Have you ever been surprised of seeing a girl skating? Well, you shouldn’t be and Arianna Battista, member of the female crew Bastarde Senza Gloria (BSG) [Inglorious She-Basterds] is here to explain us why.
Arianna was born and raised in Abruzzo and now lives in Bologna, Italy. Sadly, she had to face the shocking experience of 2009 L’Aquila’s earthquake that hit her homeland, leaving a trail of fear and destruction. Courage, adrenaline and freedom: these the weapons skateboarding gave Arianna so that she could fight the demons of her traumatic past. In skateboarding, she found a way to overcome her fears but also to express her own identity, becoming a promoter of a pink movement within the skating community.
We had the pleasure to meet Arianna and let her tell us about how she got to know skateboarding and what’s her vision of this mostly male environment.
Hi Arianna, tell us who you are and where are you from.
My name is Arianna Battista and I am 27. I was born and raised in Abruzzo, Italy, but I have been living in Bologna for about 3 and a half years. I became very keen on skateboarding when I was still in L’Aquila, my hometown, just before moving to Bologna. Since the first moment I set foot on the board, I couldn't stop thinking about skateboarding again. During the following 2 years I trained hard for getting more and more familiar with the sport and even getting the first tricks down. Then, like in a dream, I was contacted by the Bastarde Senza Gloria (BSG) [Inglorious She-Basterds], who asked me to join them. I had already met them at a Vans event that took place in the "pinebowl" skatepark of Milan. We skated together and competed in a girls only skating contest.
What is your educational background?
I got a bachelor degree in Marketing and then I majored in Marketing Semiotics, here in Bologna.
When did you first take an interest in skateboarding?
I started skating about 3 years ago, during the post-earthquake period, in an outdoor concrete construction named after Maurane Fraty, a 12-year-old girl who lost her life during the tragedy. About 4 years ago, L’Aquila hooligans, the Red Blue Eagles, promoted a fundraising project involving all the ultras of Italy with the aim of giving children disoriented by the earthquake a place where they could feel free thanks to sport. All this was possible thanks to the numerous rowdy fans that supported the project, collecting 85K euros. They managed to dismantle the stereotype of "bad" and "ruthless" people that have always characterised hooligans. As the skate park was created through a project of collective integration, skateboarding has taken on a meaning of social and individual solidarity for us. I am now happy to say that I was able to process the trauma of the earthquake in a healthy way thanks to what is still called a “street sport”, the same sport that allowed me to start living again. Over a few months, I was completely welcomed by the young community that rose around the skatepark and that defended its members, as a shelter, from the prejudices that surrounded that sport.
Do you practice any other sport other than skateboarding?
No I don’t, at least for now. I would like to start practicing self-defense, though, but I will probably have to wait until September because of restrictive measures due to the covid-19 emergency.
Does your city offer any suitable place to practice skateboarding?
Here in Bologna there are lots of skating spots and parks both within and outside the city. Some of them are also provided with facilities for people who skate on the street (such as walls and gaps) and for those who go bowl. Here, skaters are lucky enough to have everything they need, unlike in other Italian cities that don't have skateparks where kids can learn. I am glad I live in a city that offers so many opportunities for leisure and where people enjoy their life without judging others’ choices.
Have you ever skated in other cities? Did you feel any difference?
As I mentioned before, in terms of skateboarding Bologna is definitely the best you can find in Italy. If I ever had to go away, I would take the first plane and leave to Barcelona, that is the European skateboarding capital. I have already been there six times and skated in hundreds of skating spots...but the truth is a lifetime wouldn’t be enough for enjoying the whole skating experience Barcelona offers.
Did you find it hard to enter a mostly male environment such as skating? Do you think it still is today?
Since I first began practicing this sport, I can say times have changed in the skating environment through these few years. Girls have always been a minority, but luckily women skaters have significantly increased during the past years. I would venture to say that our crew has played quite an important role in showing girls who were wandering aimlessly that skating could be a way of taking control of their lives.
