With International Women's Day falling on Thursday this week we figured that it made sense to have a similarly themed Sunday Service and really, who better that Fort Myers, Florda's own Elissa Steamer?
Whilst Elissa was by no means the first female skateboarder to break down gender barriers within skateboard culture, she was indisputably the first to do it in the modern street skating era. (Shout out to Jaime Reyes here too as she also pioneered female acceptance in the street skating dominated era, along with landing a Thrasher cover and a banging Real skateboards part on 'Non Fiction.)
Despite various other early to mid 90's female contemporaries, (Lauren Mollica and Jessie Van Roechoudt to name just two), I think you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who would argue with the contention that it was Elissa Steamer who upped the ante for female skateboarding globally.
Not only did Elissa effectively appear out of nowhere (to most of the world at least) with a full section on one of the most celebrated and influential skate videos of all time; she also did so without any mention whatsoever of her gender. She was a skateboarder first and foremost and that is what did the talking for her.
With that said, there's no better place to begin this celebration of one of skateboarding's true icons than with the very same section from Toy Machine's 1996 'Welcome to Hell'. This video altered the direction of skateboarding's evolution in multiple ways, from the focus on handrail and gnarly skating, to its embrace of the long-forgotten slam section, through to Elissa's appearance - Welcome to Hell is a classic.
Toy Machine's 1998 follow up video, the equally celebrated 'Jump Off a Building' is next in line and featured yet another banging Elissa part, complete with dope style and even doper outfits, cementing her place within the late 90's pantheon.
Janis Joplin and the line with the gap to backlip - certified legend status.
After the post 'Jump Off a Building' Toy Machine exodus, Elissa then found herself riding for original Baker skateboards sister company, (and subsequent stand alone skateboard brand) Bootleg Skateboards.
Just prior to the release of the first full-length Bootleg video 'Bootleg Skateboards 3000', Elissa also had a short section on the 1999 'Baker Bootleg' video.
This video, edited and filmed by one time Baker brand manager Jay Strickland, is credited with the birth of the Baker skateboard brand, originally co-founded by Andrew Reynolds and Jay Strickland before a falling out occurred and the Baker and Bootleg brands became their own separate entities.
Here's Elissa Steamer's short section from Baker Bootleg (1999)
For those who haven't seen this pre-Baker, Baker video - you can watch the (almost) full thing here: Baker Bootleg - although for the archivists amongst you, this version is missing the Greco and Boulala mini ramp footage during a porno shoot that was included on the original bootleg VHS version.
Elissa's 'Bootleg 3000 Promo' parts starts at 4 minutes into the clip below.
Following the dissolution of Bootleg Skateboards a couple of years later, footage of Elissa Steamer was thin on the ground for a while: aside from a few appearances in 411VM here and there and the odd appearance at contest, she was laying low in San Francisco living at the infamous skate house 'Six Newell'.
This era led to the filming of the 'Six Newell' video, (released in 2004), containing sections from residents and associated friends and blessing us with the rad 2 minutes of SF hill skating and precision tech lines that you can watch below.
During the same period, Elissa also filmed a part for Floridian video maker Rob Hoovis' 'FM2' video, which focused on a bunch of skaters from Fort Myers, Florida (Steamer's hometown).
Rob Hoovis 'FM2' Florida homies video
Footage from Rob Hoovis' video was also used in the 'Tony Hawk Pro Skater' Activision Video Game which, perhaps ironically, made Elissa Steamer far more famous and rich than any of her previous skateboarding endeavours and forever enshrined her legacy as the first female skateboarder to appear as a playable video game character.
If Wikipedia is to be believed, Andrew Reynolds is quoted as saying,
"For the first game, everybody got paid. Elissa Steamer, myself, whoever else was in it, we were laughing — we got like one check for royalties that was like $190,000 or something. I really love that Elissa Steamer got $190,000 out of it too, that’s my favorite part."
After a few years in sponsorship limbo, one-time Toy Machine team mate Jamie Thomas offered Elissa a spot on the Zero skateboards team, leading to this short but banging Zero 'Strange World' video part released in 2009.
Following that, and after Steamer parting ways with Zero, came another Fort Myers, Florida themed section in the Brotherhood skate shop video 'Paradise'.
Still sponsorless but sober and happy, Steamer founded the Gnarhunters brand in collaboration with legendary SF skate store FTC in 2013 and has gone on to produce a range of soft goods and related products ever since.
If after reading through this, you feel like buying some Gnarhunters gear, then head over to their webstore at: gnarhunters.com and spend some money. And yes, before you ask - they ship internationally.
For those of you interested to hear more about the back story behind Elissa Steamer's inspirational life, then allow us to direct you towards the excellent four part Epicly Later'd featuring her. Any and all questions that you may have are sure to be answered there.
Before we sign off - one more massive salute.
These days the label 'legend' is bandied around willy-nilly like a soggy joint at a house party, but in this instance it is wholeheartedly deserved.
Elissa Steamer is a skateboarding legend and she paved the way for all female skateboarders who have followed in her wake without ever doing anything with an iota of cringe.
Elissa Steamer - you are the best. Thank you.