Christine Cottam: Jackalope Champion, & Urban Artist

November 15, 2023 / By jacquelinedavis

Stance: Regular
Age: 18
Hometown: Phoenix, Arizona
Global Rank: 22nd in women’s street
Instagram: @christinemcottam
Sponsors: Nike Skateboarding, Meow Skateboards, S1 Helmets, Bones Wheels, Rock Star Bearings, Jarritos, Krux Trucks, Gater Skins Ramps, Spinellis Skate

When the time came to give out medals in the women’s street competition at Jackalope Virginia Beach this past summer, and then again at Jackalope Montreal, it was Christine Cottam from Phoenix, Arizona in the first place spot on the podium.

Christine Cottam Image Credit: Jackalope/Tribu

Quietly confident, the 18-yr-old Arizona native, the youngest in a family that includes three older brothers and an older sister, is a sponsored skateboarder with Nike SB and Lisa Whitaker’s groundbreaking company Meow Skateboards, and is becoming a household name in the sport, globally, on her own terms.

Christine has made impressive gains in contests. In addition to first place finishes at Jackalope in 2023, she placed third in street the USA Skateboarding National Championships in 2022, and second at the Miami Open in 2021, but there is more to her story than what she has achieved on the podium. Like most 18-yr-olds Christine is looking towards her future. She loves art, and reading about philosophy and big ideas, and has strong opinions and poignant words about opportunities for women in skateboarding.

I had the pleasure of meeting Christine over Zoom earlier this month. We introduced ourselves, I expressed my envy over the dry Arizona heat compared to Montreal in November, and then I gave her the floor and sat back to listen, and learn. As we talked she reminded me in many ways of my own teenage daughters, shy and reserved at first but open and animated when the topic is something they are passionate about. For Christine Cottam that’s skateboarding.

Backside 180 North Image Credit: Ryan Del Rosario

Let’s begin from the beginning. How old were you when you started skateboarding? What inspired you to skate?

I started skating when I was around eleven years old. The first thing that sparked my interest was I was at my grandpa’s house and my uncle brought out some old videos of him skating back in the 80s and 90s on this old plywood ramp that he built on his own in the desert. 

I just remember watching the videos and thinking, “wow, I really want to make videos like that.” My brother used to skate as well, he took me to the skatepark when I showed interest in it, and I just loved it immediately. Two of my three older brothers skated, so they got me into it, but I was mostly just skating on my own.

What is the skate scene like in Arizona? Where do you skate/train?

I think of it as a big family. We all have a deep love and appreciation for skating, and I think you have to love it, to make it through the summer, because in the summer it’s like up to 120 degrees, a super dry desert heat that makes for rough skate spots. 

There’s a lot of skate shops in Phoenix, like Cowtown’s Skateboards  who support us. In 2022 Dashawn Jordan and Andrew Nicolaus opened Faces Skateshop, and have put a big foot forward for the Arizona/Tempe skate community, supporting local skaters and putting on events and video premiers. Cowtown’s founded the Phoenix AM and I think that’s what originally gave Arizona a lot more recognition and a solid spot in the skate industry. Women have always skated the Phoenix AM here and there, which has been really inspiring to me. In maybe 2017, 2018 Fabiana Delfino came out to skate in the Phoenix AM and that was super special and inspiring for me.

I grew up skating at Tempe Skatepark and when I started women skateboarders were really scarce. But there’s a team of riders called Las ChicAZ who gave women a home for skating, skaters like Di’Orr Greenwood (of the Navajo Nation) who have paved the way for skaters from the reservation, she makes art and teaches skate classes.

You took first place in women’s street style at Jackalope VB, and again in Montreal. Epic! What was the experience like for you, skating at Jackalope?

Both events were really special to me for a few reasons. The whole time it felt like skating with a bunch of friends. The crowd was so lively and positive, which makes Jackalope one of the few competitions that I’ve been really hyped to skate and compete in. 