Social networks are the fundamental element that allows us to reach a lot of people, making our way in houses where “boys' sports and girls' sports” are still a thing. We give hope to all those girls who really believe skateboarding to be a strength sport for boys only. What people don’t know is that in skateboarding strength is not all that matters: mindset, self-control and patience are equally important. Through constant training and a real commitment, any girl can close a trick, even better than any other guy. Skateboarding is one of the best sports for building some self-discipline: if you can keep your emotions in check you will have a total control of your board, but if you usually get carried away it will teach you how to stay focused.
What do you think you can give the skater community?
I can only put into practice what skateboarding taught me. When I talk to new skaters, I always explain them how skateboarding helped me taking control of my emotions and keeping training never giving up. This sport is highly educational because it forces you to work on yourself, pursuing your goals in a mature mindset. It forces you to stay on track, both the good days you achieve an important and much-desired result and the bad days you have to hold on to your patience and take a step back. If you lack self-control and don’t deal with your weaknesses, you will never be able to stay focused enough to close a trick.
What did you feel the first time you got on a skateboard?
I thought, and I'll tell you straight up, that I’d have never been able to push myself without being clumsy.
How do you feel now when you skate?
Skateboarding is the widest expression of my true self, the best feeling you could ever imagine.
It gives me a sense of accomplishment that no other activity has ever given me before. It makes me feel free, protected and valued like no person has ever done (I don’t mean to offend any of the people who care about me, but I'm sure they will understand because they skate, just like me: they know what I'm talking about).
Do you think the skate boarding culture is the same in Italy as in the rest of Europe?
It really depends on the cities you take into account. There is no doubt the US is where skateboarding has spread the most, but I noticed that here in Italy and in Europe in general this sport is quickly becoming more and more popular as well. It still is a niche sport (leaving aside Spain, and Barcelona in particular, which considers it as a "national" sport). Since streetwear fashion started to leave a significant mark on the skateboarding scene, we gained a lot of fame. I must confess that at first some people approach this world because they are fascinated by skaters’ style and the image the fashion world casts upon us.
Is there any interesting story about local skaters, from your city, you would like to share?
One day, some children of different ethnicities stopped in Bologna’s main skate spot, The Shoah Memorial, and gathered together intrigued by what was happening. So, just to try it out, we lent them our skates, and from that moment they never stopped skating. That's really all it takes: you discover skateboarding by chance and, from that day on, everything changes.
You're part of a female crew, Bastarde senza Gloria. How did this project come about?
This project was conceived by our friend “Kre”, Cristina Vardanega, more than 5 years ago. We consider her to be the “mom” of the group. We love her very much and she is our team manager, the girl who organizes all our tours and meetings. I am one of the Crew’s rookie, but they made me feel like one of them since the very first moment.
What do the citizens think about skateboarding and your crew? Did you happen to get any complaints or warnings from law enforcement?
Contrary to what many people think, passers-by (when we wander around in the city) support what we do. They are very captivated by our tricks and moves. ??? I have to say that unexpectedly we have recently received more compliments than complaints, despite the fact that we were harassing a bit the people passing by the spots we were skating.
Skateboarding is only apparently an individual sport, but it is actually based on important values such as support, collaboration and friendship. How important is the community for a skater?
The group is everything to a skater. Skateboarding is an individual sport only if you think of it from a practical point of view, because we don't actually need anyone else's legs to close tricks. Nevertheless, the fundamental principle that lays behind any form of improvement is cooperation. I never skate just by myself because if I’m alone and I don’t have the others’ support I can't get in touch with myself. I don’t close my tricks for my personal satisfaction only: I do it for the others and with their support, which makes me aware of my mistakes and helps me up. I would have never improved so much if I was alone. This sport teaches collaboration and acceptance of who and what is different, training your mind as well as your heart.