Ava McGowan, Hanna Himes, and Fabiana Delfino
Some think surfing and skateboarding have nothing in common. While one sport seems like everyone’s dream vacation under the sun, the other breeds nightmares of broken limbs and painful road rashes. However, the two sports have one thing that ties each other together and that is both are an outlet for women extreme athletes who dare to be different. They enable women to test the limits and expand the boundaries of a male dominated industry that is difficult to break into.
Meet three extreme female athletes that are doing just that in South Florida. Ava McGowan, Fabiana Delfino, and Hanna Himes are Island Water Sports team riders that have been ripping, travelling, and competing in high profile contests around the world. Fabiana, Hanna, and Ava are part of an inclusive community of surfing and skateboarding that empowers an entire gender.
They are inspiring local girls along, and girls around the country, to participate in a sport that was thought unconventional for women for many decades. Their love for what they do and their dedication to give back through coaching other young women in Island Camps, has had a positive effect on popularizing the surfing and skateboarding in South Florida. Hear what they each have to say about being a women in this culture.
Interview by Pedro Delfino:
Whats up, girls! Whatcha been up to?
Fabi: Up to no good…ha-ha just kidding, I’ve been chilling. Skating everyday pretty much.
Hanna: Hi Pedro
Ava: Well I’ve had a great summer of traveling, competing, surfing, and hanging out at the beach everyday with my friends and family. School is back in session, I attend FLVS full-time, and my time at the beach is about training now that school has started back up. I have to get my surf in, get out and do my school work! I can’t surf if I don’t get good grades.
What are some of the latest events you’ve competed in?
Fabi: I actually just got back from California. I was out there for Vans Pro Park Series in Huntington Beach. The contest was sick, I ended up placing 16th. The girls were ripping. It was probably the biggest contest I’ve ever competed in. Before that I competed at Wheels of Fortune in Seattle, it was the first ever women’s X-Games qualifier event. It was hosted by Skate Like a Girl. Good memories that weekend. I’ll be back next year, for sure.
Ava: I recently surfed in the Rip Curl Grom Search in the Girls 16U and was put out in the second round, I just won the First Annual O’Neil Corey Lopez Bred to Shred contest competing against 36 girls, but my biggest accomplishment was at Lowers this summer, where I competed in the (Invite Only) USA Surfing America Championships making it to the Finals placing 4th surfing 11 – 12 foot faces! Biggest waves I had ever competed in… Super Stoked!
Hanna: I traveled a lot this summer and so I was not able to compete.
How old are you and how long have you been surfing/skating?
Fabi: I’m 19 years old. I’ve been skating since I was nine.
Hanna: I am 12 years old and have been skating since I was 6 years old and surfing since I was 8 years old.
Ava: I turned 11 June 1. I have been surfing and skating since I was 5 and a half. Competing since I was 6.
What companies do you represent?
Hanna: I represent Island Water Sports, Sicktrix and I Heart Pom-Pom.
How’d you get into it and why?
Fabi: I started filming my brother and his friends skate around our neighborhood when I was younger. I guess I just picked it up from there. I got my first board from Target not too long after. Been skating ever since. Skateboarding is too fun to stop.
Hanna: I first saw skateboarding on the X-Games and thought it was really cool and I wanted to do it.
Ava: I grew up on the beach, and my dad and brother Grant both surfed. So I guess you could say it was something that just happened one day!
Were there any other girls you could skate/surf with on a daily basis growing up?
Fabi: Growing up I never really skated with other girls. There just wasn’t any other girls around that skated at the time. I just had to skate with the guys.
Hanna: I really like skateboarding with Fabi, we have traveled to skate comps together and had a lot of fun. She has been a mentor to me. I also like skateboarding and surfing with Ava and Faith.
Ava: Not really at first, but my best friend Zoe and I have each other to surf with as much as we can and now that I am up in New Smyrna Beach, there are a few older girls that I get to surf with daily. More and more young girls are surfing in the last two years. So I am getting to know them and getting to surf with them as they come up to surf.
How is it different back when you started until now, do you see more local girls in the sport and sticking with it?
Fabi: Yeah it’s way different now. I’ll roll up to the skate park and see at least 2 other girls skating. Some are young, but there’re also older girls around that kill it.
Ava: When I started surfing, I was one of a few little girls out there really trying to surf. I was dealing with all kinds of conditions with my dad and brother and the other little boys or men, not just out when it was 1 foot and sunny and clean! Now I see little girls all over trying and wanting to surf. Some do it for fun, and some really take it on and want to get out there and do the same thing I did.