Skating is changing very quickly and becoming more about the sport and athletic atmosphere with much more rigid standards as to what will get you points and what will not. A lot of skaters in the upcoming generations skate very similarly and try to fit into that box, which is amazing, and the level of women’s skating is incredible right now, and only going up, but for me skateboarding is an art, a form of self-expression. 

I’ve always skated a bit differently and followed my own path, and Jackalope is a competition that has appreciated and awarded the diversity that I and other skaters have brought to the game. The atmosphere that is created just reminds me of the love of skating, and I feel that in the crowd as well. It’s an amazing feeling. The people in Montreal were all very, very nice and welcoming. I have some friends there and they showed me around, very laid back, just a great experience. 

Ollie North Image Credit: Ryan Del Rosario

Who are your skateboarding heroes? What inspires you to take your skating to the next level? 

Fabiana Delfino, Maria Duran, Aori Nishimura. I just remember watching them skate so powerfully and forging the way, showing the skate community that women can have a place in skating too. The fact that these idols of mine have also become my peers and friends over time has been a really special thing for me. 

What are your interests outside of skateboarding? What are some of your goals, in and outside of the skateboarding world?

I love art and basically just living life and being outside with my friends, graffiti, exploring, being out in nature. I’ve been working a lot on urban photography and videography and skate videography. I think that there’s so much beauty in the world that we overlook. I want to be able to capture that through art and photography and videography, and just connecting with people, and maybe someday share my vision with people. 

I love reading about psychology and philosophy. I’m studying languages right now. I’ve been studying a lot of Portuguese and Spanish so that I can connect with my friends in skating from around the world and learn about their cultures. 

Front Smith Revert Image Credit: Trevor Brown

Women are killing it in skateboarding right now. Can you share some of your thoughts about women in skateboarding, about having to constantly push against the glass ceiling?

I actually have a lot to say about my experiences and everything with this. Throughout my life I’ve struggled to find a place where I belong, I felt different, I wasn’t included in many things. Skating gave me that home I needed. We’re all different, and we all accept each other. We’re a family to each other. 

Still, growing up in the skate community as a girl has been a challenge in itself, and in the beginning I felt like a minority within my community. I remember feeling hesitant to go to the skatepark because I was often the only girl there, and a lot of the guys weren’t so welcoming at first. 

I had to be really assertive to actually get a turn, but I pushed through, and after a while I started to gain more respect around the park, and the locals knew me and looked out for me. Then I started traveling and going to these other competitions with other girls who had gone through the same things as me. 

When I was sponsored by Meow Skateboards, I started skating with all my idols that I had always looked up to, and eventually becoming a part of them, and then hearing them speak about their experiences growing up that were so similar to mine, it really hit me that I had finally found my home.

I still have a ways to go, a lot to improve, but this is what pushes me to take my skating to the next level, to show other girls and women that we can push through the standards that the world holds for us. I think the generations before me especially have really paved the way towards gaining respect and having equal opportunities in skateboarding, equal cash prizes.

Women have had to scrape by with what the industry was willing to give us, and there’s a lot of criticism women still receive from some of the community. But with the foundation that past generations have laid down for us, my generation has really been able to push and have more equal opportunities for women than ever before. Progression in women’s skating has accelerated insanely because of that. 

Christine Cottam Image Credit: Jackalope/Tribu

Any closing comments for young girls that might look up to you when following their own dreams?

I am just one piece in the game, showing up, pushing my own boundaries, skating, being myself, regardless of what other people think about me and my abilities, just like all my peers. 

I just hope to be able to inspire girls and women around the world to chase their dreams, in skating, in whatever it is, even in the presence of those that don’t believe in us, or think that we don’t deserve a spot. We just have to keep pushing and create that space for ourselves.

Keep an eye out for Christine Cottam. She will be at the World Street Championships in Tokyo in December 2023, and Sharjah in January 2024. She is truly an individual, and she is definitely going places. Her favourite street trick is the impossible. In the hour or so that we spent together I couldn’t help but think that she shares a kinship with the inventor of that very trick – Rodney Mullen – and other pioneers in the sport who have forged a path, while remaining true to their vision of what skateboarding can be.