After conducting my set of interviews for this issue, I’m now convinced that being a woman or girl skateboarder is just about the punkest thing on the planet. Nothing currently embodies the ideals of our subculture—rebellion against the status quo, DIY individualism, and a determination to ride a skateboard against all odds—more succinctly than doing so with elevated levels of estrogen. Still wish jocks yelled “skate or die” at you while driving by the local curb in a pickup truck? Girl skaters still get that, even from fellow skaters. Miss being a social outcast of near leper status? Women skateboarders still don’t even get invited on tours for companies they ride for. Hate “skate dads” coaching little Johnny to “win?” Leticia Bufoni’s dad focused her board and told her skateboarding was for boys.
Leticia, the last interview on my list, was supposed to be the rock star of the bunch. The It Girl. The safe/corporate-backed chosen one. The one the industry can point to and say, “See, we support women’s skateboarding.” Yet the truth is she too is just another terminal skate rat. She chose to ride a skateboard even though nobody else thought that she should, in a place where no other girls did, and has fought tooth and nail every step of the way just to get the industry’s scraps. While her father, to his credit, ultimately changed his views and fell in love with the pastime, Bufoni still skates for all the right reasons. She skates because she can’t stop, and she doesn’t care what anybody else thinks.
Photos By Roberto Alegria
I’ve been traveling a lot. Like crazy. But I’m trying to film a part right now. I was in Spain for 15 days like a month and a half ago and got some stuff. So I’m still working on that. I might release something towards the end of the year. It’s been hard to find time to go out and film.
You probably have a lot going on just with the contests.
Yeah. A lot of traveling. I’m never home. I’m home like three days, four days, and then travel again.
On the board-sponsor front, are you on Plan B now?
I’ve been getting boards from Plan B for about a year now. I’m trying to film something, and I’m gonna see if they want to use it or not. I think that if I film something good, they might use it, but let’s see. I don’t know yet.
You don’t have a pro board with them yet, right?
No, not yet. I’m on flow. It’s tough to get a pro board [laughs]. But they told me if I film something good, they’ll probably announce me on the team and then take it from there.
That’s a heavy team to get on.
Yeah. It’s cool though because I’m friends with everyone. I’m really good friends with Torey [Pudwill], Felipe [Gustavo], Ryan [Sheckler], [Chris] Cole, and everyone, so it will be cool to get on the team one day.
“AT FIRST MY DAD DIDN’T LIKE SKATEBOARDING AT ALL. HE USED TO SAY THAT IT WAS FOR BOYS NOT GIRLS. HE EVEN BROKE MY BOARD ONCE. LIKE BROKE IT IN HALF.”
What made you start skateboarding?
My friends started skating on my street in Brazil about 13 years ago. I used to play soccer, then I saw them skating, so I wanted to try. I tried it then and couldn’t stop. The first time I touched the board I fell in love. It’s funny because they all quit after about three or four months and I was the only one that kept skating.
Did you see other girls doing it in the beginning?
The first three months that I was doing it, I didn’t know anything about skateboarding. The only thing that I knew was that Bob Burnquist and Sandro Dias were on TV all the time. I used to watch them with my dad. Then one day one of my friends gave me the DVD of Villa Villa Cola [2004 Going Nowhere Faster]. It’s a girls’ skate video. It’s like Elissa Steamer, Amy [Caron], Vanessa [Torres], and all these other girls. Then I started to watch that video, and I was just like, “Wow, I didn’t know that girls could skate that good.” It was also one of the first skate videos that I ever watched.
Did you get to skate with other girls after that?
In my street, I was the only girl skating. Then I started to go to skateparks and I met some girls in Brazil that skated. Then after maybe not even a year, I started competing in the contests. Everything happened super fast.
Did you ever decide you wanted to make this thing a career, or did it just happen?
It just happened naturally. I never thought I would be making money one day.
Were your parents supportive?
At first my dad didn’t like skateboarding at all. He used to say that it was for boys not girls. He even broke my board once. Like broke it in half. He didn’t want me to skate anymore. Then the next day I set up a new one. I got some new boards from my friends, and when my dad saw me setting up the new one he was like, “Oh, man. There is nothing I can do. She’s not gonna stop.” After that he kind of let me skate. My grandma used to help me a lot. She gave me my first new complete and used to buy me shoes. My dad finally took me to my first contest, and he fell in love with skateboarding. Then he became like the biggest fan. He went to all the contests with me. He came with me for the first time to California for the X Games [’07].
Damn. That’s rad. Did he ever say sorry for focusing your board?
Yeah. Maybe a year later he said, “I don’t know what I was thinking.” He doesn’t skate now, but he’s the biggest fan of skating.
(Leticia Bufoni, Nike SB Warehouse)
When you came out to the US did you notice any differences between the way girl skaters were treated?
