Lizzie Armanto had a huge year in 2019, beginning with a win at the Vans Pool Party in March and another at Vert Attack in Malmo, Sweden. She finished 2nd in Women’s Skateboard Park at Dew Tour to open the Olympic qualification process, a nice coincidence in the same week that her first signature colorway shoes and apparel collection with Vans arrived in skate shops around the world. She also picked up a bronze medal at X Games and landed on the podium at two events on the Vans Park Series. Last but not least, she’s finished the year at #5 in the World Skate rankings, essentially guaranteeing her spot to compete in the Tokyo Olympics, where she’ll be representing Finland.
We caught up with her to chat about her stellar year, the current pause in the skateboarding contest calendar, and the responsibility she’s happily shouldering at the forefront of a new level of representation and visibility for women and girls in skateboarding.
Last year you started your Olympic qualifying season with a 2nd place podium finish at Dew Tour, springboarding into that whole new process just as it got underway.
It feels like ages ago, just because so much has happened and things are dramatically different today! It was really fun starting it at Dew Tour because there was a really good course, and I was fortunate to place really well. I was super stoked to start off the season with a high ranking as my first taste for Olympic qualifying. And, as it turned out, it was definitely the most enjoyable Olympic qualifier I went to.
Have you caught any heat from U.S. skaters or fans about your decision to represent Finland in the Olympics, especially now that you’re higher up in the World Skate rankings than any skaters representing U.S.A. for Women’s Skateboard Park?
The only place I’ve seen some pushback is on the Internet, and it’s usually from people that aren’t really that into skating anyway, just people who want to hate. Because of the quotas set in place through the Olympics, the system won’t necessarily allow the best skateboarding to be shown, because each country will only get to send three skaters for each event. Skateboarding has never been about where you’re from or what country you’re skating for, so I just felt like going with Finland was the right choice for me and also for the other skaters, just to open up one more spot for a deserving skateboarder to get to go so we can show the best skateboarding possible when it does debut in Tokyo.
You finished the year in the top five overall in the World Skate rankings. That must have been a huge relief.
I feel pretty good about my ranking coming into 2020. I was proud of how I skated in 2019, and I was excited to get 2020 going. But as everyone knows it went totally a different way, and now I’m just thankful I have my health. I know some people aren’t as fortunate, and it’s kind of a scary time for a lot of people. I’ve just been taking each day and each week as it comes because it’s all anybody can do, and just making sure I’m keeping in touch with my family and friends.
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In all the mess of things happening, one constant is finding new ways to challenge myself. Using the living room to practice yoga, definitely fits that bill. Theres so many house things to be distracted by. Luckily I have @axelcrusher & @mami_tezuka to be quarantined w/ and theyre game for most activities. & thanks to @dollieduke83 for the daily classes ♥️ #crushquarantine
Who’s on your quaran-team?
In the beginning, Mami Tezuka was living with Axel Cruysberghs and I. Mami’s super easy to hang out with and it was super mellow to have her come stay at my house, just like another buddy to skate with. She showed us how to make a bunch of Japanese food, and ever since she’s left we’ve been bringing out a lot of her recipes. She went back to Japan just because they’d put out some more updates about coronavirus and it was time for her to go back to her family. I’ve been skating at Tony’s a little bit – there’s plenty of space there to skate with a few people – and Axel and I have a flat bar we’ve been sessioning. I’ve also been hanging out with my friend Cody Long, who’s an awesome filmer, and my brother Max.
It’s been super fun to see so many new women on the scene from all over the place and especially Japan in the last few years, people like Mami and also Misugu Okamoto, Sakura Yosuzumi, Sky Brown. How much do you think skateboarding coming into the Olympics has been responsible for that?
Skateboarding being part of the Olympics has definitely allowed for a lot more opportunities for women and girls to pursue skateboarding. There are more skateparks everywhere, more contests, more international support, more financial backing for the top skaters, more women in videos, more opportunities all around. And skateboarding has just gotten more accessible, because of the Internet and Instagram and all that. Seeing women skate just isn’t as obscure as it once was. All of that is inspiring to the next generation of girls.
I wanted to ask you about your role in that new level representation, not just at events like Dew Tour and X Games and Vans Park Series, and now at the Olympics, but also at the skate shop level. Now a kid can walk into a skate shop and get a signature Lizzie Armanto Birdhouse deck with your signature Bones wheels, or something from your signature Vans collection.
It’s super exciting. Vans gave me the opportunity to make my own collection and do some pro colorway shoes, and it was really fun to be involved in the design process of how you take an idea and take it through all the steps to become a real product. That whole experience was really cool, getting to see the backend and understand some of the other side of what my sponsors do. And it was really cool, after months and months of planning, to see the collection for the first time. When it finally came out it was crazy to see the response from people. Now I can go to a skatepark and sometimes I’ll see people running my shoes, or a girl wearing my shirt or something. It’s just cool that that’s a real thing now! When I first started skating there weren’t really any signature pro products on the women’s side. I just think it’s really cool that the next generation has that.
Did you have any older female skate mentors growing up, anybody who took you under the wing the way you’ve done for Brighton Zeuner and now Mami Tezuka and some other girls?
No, but I skated with a couple girls, like Allysha Le. When I met her she was way better than me, even though we’re around the same age. I looked up to her, and then we started skating together a bunch and we’re still best friends today.
Let’s talk about male allies, too, then, because some of the biggest names in skateboarding from the 80s and 90s have been taking on important roles to mentor and take care of some of the up and coming female skaters. You’ve obviously had a mentoring relationship with Tony Hawk, and I know Jeff Grosso was also somebody who was important to your development as you were coming up.
I feel like those guys and a lot of the older generation still love skateboarding, and it’s cool to see them still a part of the scene. Skateboarding continues to progress and change and it’s cool to see that they support that. Personally, from my experiences, having that support has definitely helped me and given me the confidence to figure out new tricks and figure out how to get past a lot of different obstacles in life to get to where I am today. Tony’s really cool. He’s super reachable. He’s there if I ever have questions or need advice about anything. He’s been through so many ups and downs, so he has a lot of experience to share with me. He’s super fun to skate with and it’s inspiring to watch him do what he does. He’s obviously still really good at skateboarding, but he’s also really good at his job. I really trip out on the way he uses Instagram, and the way he uses his voice and reputation to empower others, the way he uses his foundation to help get skateparks built everywhere. It’s really cool to see that firsthand. He sees the bigger-picture things, and is able to see things before they happen, if that makes sense. I feel like his gut instinct is pretty spot on with a lot of things. It’s just cool to have somebody like that in my corner.
What are you most looking forward to about the rescheduled Dew Tour in September and other contests coming back?
I’m definitely looking forward to going to sessions and seeing everybody. I miss all the faces! I’m excited to see how everyone comes back from this big hiatus. I feel like everything’s been so calm and mellow during this pause: I’m excited to be excited again!
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