The following feature appears in the May 2016 issue of NYLON.

For women in a male-dominated sphere, it can be tough not just to forge their way in an environment that wasn’t designed for inclusion, but also to carve out their own communal spaces within that world. And while women tearing up the scene in skateboarding is certainly nothing new, the history of the skate crew tradition—from the Z-Boys to the Bones Brigade—offers relatively little in the way of girl gangs. So here, get to know some badass squads of skater girls as they sound off on sisterhood and the sickest spots to shred in their cities. 

Click through the gallery to continue the feature. 

Photographed by Scott León.

LOS ANGELES

Meow Skateboards Team

One of only six women’s skate teams worldwide, this largely Cali-based crew boasts some of the most notable names in competitive skateboarding. Spurred not only by the dearth of women in the industry but even more so by the notable absence of mainstream support, Lisa Whitaker launched the company in 2012 with only four members (Vanessa Torres, Amy Caron, Kristin Ebeling, and Jen Soto). A few years later, it’s a formidable 11-lady squad and growing. REMY RAMIREZ

How did Meow come to be?
Whitaker: I was at a major contest, and I saw that out of the top 10 girls, only one or two had a board sponsor that promoted them or included them on the team—and these were the top girls in the world. I had pro boards on my wall, but none were from any of these women. I wanted to start something where we could make boards with these girls’ names on them, something they could be a part of, to grow together.

Tell me about the sense of community within the group.
Savannah Headden: I’m from the East Coast, and when I came to L.A. and saw the connection—how stoked they are off each other—it immediately felt welcoming. It’s fun skating with dudes, but a crew of girls is going to be more encouraging. It feels good knowing there are girls who do exactly what I do, who don’t care what other people think. It’s empowering.

How do you build the team?
Whitaker: Everyone has to fit together and fit the style of the company. Savannah is one of the newest team riders. She came out from Virginia recently to film a video, ended up skating with the team a lot, and it just clicked.
Headden: I took a leap of faith and bought a one-way ticket. I had a good feeling about it.
Torres: The truth is there aren’t many of us, so it’s not hard to make those decisions. 

What local skate shops do you love?
Lacey Baker: Pawnshop Skate Co. in Covina, where I grew up.
Headden: Lisa’s garage. Seriously.

Where are the best places to board in L.A.?
Baker: There are a lot of plazas popping up all over the place, and those are good places to learn tricks. There are great spots everywhere in L.A. for street skating. Just today we got lost driving in Atwater and pulled into this warehouse that had ledges all over the fucking place. It said no skateboarding, so you know you have to go.

How has being in Meow impacted your skating?
Baker: Personally, it inspired me to keep skating. There was a time when I was really struggling. I was trying to ride for companies that didn’t give a shit about my skating, and my fire was dying out. Being a part of Meow re-lit it in me, because it’s bigger than just joining a team—we have a purpose, a goal. We support each other. That’s what I needed.

How does an all-girl skate team benefit the skate world in general?
Baker: We need a community. The most important thing is creating a space for girl skaters to exist. At 10 years old, I thought Elissa Steamer was the only other girl skater in the whole world. This company brings us together and gives us a way to reach out to other girls so our community grows.