Skateboarding empowers Denise Bereber-Biziaev to reach new heights

Tamara Vineberg - 27 July 2021

Denise Bereber-Biziaev's passion outside of her work at the University of Alberta is building a community of female skateboarders.
Denise Bereber-Biziaev is a program administrator for medical education in the Department of Pediatrics. We talked about one of her passions outside of work - skateboarding.

Why do you love working in the Department of Pediatrics?

I really enjoy the community and its people, but knowing that you get to work alongside people who also want to help others, makes me love working here and I consider it a privilege to serve in this department.

We heard you are involved with skateboarding. How did this start?

I started skateboarding at the age of 12 when my younger brother was sponsored by a local skate shop. I found a lot of joy in skateboarding, but it was also really challenging. I didn’t have any female skateboarders that I could reach out to and learn more from. Ultimately I was faced with a lot of criticism and was bullied, became a closet skateboarder and then called it quits a handful of years later. I did pick up longboarding as an adult, but I wouldn’t dare pick up a skateboard.

How did bullying shape you as a person?

For a long time I felt robbed of self-confidence and I carried a lot of hurt as I grew older. However, there came a point in time with age and maturity that I developed a heart for those who were on the sidelines and would gravitate towards them, so as to let them know that they have been seen and heard. Similarly, I would also develop a heart for bullies because they too may be hurting while they hurt others.

Why did you decide to start skateboarding again?

Since I was nearing 40 and my kids were a bit older, I figured it was time to stop thinking about it and start doing it! With the encouragement of my husband, the progression of the pandemic, and my desire to stay active, last year at the age of 38 the timing seemed to be just right.

You are one of the leaders of the Tigers Skate Club. What have you learned from being a leader?

One aspect of leadership that I’ve kept in the forefront of my mind over the years, in and outside of skateboarding, is this: good leaders will push and build others up to be greater than themselves. In life, there will always be people who can do something better than you and it’s important as a leader to encourage and allow them to flourish in their abilities instead of being threatened by them. Skateboarding at my age makes this easy, but truthfully, to have the opportunity to help empower women and girls to skateboard has been a privilege and a welcomed part of this leadership opportunity.

What is your best skateboarding move?

My preferred style of riding is vert or transition skateboarding in pool-style bowls and on mini ramp half pipes so, at this point in life, anything that doesn’t land me face flat on the ground is my best move!

How has skateboarding changed you?

For a long time I’ve been involved in different impact sports, but there’s something about skateboarding that’s made me more physically and mentally tough. Having the opportunity to overcome fears and push your mental and physical capabilities has impacted me significantly, while also keeping me humble.

What is one of the challenges belonging to a female skateboarding club?

I don't like to call it challenging, but with the understanding that skateboarding remains a male-dominated sport, we are doing what we can as a club to remind others that we have a place at the skatepark and everyone deserves the opportunity to try skateboarding, no matter their experience or lack thereof. There are a lot of preconceived notions about female skateboarders and it’s been a lot of fun to help people shift their perspective, especially while they watch 15-35 women and girls of all ages rolling into the park and doing our thing early on a weekend morning.

How else have you been keeping busy?

I’m grateful to have a family that keeps me nice and busy outside of work. We have two boys, aged three and five, so often you will find us spending quality time with them, enjoying the outdoors around our city or away in the mountains (that’s if we aren’t tackling home renovations).

Read the Chatelaine story about Denise
Read the Edmonton Journal article about the Tigers Skate Club