MANHATTAN BEACH, Calif. – Meredith Loewenstein dropped in on a concrete quarter pipe at Manhattan Beach Skatepark. The 16-year-old’s ride sent her weaving around children on scooters, teenagers on bikes and young adults on boards.
There were shades of Scottsdale native Liam Pace’s 2021 X Games gold medal run, with Loewenstein’s all black attire a contrast to the concrete park. But Loewenstein could also be compared to Pace’s counterpart in that competition, 13-year-old Sky Brown, best known for her bronze medal run in the 2020 Summer Olympics.
In other words, Loewenstein fit right in, not looking out of place at all at the park, except for one noticeable detail: Everyone else there was male.
“I would say it’s fairly common,” said Jackie Loewenstein, Meredith’s older sister. “Almost everyone that she skates with are boys.”
Meredith put that number at 99%.
“I don’t really mind it though,” she said.
Loewensteins’s journey with skateboarding often involved being the odd one out. It remains a male-dominated sport on both the recreational and professional levels.
“I can’t think of many other girls that she knows that skates, if any at this age,” Jackie said. “Maybe when she was a little younger.”
She doesn’t really mind it and has emerged as an accomplished skateboarder. In 2019, she won the girls 13-and-over division prize of the Redondo Beach Police King of the Harbor Skateboard Championship. Due to her success, she has received care packages from well known apparel companies in the skating world, including Converse and Spitfire.
Skateboarding has provided a culture and an environment where she is accepted. From the beginning, Meredith found the park a place of opportunity.
“Most people would include me,” Meredith said. “I wasn’t, like, that bad at skating. Not to brag or anything. But I was usually included.”
She’s a product of the environment in which she grew up, said Todd Loewenstein, Meredith’s father.
“This area is a surfing and skate culture, and I think it’s pretty natural, whether it’s a boy or a girl, to take up the sport,” he said.
Despite often being the only girls at the park, she and her sister don’t feel that male skaters treat them any differently.
In fact, they say that gender-based insults seem to originate from outside the skating community.
“That’s what I’ve seen,” Jackie said. “A lot of the other skaters that are guys push her to do tricks and they’re all supportive. Most of the negative stuff comes from people outside the skate community who just think girls can’t do it as well as guys can.”
Todd said he and his wife have always encouraged their daughters to be competitive.
On social media, Meredith has amassed over 5,000 followers on Instagram. Her social media is extremely curated and at the moment her Instagram has only six posts.
“Instagram is more skating based,” Meredith said. “I do post other content, but skating does the best. I feel like that’s what people kind of follow me for.”
It’s important that Meredith portrays herself as just a skater, Jackie said.
“She likes to make the videos just as most of the other guys do. Straight up just tricks. She doesn’t make it girly or anything. Qs you can see she isn’t a super girly girl, and she just tries to make her videos just like everyone else.”
Like the skate parks, the online skate culture Meredith has encountered has remained largely positive. The only negativity she has received comes from outside the culture.
“She shreds with boys all the time,” Todd said. “In fact I think she’s better than a lot of the boys.”
Her ability to amass a strong following with so few posts and gain mainstream exposure through wins in local competitions shows how much women’s skateboarding has grown.
On the professional side, female skateboarders have long had a presence in the sport. The X Games feature web pages dedicated to highlighting trailblazing female skateboarders like Nora Vasconcellos and Helena Long. They also mention female skaters with a specific emphasis on the impacts they are able to have on social media, including Leticia Bufoni.
The debut of both men’s and women’s skateboarding at the 2020 Olympics exposed many to the idea of professional skateboarding, but the X Games and its recognition of female boarders and the creation of team skateboarding events was probably most pivotal.
Meredith says the sport’s exposure has heightened drastically since she started, and there are more opportunities for girls who want to skate at a high level and compete on a team.
“More girl skaters are being recognized and seen,” Meredith said. “When I first started skating, I didn’t really know that many girl skaters. I guess I wasn’t as knowledgeable about it. But I feel like over time many more skaters have been going pro and being acknowledged throughout the skate scene.”
The X Games will be returning to Southern California in July with a new skateboarding event called “SloanYard,” named after five-time gold medalist Elliot Sloan. Tucson native Pace won gold in Men’s Skateboard Park in 2021 as a 20-year-old. Brown won gold inWomen’s Skateboard Park that year. Both have received automatic invites for this year’s events.
Of course, like all athletes, Meredith has faced her fair share of hurdles. A leg injury sidelined her from skating for a time, and the general workload transition from middle school to high school has cut back on her skating time as well.
“She just has other things to do, like with school,” Jackie said. “She plays golf also for the high school. She has other commitments.”
Meredith is learning to adjust with a full plate of responsibilities.
“I kind of just skate when I have free time,” Meredith said. “I used to have more free time in middle school and elementary school to skate. It’s definitely harder to skate now with all the work I get. But I still just try to keep on progressing as I get older.”
Fewer female friends who skate factors into her skating frequency now as well.
“Definitely in middle school she was skating every single day after school, and had a lot of friends that were doing it too,” Jackie said. “I think (she skates less now) because less of her friends skate now.”
Plus, Todd said, “Her injury wasn’t something super serious. I think it was a little frustrating for her not to be skating, but I also think that maybe it showed her there’s some limitations involved in it, and you have to be careful.”
Meredith has begun to transition from a full blown competitor to a more casual skater.
“Probably a couple of years ago I wanted to be, like, really pro,” Meredith said. “Now, I’ll take pro if I can but I don’t really care if I can’t. I can do other things with my life.”
Meredith, who plans to attend college, has started taking a mentorship role with younger skateboarders and has applied to start working with a skateboarding camp.
She wants to start reflecting her new mindset on her social media accounts as well.
“I’m trying to get more videos out, it’s just kind of hard,” Meredith said. “I enjoy other hobbies as well. I like to hang out with friends, and not a lot of my friends skate.”
Meredith knows that this choice could impact the online following she has, but posting what she wants to post is more important to her than numbers.
Her story is reflective of the growth of a sport and a culture. She has time to pursue other interests in her life while still achieving a high enough skating profile to receive care packages from mainstream brands.
Joining a higher level team when she gets older is still in the cards for her. Not too long ago, this would have been unthinkable for skaters not committing 100% of their time to practice, men or women.
It’s possible now. The kids Meredith will coach at camps, regardless of their gender identities, will now have opportunities to grow a profile and a following with hard work.