Meet the athlete and musician who’s paving the way for Black women in skateboarding.
If there’s one trick skateboarder Samarria Brevard is trying to master in life, it’s the ability to live moment by moment.
That can be hard to do nowadays when she’s got so many things on her mind. In the upcoming months she has her first shot at qualifying for the Olympic Games in 2020. In 2016, the International Olympic Committee (the IOC) announced that it would be adding skateboarding to the program and many skaters are gearing up for what might be their Summer Games debut.
Besides that daunting climb, Brevard has been thinking about filming clips for her next video part, writing her own rap songs, helping out around her house in Riverside, Ca. and spending time with her mom and all of her five younger siblings.
Yet despite all of the moving pieces around her, she’s always able to find stillness when she’s on her board. The moment Brevard goes out to skate, any inkling of the present or future fades away.
Skateboarding is her form of meditation.
“Not much is going through my mind when I feel my best,” Brevard told the Shadow League about finding her groove. “Like, I’m not thinking about much. Just whatever trick I’m going to do. It’s the only thing I’m picturing.”
Whether it’s landing the “tre flip” (her favorite) or just going out for a ride, she exudes this playful tranquility that’s enticing to watch. Some have called her the “Serena Williams” of skateboarding, although she often hesitates to claim the honor. Like the 23 Grand Slam champion, Brevard is an explosive athlete who can achieve great heights and speeds. She’s also made history as Brevard became the first black female athlete to medal at the X Games in 2017, and became a refreshing face in a pro sport that doesn’t see a lot of diversity in the States.
But she’s not the type of person to let all that change her humble vibe.
Her zen-like aura, mind-boggling tricks and fierce determination could carry her all the way to one of the most prestigious stages in the world of sport come 2020.
An Olympic stage that was so far removed from what she ever imagined as a kid.
The Come Up
Before Brevard discovered skateboarding, she was a baller.
As a 13-year-old kid growing up in Southern California, she played on her school’s basketball team. Sometimes she went to the court in her apartment complex to get some extra practice in. One day, when she was outside shooting some hoops, she saw her two younger brothers riding around on skateboards and was interested immediately.
“They looked like they’re having a lot of fun,” she said. “So I went and tried out one of their boards. And then I just wanted one.”
Once she got her own wheels, she started skating around with her brothers and their friends. Oftentimes, she was the only girl, but she never felt like she didn’t belong. Skating with the boys felt natural.
“My brothers were good with everybody so I was good with everybody,” she said. “I never felt out of place.”
In fact, she had found the one place where her heart could really sing.
“When I first landed a kickflip off a stair step, that was my solidifying moment,” she said. “[That] pretty much made me feel like I was going to skate forever.”
It wasn’t long before she and her brothers started entering local contests. In 2011 — when Brevard was 15 — her talent caught the eye of Lisa Whitaker, the founder of Girls Skate Network (GSN). GSN is an organization that works “to grow exposure for female skateboarders around the world”. Through Whitaker, Brevard started to meet other women who loved the sport as much as she did. The young teen also got a team to sponsor her: Hoopla Skateboards.
Since signing with her first sponsor, Brevard has climbed the ranks with style and humility. She became known for rocking dreadlocks and bucket hats. In 2014, she became the first black woman to win the Kimberly Diamond Cup Women’s Street Championship in South Africa. Two years later, she was featured in Thrasher’s Kings of the Road, one of the most premier skateboarding contests in the U.S.
Brevard has also been a part of projects empowering women in skateboarding. In 2017, she Brevard released a video part in Don’t Quit Your Day Job, the first all-female skate film to have debuted in America in over ten years.
Today, Brevard flaunts a thick, tawny fro as she skates. In many ways, she’s paving the path for young Black girls in the sport all over the world.
It would be over-simplifying to say her journey has been nothing but uphill. When her parents divorced, Brevard said she experienced a depression that prevented her from training the way she used to.
“My foundation was broken,” she said. “I slowly started isolating myself. Like not going out and skating as much. I was thinking about skateboarding every day, but it was just hard to get out myself to actually get through it.”
Luckily, she had friends who helped her to see the light. They gave her books such as The Way of the Peaceful Warrior and Creative Visualization — books that taught her understand her family’s trauma.
“I read those two books [which] led me to other books,” she said. “And I just kept reading and kept trying my best to do what the books were saying, and over time, things started clicking. I slowly started feeling a little better and really understanding what I wanted to do and how I wanted to go about doing them. You know there’s no ordinary moments. Things happen. They’re going to happen for a reason. And it’s just all like paying attention to those moments so you can learn from them.”
In her room, Brevard has lists of affirmations and goals written in caps all over her wall: “I AM ENOUGH. I HAVE ENOUGH. I DO ENOUGH.”, it reads.
Her recording equipment stands nearby. When she’s not skating, she writes music. Right now, Brevard says she goes to artists like SZA, Kehlani for inspiration as she writes lyrics to sort through thoughts and things going on in her life.
Whether she’s on her board or on the mic, one gets the impression that Brevard is the type of person who is doing her best to create good in the world — and time will only tell what else she will accomplish.
Skateboarding and the Olympics
The day the IOC announced that they were going to add skateboarding to the Olympics, Brevard was scared. She wasn’t sure she could handle the pressure of being in such a large global event. Everyone, skate fans and non-skate fans alike, would be watching.
“I definitely felt nervous about it because I kind of knew that I had a chance of being in it,” she said.
The Olympics is a foreign terrain to the world of skateboarding. For years, skate culture has thrived off its underground and street vibe. It’s debut at the Summer Games has been a controversial topic for some. Even if everyone isn’t stoked about it, some are excited about what the Olympics could mean for the growth of the sport. Many female skateboarders, including Brevard, have cited receiving more opportunities to get sponsorships and enter contests.
But Brevard isn’t sure what this all means for skateboarding just yet. “I don’t know if it’s good or bad,” she said. “Only time will tell us that.”
But at least at this point most of her butterflies have floated away.
“I’m trying to look at [the Olympics] as just another contest with just more people watching,” she said.
For now, she’s just going to train like she always does: Going out to skate with her friends and mastering tricks, eating as healthy as she can, competing against the best and finding cool places to film.
She’s feeling good, knowing that a trip to Tokyo could be nice cherry on top in 2020.
“My goal for this year is just really skate as much as I can and get my video part together,” she said. “I feel pretty positive about what could happen.”
No matter what happens next year, Brevard is going to create something for the world to watch.
Watch Samarria Brevard compete in the Dew Tour starting June 13th-16th in Long Beach, Ca. and check out the entire Black Girl Strength series here.