Drift Sisters: Carving Out Their Place in the Sport
Maybe you saw her on a livestream. Or maybe you follow her on Instagram. Maybe she even rides with your local group. But who is she and what does she want out of onewheeling?
Women are still very much a minority in this sport, but with events like the Drift Sisters retreat and with so many Onewheel moms and dads raising their little girls to be shredders, the female presence in this sport is only going to grow.
We asked some of the most active female riders about their experience so far and their vision for the future.
Women in the Onewheel Racing League
Many female riders feel that they are on the periphery of the sport, and it’s not just a question of numbers: Women are being included in national, live-streamed competitive events, but at a lesser degree than men and in a way that many competitors said feels like an afterthought.
Women who attended Onewheel Racing League (ORL) events in the 2021 season noted that race courses were not always well defined or open for practice during designated practice times. It was not uncommon to hear event coordinators still figuring out logistics at the last minute. While this issue affected both men and women, some riders felt that scheduling women to race first gave them a disadvantage.
Allie Stanley (Wheel Femme Stuff, FLUX MVMNT, FlightFins)
“I don’t quite understand why women’s races always have less riders than the men racers. It’d be nice to give equal opportunities to men and women.”
Breanna Pimentel (The Float Pack, Drift Sisters)
“I’m envisioning that one day it will be pro women and pro men brackets for Race for the Rail with the same number of competitors on each side. I envision that FM will send out a push notification for BOTH races in the future rather than just the men’s race. That Onewheel content pages will encourage their followers to tune into the races for women’s live stream and not only the men’s. That the women’s race will have race track rider POV video play before their race begins just like how it was played for the men’s race this year.”
Alice Chamberlain (bostONEwheel, Drift Sisters)
“There are enough competitive women to have done a bracket the same size as the men’s event. Instead it felt like an afterthought or warm-up act for the men.”
Carving Out Their Niche
With such a skewed gender ratio in the sport, it can be hard for women to find their place, regardless of whether they’re riding to compete or simply to socialize. Women must either become “one of the boys” or carve out their own niche together, as Drift Sisters has done.
“It can be frustrating being the only woman rider in my community.”
Racheal Cecil, Drift Sisters Coach
“Though most of my experiences are positive, not all of them have been. It can be frustrating being the only woman rider in my community,” said Drift Sister coach Racheal Cecil. “I feel like I have to push myself to practice a ton and land things consistently in order to be respected. But then I do a big nudge, on my first try during a group ride, and they say I’m showing off.”
Stanley added, “I think women are very welcomed in onewheeling, but men definitely get surprised when they see how well I ride. It’s just more ‘unexpected’ because I am a woman,” she said.
The expectations are not restricted to riding, either. Many women feel that they quickly become the “group mom,” picking up responsibilities like scheduling events, mapping routes, growing the community, promoting local Onewheel businesses, or booking reservations for charge-and-eat stops.
“It becomes an expectation very quickly that we will take care of those elements so other people can float without worrying,” said Chamberlain, “but then we don’t always get to participate to the degree we wanted.”
Getting Women Involved
While there are many competitive women racers, there are even more women riding Onewheel for social reasons. It’s not uncommon for women to find their way into the onewheel world by riding with a partner first. In fact, one of the most iconic female riders got started that way.
“In the very beginning it was just a fun thing that my husband did,” said Raequel McCosker (The Float Life, FLUX MVMNT). “It’s okay to be a ‘plus one’ first and then thrive and get better at onewheeling and grow into the community like that.”
“But,” she added, “there’s a whole bunch of not ‘plus ones’ who could still thrive into the community as well. I would not be surprised if there was a ghost that suddenly comes into a competition and blows us all away.”
Events like the Drift Sisters retreat will be critical for attracting new female riders and encouraging the “plus one” rider to take ownership of her onewheel experience. Women’s events provide a safe space to learn, as well as creating a social environment that is both fun and uplifting. Those connections are critical for this niche-within-a-niche, and they go far beyond just riding Onewheel together.
The Future of Racing: Keep Options Open
Women racing at the pro level say they enjoy seeing how they stack up against the men, but most feel that formal competitions should continue to be separated by gender, just like in most other sports.
With advances in timing technology, women get to enjoy the best of both worlds: Racing against each other at a competitive level, and comparing times with anyone who has completed the course, whether through timing chips that have been used at formal races or through a GPS tracking app like Strava.
“Men and women should probably stay separated in competitions. Girls get better being competitive against each other and having a chance. We just wouldn’t really stand a chance if guys were involved in competitions, although I do really like to compete against guys with the Underground Race and Strava.”
“I think it’s dangerous and difficult to race with men because there is a considerable weight difference,” said Cecil. “Whether they nosedive going up a hill and mess up my line, or fly past me going downhill too aggressively. I’d prefer to compete with people similar to me! Sometimes it’s fun to race with men so you can beat them on the course though! Floatlife Fest’s critical mass race is a good example of that.”
From a spectator standpoint, “having men and women who are experienced, professional riders race against each other would be great!” said Drift Sister Kari Fortin. But importantly, “keeping a division specifically for women will encourage more women to give racing a try.”
The Facebook group “Onewheel Float Queens” is a great place to ask questions, learn from other women who ride, and of course, make friends! Female-identifying and non-binary riders are welcome, as well as dads, partners, and friends who are hoping to inspire the women in their lives to give onewheel a try.
Real people read and moderate the group applications, so be sure to answer all membership questions when joining.