Withitgirl inspires girls to shred stereotypes in surfing and skateboarding

Kate McHugh and Ava Koblik

The tide breaks against the shore as local surfers roll in and out of the waves, balancing on their boards in the warm California sun. Among them, women show off their skills and agility in the water. Their athletic accomplishments have become the focus of Withitgirl, an organization that aims to tell the stories of women in surf, skate and art culture. The website’s goal is to not only promote female participation in these traditionally male-dominated sports, but also to showcase media that represents the perspectives of female surfers and skaters both nationally and internationally. The members write stories ranging from discussing the best sustainable surfboards to female athlete spotlights aiming to bring more awareness to the female surf and skating community. 

Marialidia Marcotulli, a San Francisco local, founded Withitgirl in 1996 when she was first learning to surf. She noticed how the representation of women who enjoyed surfing, skating and other action sports was often stereotypical, which often pushed women away from joining these sports. 

“Girls were either [seen as] babes or jocks. I felt that girls were really multidimensional, and there wasn’t a website or a community that reflected that,” Marcotulli said. 

Marcotulli and her friend Cory Peipon began building the Withitgirl website to create a platform that would amplify female voices and create a diverse community of women inspired by surf and skate culture. The website acted as a forum for women to empower each other, highlighting their accomplishments and creativity. Despite their success, the website was closed in 2007 due to Marcotulli’s busy schedule. However, in the past year, the website was revamped by 19-year-old Asha McGee, a surfer from San Francisco. McGee was inspired to revamp the website because she wanted to foster a community of girls in the water. 

 “I have always surfed because my parents surfed but I always really hated it until I had female friends to surf [with], so I’ve always wanted to create that environment for other female surfers so that they could feel like they belonged in the water,” McGee said. 

Renewing this website was important to McGee because women only make up between 20 to 30 percent of surfers and skaters today, according to Surfer Magazine. McGee’s revamp has proven successful; since its remodel, Withitgirl has published more than 80 new stories. Senior Pearl Thompson, a local surfer and supporter of Withitgirl, admires how the organization seeks to be inclusive and celebrates the unique perspectives of women who surf. 

“[Withitgirl] represents all aspects of women’s surfing and shows that women in the surf world come from all different backgrounds. They all look and act differently and have different stories to tell. I think that that’s really important because [it proves how] anybody can be a surfer. It doesn’t really matter who you are,” Thompson said. 

While Withitgirl has already been so successful, their team has even more ambitions for the future. McGee and Marcotulli have been hoping to do more in-person events, and start up their own shop in Marin to sell surf gear. While many of their plans were limited due to COVID-19 they are still trying to plan group events for when conditions become safer. 

“Post COVID-19, [we are] really excited for traveling and being able to do group events with all the people [at Withitgirl] throughout California, the United States [and the world],” McGee said. 

Continuing their mission and expanding it throughout the world is significant to Withitgirl and the community of female surfers and skaters. Although women have made serious breakthroughs in surf and skate sports today, they still face barriers in achieving the same status as their male counterparts. Lilja Dwyer, founder of Ladies Shred, an organization that teaches girls to surf and skate, recognizes the importance of having a female presence in these sports. 

“It can be really empowering to be one of the only ladies at the skate park … but it’s [also] incredibly intimidating because all eyes are on you,” Dwyer said. “I’ve found a lot of comradery with other ladies. If there’s another lady at the skatepark, I’m cheering her on.”

Withitgirl member Violet Reed shares a similar experience of feeling pressure while surfing, especially when male surfers automatically assume they are better than the women and dominate the space to catch a wave. Reed notes that this type of behavior has been a longstanding cultural norm within competitive surfing. 

“Internalized misogyny has been ingrained in us, and there is a very competitive nature in the water … [some people think that] a woman who is prettier is only out there to look good in front of guys, which is obviously not true,” Reed said. 

Despite the obstacles women face, there are many positives that come from surfing and skating which is why getting more women involved in these sports is so important. This is one of the reasons why Withitgirl tries to be as inclusive as possible in their work. Withitgirl has not only widened the number of women participating in surfing and skateboarding, but has also created a safe space for women learning to surf.

“In the last 10 years, there’s been more girls coming into the sport, [which has] been a lot more supportive, but there’s a blind spot here because sometimes the girls can get really catty and competitive. … I think this is why Withitgirl is so lovely because it’s really trying to see the best in and be very supportive of other girls and women,” Marcotulli said.