Stefani Nurding’s life in skateboarding has, at times, been a tiresome and familiar tale.
“Even now, I struggle (to be accepted),” she says. “A lot of people struggle to understand what I do.”
As a youngster growing up in Devon, her mum threw her on the waves on a surfboard but was not so keen to see her jump onto a skateboard back on land.
After leaving the West Country for a snowboard season as a teenager, however, there was no stopping her from finally pursuing her passion.
“When I got back home, I picked up a skateboard and just went from there,” she recalls. “I ended up addicted to it.”
Over a decade on, there is little doubt that Nurding has - and continues to - prove the doubters and sceptics wrong.
Now based in Brixton, London, she has travelled around the world competing and looking to prove she belongs in the skating world.
Nurding had initially hoped the be involved at Tokyo 2020 as the sport she loves made its Olympic bow.
Whilst the birth of her son, Felix, in 2019 put those dreams on hold, 2021 has proved a landmark year for the sport, in particular its female athletes.
As Nurding watched on from afar, she was left bursting with pride as teenagers Sky Brown and Bombette Martin flew the flag for Great Britain in the women’s park event.
“It was so important,” she says of the Olympics. “It was just amazing, so great to see two British women there.
“It was almost a dream come true for me to see them up there, so I can’t even imagine how they felt.
“To see the sport represented in such an equal way and show that girls from here can achieve something so special, take skateboarding to the Olympics, it was something else.”
Brown, 14, made history with a silver medal to help the sport hit the headlines and reach an entirely new audience.
Having spent years banging the drum about how skateboarding is a sport for everyone, Nurding couldn’t help but feel emotional to see that message finally reaching the masses.
“Epic,” she interjects when Brown’s performance is mentioned, beaming with excitement.
The two have had different journeys, with Nurding first taking up skateboarding years older than Brown was when she stepped onto the podium in Japan.
“I feel like it just shows the range,” Nurding explains. “So many different people can find a place in skateboarding - different ages, different personalities, different types of people.
“Hopefully that will just empower so many women, seeing people like us and saying, ‘that can be for me, there’s no reason why I can’t get involved in that’.”
Having settled into motherhood and returned to the skatepark, Nurding now has her sights set on being involved her self when Paris 2024 comes along.
She begins her journey today as part of a Team GB training hub, with her young son providing added motivation to be the best she can possibly be in the sport which has shaped her adult life.
“I’d really hoped to go to Tokyo but I had my baby, Felix, last year and it just wasn’t the right time for me,” she says.
“He’s just made me want to work even harder, really, just make him proud. I just want to do the best that I can, show him anything is possible and do the best I can in my sport.
“It was really special to see the other girls doing it, and now I’m starting the training programme for Paris.
“There’s going to be training hubs and events to try and help us prepare before selecting who is going to go, so hopefully I can be there in a couple of years.”
Whilst the Olympics will provide additional funding and exposure for Britain’s skateboarders, social media has also given the sport an entirely new platform.
It has enabled Nurding and others to build a brand and image away from traditional outlets and with a refreshing freedom.
It has also allowed Nurding to embrace her passion for fashion and creativity, intertwining her two worlds as both a model and a pro skater.
“It’s great, because I feel like fashion is really similar to skateboarding in the way you can experiment with it, try different things,” she says.
“It’s a way to express yourself, have some flair for life, enjoy yourself.
“My business, Salon Skateboards, is just another good way of being creative and connecting with my audiences.
“I do a lot of grip tapes that are different colours, different patterns. It’s another avenue for me to experiment with stuff, people have liked it, so it’s great.”
Having amassed a huge social media profile with over 77k Instagram followers and 3.6million TikTok likes, there is little doubt Nurding has shown she, and hundreds of other female skaters, belong.
“Instagram especially has been really fantastic for women in skating,” she declares.
“We’ve always been told people aren’t interested in women’s skating, but social media has shown that obviously they are.
“The core skate media is still very lacking on representing women, so Instagram has taken us totally away from that.
“It’s almost given us a lot of control about how we put ourselves out there, and that’s been a fantastic opportunity.”
The power of social media is not without its pitfalls, however, especially in terms of dealing with criticism.
“I think the internet has maybe made the criticism a bit worse if anything,” she admits.
She explains how she regularly receives messages critiquing even the most well-executed of tricks or simply telling her women shouldn’t skate.
In the face of a refusal from some to accept her passion, her response is to be more determined and stubborn than ever.
“It makes me really feel strongly to get out there and push to get other people involved,” she says.
“I still see a lack of diversity in some areas, and I hope that changes. I’m not sure it will, but I feel like they’d better start representing us all now.
“There are a lot of board companies that only have male riders, even though it’s easily 50/50 in terms of numbers of women or men that skate, especially in London.
“I think they either need to get on board or get left behind, in my opinion.”
All Nurding can do is the same thing she has always done - shout from the rooftops and be a visual presence hoping to inspire and empower women to try something new.
Her latest attempt to do that has involved heading into the Samsung KX Content Hub to teach people how to perform a Kickflip and ignite their passion for the sport.
“A lot of the reason that I really care about empowering other women to try it is that I wasn’t good at it straight away,” she says.
“I was really nervous, really scared and really worked through my fears a lot. It taught me how to learn, and when people are afraid to try I can still really relate to them.
“I feel like I’m good at showing people they can do it, helping them to learn and it’s something I’m really passionate about.
“I went into the Samsung KX space, and it was really great. Kickflip is one of my favourite tricks, and it was great to get the opportunity to throw myself into that and try and pass my knowledge on.
“It’s nice to encourage other people to try different things.”
With searches for skateboarding lessons increasing by 150% in the aftermath of the Olympics, more women than ever are now being persuaded to pick up a board.
“It’s absolutely amazing,” Nurding concludes. “The fact so many women feel like they can just decide to do something for themselves and not worry what people might think.
“It’s something I’ve spoken about for so many years, and it’s so great to have big brands like Samsung and people giving opportunities to use my voice to try and encourage more people to do it.”