Amelia Brodka | Welcome to the Team
We're proud to welcome Amelia Brodka to the Tactics family. After connecting with her to sponsor the Skate Rising Feed the Need Tour, we began to appreciate her easy going personality and were inspired by her dedication to skateboarding through her own riding and her efforts to spread her passion to other women and girls. As a rider, she's a stand-out in southern California's vert scene and travels the world on the pro contest circuit. As the co-founder and president of Exposure Skate, she shines a light on the talent of female skateboarders and provides a network of clinics and events to foster healthy growth within the community. We're honored to build a partnership with such a talented skateboarder who shares both our core values and our love of skateboarding.
Read on to learn more about Amelia's first experiences in America, the history of Exposure Skate, how skateboarding became her obsession, and her upcoming adventures as a member of the Polish Olympic team.
Hey Amelia, we had a really great time cruising around some of our local spots with you. What’d you think of the Oregon parks?
I thought they were amazing, and it was nice to experience the history of it, starting with Lincoln City then moving towards one of the newest ones with WJ in Eugene. It was also really cool to see the newer additions to Lincoln City, because the last time I was there I was way younger and hadn’t seen the catcher’s mitt yet. So, going from gritty, tight, and intense stuff to perfect smooth concrete both made by the same company (Dreamland Skateparks) was cool to experience.
Definitely a nice slice of history there. How do they compare to the parks you skate back home, or in Southern California where you live now?
Around here, they’re mostly CA parks and I think they’re a lot more forgiving. The transitions are a lot mellower and the concrete is always super smooth. The California Training Facility is probably my favorite spot to skate right now, it's designed to be like a Park Series course and is incredibly fun to constantly discover new lines and tricks in. I like skating vert a lot too so a few of my other favorite places to skate are the Vista park, which is a Grindline park, and the Linda Vista park (CA Parks) is super fun because it’s huge and has just about everything you could ever want to skate, plus Tony’s ramp.
Nice, how long have you been skating Tony’s ramp? That sounds like a pretty cool opportunity.
I’ve probably been skating there for, maybe about six years or so. I’ve been stoked to get together there in his office and its where all the main vert guys skate. It’s just the most perfect vert ramp around. Every wall is the same and there’s no surprises, so it’s definitely a dream ramp.
For sure, maybe if you’re lucky you’ll pick up a bit of his magic along the way.
Haha, yeah hopefully.
So, tell us a little about your background? You were born in Poland before moving to the states?
Yeah, I was born and grew up in Poland in a small town. Then, my dad won this visa lottery to come visit America. He actually entered it as a joke with his friends, and when they found out that they won, they were like “well, we have to go now”. When my dad came out here, he saw how many more opportunities there were, and he just started slowly building a life for us out here. One day my mom told me that we were going to go visit my dad in America for summer vacation. I was like “oh, cool” and for some reason I thought that we would be in the jungle swimming in rivers and have giant parrots. I guess that was my eight-year-old version of America.
"...for some reason I thought that we would be in the jungle swimming in rivers and have giant parrots. I guess that was my eight-year-old version of America."
So, when we got there, to New Jersey, it was all smoke stacks and highways and I thought it was really strange. We spent the summer there, then I remember asking my parents, “Hey, when are we gonna go home? I think we’re starting school soon”, and they just said, “Oh, we just thought you’d try school here”. I was shocked because I didn’t speak any English, but we stayed and it worked out and I’ve been really grateful for the opportunity because a lot of my generation in Poland has had to leave the country just to find jobs.
Then, I ended up living in Maine for a few years, then I got into USC and fell in love with California and all the skateboarding out here. I immediately moved to San Diego after graduation because that’s where all the transition and vert ramps are, and yeah, I’m gonna stay here for sure. I love it, haha.
At what point did you start skating and how’d you get into it?
I started skating when I was living in New Jersey. At that time, the X-Games were just coming out, Rocket Power was on TV, and The Tony Hawk games came out so it was kind of all around me, but I didn’t really get into it until I went to watch the X-Games in Philadelphia with my family. We stumbled upon this women’s vert demo, and I had never seen women skating at that level before. Something about it just flipped a switch in my head and I was like, “Oh, this thing that I’ve been appreciating and admiring, this is something that I can actually do too.” I just remember seeing Lyn-Z Adams-Hawkins who was the same age as me and she was doing huge airs on a vert ramp. So, I was like, “wow that is definitely what I want to do”. Then I kind of became obsessed with it ever since.
