Nina Nordling / Sayaka Kaneshiro and Nicole Loginger

Two female riders having a blast in the pit after practice.
Motocross might be the action sport most contaminated with sexism. The message is often that women are allowed and welcomed: But only as sex objects, not as athletes. This has bred a culture where even female riders feel they have to organize a professional photo shoots and doll up for every photo opportunity, something that is very strange in a sport of dirt, mud, sweat, snot, nosebleeds and tears.


Nina Nordling, Sweden

www.highheaven.com

Nina Nordling is the initiator of the #BodiesOfAction campaign, the founder and  CEO of the company High Heaven, a digital meetup where women can find and post thir next adrenaline adventure.
Nina is a passion-driven entrepreneur, a business woman with a sparkling and big personality. She a advocate to women entrepreneurs, also pushing movements for women who love adrenalin, action, and a kick-ass lifestyle within High Heaven and its related projects. Never late to jump onboard and support any project connected to women in action sports, she is a full-speed woman, with the rare combination of big vision and big heart.
Nina is a motocross rider, who fell in love with action sports late in life, and now enjoys new experiences whenever she's not buried in work. Whether it's on a mountain, at a beach, on the ocean or in deep powder, Nina never says no to trying new things. Nina also works as a consultant, and loves engaging in media production projects. Through her passion for communication and motocross, she got the job as TV presenter for the Swedish Motocross Nationals.
 
"I've gotten continuously more and more aware and educated on gender equality, and the facts and possibilities for growth are so evident that we would be fools not to push for change. We don't have to wait for the establishment to let us in either; we can build our own movement, and the rest will follow"
When and why did you get in to photography?
"I got my first system camera a few years ago, and have been shooting of and on since then- mostly for fun. I love photo, but I'm not exactly great with the tech side of it- I'm more interested in the storytelling."

 

What made you get in to action, extreme or adventure sports?
"I've always been attracted to this lifestyle, growing up I thought it was the coolest thing one could do, but back then girls just weren’t invited in to those contexts. It wasn't until I was all grown up that I took the step of trying out motocross. It wasn't easy- since no one wanted to teach me how to ride; I need clear instructions to learn, so my first women's motocross camp was a real breakthrough for me.
As I saw generations of men at the enduro track, grandfathers enjoying a day out with their sons and grandsons, but hardly ever any women. I realized then and there that my generation of female riders where making history, we were going to be the first gang of old ladies at the track, sharing our passion with our daughters and granddaughters."
 
What/Who is you favorite initiative, project, professional, leader, athlete or brand in the action sports sphere?
"There are many: BoardOfMedia, WIB, TheInspireInitiative, The alliance, Skatelikeagirl, Girlisnota4letterword, Adapted Action sports, MahfiaTV, LongboardGirlsCrew, BrownGirlSurf, NoLimit Skate, Sörfaretjejer, LongboardingForPeace, Skateistan, ItAintPretty, Underexposed, Pretty Faces? "
What do you think of the lack of role models for girls and women in male dominated areas?
"I know that you can't be what you can't see- therefor the lack of  attainable role models in the action sports industry is a huge threat on diversity and innovation. This issue has many layers, and is both a very complicated matter- and a very simple one. If we want to grow the female scene, we need to showcase many different types of role models, create spaces and contexts where girls and women can grow." 
How do you see women evolving in the action sports scene?
"More and more girls and women are finding their way in to the action sports lifestyle. However, I think we are not moving fast and efficient enough.  As stereotypes are broken down and more possibilities are up for grabs, we will move towards equality, but this also triggers the fear of the new- and there will always be both men and women who are terrified of the F-word. And by that I mean Feminism.
"Feminism is the radical idea that women are people too" ? and when 98% of the world's treasures are owned by only 2% white males in the western world, saying that sexism and gender inequality doesn't exist or is not important is pretty weird."
 
What are your hopes for the future of the industry?
"That we move from being excluding to being including, and start giving equal cred and respect to all athletes, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion, physical prerequisites and socio-economic status. Everyone gains on growing the scene- simple as that. The only thing standing in the way is ignorance and fear.
I'm so sick of everything being compared and measured by the hetero male norm, so it would be really nice if that was washed away? I mean, you don't compare a 15 year old rookie, lightweight boxer to a 25 year old heavyweight pro- what would be the point? They can't possibly be compared. Always comparing men and women in sports where physical ability and generations in the sport is of the essence is just as pointless. "

 

