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Natalie Bramley: Shredding stereotypes and going for gold

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Natalie’s journey into the world of skateboarding began in 2014, when her older brother first introduced her to the sport.

Local Kimberley skating star Natalie Bramley has her sights set on the Olympic qualifiers. Picture: Danie van der Lith

A star is on the rise in the realm of skateboarding: Natalie Bramley, a skillful and determined skateboarder from Kimberley has emerged as a force to be reckoned with; someone who is defying gender stereotypes as she sets her sights on representing her country at the Olympic level.

Natalie’s journey into the world of skateboarding began in 2014, when her older brother first introduced her to the sport. At that time, there were few female skateboarders for her to look up to. Her source of inspiration came from watching her brother and his friends take on gravity-defying tricks. The spark of passion ignited for her when she was a spectator at the Maloof Money Cup in 2012, an international skateboarding event that unveiled the vibrant skateboarding culture and competitive scene.

That experience motivated her to embark on her skateboarding journey.

The day after the contest, Natalie and her brother hit the local skatepark, initiating what would become a life-altering adventure. Natalie was attending boarding school in Bloemfontein, which meant that her time for skateboarding was limited to weekends and school holidays. Initially, skateboarding was about fun and spending quality time with friends and family. However, it was only a couple of years later that she fully committed to the sport.

Natalie’s journey has been marked by significant milestones. Notably, being awarded Protea colours, and going on to represent South Africa and Africa at the Rome World Championships in 2021 and the Sharjah World Championships in Dubai in February of this year.

She also became the first and only female skateboarder to qualify for the Ultimate X in 2022, competing against male skaters and local skateboard legends.

These achievements shattered preconceived notions about skateboarding being a male-dominated domain and reinforced the idea that skateboarding is for everyone, regardless of gender.

After her remarkable performance at Ultimate X, Natalie’s talents did not go unnoticed, and she secured a sponsorship from Converse, a lifestyle brand that markets, distributes, and licences footwear, apparel, and accessories.

Natalie Bramley is seen doing an ollie. Picture: Danie van der Lith

Natalie’s dedication to her sport is evident in her rigorous training regimen. She told the DFA that a typical day begins with thorough warm-ups to prevent injuries, followed by skipping exercises to enhance agility. Then, she takes to the skateboard, starting with basic tricks such as Ollies and kickflips before progressing to more advanced manoeuvres.

She says that she specialises in street skateboarding, relishing the challenge of performing flat-ground tricks, grinding on handrails, and mastering a variety of obstacles. Her love for park skateboarding also shines through, with ambitions to compete at an international level in this discipline.

However, here in her hometown of Kimberley there is a lack of suitable facilities for park skateboarding, prompting her to seize every opportunity to practise at the facilities when visiting other cities.

Added to this, despite her passion, Natalie faces challenges due to the lack of professional trainers and support staff in Kimberley. Her training primarily relies on YouTube tutorials and international events for guidance and inspiration. In contrast, international skateboarding teams benefit from physiotherapists, coaches, and mental coaches, providing vital support for optimal performance.

For these reasons the young skater’s journey hasn’t been without its share of obstacles. The protracted temporary closure of the skatepark in Kimberley has been hindering her training. The lack of access to recovery centres and physiotherapists means she often has to manage injuries on her own. Additionally, financing her participation in international competitions has posed financial challenges, with the burden of seeking funding support.

She says that the local government has been a source of support, albeit with certain limitations which means that Natalie and her fellow skateboarders are currently striving to secure funding for upcoming world championships in Japan, demonstrating their determination to represent their country on the global stage.

Yet despite the hurdles, Natalie’s skateboarding journey has been enriched by influences from all over the world. She told the DFA that she looks up to international female skateboarders like Leticia Bufoni, Pamela Rosa, and Leo Baker, who motivated her with their high-level skills. She also draws inspiration from skateboarders Curren Caples and Louie Lopez, admiring their unique styles.

Locally, her brother Damian Bramley and Kimberley skateboarders like Brad Balie and Warrick Delport have played significant roles in her development.

Natalie’s journey is buoyed by the unwavering support of her family and the tight-knit skateboarding community. Her friends at the skatepark offer encouragement and camaraderie. Together, they help each other improve and overcome challenges. Her family’s unending support, from accompanying her to the skatepark to celebrating New Year’s in that same space, showcases their commitment to her dream.

Currently, as she approaches the Olympic qualifications, Natalie’s goals include achieving a higher ranking at an international level and further refining her skills. Beyond the Olympics, she aspires to continue competing in international events and inspiring other skateboarders from Kimberley to pursue their dreams.

The DFA asked Natalie about some memorable moments in her career thus far as a young skater. She says that throughout her journey she has had several of those, including her recent participation in the LW Skate Contest in Pretoria, where she clinched second spot. Her very first competition in 2014, the King of the Ramps in Ballito, also holds a special place in her heart. Winning first place at that event was an unexpected triumph that fueled her passion for skateboarding.

Natalie is seen at the recent LW Skate Contest in Pretoria, where she clinched second spot and earned herself R6,000. Picture: Grant Mclachlan

Meanwhile, the KDC events, held at her local skatepark, remain a highlight as they bring the best skateboarders from around the world to Kimberley. She also added that her inaugural international contest in Rome, Italy, in 2021 was another defining moment, immersing her in a grand stage of global skateboarding excellence.

For those aspiring to follow in her footsteps, Natalie’s advice is simple: “Go out there and do it. Have fun, invite your friends to join you, and learn together.” She emphasises the importance of patience, resilience, and the joy of landing that elusive trick after countless attempts.

Skateboarding, she believes, is an incredible sport and culture with the potential to change lives profoundly.

Natalie told the DFA that Mental preparation is a crucial aspect of skateboarding for her. Maintaining calm and focus during competitions is vital, she says. She plans her runs meticulously, ensuring that she feels confident in her tricks.

Another trick Natalie uses is visualising herself skateboarding for pleasure rather than as part of a competition, which helps her manage nervousness and therefore perform at her best.

Asked about her favourite skateboarding spots, Natalie said that these include her home park in Kimberley; Cape Town, for its friendly atmosphere and support for female skateboarders, and Dubai, with its cutting-edge skateparks that offer fantastic training opportunities.

Natalie is seen taking party in the LW Skate Contest in Pretoria. Picture: Grant Mclachlan

Natalie Bramley’s journey in skateboarding serves as a testament to dedication, determination, and a resilient spirit. She is not just defying expectations; she is also redefining what it means to be a skateboarder.

As she continues to aim high and push the limits, her story becomes an inspiration for skateboarders worldwide. We eagerly await her performance at the upcoming Olympic qualifications, where we have no doubt she will continue to shine and represent her country with pride.

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