My Next Trick: Stefani Nurding
Skater, skier, mother, influencer, the list goes on. We discuss 'hustle' mentality and the crossover between skateboarding and fashion with Stefani Nurding
By Rosie Fitzmaurice
When you look at Stefani Nurding’s Instagram, you might think you see two different personas; a fashion influencer working with brands to promote content, her signature look consisting of cute skirts, long socks and bunches; then there’s the ambitious athlete who can do some impressive tricks, and trains hard. But Stefani says she sees style and skating very much as one and the same thing.
She found her way into skateboarding initially via surfing. Growing up in Plymouth, Devon, the hilly terrain and proximity to the beach served as a playground for thrill-seekers like herself. But after one particularly bloody scrape on her knees following a fall, her mother urged her to reconsider her new-found hobby.
Some friends introduced her to snowboarding in her teens and aged 17 she headed to French ski resort Morzine for her first season, going on to complete three more, working as a cleaner and later a chef. “I hated snowboarding at first but then something clicked and I got really good really quickly. That’s because I’m naturally quite brave and a bit of an adrenaline junkie,” Stefani says. “I went to loads of competitions and came second in British Halfpipe and Slopestyle.” But she quickly figured out this lifestyle wasn’t going to work. “Being working class, growing up with a single mum from a small town – I blame it on my background really and that’s not something I like doing – but I was getting up at 8am each morning to go snowboarding and working three jobs to afford to do the season. The people I was competing against were just training because they could afford to. So there was this huge gap.”
Instead, Stefani headed to university to study fashion – her other great love. But she later picked up skating again, reconnecting with people she’d met on the snowboarding scene which, she explains, helped her connect with brands, doors she doesn’t think would have opened to her otherwise. Describing this as her “hustle” mentality, Stefani says she tries to instill this in her younger followers. “I’m like, get yourself out of your situation and be where you can make connections with people, because I wouldn’t have had access to those types of contacts or that world if I hadn’t done my season.”
In 2016 Stefani made history by becoming the first British woman to compete at skateboarding in the US Open, but could only watch the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics when skateboarding was included for the first time as she’d just given birth to her son the year before. An emergency C-section led to a longer than expected recovery time – around two years to get back to the level that she was – and then she broke her ankle. This, she believes, means it’s now unlikely that she’ll qualify to make it to the Paris Olympics with Team GB in 2024, something she had hoped for. “It was a bit devastating for me. I have always been very resilient but I had to accept that this is no longer such a realistic goal – and I think it’s good because I need to concentrate on building my brand,” she says, adding her signature positive spin.
Now living in Brixton in south London, Stefani, 33, juggles motherhood with running her own skate business, working as a model and getting out to skate herself, filming content and collaborations. Would she describe herself primarily as a fashion influencer or an athlete? She’s quick not to be put in a box. “I’m really attracted to that world, there are lots of women who are influencers, they’ve got their business, they dress really sharp, and those women really inspire me. And then at the same time, I’m very interested in core skateboarding,” Stefani says. “I actually think that skateboarding and fashion are very, very similar and not a lot of people see the crossover. My goal in life is to have the most fun I can have and for me experimenting and pushing yourself really hard to do tricks is the same as experimenting with a cool outfit. When people get vexed about the big dresses, it confuses me. It’s just freedom of expression isn’t it?”
Do her male peers underestimate her ability on a board because of what she wears? Stefani pauses and thinks before responding, “I don’t necessarily think it’s the people at the skatepark, you do sometimes get that vibe but not at mine in Stockwell because they all know me and they’re just like, ‘it’s her again, do you want us to film you?’” she laughs. “You get more of that online.”
