Valarie LaForge: Barefoot Skating, Identity, Community, and Smiles
What’s your name and how old are you?
Valarie LaForge and I’m 24.
Where is home to you?
I’m from Sonoma County. I’m from a really small town called Occidental, just outside of Sebastopol. A couple of months ago I left for my road trip down to Baja so I have been on the road.
How did you get into skating?
I actually started skating in New Zealand. I was playing on a semi-pro soccer team there, and all of the girls over there had carver skateboards. They were like dude you should come skate with us! I had never skated before and I was always really intimidated by it, but they brought me to a pump track there. It was the sickest pump track ever. It overlooked the city of Wellington. That was my first time skating at the pump track and I was so terrible. But after like two days I knew I needed to buy a carver. So I went to the local skate shop and bought one.
When did you start semi-professional soccer?
I grew up playing soccer and in college, I played at Saint Mary’s. So after college, a bunch of my friends were going to play pro in all these countries and I was kinda over soccer for a while. So I just started traveling and while I was traveling my friend suggested I play for her team in New Zealand. I was like “ok” and I went to New Zealand and played for a team in Wellington.
How did you get into surfing?
I started surfing first. Probably around two years ago. After graduating college, I went and taught English in the Philippines. And I was teaching at this surf school on this little island. SO basically I was like teaching English in exchange for housing and learning to surf. Which was super sweet!
How has skating affected your life?
I always tell people that skating has given me so many of my best friends. I don’t know, I guess I had soccer as my identity. But after I graduated I was kinda like 'woah I have nothing to build community around!' Skateboarding really gave me a sense of identity and confidence and freedom. It gave me a reason to travel also! I mean you can travel anywhere and find skateparks which I think is one of the coolest things because you have something in common with these people. Like I’m in Mexico right now, and my spanish is ok but not great. But every time I go to the skatepark it’s so easy to make friends and build a community there. The culture with surfing was not as inviting, but with skating, I felt so embraced. All the skaters that I met are so encouraging. It felt safe and inclusive. A lot of people are intimidated by skating or skateparks, but I find it to be one of the most welcoming communities.
Some of us at Withitgirl watched your video with Carver about skating barefoot. How does skating barefoot make you feel?
I basically walk everywhere barefoot. When I was traveling to the Philippines, Australia, and New Zealand I didn’t wear shoes for like 8 months. I love to feel the earth and it helps me stay grounded. Honestly, I was so inspired by this little 8-year-old at the skatepark one day who was dropping in barefoot! I didn’t even think that was possible. It was so sick. I tried it and I was like WOAH. If you think skating is freeing, skating barefoot is like one of the most freeing feelings. You have to have so much confidence that you aren’t gonna fall. I feel so connected to my board and my body at the same time. You want to feel as close as you can to your board because it is the very thing that is providing you with that freedom flying feeling. The more layers you add, the harder it is to stay connected. It’s probably the closest thing to surf that I’ve felt. I love it.
How have you grown through skating and surfing?
Skating is like the spirit, essence, and flow. It connected all three. I would say I have grown a lot in my self-confidence and also my ability to help other female skaters. Just because I never saw myself as a skater or someone who could help other people skate. But after falling in love with skating, I have been able to help younger and older girls get inspired and fall in love as well with skating. I would say it has helped me build the most beautiful community. Like I was saying earlier, all my best friends are skaters. I don’t think I would be the person I am today if it wasn’t for all these amazing people lifting me up and inspiring me. Skaters always have each others’ backs. Having that community has allowed me to grow into myself and be confident in who I am. It’s just my heart!
Do you have any specific goals or dreams with skating on the horizon?
My ultimate goal is to start a surf-skate school in Mexico or somewhere with my best friend who is more of a surfer. Skating for me and surfing for her has basically changed our lives. And to be able to introduce that into other people's lives and show them the joy it can bring is the ultimate goal. But I guess also personally I want to skate as much as possible and bring others into the skate scene. I want to make women in general feel welcomed and embraced at skateparks.
For me, skating is like a dance. The most beautiful dance ever!
How do you keep smiling so big! What is your secret! It’s amazing.
Honestly, that is what skating does for me. I know that is why I am meant to do it and why I love it so much. I don’t know if I ever smiled this much while I was playing soccer or while I was doing all these other sports. But I know it brings this overwhelming sense of joy and freedom. I don’t know, I feel so grounded and I am also flying at the same time, it’s like this crazy paradox.
Val on Instagram
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