Serious Sisu: Poppy Starr Olsen

Poppy Starr Olsen is a name we throw around regularly at SisuGirls in Singapore - we often tell our young skaters to look up Poppy as inspiration for their own skating, so it is a pleasure to catch up with her and find out more about this champion skater, who is not only taking the skate world by storm, but also inspiring and encouraging girls the world over to take up skating.   Make sure you follow Poppy for a daily dose of sisu inspiration. 

 Photo taken by  joanne barratt

Photo taken by joanne barratt

Please can you give us a brief introduction of yourself?

Hi, my name is Poppy Starr Olsen. I am 15, and in Year 9 at Newcastle High School, NSW, Australia.

I have been skating for about seven years and love it!  A family friend, Felix, gave me a skateboard when I was eight and I loved skating straight away. Now I travel overseas at least four times a year to compete in World Cup Events and other competitions, including the Exposure comp –  the largest girls skateboarding competition in the world!

I manage a business selling my artwork and greeting cards to raise the money to fund my travels. 


What has been your greatest achievement?

My biggest achievement was being awarded the 2014 World Cup of Skateboarding Champion for 14 and under Girls Bowl riding.  In January this year I won the Vans Girls Combi Classic World Cup 15 and Over division.

 Poppy hitting the surf

Poppy hitting the surf

What does a typical week look like for you?

My week is busy with skating, school, drawing and piano.  At least three mornings a week I get up early and surf before school. My friends Dad picks four of us up, and we throw our boards in the back of his truck and go searching for the best surf. After school I skate, draw or do homework. On Thursday, I leave school early and travel 2.5 hrs to Sydney for vert training. We don’t have a public vert ramp here in Newcastle, but the skateboarding community is trying hard to raise the money to build one.  (Vert Skateboarding is the act of riding a skateboard on a skate ramp or other incline and involves the skateboarder transitioning from the horizontal plane to the vertical plane to perform skateboarding tricks). 

What attracted you to skateboarding?

In the beginning, I just loved the feeling of skating.  Now I love everything about skateboarding. I love the connection of expression between my passion for art and skateboarding - I love the freedom and creativity. Skateboarding is who I am.  Skateboarding makes me feel alive.  I recently gave a TEDx talk on the subject. 

What was your family's reaction to your skateboarding?

My parents weren’t very supportive in the beginning, but then they realised I wasn’t going to give it up, and they saw how much I loved it, so they started encouraging me.  



What have you learned about yourself through skateboarding?

I have learned never to give up. Like the quote from the movie Unforgiven “if you take it, you can make it”.  I have learned to keep trying, and I will get there. I have also learned that I love to teach. I want everyone to love skating as much as I do, so I don’t mind helping others out at the skate park.

Do you have any goals that you want to achieve? 

I want to turn professional and be able to be competitive with the best in the world. I want skateboarding to be in the Olympics and would love to represent Australia.




Any advice would you give to our young SisuGirls?

Don't give up!  Also, it is important to be supportive of other girl skaters. The more girls that skate, the more opportunities for funding and sponsorship, and hopefully we will be able to make a living from it. I would also advise other girls never to stop having fun! The minute you are upset and not enjoying the experience is the minute you need to remind yourself this is not what it is all about. Don’t get me wrong, a little fury can drive and push you. Just make sure you don’t get too upset with yourself because everyone goes through it.



What is something that you know now that you wish someone had told you when you started?

Many people have given me amazing tips through my skating life, but what I try to remember is just to enjoy the skating - it is about the freedom, the fun, the expression.  When I am having a tough time if I just concentrate on the actual skating, it all works out.

What makes you wake up each morning?

School!  Haha! I love school.  I did distance education for two years, so I’m loving being back in a fun school environment after working on my own for so long.



What and who inspires you?

There are so many people who inspire me, especially amazing girl skaters. I love Amelia Brodka for making the film ‘Underexposed’ about Women’s skateboarding, and Cindy Whitehead from Girl is NOT a 4 Letter Word for always encouraging girls to skate.  I am also inspired by people like Tony Hawk, who has not only established an amazing company, but also builds skate parks for kids living in underprivileged areas.

Who do you think has serious sisu?

I think girls who do what they love and achieve great things by themselves have serious sisu. I get a lot of support and encouragement from my parents, but there are a lot of girls who don’t, and I think it’s harder for them. To do it all on your own takes real guts, real sisu. 

Finally, a shout out to Perfect Moment, Ride TSG, iSkate Australia, Monster Skate Park, Decent Hardware, Theeve trucks and Vans Shoes for supporting Poppy and in turn encouraging and inspiring more girls to find their creative expression through skateboarding. 

Chloe Chick