SkateIDSA’s 2017 Women’s Ultraskate world record setter on women in skateboarding, her goals for the future, and erasing limitations.
Saskia Tromp is the biggest name is women’s distance skateboarding: In 2017, she dominated the Dutch Ultraskate and not only broke the previous world record of 225 miles, but went on to set the bar especially high at an impressive 262 miles. For somebody who had only been competing in LDP races for two years, her mark on the sport has been impossible to ignore: in 2018 none of the female competitors between USA and Netherlands came close to touching that mileage.
Her competitive edge inspires women: with her humble nature and diverse interests outside of skateboarding, keeping up with her to the finish is something only a few have been able to do. When she isn’t expanding her mind in the realm of student life studying biodiversity in the Wadden Sea, she’s working once a week at Sickboards, and loving every second of it. “It gives me a sense of purpose to be able to help the community as a whole by giving advice and sending some neat LDP packages to the customers. Plus, I have the most passionate colleagues in the world!”
Though she has only been competing for a shorter amount of time compared to other women and men on the courses, her experience speaks for itself. “When I started skating on a board, I had just stopped ice skating. I was looking for something I could do to release energy and something that was easier to plan around, instead of training that couldn’t be switched to a different time or place. I was also going to move to the city where I was going to study and it’s a very practical way to get around town on a board.” What began as something new eventually became something she grew to be elite at.
Being number 1 in a growing sport holds a unique responsibility when it comes to sharing her love for it. When asked about how she responds to people who claim they can’t skateboard for one reason or another, she says, “Anyone can skate. Point. I don’t care if you need two extra wheels, four extra wheels or a chair on top. A lot of people, even some teachers, have asked me if they could try my board and I’d happily help them out with their first pushes. It’s a different thing if someone just doesn’t WANT it. It can happen (as we say in Dutch). There have been a lot of people whom I asked if they’d like to try it, but not everybody wanted it of course. I’d ask why, but if they really don’t want to I respect their choice and don’t push them to try it. But they do miss out on a nice experience in my opinion.”
With her records behind her, the only way it can go from here is up. Check out SkateIDSA’s interview with Saskia to get the full glimpse into what it means to be at top of her league:
SkateIDSA: What do you look for when planning which events you will make it out to?
ST: Things I’m always looking at to see if I’m going to an event include money (#studentlife), the time it takes to get to the race, and if my body feels ready or not. At the moment I’m working on the most important school project in my life: graduating. So basically anything that interferes with activities that I have to carry out for this will be cancelled.
SkateIDSA: Do you recommend any specific gear that others may not know about?
ST: Definitely… bike gloves! I use them to prevent sweat on my hands while holding my water bottle and to protect my skin in case of a crash. I’d used them for this when I was doing inline skating as well. Only con is that they block the sun and cause a slightly odd pattern on my hands that way. But overall a thing to buy: functional and cheap!
SkateIDSA: Tell us about what it feels like to finish a race.
ST: To me, it’s a feeling of proudness, being lucky for not having crashed (hopefully…), and being tired but satisfied, or wanting more the next time. Depending on how hard the conditions were or how hard I made it for myself it feels like: Ahh… That went by WAY too fast. Can we go again? Or: yeeeeeeeeeeee we’re done, where’s the food? I think pictures show these feelings better than words. But one word that always passes by at a finish: phew.
SkateIDSA: What would you say was your most prideful moment in your skateboarding career?
ST: To me, there’s nothing that tops the finish of the 2017 ultra and setting a new World Record. The whole team that had worked together to support me was done, I was completely done for like three weeks, but we managed to pull it off and I’m still proud of us! It is not just ‘my’ record. Without everyone else whom I competed/ skated together with, and all the people who supported me there’s no way I’d have skated 262 miles. When I started, I had no particular goal in terms of distance. I wanted to give it a try, had prepared everything I could think of and mid- race I decided to go for the WR for real.
It was also a bad day. In the morning, after the long dark night of accumulating miles, I was checking my Whatsapp and got the news that a classmate had passed away on his holiday because of a traffic accident. That struck me like a lightning bolt. The kind of panic that gets and keeps you out of ‘the zone’ that is so badly needed in an endurance event like an ultra. I also knew I was on schedule to reach my goal and I couldn’t do anything about the situation. So I told myself to keep going for the last hours and finished.