That’s pretty awesome. So, it really took seeing women like you doing it to push you to pick it up yourself?
Yeah, I had dabbled before, but for some reason it didn’t seem accessible, which I know sounds silly in this day and age, but it wasn’t until then that I thought it was something that I could do too. It made a huge impact for sure.
So, is that part of your inspiration for Exposure Skate? What’s the background on Exposure and the history of how that all came together?
Basically, the way that Exposure came to be is that back in 2010, I was in college but I was also skating as much as I could. I was going down to San Diego all the time to skate vert, and I actually got invited to be an alternate for X-Games vert. That was a dream of mine at the time and it honestly seemed like the only way for girls and women to be supported in skateboarding was through competition, because you didn’t really see girls getting pro models and support. Elissa (Steamer) had done it years before that but it seemed like she was a total outlier and there were so many girls and women that were ripping and none of them had any support from sponsors or anything.
"Why don't people see this? They're not paying attention. They don't see that it's growing."
Then all of a sudden, one year they just cancelled all the women’s divisions at the events. The X-Games, Dew Tour and the Combi Bowl contest all cancelled their women’s stuff. It was just a total shock to me. It was always something that I aspired to do and all of a sudden it just wasn’t a possibility and I wanted to figure out why that was happening. Because, at the time I had seen a growth of girls on skateboards and in the level at which girls were skating. So, I was like, “Why don’t people see this? They’re not paying attention. They don’t see that it's growing. Why would they be cutting back on all the stuff for girls and women now?”. So, I finagled a way for a documentary project to count as my thesis in college. I did this feature length documentary on women’s skateboarding. It featured interviews with the guys at Thrasher, Transworld, a lot of other media entities and guys within the industry. Alongside that it had footage of girls and women skating from all over the world, and skating at a high level. So, it stepped into what the industry thought of girls and then showed what the actuality was.
After we finished the documentary and it came out, I was like “Wait a minute, this whole thing is about creating opportunities for women and girls”. So, I decided to just create an event and try to make it a huge to get people’s attention and bring the media out so that they could experience it for themselves. That was back in 2012 and it was our first Exposure event. Actually, during that first event we had Alana Smith become the first female to land a McTwist in competition. So, it also kind of proved that if you create an opportunity, it will generate growth for women’s skateboarding.
That was the start of it, and we’ve always made our event a benefit for survivors of domestic violence. After the first Exposure event, I partnered with my great friend and philanthropist Lesli Cohen to co-found a nonprofit so that we can better fulfill our mission to empower women and girls through skateboarding. We’ve been doing the event every year and since then we’ve added a youth program called Skate Rising that teaches girls to skate and incorporates community service. We also have adult clinics now and women’s and girls’ sessions all over the world. It’s been really cool to be able to turn that contest into a non-profit and to help grow with women along the way.
That’s pretty amazing. Talk about turning your dreams and personal goals not only into a career, but a way to really make an impact on the community you care about. It’s pretty impressive, what you’ve been able to do.
Thank you! It’s been really fun and I’ve learned a lot and grown a lot through the experience. It’s just been great to bring people together and to help them pursue their passions.
You talked about how competition seemed like the only way for women to really get any support and recognition. Do you see that changing? In the past few years its seemed like its grown, at least in exposure. How do you see the current status of women’s skateboarding?
Honestly, it’s like night and day. People still request screenings of the documentary, and now when I sit through it, it just seems like a totally different era because things have completely changed. One of the main things is, Instagram came out and self-promotion became more of a thing. When I started this, it really wasn’t a thing. You were dependent upon Thrasher, Transworld, and the media in general to promote, versus you being able to put yourself out there.
So that was a huge thing, but honestly the past couple years women have gotten a bunch of pro models whether it’s Lizzie [Armanto] on Birdhouse or Nora [Vasconsellos] on Welcome and countless others. That was huge, to see that happening and now almost every issue of Thrasher has at least one girl skating in it, which back then it was a complete rarity. It’s just amazing. Now people acknowledge that women skateboarding is a thing. Which I understand the concept of like, “Oh, its all just skateboarding”, which yeah, it is, but each sport usually has different divisions for men and women. I think it’s helping the girls grow and progress, having their own separate community and culture around it.
"I think it’s helping the girls grow and progress, having their own separate community and culture around it."
