Even before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, low participation numbers in women’s Para snowboarding threatened certain classifications at international events. Dutch riders Renske van Beek and Lisa Bunschoten took notice two years ago and did something to address the situation.
Their answer came in the form of the “Adaptive Board Chicks,” or ABC, an organization designed to promote women’s Para snowboarding across the world.
“The idea of the Adaptive Board Chicks came when we were with all the female competitors in La Molina in Spain,” van Beek recalled. “There, we discussed the fact that there weren’t any other female riders, and that was a big problem for the sport. So, we discussed it with a few girls from America, Canada and other countries to come up with a solution to get more female riders.”
Van Beek and Bunschoten also enlisted the support of national coaches around the world to launch the initiative.
“We pitched our idea to all the coaches … and everyone was so excited and was agreeing with us that there weren’t enough girls for the sport,” van Beek said. “So, the coaches had our backs and were going to help us to get more females in the sport.”
ABC held its first training camp in , Netherlands, in October 2019, drawing riders from Canada, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Romania, Spain and Switzerland. With funding from the Agitos Foundation, which delivers programs to support the International Paralympic Committee’s vision “to make for an inclusive world through sport,” camp participants needed only pay for their travel.
“The motivation for the ABC was to get more adaptive girls into snowboarding and by riding together, share the stoke of snowboarding and board sports,” van Beek said. “The first event in Landgraaf was a success. The girls had fun, and some of them continued with snowboarding. Some of them are already competing, and the greatest success is that they are having fun and can see what’s possible.”
The ABC camps have attracted riders from beginners on up.Last April, ABC was featured in a video from the International Paralympic Committee. In the two-minute video, van Beek and Bunschoten excitedly and simply described what the organization was all about.
“Adaptive Board Chicks are chicks who are excited to ride, they have fun with each other,” Bunschoten said. “Yeah, just happy girls on a board.”
“I am super proud of all the girls,” van Beek added. “It makes me really happy to see them progress, and (our) aim is to let more girls ride and hopefully they are going to compete with us.”
Along with recruitment efforts on Instagram, the Chicks were off to a promising start. But the pandemic brought it all to a screeching halt last year.
“Unfortunately, last year there (wasn’t) another Agitos camp or ABC camp because it wasn’t possible because of COVID,” van Beek said. “Hopefully, in the future, it’s possible to organize them again.”
ABC had already begun to make a difference, with some camp alumnae competing at international events.
“The ABC has had quite the nice impact at the snowboard competitions,” van Beek said. “Hopefully, women’s snowboarding is growing in the next year through the (Paralympic Winter Games).”
Van Beek hopes that training camps can be offered again soon.
“It’s really important that other girls can try snowboarding and feel the vibe to ride with each other,” van Beek said. “I personally really like to teach other girls how to ride, and it made me feel really happy to share my thoughts about snowboarding and to teach them things.”