What is the number one preconception or prejudice people have about you?
"People who haven't met me think I look like a typical girlygirl. People who have only met me briefly think I'm loud. And people who know me well think I'm always strong and confident."
Do you have a feature or body part that you have been self-conscious about? Do you think low self-esteem in girls and stereotypes in media are connected?
"It varies, but yeah- it's often weight related in my case. I used to have massive issues regarding my physical appearance growing up though:  to self-monitor and constantly try to improve my looks was very much an automated process. However, now that I know the destructive impact that gender/beauty stereotypes has on young girls, I really try to be happy with my body and celebrate that it works well- since this is what I want my fellow females to live by. It's not easy though, none of us are immune to medias impact.
In the work with this campaign, I promised myself to never ever again edit or remove photos of me where I look odd."
Is there a difference in how women and men are portrayed in the action sports industry?
"Definitely, and this has been well researched. Many of the other women in the campaign have said it well too; basically photos of men and women follow the gender stereotypes, and sexism is an increasing issue for both sexes.
Women selling products are often not professional athletes anymore, but instead models hired for the shoot; slim but not too slim, fit but not too muscular, curvy but only in the "right" places, white but tanned, young, beautiful, passively objectified and weak, often featured as the price that a man can win if he's cool enough. Women are often portrayed obviously posing, either lying down or sitting down, always below the male. The viewer often sees the female from above, where she's either actively flirting, or being watched by "the male gaze". The few women portrayed in sports are very rarely breaking a sweat, but instead look like they are effortlessly laughing their way through their sport. Professional female athletes are often put in a sexualized context.
Men are still portrayed as athletes doing rad tricks, celebrated for their athletic skills and ability. They are strong, independent, courageous, confident warriors who fight the elements and can claim as much space as they want to. Men are often the active part in the picture."
What would you say to people who want to get in to action sports, but think they might not fit in?
"Do it anyway. You might feel stupid as a rookie, but that will pass. We've all been there, and anyone knows you won't be ripping tricks on your first day. You might never rip,  I don’t, but who cares: You will make great friends and experience a ton of magical moments."
 

Sayaka Kaneshiro, Japan

sayaka-japan.wix.com/678mx    

We met with dream catcher and pro motocross rider Sayaka Kaneshiro, who moved from Japan to California with her the family in 2007 in order to pursue her and her family’s dream of her racing full time; with the aim of becoming the nr 1 rider in the world.
This family is and has always been working exceptionally hard, and Kaneshiro's talent and grit was discovered by one of the top American racing teams in 2013,Team Honda Muscle Milk. Worth mentioning is that extremely few women ever earn a place on these factory racing teams- However, after seeing Kaneshiro ride, there is no doubt she has the unique set of skills needed to make the podium consistently- and she also has, ranking as 2nd in the 2013 series overall, with the 2nd plate to ride in 2014.
She's the perfect racer actually; Fearless but calculated, willing to train and eager to learn with an endless passion for the sport. Kaneshiro would also be the perfect spokesperson, for anyone who has ever met her would agree that she is just a rad person to be around. Kaneshiro defies many stereotypes, and doesn't care about anyone's idea of what a girl should look like and do- she's just comfortable in her own skin, and as long as she gets to do what she loves, she's happy to work hard and play hard.

 

"You don’t know until you go!"

 

We met Kaneshiro, or Terriyaki Sauce as she is nicknamed by her friends, at the track of Lake Elsinore Raceway in LA. Many of the riders in our group were struggling with a massive jump section, trying to double it perfectly. Two of the faster riders tripled the jump, but agreed that it would be way too hard to quadruple it, even though that would have been the most ideal.
I was there with my camera, and noticed a tiny figure, about my own height or so, who seemed to be planning how to make the double. I could make out that it was probably a girl, waited and felt the empowerment of seeing another female rider attempt to land such a difficult jump. I could instantly tell that this woman knew what she was doing- And she quaded the whole section flawlessly, lap after lap. I still get goose bumps when I think of that first moment when I saw her making a perfectly timed landing.
 

Nicole Loginger, Sweden

www.facebook.com/Yummiie

Nicole Loginger from Sweden is the perfect ambassador for womens action sports, and a great example that you don’t have to stick with stereotypes or make life choices according to what other people think.
Nicole started riding motocross just a few years back, but she hasn’t let the lack of experience stop her, along the way, as she’s now competing in the Swedish Womens Motocross Nationals – many times against girls and women with years and years of experience.  
Claiming space in male dominated fields isn’t anything new to Nicole, since she’s also a multiple National Champion in Chess and active in the specialized field of micro biology, working as a project manager and researcher at UNI.  This might be why Nicole is dedicated to getting more girls and women riding, always welcoming them to the sport with a smile and an offer to help out with whatever you need.
Aside from riding motocross, Nicole is also a talented sports photographer, shooting mostly MX and Enduro.
In order to improve her riding and racing skills, Nicole spends a few months training at the awesome facility MX Heaven in LA, California- and has done so during the Swedish winter for a few years. This has led her to be even more competitive, but also giving her a chance to see and experience the roots of the motocross industry up front. Racing in Cali has also given Nicole a massive amount of self-confidence, taking on jump sections you can hardly even find on a Swedish track.

 Nina: “Later that day, I caught this amazing shoot of Sayaka and my friend Nicole when we were hanging out in the pit after practice, just having a good time. I don't think either of them knew about the camera until I actually snapped this photo, since they were busy with their conversation, laughing their asses of!”