keep saying this until every other page is a woman, trans or non binary skater! I’d love to see more women in the skate industry as a whole, and I’d love to see more of us sharing our knowledge and experience to help other women do rad things for our community!
Glorious: How do you think girls and women can continue to be helped, both sport wise and for their personal development?
Danni Gallacher: Now that we have more dedicated spaces, I think we should be using them to run sessions and programmes that can foster confidence and personal development inside and outside of sport. Skateboarding is an incredibly addictive activity so let’s harness that dedication by offering workshops that run alongside regular skate sessions, whether that be in DIY, business, or general life skills.
Glorious: You recently hosted your first skateboarding retreats in Norfolk. How did these evolve?
Danni Gallacher: I have been involved in skate camps for over 12 years, I started by running week-long day camps for kids when working at my local skatepark. After that I was invited to work as a coach on residential skate camps across the UK, Berlin and Malmö from 2008-201, before co-running skate camps with my ex partner for seven years. I knew I wanted to run my own residential events. I wanted to do something similar to what I knew but I also had these ideas of creating something different to anything else that was out there. I imagined an alternative to the intense skate trips we all love as teenagers, and so decided to run more of a chilled-out gathering for adults, akin to a relaxed yoga or surf retreat.
Glorious: What is the most important aspect for those who take part?
Danni Gallacher: Honestly, it’s just for guests to have a good time, relaxing in the company of other like-minded skaters. I want to create welcoming and unique spaces where you can feel totally free and comfortable to learn new skills, no matter your ability. It’s important to me that our locations are calm and beautiful, making for the very best learning environments because when we are relaxed, we are more open to trying new things. I love that our retreats are not just about skateboarding but include an element of outside education. At the moment I run workshops focused around wellness, and I’m also super keen to share the knowledge I’ve gained over the years within the skate industry to help others turn their passion projects into paid projects.
Glorious: The Skate Retreat focuses on skateboarding, but there are additional activities from cocktail making to mushroom foraging. How important is it to reset and get back to nature? Are you an outdoorsy person?
Danni Gallacher: Absolutely, I spend all of my waking hours outside, now that I’m able to work full time amongst the trees and flowers. I feel so free and more like myself than in any other job I’ve had, and I’m so grateful to get to experience working on my own space, and at my own pace. Gardening is a passion: I have been designing and creating a medicinal and edible food forest rooted in permaculture methods at my humble 600sqm rented plot of land in Sheffield for the past five years, and I love to share what I’ve learnt about plants, herbalism, foraging and folklore with anyone who’ll listen! The foraging walks were my favourite part of the retreat (except for the campfire gin piñata night). I was surprised by how much the guests enjoyed it – they’re definitely going to be something I run again and expand on.
Glorious: How difficult was it to set up The Skate Retreat? What challenges did you face?
Danni Gallacher: There is no rainbow without rain and I’ve definitely learnt that the hard way this year! As with most businesses launching in a pandemic, the restrictions made for some slight detours and changes to plan. It’s certainly been no cruise in the park but it has meant that I’ve learnt a lot, become more resilient, and met some incredible people along the way.
Glorious: It must be rewarding to see attendees, who arrive as novices, leave with a new skill set and a new group of friends. How important is the social element in hosting such events?
Danni Gallacher: It’s one of the most important factors. I have been a skateboard coach for 12 years, but it wasn’t until I started running workshops at The Skate Retreat last year that I realised just how powerful social learning can be. Being in the company of others, especially at a level similar (and just above) creates such an empowering space, and I’ve found it’s this, coupled with a serene and natural environment, that’s likely the cause for the incredible progression we see day after day at our workshops. There’s nothing better than seeing the smile on someone’s face when they land a new trick or overcome a longstanding fear or mental barrier.
Glorious: With so much going on, how much time do you spend skateboarding these days?
Danni Gallacher: I skate maybe a few times a fortnight, it’s something I like to do when I’m feeling good. I don’t skate when I’m in a bad mood or feeling stressed, it doesn’t work for me anymore. I used to use skateboarding as a form of meditation but I realised that often made me feel pressured into ‘performing’ well, even if it was just for myself and no one else was around. If I go when I’m happy, all that positive energy gets transferred into my skating.
