The longboarder carving a space for liberation
Michaylah Petersen is never without her longboard. These wheels are her freedom. At the age of 15, Petersen was kicked out of home. Her family refused to accept that she was gay. For two days, Petersen lived on the streets. With nowhere to go, she ended up in a care home, severely depressed. “Being forced into independence at a young age was tough,” Petersen says. It’s been a long journey to self-acceptance. In the course of getting her life on board, she’s enabling others to get back up.
“I’ve never had that space where I can be who I want to be,” Petersen says. “When I started skating I felt safe.” She first saw the impact of sport while coaching surfing at Waves for Change, a Laureus Sport for Good programme. Liberated by the adrenaline rush, Petersen realised she could take it further – with longboarding. Now, Petersen teaches girls in Lavender Hill how to carve, giving them the opportunity to move forward and express themselves.
The results exceed mastering flips and stunts. “Many people are scared to live the life they want to because they’re scared of being isolated,” Petersen says. That’s why she’s committed to ensuring her crew never feel alone. Petersen is a mentor and a friend. “It is important to have someone to speak to without the fear of being turned away,” she says. For every fall and success, Petersen is there cheering them on. In these moments, skateboarding takes on new meaning. “It’s about finding something that liberates you,” Petersen says. That’s the trick to freedom.