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Bailey Te Maipi learning to skate (Image: Supplied)
Bailey Te Maipi learning to skate (Image: Supplied)

ĀteaMarch 9, 2023

The skate school helping wāhine Māori get on the board

Bailey Te Maipi learning to skate (Image: Supplied)
Bailey Te Maipi learning to skate (Image: Supplied)

For Waa Hine Skate founder Bailey Te Maipi, the biggest joy comes from helping students overcome the mental barriers around skateboarding.

It was the flames on her cousin’s grip tape that first sparked Bailey Te Maipi’s interest in skateboarding. This little girl raised on the Kāpiti Coast had never seen anything cooler. Te Maipi begged her parents for a board of her own and at age six, she headed down to the skatepark where she spent the rest of her childhood.

A self-declared tomboy, Te Maipi wasn’t fussed about being the only girl down at the park. Not unlike band-bros, who demand a set list if they see you wearing a metal T-shirt, the boys at the park wanted a performance of certain tricks in order to accept her as a skater. Te Maipi learnt quickly to shake them off and keep her head down in order to skate through.

“I have no memory of seeing other girls skate,” Te Maipi recalls. “Without the power of social media, I was unable to see that there were plenty of girls and women all over the world skating.”

While the social pressure didn’t stop Te Maipi as a child, when she entered her teens she lost her first love to the angst of high school. “I was doing well in soccer so didn’t have enough time to hang out at the skatepark anymore, but in reality it was the assimilation that high school forces you to do that pushed me out of it.”

Like many of us, Te Maipi was suddenly acutely aware of the need to become a “cool girl” in high school. Cool girls didn’t hang out at the skatepark or ride a BMX. Cool girls would never be seen on a scooter. So in pursuit of this status, Te Maipi traded in all of her old hobbies. “I ended up buying a longboard because that was what the ‘cool girls’ did, and I was trying my best to be one.”

Bailey Te Maipi skateboarding as a child (Image: Supplied)

It wasn’t until after high school that Te Maipi found her way back. She discovered a shared interest with a mate from her soccer team and together they reassembled the parts of their childhood, building a dodgy board they took to her old skatepark. Te Maipi’s return just happened to coincide with a growing push to get more women onboard. 

“I saw an ad for a skateboarding instructor, but not just any skateboarding instructor, a skateboarding instructor for girls and women! I truly couldn’t believe my eyes, so I applied immediately.”

Te Maipi did this role part-time as a student, teaching girls at her childhood skatepark and going into schools around the Wellington region. As the skate school she worked for began to broaden its terms, Te Maipi took this as a sign that it was time for her to branch out on her own. A proud queer wāhine Māori, she felt it was important to hold space in the skate scene for others like her. In creating Waa Hine Skate, Te Maipi wanted to “create a community rather than just a skate school”.

A Waa Hine Skate class (Image: Supplied)

In Te Maipi’s short time operating, she has brought over 100 skaters into her community, which has seen her pick up a leadership award from Nuku Ora. The biggest joy of her mahi is the breaking down of mental barriers, rather than physical feats. Te Maipi takes a special pride in supporting those that “think they could never even stand up on the board, or who have tried it once on their brother’s board and fallen off and sworn to never try it again”. 

With Waa Hine Skate, Te Maipi is building the community she never had as a little girl in Kāpiti. This kaupapa all started online with Māori Girls Skate Co. With the skateparks closed over lockdown, Te Maipi used this time to seriously look into establishing her own school. Her research led her to reach out to Nerys Ngaruhe, an artist based in Whakatū prolific in the scene for her custom boards and skatepark murals. From here, the two then brought in the unmatchable energy of Mieka Mania, the driving force behind Tāmaki-based skate school Skate Seen. The three of them, each with their own kaupapa, were united in their vision to see wāhine Māori skaters in the spotlight, and so Māori Girls Skate Co was formed. 

With legends such as Georgina Matthews having burst onto the world stage in the early 2000s now being followed by the exploits of Ela-Huia Poynter and Rhya Henare, there’s an established trend of wāhine Māori excellence in skating. Māori Girls Skate Co wants to uplift these stories and start to help write new ones. Mieka held the first Māori Girls Skate Co session in Tāmaki last year with another planned for May. 

“What Māori Girls Skate Co brings us all is a space to provide that awhi that we need in certain spaces when navigating a predominantly pākehā world,” Te Maipi explains. “That enables us to go further on our separate journeys with the strength of our collective.”

The little girl who coveted her cousin’s board and learnt to make herself small in order to navigate the obstacles she would face in the skating world has found her people. Now Te Maipi is proudly taking up space, and welcomes others to join her. 

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