By now it’s hard to argue with the fact that Malmö might just be the skateboarding Mecca of Europe. Barcelona is still Barca despite the blown out spots. Paris probably has the biggest skateboarding footfall and Copenhagen undoubtedly hosts the best skateboarding event of the year but just over the bridge from the latter lies Sweden’s third largest city and one steeped in skateboarding history. It’s the birthplace of Pontus Alv, and subsequently his iconic skate brand, Polar, which in turn gave rise to fellow Malmö icon and current skateboarding heavyweight, Oskar ‘Oski’ Rozenberg. The city also boasts some of Europe’s finest skateparks, such as Kroksbäck, Sibbarp and Stapelbäddsparken, to name a few. And to top it all off, the city is also home to the world famous skate school Bryggeriets Gymnasium…which leads us nicely to Vilma Stål, who despite this longwinded intro isn’t originally from Malmö. Vilma actually grew up in Stockholm, but it wasn’t until she moved to Malmö and begun studying at the aforementioned Bryggeriets, that her skateboarding really began to elevate to a whole new level.
I could start by saying that if you’re not familiar with Vilma, then you should be and you will be soon, because she’s arguably one of the most exciting up and coming female skateboarders out there. But by this point, it feels redundant to limit her to her gender. She quite honestly is one of the most exciting up and coming skateboarders, period.
In fact, when we spoke about the evolution of women’s skateboarding, she was somewhat speechless. At just 18 years old, she’s grown up in an age where such barriers are increasingly nonexistent. And whilst there’s quite obviously still plenty of work to do before we reach total equality, it’s testament to the progressive nature of skateboarding that Vilma’s generation don’t even consider it a ‘thing’, per se.
“I remember when I first started skating in Stockholm I would go to the ‘girl sessions’ at the skatepark but then very quickly I just started skating with a guy friend at the outdoor skateparks in the snow. From there, we just forged a mixed crew, so I never really saw it as a guy or girl thing.”
Skateboarding wasn’t actually Vilma’s first choice. In fact, before skateboarding Vilma’s real passion was football (or ‘soccer’, depending what continent you’re from). It’s something she seems reluctant to discuss at first, almost embarrassed about, but she then briefly references how her junior career in football played an integral role in her ability to skate.
“Football and skateboarding actually go hand in hand. I used to always do kick ups around my house and it’s the best thing for building up strength, especially in your weaker foot. It’s like a bit of an unknown secret hack but it totally works. You get so much control in your flip tricks as a result. Like, doing an ‘around the world’ is like doing a switch flip.” This in essence explains why Villa’s switch skills are so good, then.
“When I first started skateboarding, I didn’t know if I was regular or goofy so I just decided to be regular and it took me a month to learn how to kick flip—but then I learnt how to switch almost immediately after.”
Vilma’s football skills were so good that she was scouted by AIK Fotboll, a Stockholm-based football club that holds the record for having played the most seasons in the Swedish top flight. She was even tipped for the national team and tells me that once she nutmegged Malmö born and arguably Sweden’s most famous cultural icon Zlatan Ibrahimovic when she was a mascot.
“I basically had a two week break between leaving the team I was playing for and joining AIK and I told my Dad, I’m not going back to training. I just knew that all I wanted to do from that point on was skate.”
Whilst most parents would probably prevent their child from making such a decision, especially in today’s climate of financial wealth within the football sphere, Vilma’s parents were the opposite “My dad was super sad when I quit football but both my parents have always been very supportive of skateboarding. Every summer they would drive me everywhere to skate. They would constantly drive me to Malmö and we would stay in a hotel so I could skate Stappel every day. And what’s funny is now that I live here, I literally live opposite that skatepark,” she says, something that aligns with her natural versatility for both street and transition.
“I think Oski played a big role in that because I just love watching him skate and he’s helped me so much with training and everything with Nike. Sarah Meurle too. When I first moved to Malmö, I only knew Sarah so we would skate together a lot. And I really love watching Nicole Hause. She’s so good at transition but also amazing at street. I remember when she came to visit and was skating Stappelbardsparken, I was so starstruck.
Yet for all the influence the aforementioned skaters have had, Vilma credits most of her growth and discipline in skateboarding to her education at Bryggeriets. “I don’t think I could’ve gone to any other high school. That school really made things so much easier for me in terms of learning in general because of how much you’re surrounded by skateboarding within it. They’ve helped me with everything. And I think the best thing is the actual skatepark itself because they rebuild it every year so there’s always a new park to skate when we get back from summer break. For me, Malmö is the best city in the world for skateboarding. It’s as simple as that.”