Stefani says she has learned to be “more careful” about how she interacts with her more than 115,000 followers, perhaps taking a kill-them-with-kindness approach to trolls. “If someone shouts at me to do a kickflip, l’ll just do it, it creates a good vibe. When someone watches your video on social media and you’re wearing a feminine outfit doing an awesome trick it can be a surprise – I imagine that’s why you get all the views and likes. But I do think it depends on your frame of mind.” She adds that there was a “turning point” for her when she noticed social media was affecting her mental health. “I had been getting loads of messages all the time, calling me a poser [and worse] and I hadn’t understood that it was affecting me. I was just ignoring it and then one day I had a mini breakdown.
I realised that Instagram and all the negativity was really bothering me so I made the decision to just stop talking and start responding in a positive way. That has really helped. And as my channel grows bigger, my goal is to just stay positive.”
Her Instagram is full of videos of her doing impressive tricks in short skirts, long white socks, fishnets, bunches and Nike Dunks, interspersed with clips of her flying down the street on a board in big poofy couture-like dresses and a beanie. How would she describe her distinct style? “I guess it’s eclectic. I really love the look with the long socks and the little skirts – people think it’s for attention from men but actually, it’s because people are like, how dare you be wearing that here? And I’m like, I’m going to put this on and take up some space over here. I find it funny playing around with ideas of what you can and can’t do.” She adds: “When I look at others, I’m really attracted to that sleek, minimalistic style, but it’s just not my true self. It all just comes out. I can’t help it.”
She explains that when planning outfits, she’ll think primarily about the movement the clothes would make on a skateboard. “When I see a dress or I’m looking for outfits on Instagram, it’s the thought of the skating and video. I love creating and editing so when I look at things, I’m like, oh, I could see that making some really nice movement.”Looking after a three-year-old, is it hard to find the time to skate? “It’s been very, very intense. I was already quite organised and scheduled before I had my son, so it hasn’t been that challenging for me to manage my time, but I think unless you are bang on it it’s close to impossible. I wake up at five or six in the morning, work before he wakes up and then most evenings I’ll work until 12 or 1am.” When she does have childcare, it’s gym, studio and skate. “When I was younger and first moved to London, I’d just skate all day and sometimes at night too, but now that I have limited time, keeping up with my fitness outside of it gives me the agility I need. I do a lot of Pilates so when I fall, I know I’m stronger and can react quickly.”
Stefani’s business Salon, which sells skateboards and apparel, began with a white T-shirt emblazoned ‘dump him go skateboarding’ which sold out faster than she could make it, but Stefani says she has made the decision not to get “sucked into the world of wholesale and fast fashion.” She adds: “I just felt like I had so much more creativity and more to offer as a designer. It was hard, because I was making a lot of money from doing that but I want to do something more genuine.” Now she’s working on a skate-inspired designer collection with a planned fashion show in the works, though she remains button-lipped about the details. After researching ideas for months, “it’s suddenly all coming together. I’ve just had these epiphanies in the last few days. Bang, bang, bang. I know exactly what I’m making now!”
Her goal has always been to encourage more women into skating “and make them feel like they don’t have to change who they are in order to be there and I feel like my new collection is really going to reflect that.” It’s a good time to be championing women in skating. “The gender gap in skating is narrowing to the point where there’s so many amazing, really talented young girls who are shockingly good that I almost feel like there’s no gap.” She namechecks Japanese skater Kokona Hiraki and Lola Tambling from Cornwall, both 14, as well as 15-year-old Lily Strachan as ‘ones to watch’. “The level has gone extreme. Now there are all these young girls who are doing things that none of the men at the skatepark could even think of doing, it’s super exciting. Where there is a gap though, is a lot of publications and magazines are owned by men. And although there are so many talented women and the scene is booming, it’s not reflected in that area.”
Her best advice for aspiring female skaters? If you don’t have a board, borrow one. “It’s really important to use a decent one but they can be expensive (around £100). And then just get outside and roll around or even practise standing still on carpet, see how it feels. Take your time, watch some YouTube videos and follow some girls on Instagram. Oh, and make sure you try to connect with women’s skate groups – they’re out there.”
In England, Girl Skate UK , can help you find a local group.