Why do you think that is?
Fabi: I think more girls are starting to skate because they see that it’s not just a sport for guys. With more major contest for Women like the X Games, SLS and the Vans park series, with both park and street, there’s a growing spotlight on girls in the skate industry. It’s pretty cool to see the impact locally from that.
Ava: I think that through Social Media, like the broadcasting of Woman’s Surfing on WSL, there is more and more awareness to girls surfing. We have such great role models, and surfers on tour right now! We all watch TV or see our phones and look at these athletes and say ‘Wow, I wish I could be like that, or do that”. So more and more girls paddle out…
What differs in the women’s surf/skate scene than the men’s?
Fabi: The girls skate community is super tight. It is still relatively small compared to the guys. So we all pretty much know each other and skate together any time we can link up. For the most part, everybody is so encouraging and sincere.
Ava: Swimwear, lol… Other than that, the women are Power surfing, throwing airs and getting totally shacked just like the men. They are pushing the limits and that is what pushes me every time I paddle out. I want to be a power surfer.
Fabiana, explain to me why the women’s skate scene has seen the emergence of 80’s style skate zines like the Skate witches and what role do they play with inspiring so many girls to continue skateboarding well into adult hood?
Fabi: The Skate Witches zine is like the skate bible for girls. Basically in the zine you can find everything from how to build a DIY spot, to interviews of witches (girl skaters) around the world, and even talks of what’s happening in the our skate scene itself. I think girls (and even dudes) are drawn to it because it’s collective of art, discussions, and current things that we can relate to in every sense. Skate Witches taught me that I don’t owe any boys a kick flip when they ask if I can do one. (As seen in issue #3) It’s a pretty rad, empowering zine.
How do you think the women’s skate scene is changing now that there is support from all-girl companies like Hoopla Skateboards?
Fabi: All female companies, such as Hoopla, create a much needed platform for girls who want to pursue skating. I think it’s important that we create our own separate industry just like other sports have like in soccer or tennis. Mostly to provide exposure and more chances to pursue skateboarding as “career”. I back that.
You’ve been doing Island’s Skate Camp this summer, do you feel that when parents see you as a skate instructor it helps campers gain support they might not have had otherwise?
Fabi: I’d hope so. Many parents are happily surprised to see that a girl was going to teach their child how to skate. It’s a funny feeling because I don’t even think twice about it, I see it as just teaching the next generation everything I know, boy or girl. But I can tell that they’re more accepting and supportive that their daughters are picking up skating. Girls are tough, it’s the perfect sport.
Ava, you’re originally from South Florida. Has the move to New Smyrna Beach helped perfect your surfing?
Ava: Yes, I have been able to really work on my rail game…
Where do you see the sport [surfing] in five years now that it will be in Olympics?
Ava: So exciting!!! I see this sport blowing up, I think things are going to get pretty crazy! I heard that anyone can try out for the team and I love that. There are a lot of amazing talented surfers out there that are not sponsored, on the tour or competing at a level and crush it!
If they continue its involvement will we be seeing you in there?
Ava: Wow, I don’t know, I could be turning dreams into reality with the Olympics. Major goal…
What’s your pre-contest routine, Ava? And is there anything special about your surfing that helps distinguish yourself from other competitors?
Ava: When I am at a contest, I’m stoked and love competing, so I really just take it all in. I don’t free surf much, maybe for 20 minutes an hour before my heat, and then I just sit and watch the break. I think I just keep myself hydrated, focused, and not too worried about it. This is all…just practice, right!
Besides surfing/skating what do you do with your free time?
Ava: When it is not so hot out, I like to skate, play baseball and home run derby with my brother, and hang out at home.
Hanna: I love playing soccer and spending time at the beach.
Any Shout outs?
Fabi: Shout outs to Island Water Sports for this interview!
Ava: I thank God, my family and those who continue to help support me, and pick me up when I need it. They keep me humbled, and grounded daily.
Big shout out to all you girls who want to chase the dream of surfing. Go after it. Do what you love to do. And, most importantly stay true to yourself. Be you and make your mark in this world! Don’t let anyone tell you that you won’t, you can’t and that you never will. Be OK with falling down, don’t be OK with never getting up! What I have realized is that maybe it is all about the journey, and not the destination. Live in each moment. Don’t miss out on what is happening. Because what is happening is that you are living your dreams. My grandpa used to tell my dad when he was little “It is your dream, so make it as big as you want”
SHOP SOME FAVORITES: