Professional skateboarder Jaime Reyes has been all over the world.
From surfing the crystal waters of Hawaii as a child to dropping into a bright, concrete Australian park in front of “thousands and thousands” of spectators, all alone and with legs like jelly. But four years ago, she packed up and left New York City, her home of more than two decades, and moved right here in Williamsburg.
“Oh, It’s completely different,” Reyes said, “it’s my suburban life.”
Reyes said she had been back and forth to Williamsburg multiple times visiting her fiancé before she decided to make it permanent. And today, along with Max Pfannebecker and Triangle Skateboard Alliance, she’s helping local kids just getting their start on a skateboard.
“Skateboarding brings all types of people together,” Reyes said. “And I feel like there’s a lot more skateboarding going on here, there’s a lot of good kids here.”
Reyes is planning on teaching at Pfannebecker’s upcoming beginner skate clinic this month, a free opportunity for Williamsburg’s youth to learn the basics of the sport, and just last month she taught at TSA’s skate camp in Gloucester.
She comes to those events with unique expertise, not just as an accomplished professional, but through her time teaching at Camp Woodward in Pennsylvania, known throughout the skateboarding community as one of the most prestigious camps in the country for skaters of all skill levels.
“And I enjoy it [teaching],” Reyes said. “Because when they get psyched that they can do a trick — or even learning how to push right — or even just going up and down a ramp — it’s awesome, and you just get hyped when you see that.”
It all started for Reyes in the early 1990s when she was 13. An avid surfer, Reyes said she cut class one morning to head to the beach, but when she found that there were no waves, she started wandering around.
“And so I couldn’t go back home because I didn’t want them [her parents] to know I didn’t go to school that day,” she said with a chuckle, noting that her parents have since forgiven her.
Reyes stumbled across a group of boys skateboarding on a nearby sidewalk.
“And I was so mesmerized with what your feet can do,” Reyes said. “And then I stepped on a skateboard and loved it so much that I stuck with it.”
It wasn’t long before Reyes found herself at a competition attended by the Real skateboard team, featuring some of the biggest names in the industry. She was the only girl at the event, and she won first place for her age group.
Women are generally seen as the minority in the skateboarding industry. While solid numbers are difficult to track down, the Public Skatepark Development Guide, an organization which helps localities advocate for skateparks in their communities, put the number of female “core” skateboarders at just over 16 percent in 2009. It wasn’t even until 2003 that one of the most popular skateboarding competitions, the X Games, implemented a women’s skateboarding category.
But Reyes said she has not experienced gender discrimination during her skateboarding career. She said she would show up to skate with the boys, and she would fall and fall and fall.
Falling, after all, is how you learn, she said.
A year after her breakthrough in Hawaii, when the Real team noticed her and started sending her free gear as part of their amateur team, Reyes was on the cover of Thrasher Magazine. She had to cut class again for the photoshoot and to this day, she said she’s one of only three women to make the cover of Thrasher. A copy of her cover, Reyes said, is in a Smithsonian National Museum of American History collection.
A few years after the Thrasher cover, Reyes was approached by Rookie Skateboards for a professional sponsorship, and her decades-long, worldwide journey began. Today she is sponsored by Nike SB, Spitfire Wheels, RVCA, Ace Trucks and many others.
Reyes said she’s seen skateboarding’s popularity explode in the last few years, especially in suburban communities like Williamsburg, and she hopes that the localities will expand their current skateboarding facilities to match this current trend. Besides offering free and affordable events to introduce the youth to skateboarding, new Historic Triangle skateparks are another priority of TSA and Pfannebecker, with whom Reyes has been collaborating.
Reyes said skateboarding didn’t just open the world to her, it taught her invaluable lessons that she carries to this day. Even outside the sport.
“It [skateboarding] gave me responsibility,” Reyes said. “It gave me courage to try instead of saying: ‘I can’t,’ and keep doing it, keep working hard at it. It pushed me to do better at everything I did.”