It’s been really amazing to see brands and sponsors getting on board to actually support women and girls. I remember when Tactics first picked up Nora and Alana [Smith] and that was way before either of them had any sort of support from a big company and I feel like that kind of started a domino effect and all of a sudden there were all these companies that are promoting and supporting women’s skateboarding. Now even mainstream media is doing it as well and you’ll see companies like Samsung or whatever making commercials with girls and women skateboarding. So, it’s completely changed to the point where now I feel like it’s really trendy to be a girl skateboarder. Its just cool to see the rise of the sport.
It all builds on top of itself too as more girls and women realize its a possibility for them. There’s definitely a changed attitude among guys too. At least at the parks I go to, when there’s girls out there ripping, all the dudes are stoked. You’ve gotta have some women in there to add some flavor and make it a more sustainable community, know what I mean?
Yeah, absolutely and I think if anything it also provides all these companies with a new market to speak to, so it’s great that it can also be good for business. I think skateboarders in general are super supportive of one another and its been great to feel that vibe when you go to a park. It’s honestly like night and day. I remember when I was starting to skate in New Jersey, people would just make fun of me like, “Oh, are you really a dude?” and all this stuff. When you’re already a preteen and feel really uncomfortable about yourself and then people hate on you for what you like doing, its just insane. So, its just been crazy to see the shift in attitude and the rise in support.
For sure, and on a little more of a personal level, skateboarders and skateboarding in general have kind of been seen as more of an outsider thing. Its something that a lot of people do if they don’t fit into regular team sports and that sort of thing. Was coming in as an immigrant part of what drew you to skateboarding or was it more just the act of skateboarding?
Well, that’s a really interesting question. I think coming in as an outsider may have had something to do with it. I know one year I tried to make the soccer team and I couldn’t. I just didn’t make it and I remember being so bummed and frustrated, but when I got a skateboard, I could just go skateboarding. You know, I didn’t have to be part of a team or make the cut or whatever. It was more on my own terms.
"Dude, that's impossible... They're using suction cups, this is totally fake"
I just remember, number one, seeing those clips in the Tony Hawk video game and I was like, “dude, that’s impossible” and I was talking to my friends about it like, “They’re using suction cups, this it totally fake”. That’s honestly what I thought, and to go from that to getting Tony Hawks trick tips on VHS and seeing that people are really doing this and are manipulating the board in these crazy ways, I thought, “That seems so impossible”. For some reason, just wanting to figure it out is what drew me to it, you know? I mean, that’s what still keeps me coming back to it every day for hours on end. Like, “How did he do that?” then trying to figure it out because it looks so incredible.
That’s always been one of the big draws for me too. There’s always a new challenge, and so many tricks out there that I’ll never even be able to do, so it never gets boring.
Not with that attitude! Haha
Haha, yeah, I guess you’re right. I’ve gotta get some suction cups or something.
Yeah for sure.
So, you went from playing Tony Hawk games and watching Tony trick tips and now you’re skating Tony’s ramp? That’s pretty cool.
Yeah, its crazy. I can’t believe my life most of the time. I’m super grateful, and all of it is because I’m just so in love with skateboarding. It’s all that I want to do and its been my biggest passion in life. Its even kind of what got me into college because I was like, “I want to move to California to skate. How do I do that? I should just get accepted to a college out there”, and that was my motivation. Its been my motivation for everything. Its just been amazing to see how life can turn out when you’re following what you're passion is about.
For sure, so do you think USC is gonna have a skate team in the coming years?
Dude, its so funny because when I was going to school there, I was living on campus and I would literally get kicked off campus because I was skating with the local kids. Then if I had to travel for a competition or something I’d check with my professors and they’d be like, “No, if you’re missing class, you probably shouldn’t be in school”, and of course they don’t do that to the football players or whatever, but now they have Street League there, there’s talks of a skatepark being built there and I’ve gone to speak to a class there that’s about skateboarding and diplomacy, that my good friend Neftalie Williams runs. So, it’s amazing how much has changed and how USC has accepted skate culture. I think they even have a skate club now, but it’d be super interesting to seem them go the organized team route, I guess I wouldn’t put it past them.
Yeah, it’s a big sports school for sure, and that’s one of the potential dynamics with skateboarding being in the Olympics now. What if there was a progression like with traditional organized sports, that steps down from the Olympic and professional levels to the collegiate and high school levels?