After I got home I only then started to realize everything that had happened. My home spot, the track where I ran, cycled and did inline- skating as a kid and teenager, was now home of a world record ridden by me. Also, someone’s life was lost that day. Double feelings, forever. Sounds weird to say it, but only after a few months I REALLY felt like I did something that had never been done before. After the hectic days that followed the finish, I was already looking to find the points where I could’ve done better, or improved to increase the distance in the next event. I forgot to enjoy things a bit and take in the moment. Reality now is: I didn’t make it this year, but I’m content with how far I got.
SkateIDSA: Do you look to other women competing for support or is it strictly competitive for you?
ST: I have a bit of a love- hate relationship with competition itself. To me, everybody is equal. However when I race, I forget everything around me and just want to go as fast as my body (and mind!) can handle. In the end, it doesn’t matter who finishes in which place on the list anyway. Sounds easy for me to say, but after experiencing the highs and lows of being the slowest a lot of times but also the fastest a lot of times, I am pretty sure about that.
I learned the hard way: as long as you have fun and don’t force yourself it will be fine, if you do force it and don’t have fun anymore it will be shit. While in a race it depends a bit on how I feel, but it’s definitely not strictly competitive for me ‘against’ other women. I will support any woman who needs or asks for it, and if I am in need of support I won’t hesitate to ask. Several people asked how it felt to be second at this year’s ultra and were surprised that I didn’t really mind. I had already planned to not go all out and it was just fine for me.
SkateIDSA: Women have been increasingly putting up records consistent with men. Where do you see women in distance skateboarding in 5 years? 10?
ST: I think the evolution of materials and dedication to training and health are what got ‘our’ female records up. Also the increasing amount of males going for >200mi distances at an ultra help women go further by drafting and encouraging each other. In 5 years, maybe the record gets broken and I believe within 10 years it will be broken for sure. There’s still quite a big gap between the male and female record, but who knows how far the ladies will get.
I think we have periods with more people (in general) getting into it, and periods with people stopping or taking a break. In general LDP might be growing a bit but at the moment I don’t foresee any major change soon. In 2020 skateboarding will be part of the Olympics. Honestly I don’t believe LDP will get the chance it deserves within now and 10 years, and if it will get in somehow we’ll need a lot more women to actually participate, but oh well. As long as we’re having a good time there is no problem. Hopefully LDP will keep growing and keep enough females in the races to actually keep up the category.
SkateIDSA: Would you say anything limits women in distance skateboarding, or is it an equal opportunity sport?
ST: Flat out: no. In my honest opinion there is absolutely nothing that limits women. There is nothing that can limit me in LDP besides myself. The races are equal, women get the same chances as men in terms of sponsorship, etc. The ‘problem’: there are just not that many women doing this sport.
As we’ve seen with other women SkateIDSA has put in the spotlight, being humble comes with the territory. It’s a league of women wading through a race of men in most cases, and making names where names haven’t always been. Saskia has proven herself to be a beacon of light that slims the disparity between men’s and women’s records. With time and growth of the sport, both of which Saskia is hopeful for, it won’t just be her name in the number one spot, but one of many – it’s a goal that all women competitors in this sport share. When asked how she would define a champion, she responded, “Anybody who tries to reach their dreams, goals, visions or desires by putting in effort, consistency, love, determination and passion. To me, these are the five things that I try to use to reach any goal that I’m aiming for, whether it be a personal or professional thing. It’s a kind of mind-set that everyone possesses, but it’s an art form to get it out and fight for it, to make it a reality. Don’t give up on what you REALLY want. If you think about your reasons to want something and work for it, it’s going to manifest somehow. Speaking for myself, I don’t necessarily see myself as a champion of anything, although some of the things I achieved were done according to my own idea of what a ‘champion’ is. I have my flaws and I’m not perfect. But a champion of being me sounds good enough.”
SkateIDSA Women’s Spotlight is a short interview series intended to promote and show off women in distance skateboarding; their achievements, backgrounds, and futures within the sport. For more information about how to join SkateIDSA to participate in a future event, head over to the organization’s registration page.