An interview with Lilly Stoephasius
We caught up with the German teen pro skateboarder to discuss competition, girls in sport and the Olympics.
Read the short profile below.
“My father used to skate a lot, and I stood on his skateboard for the first time when I was three months old. I got my first board at the age of three, and things just grew from there. I don’t go street skating. I find it quite boring because there’s not a lot to do. I prefer the skate parks and halls, where I can learn more tricks. That’s where I’ve always practiced. When I was eight, I entered my first contest in our local skate hall in Berlin and I won. Back then I was a little girl and I was afraid of not being respected. But I needn’t have worried. I quickly learnt that skaters are really nice people. In small contests there are often so few women that everyone just rides together. The German championship and most of the others are open contests, so anybody can take part. You can theoretically participate when you are six years old!”
Lilly is a skateboarder who has qualified for the German national team. She was born in 2007 in Berlin and lives there with her parents, younger sister and cat. Both her parents are sporty. Her mum played basketball in the Bundesliga, the top league in Germany, and her father played field hockey, also in the Bundesliga. He also represented his country at international snowboarding championships too. Now they are both high school teachers. Since winning her first local competitions, Lilly went on to compete nationally in the first ever German Skateboard Championships in 2018 and again in 2019. She won in the Park category at both events. She has also competed in China, Brazil and several times in the US, where she was spotted by brands including Vans, Ninty and Moonshine, who have since become her sponsors. In addition, her family receives government support to fund her career.
“I’m inspired by Lizzie Armanto, a US skateboarder in her late-20s. She was the first woman to grace the cover of “Thrasher”, the biggest skate mag on the planet. I’m also really into the gymnast Simone Biles because you can see she really enjoys what she’s doing. She’s in a book my mum gave me, “Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls”. The whole book is cool. It’s important to have female role models to look up to. I train with the national coach once or twice a week, but since Covid-19, I’ve been training more with my father. We usually go to the skate park four or five times a week but it’s not training in the classical sense. I don’t work that hard, only for two or three hours. I pick a trick and we practice it. When we do something new and I‘m afraid, I try to slowly feel my way around it. If I’m too scared, I say so and we stop. I wear all the protective gear these days. Once I fell at a contest in the US and broke a third of my upper teeth. But it wasn’t so bad – I didn’t damage any nerves. I bought a mouthguard and was back on my board the next day!”
“The next big thing for me is to qualify for the Olympic Games. It’s the first time skateboarding will be a category and I really want to take part. If I skate like I always do, then I’ll qualify. From there, I’ll want to get as far as possible. Winning feels really intense. With the German contests they read the results out from behind and you have to stand and wait. Then, when second place is read out and you don’t hear your name, you realize you have won. Standing on the podium in that moment is such a happy experience. Of course, I feel excited and weak before the competitions, but I take a deep breath and go. My parents are really supportive and they always say I should only do it as long as I enjoy it. There is pressure in contests, but it comes from myself because I want to win. Sometimes it’s difficult with my classmates because they don’t understand what I do. I can be away from school for five days every now and then to go to contests, so my classmates know that I do it professionally, but they don't know that I'm the German champion. The other day our new sports teacher even told me skateboarding is not a sport! But it’s not so bad. It’s just that people don’t see the hard side of training and competitions. Maybe things will change when it’s in the Olympics and people see it on TV.”