Yeah, I think a lot of really weird things are going to happen with skateboarding being in the Olympics. A lot of things that the core group of skaters will always be repulsed by, but I think on the other side of that, a lot of really cool things are going to happen for skateboarding. A lot of people who maybe wouldn’t have access to it, like in parts of Africa or wherever, are going to suddenly have skateparks and opportunities and scholarships or whatever. More people are also going to be able to work in skateboarding, which I think is always a good thing. I know everyone who is a skater always wants to be around skateboarding when they’re not skating full time anymore. So yeah, there’s gonna be a lot of weird uncomfortable stuff, but there’ll be a lot of good stuff too. I guess we’ll see how it all goes.
Agreed, it’ll definitely be interesting. So, you’ll be on the Polish Olympic team? What’s the deal with that?
Yeah, its definitely been pretty cool to connect with the guys out in Poland who are running the team. They’re a bunch of core skaters as well and suddenly its something that they can get support for from the government, which is amazing because they have this whole team and they get to go on skate trips and its all funded by Poland. They’ve been super supportive of my skating as well. I went out there a few months ago and I’m going back next month. They’re a great group and I’m just stoked to be on the team.
"...they couldn’t understand why I was spending all my time doing it, getting broke off and having broken limbs... but to see that now its an Olympic thing and I’m on the Olympic team, I think they’re pretty stoked on that."
You know, my whole family still lives out there so I think for them to see me go from doing something where they couldn’t understand why I was spending all my time doing it, getting broke off and having broken limbs. They thought it was just a stupid thing, but to see that now its an Olympic thing and I’m on the Olympic team, I think they’re pretty stoked on that. It might end up being kind of goofy and wacky, but I don’t know, I think the concept is fun and new and exciting. It could be cool, so why not?
Yeah, definitely not an opportunity you can pass up. So, I just wanted to say we’re really excited to have you on the team and wondering why you were initially excited to ride for Tactics?
Yeah, its kind of what I said before. I honestly remember you guys as the first bigger company to step up and support girls on an equal footing. I remember the press release going out about you picking up Nora and Alana and putting in their contract that they’re getting the same amount of support as the guys. I was just blown away by that and I even sent it out through the whole exposure mailing list. The fact that you guys took that leap of faith before other companies were comfortable doing so, and that you kind of blazed a trail in that way, I just have so much respect for you doing that as a company. So, thank you. I’m definitely stoked to be a part of that.
Well, we’re stoked to be supporting you and doing what we can for women’s skateboarding in general. Like you said, there’s a lot of growth there and there’s so many more women that could be skateboarding or that might be interested in skateboarding, so if we can help get more women on skateboards, that’s good for us as members of the community as well as a business.
What else do you have coming up in the near future? Travel? Contests?
Yeah, I’m doing the whole Vans Park Series thing so, the next stop is Huntington Beach, then Sweden in which I’ll do the global qualifier as well as the continental qualifier for Europe. Then after that I’m going to Poland to travel around with the team and skate. It’ll be a fun little summer for sure.
Wow, and you just got married. I was going to ask you about that but that’s probably a whole other conversation.
Haha, well it is relevant, we did meet skateboarding.
Yeah, what’s it like to be married to a skateboarder?
You know, I think if you told me ten years ago that I’d be marrying a skateboarder, I probably would have been like, “Oh, that’s kinda gross”, but its not, haha. We get to share our love for skateboarding and sometimes we don’t want to skate together and that’s fine, but its really fun. We could go on our honeymoon and decide we want to skate a bunch of parks, or you know, take a vacation and plan it around where there’s good skateboarding. So, that’s definitely a bonus because I can’t go very long without skating. I think if I weren’t married to a skateboarder, it might be a problem, haha.
Well, that’s rad. Definitely happy for you, sounds like you’ve got a pretty special thing going on there.
Thank you. Yeah, Alec Beck is amazing. I’m super lucky.
Any final thanks, shout-outs, or things you’d like to add?
I’m just grateful to be skateboarding, it’s a beautiful thing and its wonderful to be able to do it every day and to continue to base my life around it. I probably wouldn’t have thought even ten years ago that I’d be doing that. I thought I’d be hard core adulting now but no, just livin’ the life I could only dream of.
Well, it sounds like you’ve found a way to do both adulting and skateboarding at the same time.
Haha, yeah I guess so. I do also want to thank my other sponsors for supporting me in my skateboarding journey. I’m grateful to be riding for Arbor, Speedlab Wheels, Etnies, Theeve Trucks, Jessup Griptape, XS Helmets, 187 Pads, Nikita Clothing and Black Bear B12.