It was completely different. In Brazil back in the day there were not a lot of girls skating. When I got to the X Games in ’07 I met everyone—Elissa, Amy, Vanessa, Lacey [Baker]. I used to look up to them so much and then I got to meet them. But it was totally different from Brazil. Every skatepark that you go to here you see girls skating. It’s getting bigger now in Brazil, with more girls skating, but back then there was almost none. Now there are more skateparks, more plazas, and more girls.
Are you like a star now when you go home?
Yeah [laughs]. Even at restaurants and malls or wherever. I have my own TV show in Brazil. After I started doing my show, I got big there. Before, if I was at the skatepark, a lot of people knew me there because they skated. But now, even just people at the mall or in the streets, people that don’t skate know me from the TV show.
I bet so many girls will start skating after seeing your show.
Yeah. I get a lot of messages on my social media, even from guys, telling me that they started skating because they saw me. It’s funny.
Over the past year or two you seem to have embraced the sort of dual role, posing in bikinis, naked, et cetera. Did you make a conscious decision to embrace that side, or is it just you being you?
I started getting offers to be in magazines, like, “Do you want to do a photo shoot?” Not in skateboarding but from outside of skateboarding. After I did my first one, I just liked it. I liked doing it. It was just fun, you know? That’s why I do the photo shoots. I know a lot of people talk shit because not a lot of skaters do that—but I do it because I like it. It’s fun to do something different and not only take photos of me skateboarding. Everything that I get from skateboarding, it’s because I skateboard. It’s not because I’m a model or something. So when people ask me to be in magazines, I do it—because I like it. It’s different, and I think it’s good to be representing skateboarding outside of our world.
Everyone who skateboards wants to be free to do what they like. That’s why we skate. If you like doing that, why not?
Yeah. I know a lot of people talk shit, but I like doing it. It’s just me being me. If I like doing it, I’m not going to stop just because someone else doesn’t like it. There are haters for everything. Everything you do there is somebody hating.
Just to play devil’s advocate, Lacey Baker stated she thought judging in girls’ contests was somewhat biased toward the more “girly” girls. Do you think that’s true?
I don’t agree with that. I don’t think it makes any difference at all. Because when I’m skating I dress like them. I don’t agree with that. I think that you can be beautiful and skate and not get high scores just because you’re beautiful.
Many of the girls/women in this issue struggle to survive financially. Are you pretty comfortable surviving solely off riding your skateboard?
Yeah. I have my sponsors that help me a lot. I work a lot too to have everything that I have right now. But I’ve been through that, and I know that it’s hard and not a lot of girls are making money from skateboarding. I feel blessed for that. I have my sponsors, and I can do all kinds of stuff outside of skateboarding too, like commercials and different stuff.
Alexis Sablone made a good point that on the guys’ side, a lot of the dudes don’t really have to skate the contests and they can still make a decent living. But for the girls, you guys have to compete or you won’t make it. Do you see that from your perspective?
Yeah. Unfortunately, that’s how it is. And if you stop and think about it, the guys that don’t compete and can still make a living off skateboarding, they’re busy doing other stuff in the time that we are at the contests. They can film video parts, do interviews, take trips, do demos, and we don’t have that chance. We don’t have the money to travel and film a video part; we don’t have the support from the magazines. It’s changing a lot now, but that’s been the way it has been.
In a perfect world would you still compete?
I mean, I love competing. But my favorite thing to do is to travel and film. It’s fun. I just don’t like the pressure of contests. You know, you get nervous. It’s a good feeling once it’s done. But for a week before the contests everybody gets very nervous. We also only have maybe one or two chances a year to do good. It’s not like Street League where they have four stops or Dew Tour where they have a lot of stops. They have more chances to make money and have a good finish. We don’t. We have one or two chances a year, so we have to do good in those.
Which leads us to the Olympics question: When you’re competing for Brazil do you think it will be more stressful or more fun?
I’m sure there will be way more pressure. I’m already nervous about Street League [laughs]. It’s in like a month and I’m already nervous. Imagine the Olympics with like the whole world watching. It’s gonna be insane! But I’m also excited. It’s gonna be very good for skateboarding. I think skateboarding will be huge afterwards. It’s a dream to represent your country too.
For your dad who broke your board, bringing him home an Olympic medal for Brazil would be pretty cool.
[Laughs] Yeah. A lot of people still think that skateboarding is just for people that don’t go to school or for criminals or something. Now with skateboarding in the Olympics, I think it will change a lot of minds. It’s going to make skateboarding look good. I just hope they don’t change it. Like in skateboarding we have our own style. It’s like a lifestyle. So I hope they keep it true to what we love.
Where do you see women’s skating in 10 years?
Just over the past two years it’s changed so much. There are more and more girls coming up now—young girls ripping. I feel like after the Olympics it’s just gonna be huge. I think it will change everything.
Biggest female skater inspiration coming up?
I looked up to everyone. I was a fan of all of them. I grew up watching them skate. But my all-time favorite is Elissa [Steamer]. She’s my big inspiration. She did so much for skateboarding. She’s the best.