Meet the DIY girl gang taking downhill skating to new heights

Meet the DIY girl gang taking downhill skating to new heights

With the release of a new film about their quest to shred the Pontiac Mountains, we spoke with world-ranking skateboarder Jenny Schauerte about the fearless group of thrill-seekers who call themselves the Woolf Women.

Professional downhill skateboarder Jenny Schauerte has been away for two months. Calling from Innsbruck, Austria, the German adventurer has just returned from a stint of country-hopping, seeking out new and unruly skate destinations. The sport has always been transgressive and boundary-pushing, but Schauerte wants to take things to new heights – literally – alongside her tight-knit DIY gang who call themselves "the Woolf Women."

The new fly-on-the-wall documentary WoolfWomen: Now Or Never by Marchella De Angelis takes an inside look at the risks and reputation of downhill skateboarding, which involves racing down steep roads on longboards at speeds of up to 100kph, battling oncoming traffic and unexpected disasters. It follows the Woolf Women as they hit the open road with one mission: to become the first people to skate the Pontic Mountains.

Part film and part diary, Now or Never captures the immovable bond shared by Schauerte and co-skaters Anna Pixner, Lisa Peters, Jasmijn Hanegraef, and Alejandra Salamandra as they journey through Europe in a beaten-up van in hopes of reaching Sumela, an ancient monastery in Turkey. When there, they intend to make their mark as a collective, while Schauerte undertakes the more personal journey of lighting a candle for her late father.

To mark the official release of the documentary, Huck spoke to Schauerte to find out more about the film, the relationship between the Woolf Women, and their plans for the future.

The 'Woolf Women'.

As Now or Never illustrates, downhill skateboarding is not an easy or safe sport. Why did you want to showcase that side of it?

Jenny Schauerte: I think it's important to show that side of it because it's a lot about the mental game, too. If you're injured it requires a lot of effort. You have to heal, you have to train, you have to do the right things, and you have to be healthy. That's one of the most important things people have to learn – that you have to take care, because you're responsible for your mental state and whatever you do to yourself. Be aware and be safe. It's nice when people are motivated and want to start downhill skating, but you need to show them that it's not without consequences.

You got seriously injured during filming. What motivated you to keep going?

I get injured a lot. Most people stop after getting hurt but, for me, continuing is the only way of survival because skateboarding has helped me out of depression and out of a dark place or really hard times. Whenever I'm able to go skating again, I feel better mentally and physically. When you've done something that you can be proud of and you have stepped out of your comfort zone, that's basically the key to happiness.

How did the Woolf Women find each other?

Jenny Schauerte: When I started downhill skateboarding, I was living in London. I wanted to write my thesis about it, and while interviewing people I met Papa Woolf. He’s a good friend who taught me how to skate. He said ‘if you're writing about this topic, you need to know how to do it.’ After that I was hooked. You can’t really train In London, so we packed the van and went to Wales almost every weekend and we began to develop this “wolf pack” feeling. I met this bunch of girls during the Euro Tour. We started bonding and, being pretty much the only women in the sport, I realised that we’re stronger together, we get [more] recognition, and are taken seriously.

"When you've done something that you can be proud of and you have stepped out of your comfort zone, that's basically the key to happiness."

Jenny Schauerte

The Woolf Women share a bond of unbreakable sisterhood. Why did you want to share that with the world?

To show other women that they are able, and if we can do it you can do it too. We can change the type of equality problem that we've been going through. It's a big thing that women have their “role” and I try to break out of it and give motivation to those who are stuck in that and say, ‘Hey, look, it's possible!’ I want to spread that love.

The Woolf Women became the first documented downhill collective to skate in the Pontic Mountains. What did you learn from that shared experience?

I learned that I could count on these friends, and that this friendship is deeper than any other I've had before. You trust each other with your own life. I trust my friends to tell me that there's a car coming. We were living together in a small van and travelling through for many days which is also bonding. They will be there to help me even if I'm in a bad position – if I'm very low, injured, or not as fast as I usually am. This trip to Turkey, and being the one to organise it, showed me that if you dream it, you can do it. I managed to put all this together and I feel proud of that. I learned that friendship is strong, and I feel blessed that I have strong willpower and I can put that energy into something good.

Would you do another skate trip like that?

We already did! I have the footage but I haven't edited it yet. It's gonna be completely different. Wolves work in a pack, but they also work on their own – and though they can travel far away, they always know where their home is. You do your own thing and have your independence as a woman in the world and you can always go and meet your friends. So I filmed a trip that I did travelling through South America, then meeting up with [the Woolf Women] and racing together in another continent, and then splitting up again and then meeting up in Colombia and then Chile. I have amazing footage of skating in these mountains. It’s filmed in a way that’s much more authentic and natural.

From the Olympics to the X Games, skate culture is on a global stage. What does that recognition mean to you?

Recognition is important so that I can go to the mountain and skate and not have aggressive cars trying to run me over, people calling the police or people shouting at us seeing us as a bunch of drug-addicted outcasts that make a mess! We're really aware of nature and we're good people with a community. I want this to be seen. Also, it would be nice to have more women involved. When I'm a grandma and I can't do shit, I want to watch my sport in the Olympics. It's such an appealing sport and the world should see it.

What does it mean to see young girls get into the sport?

Safety first and practise a lot. Don't get frustrated if it doesn't work on the first try. Also, be good with the people in their region or whatever area you're skating in. If you're an asshole, you'll just continue the reputation we have.

Jenny Schauerte and Marchella De Angelis.

Now Or Never is out soon. What do you have planned next?

I want to race in the World Skate Games, which will take place in Italy in 2024 and will be amazing because it displays the potential for it to become an Olympic discipline. Skateboarding has been proven to be really a serious sport and downhill skateboarding has a lot of potential to get more attention. I'm constantly working on that. So, I’m trying to keep promoting this in the best way I can, and to get more girls and women involved too.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

WoolfWomen: Now or Never is in UK cinemas from June 8th.

Follow Zoya on Twitter.

Enjoyed this article? Follow Huck on Twitter and Instagram.