Sports

A Pro Skateboarder Who’s Shredding A Path For Women In The Sport

by Christine Yu

August 7, 2017
Lizzie Armanto with a backside air during the Vans Park Series. Photo by Acosta, courtesy of Vans.

In March 2017, Lizzie Armanto showed up at a backyard in Southern California to film a part in a video project for one of her sponsors. Little did the skateboarder know that it would be one of the biggest days of her career.

That day, skateboard legend Jeff Grosso presented Armanto with the May 2017 issue of Thrasher magazine with her image flying high on the cover — only the third female cover ever, and the first in 24 years. Then, Tony Hawk gave Armanto her first professional skateboard model.

Even though the 24-year-old from Santa Monica, California, has dominated the scene for years and is backed by a bevy of sponsors like Vans, Birdhouse, LifeProof, and Target, she wasn’t considered a professional since she didn’t yet have a namesake skateboard model — the marker of turning pro in the skateboarding world. Now, it was official.

Armanto has had an impressive run. She won gold at the 2013 X Games in Barcelona and silver at the 2016 X Games in Austin, Texas. She also won the 2013 and 2014 Van Doren Invitational. In November 2016, she was the first woman to grace the cover of Transworld Skateboarding. Needless to say, she’s inspired countless girls and women to skate.

I caught up with Armanto at the Vans Park Series global qualifier event in Huntington Beach, California. We talked about how she prepares for competitions, what it means to go pro, and her advice for girls who want to skate.

(The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.)

You recently turned pro. How does it feel?

It’s crazy. It’s a huge milestone. You think, “That’s cool. Some day I want to go pro.” To watch it unfold, it feels fake. You hold [that accomplishment] so high that when you’re there it’s like, “Holy crap. This is real. Pinch me.”

Tony Hawk handed me my pro board and my really good friend Jeff Grosso handed me the cover of Thrasher. It’s happening at the same time. Both are big in skateboarding. If anyone gets it, it’s amazing. Getting them together is crazy. On top of that, being a female? It doesn’t really happen.

Tell me about your board.

It’s done by the artist Kenneth Srivijittakar. I used to see his artwork all around Santa Monica. It’s a bunch of things that I really like: octopus, eggs — it’s supposed to be a breakfast party, and I love eggs. There’s a gardenia, my favorite flower.

Armanto at the Vans Park Series. Photo by Julian Martin, courtesy of Vans.

How has the sport of skateboarding changed for women since you started competing?

There are more women skating and more events and support now. I’ve traveled a lot over the past month and have gone to other countries. You see more females skating, which is really cool.

Do you think of yourself as a pioneering female athlete?

I do think about it. It’s weird because when I think about it, it feels like pressure. But at the end of the day, I get to skate, which is amazing.

I didn’t jump to this all of a sudden. It’s like when a symphony orchestra has a performance. They don’t decide that day they’re going to be great. They’ve practiced and have had to uphold a level of excellence. All these things I’ve done, I’ve been working towards them and pushing myself. To see it backed up with support from the industry is amazing. I’m really thankful. I’m thankful for my parents for supporting me and for my manager for helping me figure out what I need to do so I can focus on my skating.

What gets you excited about competitions like the Vans Park Series?

I really enjoy the practice sessions. You see everyone ticking away and trying to figure out little things. It’s fun watching everyone’s process. I also enjoy the process of trying to figure out [my run].

What’s your process for putting together your run?

They build a new [park terrain] every year. Even though they have similar key points, the transitions are laid out differently. It’s like Scrabble. I have a bunch of pieces and I’ll puzzle them together. It’s a matter of figuring out what the word is going to be, figuring out what my run is going to be.

I pretty much know where I want to do certain [tricks] but I have to put it in a line and have the right speed. Sometimes it’s hard to figure out how to get to each place. Sometimes, you don’t figure it out until the day of [competition].

Armanto at the Vans Park Series. Photo by Julian Martin, courtesy of Vans.

What are you working on now?

Earlier this year, I put out my first video part, which is a big thing. [My second project] comes out at the end of August. It’s a Birdhouse video called “Saturdays.” I’m excited to see all the footage they’ve put together from the past year and a half. The parts of all the other team riders are so gnarly.

What would you say to the girls who want to skate?

If you want to do anything — it doesn’t matter if it’s skating — you should do it. You shouldn’t find excuses. You should find the reasons why you need to do it and how to do it. If you don’t put any action behind it, it doesn’t mean anything.

Skateboarding has taught me that in a very literal sense. If you fall, you have to get back up. If you want to learn how to do something, you have to try and try and try. They say one of the definitions of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. But in skateboarding, that’s what we do and amazing things happen.

Share image by Acosta, courtesy of Vans.

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