Sunday, October 18, 2015

4 Girls. 4 Skateboards. 300 Miles. 2 Weeks.

Day 10 #NakedTruth. Claire, Carissa, Carly and Jaime have spent the last week skateboarding 150 miles down the coast of California to raise money and awareness of their new non-profit Duchess Ride, a youth-development program designed to cultivate tenacity in young women through participation and progression in board sports.

I met Duchess Ride co-creator Claire Altenau three years ago when I moved to Vail Valley, Colorado to give resort life a try (aka ski bum life).  I was always in awe of her laid back attitude and drive.  No matter how poor the riding conditions were, she was always stoked to be on the mountain teaching girls how to freestyle (including myself, thank you for the buttering lesson!)  

In order to raise money and awareness for their new non-profit, Claire and her crew are skateboarding 300 miles down the coast of California from Santa Barbara to Mexico.  Want to know if they're making it happen? Find out in my interview with Claire below...

Q: Tell me about your non-profit Duchess Ride? How did it come to fruition?

Claire and fellow co-founder Jaime started out as snowboard instructors in Beaver Creek, Colorado, empowering young girls through self-expression on and off the mountain.  Carly joined, then Carissa too.  These four ladies had a big idea, and their collaborative ambition made Duchess Ride a reality.

Board sports are high risk and scary. Just like anyone else, Claire, Jaime, Carly, and Carissa all started somewhere. It wasn't long ago that Claire learned how to skateboard, and now she's alternating legs at 26 miles a day! These women wanted to make it easier for their younger counterparts to get into board sports.  This makes the snowboarding, skateboarding and surfing all about encouragement, about pushing one another to their limits, but in a supportive, less intimidating environment that is typically dominated by men.  These chicks are changing the way women do sports.  

Q: How did you ladies come up with the idea to skateboard 300 miles across California?

It's hard to get the word out when you're just starting out.  They decided that in order to get some serious attention, they needed to do something BIGCarissa heard about Mike Smith, a fellow skater who rode 300 miles across Nebraska to raise funding for his nonprofit empowering youth through skateboarding and assisting the lesser fortunate in his community. However no women had ever completed a ride to this extreme.

This ride was the way to get the attention they needed.  They decided to do the ride through SoCal because that's where all the board industries are, but it's not a bad place to be, either.  They will (and have!) run into a lot of people, especially when their route runs the boardwalk.

Q: What keeps you motivated?

Riding at least 20 miles each day in sunny, 90 degree weather, climbing hills no less, with swollen hands and feet, and achy bodies.  Not only are they building endurance, skill (imagine having to ride switch for 10 miles!), awareness and funding, but they're showing other girls and women that anything is possible.  They all have other jobs to pay the rent, but still, they're giving every ounce of their passionate energy into this cause.  

Q: Who inspires you?

Claire told me it's ironic that I asked her this question, because throughout their ride, they've been approaching other women, asking which women they've been inspired by.  Claire, Jaime, Carly and Carissa all agree that they didn't have a female role model, a mentor, when they were younger, aside from their parents. 

They asked themselves, "How can we change this?" Together, they want to be more inspirational, to get more women out there who inspire them, and each other.  Their desire to inspire others manifested from feeling inspired by the incredible young girls and women in their growing crew.

Duchess Ride recognizes that women are doing more noteworthy things, such as having the freedom to express themselves creatively and with the support of other women.  Claire says the girls she's talking to are inspired by woman for being really nice or really pretty.  These ladies behind Duchess Ride want women to be inspired by a woman for where she's been and her aspirations.  This speaks beyond superficiality. Who is this woman? How is she doing it? Guys have a different standard, and these ladies are breaking that down.

Q:What significant roadblocks have you faced? What do you do to move past them?

#1 is money. As for any new start-up, it's really difficult to find finding.  While they do have unofficial sponsors, it's tough to get money when you're new.  People want to know these ladies are serious about this, that they're reliable and trustworthy.  It takes time to get their mission out there. They've encountered a few doubters, the random dude in the In-N-Out parking lot who didn't believe they were actually skateboarding down the coast, or the occasional hater on Facebook who's killing their vibe.

All that non-sense is forgotten as they've starting getting some serious attention. They've run into girls who have decided to join them for part of their ride.  Famous photographer Bo Bridges snapped their picture mid-ride.  An artist came up to the crew while they were skating and recognized them from social media.  This small Colorado-based non-profit is picking up momentum right before their eyes.  And most importantly, their family and friends are sending them supportive texts along the way. 

Even though the first 150 miles have been totally exhausting, they have to keep going.  They want to teach girls that whether you make it or fail, it is OK.  And since all four of them are in it together, they are supporting each other along the way.  They are embodying their mission, through the fun times and the challenges.
Q: How do you see Duchess Ride changing in the next 5-10 years? 

I asked Claire this question, because it's fun to create a future with crazy, exciting goals.  Claire envisions Duchess Ride being offered to women, young and old, in mountain resorts across the states from Mammoth to Washington and even the East Coast (yay!).  She wants to start international surf camps in New Zealand and Australia.  She also plans to get older women involved too, breaking their thoughts and building them back up.  Duchess Ride wants to change the way we've been taught to approach things, explaining that failure is all part of it, but stay tenacious, and it will all work out. 

They have 3 progress points in place: Tenacity, Creativity, and Crewistance.  The word teamwork doesn't work for these badass ladies, so they made up their own version.  Crew + persistence.  They believe these are the key ingredients to progress through life, rather than just waiting for things to happen. They live this daily.  

Q: What can we expect after the ride is over?

So far, Duchess Ride has two pilot sessions in place for 10-12 year olds in an after school program in Beaver Creek, Colorado.  For six weeks, six girls will progress and that other word will spend one day on snow, one day off snow. Together, they'll focus on their strengths, weaknesses, image, self-esteem, accepting failure and building confidence.  The girls in the program will form their own teams organically to keep up that crewistence, where friends continue to creatively progress, as a group.  Supporting each other rather than battling each other for a win, to reduce competition that so many youth face.  Targeting girls before their teenage years is their mission.  Just as I show people how to use food as preventative medicine, Duchess Ride wants to build crewistance and confidence in young girls so they can better equipt themselves when they feel the hit of societal and cultural standards that are experienced in high school and beyond.  

These adventure-loving ladies are giving young women a chance to rise into their power, discover their gifts, and share their passion for board sports in a supportive tribe.  I can honestly say the inspirational women and girls I've rode with over the last 15 years with have pushed me past my snowboarding comfort zone, which has cascaded into other aspects of my life.  

We would love your support, especially as the crew is 150 miles into their ride down California's Coast.  Right now, if you donate $100, you can choose one of the four Duchess Ride ladies and they'll come up with a ridiculous way to throw a pie in the face of whichever chick you choose.  All of this will be documented and filmed-- so head over to their site for more videos and to follow their journey.

If you want to support these ladies and their awesome cause, donate here:

Pictures from Claire Altenau and Duchessride Facebook Page