Glorious: Why has skateboarding been viewed as such a male-dominated sport for so long and is this changing?
Danni Gallacher: In countries where skateboarding is a new sport, like Afghanistan, we can see the gender split is relatively even, with organisations like Skateistan actually citing more girls than boys in some of their programmes. It really does just come down to exposure. When skateboarding was born it wasn’t unusual to see females grace the pages of magazines [Patty McGee, Life magazine, 1965] or be in skate teams [Peggy Oki in Z-boys] – skateboarding hadn’t yet had the chance to exclude.
But, with its rise in popularity through the 1980s, when skateboarding had formed itself a place in punk culture, women were pushed out of the media in favour of the more hypermasculine stereotypes. Media exposure is so, so crucial. We need not only more female-focused content, but we also need more female writers in mainstream magazines and publications because how can females relate to content written solely by and for men? Historically skate mags and companies have portrayed women as literally anything but skateboarders across their branding in a bid to sell their product – take Hook-Ups and Sk8 Mafia for example – naked women, often in sexual positions or fetishised, plastered across their decks and posters for years. Not only is it fucking lazy marketing, but it’s also wildly offensive and sends out a message that says: “you can be included, as long you get your tits out”. I think that these things, coupled with the wider societal portrayal of gender and it’s stereotypes of masculine and feminine sports has meant that, being a subculture within a subculture, female skateboarders face double the barriers that males face when trying to start their skate journey.
Glorious: What has been a positive aspect of the Tokyo Olympics for skaters?
Danni Gallacher: Mainstream media representation. Skateboarding’s Olympic debut has meant the sport has reached all corners of the globe and landed itself upon the screens of some of the most unlikely viewers. Skateboarders have notoriously been portrayed in the media as being a ‘nuisance’ for as long as I can remember, I hope that the public have now seen a different side: the beauty and poise, the passion, dedication and sportsmanship. The success of 13-yr-olds Momiji Nishiya, Rayssa Leal and Sky Brown showed the world that skateboarding really is for everyone, and I think we’ll see the repercussions of that a few years down the line.
Glorious: Do you play or practise any other sports?
Danni Gallacher: I don’t! I think that’s why I was quite drawn to skateboarding in the first place, it seems to attract a lot of misfits and people who might have shunned sports in school. What I love about skateboarding is that you don’t need a teammate, and there aren’t any rules. Of course there is etiquette and an unwritten code of conduct in skateparks, but you can just go out on your own with a skateboard and feel totally free.
Glorious: What’s next for Girl Skate UK and The Skate Retreat?
Danni Gallacher: I want to restructure Girl Skate UK and what we offer as a platform and I’ll likely start rolling this out with our Social Media Manager, Hayley Forrester (@thechicksarepacked) over the course of 2022. With the growth of local communities and female-focused spaces, our initial goals are starting to be realised and we can now start to work on ways to continue to help these communities flourish. As for The Skate Retreat, next year will see the return of our retreats. I plan on hosting a few weeks over the year with a couple of new locations and themes! This autumn was a ‘Relax & Recharge’ woodland glamping adults retreat, but I have plans in the pipeline for a family getaway, industry retreat and simple camp outs, as well as skate induction day events where total beginners are invited to learn everything they need to know to start skating. You can join our mail list if you’d like to keep in the loop on next year’s dates.
Glorious: What entrepreneurial advice would you give to someone who wants to develop their sporting passion into a business or career?
Danni Gallacher: I guess firstly figure out what it is that makes you the most passionate about your sport. Do you love designing or problem solving? Do you love to meet new people? Or is it coaching that excites you? I love running events and I love seeing the stoke on someone’s face when they land a new trick or skate for the first time. Watching the influx of new skaters join the GSUK community over the past few years, it just seemed a natural next step for me to start The Skate Retreat. I think it’s incredibly important to find your niche and be yourself. It’s great to take inspiration from others, but be careful not to copy them. It might work in the short term but isn’t something that can be sustained, and doesn’t look authentic for very long. A better way would be to reach out to people in the industry doing similar things to ask for some tips or advice on where or how they started. If you share a common goal, most would be happy to help.