On a recent Monday at the Foster City Skate Park, Kat Sy stood out in her witch-like pointed bucket hat and joke T-shirt reading “I lost my virginity at Shen Yun.” Riding around concrete obstacles at lunchtime, she was the only female skateboarder there, something she’s gotten used to over the past 17 years of skateboarding.
“For me to stick with it this long, I’ve really adopted a full ‘I don’t care’ attitude,” she says. “I don’t feel like I need to prove myself to anyone or even respond to people who are talking to me or soliciting me.”
Sy, a Foster City native and current resident who works as a software engineer at LinkedIn in Mountain View, is part of the skateboarding collective Unity, co-founded by Oakland-based artist Jeffrey Cheung and Gabriel Ramirez in 2017. The collective aims to make skateboarding more accessible for the LGBTQ community and has a skate team associated with it. Cheung and others on the team also curate and design the art associated with their skate brand, There, which has a whimsical, colorful and body-positive sketch-based aesthetic style.
Kat Sy’s skating journey hits the silver screen
Sy’s experiences as a queer Asian Amerian female skateboarder are being highlighted in a short film being shown at the Center for Asian American Media’s 40th CAAMFest now through May 22. “Crashing Wheels on Concrete,” by filmmaker So Young Shelly Yo, follows the ups and downs of Sy’s life through her love of skateboarding as she graduates from college and takes on the challenges of adulthood.
Sy first got into skateboarding because her friend’s brother had a skateboard, and as a kid, she was drawn to activities that looked like fun. Foster City wasn’t the friendliest city to skateboarders at first, but she and some other skateboarders in her neighborhood eventually lobbied the city to build the skate park that’s there now.
“From then on, this is kind of where we spent our time. …. It’s really awesome to see people still skating here and using this park.”
Crossing divides at the skate park
Sy credits her childhood spent skateboarding for helping her become less sheltered as a kid from the suburbs. Skateboarding gave her the “opportunity to interact with people from different backgrounds and socioeconomic situations,” she says.
“I think a lot of people who grow up here don’t know people who have struggled or had family members struggle with different types of issues you don’t see as much or are much more hidden here in the suburbs,” Sy says.
The Unity skate team currently has about 13 members out of a total group of 18, including photographers and film crew staff. Together, they travel, skate and make films of their skateboarding highlighting different techniques, styles and tricks.
The Unity collective gives team members the chance to access opportunities available to pro skateboarders they might not otherwise have, and to do it without having to put up with uncomfortable gender dynamics, Sy says.