Hugs are as plentiful as skateboards as the members of Sister Shredders greet each other at the mini-ramp inside Airhouse.
The local women are moving indoors for the winter, skating weekly on Thursdays from 7:30 to 9 p.m.
While they are a diverse group, they echo each other in saying that the atmosphere of Sister Shredders is "supportive" and "empowering."
The term "member" is used loosely because as soon as you approach the skaters and show an interest in what they are doing, you become at least an honorary member.
The group started about three seasons ago and welcomes folks who identify as women of all skating abilities — meaning even if you have never stepped on a board before or have been skating for decades — and from all walks of life.
They skate at the Skateboard Park in the summer.
Not all the members involved were at the drop-in on Thursday, but The Chief caught up with the spirited women who were.
Born and raised in Squamish Jas Hans, 21, saw a friend's Instagram story about Sister Shedders and became intrigued. She watched for a few weeks as her friend's skating improved, and that inspired her.
"I came out last year, and everyone here has just been so supportive and welcoming. There's a lot of women empowerment that goes around. It has been a great experience," she said.
Last season she fractured both her elbows and chipped her teeth skating at the Squamish Park, but that hasn't deterred her.
"It was hard for sure. I think I had a bit of a fall phobia... but I still came here even a week after my accident... not even just to skate, but just for the support and being around the energy," she recalled.
"I wanted to be here. Everyone was super gentle and let me take it slow, which is understandable. It was a great welcome back," she said, before jumping into the ramp and getting on her board.
Moments later, veteran skater Kristal Robinson jumped up, sans board, to take Hans' hands and help her get momentum on the board, giving her encouragement along the way.
"She has worked so hard," said Robinson. "She is just not deterred, in fact, you have less fear than a lot of people I know," she told Hans.
Robinson, 40, wants every woman and girl to try skateboarding.
"I was not given permission," she said of her start years ago growing up in Whistler. "I had to earn it."
She said that once she started skating, while no one was shooing her away from the sport, she knew it wouldn't be a smooth path.
She stressed no man has ever said women can't or shouldn't skate, in fact, many have been supportive, but there is something in girls' and women's heads sometimes that tells them they don't belong in that world. She works to dispel that and inspire younger skaters.
"There is so much I have gained from having these women in my life," she said. "I hope that I can fast track them out of not having that confidence."
Even if folks don't have a skateboard, Robinson has one that she will lend, she said.
"It is just this wicked give and take and everybody is welcome."
She noted that groups like Sister Shredders are popping up all over these days.
"It is happening everywhere, and we aren't affiliated," she said.
The Squamish group started a Junior Shredders club and then COVID-19 hit, and it fizzled, but she would love to see a mentorship program for young girl skaters develop.
The mom and stepmom of a total of three boys said there is also no upper age limit of skating either.
"When you are skating, you don't have an age," she said.
Riley Oster, 23, started skating 10 months ago with Sister Shedders and is "killing it," according to Robinson.
She works at Airhouse and saw the ladies skate night on the schedule, and though shy, wanted to give it a try.
She laughed, recalling that she was so nervous about her first night with the Shredders that the day before she spent hours in the cold, learning to drop-in — beginning at the top edge of the ramp and then skating into it.
Growing up in Nanaimo, she wanted to skate, but was too shy "and too worried what the boys thought," she said.
"Now, I obviously don't care."
She said that the encouraging and safe space the group provides is what she loves about it, she said.
"Everybody is so down to help you learn. It has made me feel silly for spending so many hours at the skatepark [for that first night]."
All the women stressed that absolutely anyone is welcome.
Oster said her best friends have come from the group, including fellow skater Emily Miller.
Miller, 28, is a kinesiologist, holistic health coach and mom to a one-year-old.
She started skating when she was eight years old thanks to her cousin, an instructor at a camp Miller attended when she lived in Ontario.
"She was an instructor at a skatepark, which was really cool. So, she introduced me to it and then it was just something that for some reason stuck and it has been the best thing," she said.
"There have been years when I wasn't skateboarding, and I really felt like something was missing from my life."
She said something people may get wrong about the sport is that skateboarders are rebels or trouble makers.
"Some of the best people I have met in my life have been through skateboarding," she said. "It is a really awesome environment. I have been an athlete my whole life and there has never quite been anything that is like skateboarding for me."
She and Robinson pointed to skateboarding making its debut appearance at the Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
"It has really brought a lot of awareness to skateboarding, and I think specifically to women's skateboarding. I am seeing now a lot more opportunity for women skateboarding, especially for the young kids coming up — the young girls who are absolutely killing it."
While her relatives are back in Ontario, the Shredders have become her Squamish family, she said.
After moving to Squamish three years ago, she met Robinson at the Skatepark, and the two soon formed the group.
Sarah Wohlgemuth, 20, started skating with Sister Shredders about a year ago.
Her best friend's older brother skateboarded when they were kids, but that was her only real exposure growing up in Vernon.
"We would kind of play around on their skateboards, but there wasn't really a big girl skate culture where I grew up. I couldn't really get into it because I was too introverted to go to the park," she said.
She moved to Squamish three years ago for her Grade 12 year.
Here, she heard about Sister Shredders through a friend and showed up for a session. She hasn't looked back.
"They are super cool," she said.
She broke her wrist skating at the beginning of the summer, so is just getting back into it.
"It is a very inclusive community we have got," she said, noting that not all Squamish recreation is as welcoming to all.
She said she would continue to skate as long as her body allows.
Kim Lamoureux, 40, got into skateboarding about a year ago, thanks to her then eight-year-old son.
He wanted to go to the skate park when they were in Ucluelet. When she said she would take him, he said, "No, I want you to skate with me," she recalled.
Though hesitant, he convinced her to buy a board and go.
"There is only going to be a slim window in time that it is going to be OK to show up with your mom at the skatepark," she said.
She later found out about the ladies' night at Airhouse and joined last fall.
A snowboarder for more than 25 years meant Lamoureux was comfortable standing sideways and balancing on the board.
"Other than that, though, this is its own thing," she said.
Especially during the pandemic, the warm and inviting nature of the group is a respite.
"It has just been such an amazing outlet," she said. "It provides so much freedom, community and connection where there is no judgment at all. No matter how old or how young you are.... If you land something, no matter how big or small, they are there for you. If they see you do something new, they are cheering you on," she said.
"No matter what."