C’naan Omer

The Women’s Street Competition at Vancouver’s annual Slam City Jam in 2000 was intense. This was the third year the contest had offered categories in which women could compete. The favorites to win were obviously Elissa Steamer and Jaime Reyes, but C’naan Omer at age 15, a relatively unknown skater took first place. I remembered the event well and was able to connect with C’naan for a two-part interview on December 19th, 2022 and January 4th, 2023.

The interviews were such a delight as C’naan candidly and thoughtfully shared her story, which at times seemed almost surreal. Our conversations flowed, and it was such a joy to talk to someone with a shared history during a time in the early 2000s when skateboarding for women was entering a new phase of acceptance.

C’naan was born in Israel and moved to Montreal, Canada in the 1990s, where she was immersed for the first time in a French-speaking community and cold climate. After a few years in Canada her family expanded and moved to the U.S. C’naan suddenly found herself basking in the warmth of Victorville, California, near Santa Barbara. She had to learn to speak English, and obviously had to take up surfing and skateboarding.

The challenge with surfing was hardly knowing how to swim, which could be stressful, but C’naan still managed to excel and get sponsored! “And then, a skate park opened next to my junior high… we petitioned for it.” Santa Barbara was the ideal location to embrace skateboarding with companies like Powell Peralta and Shorty’s, a history of parks like Powell Skate Zone (before C’naan’s time), and legends like Mike Santarossa, Stacy Lowery, Tony Tieu and Frankie Hill popping up at skate sessions. Frankie also happened to be the cover boy of the 4th issue of Equal Time zine, edited by JoAnn Gillespie in 1992!

Even Katy Perry would show up at C’naan’s local park and serenade the skate sessions. It wasn’t until years later, when C’naan was living in Turkey and Katy Perry appeared on an MTV Music Awards that she made the connection to the singing girl at the skate park!

C’naan embraced skateboarding and decided to enter a contest at “Skatestreet” skatepark in Ventura, called the Vespa-Contesta. She won first place beating all the boys in her age group. Skate Street was surrounded with murals of vibrant landscapes. In fact, the setting inspired a game level in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2, replicating how the park looked in 1998. C’naan noted that it was an unbelievable space and a wonderful community. A precious moment that will never be repeated.

As a thirteen-year-old, after only skating for six months, C’naan’s abilities were quickly noticed. Over the years she acquired a variety of sponsors like Emerica, Halos, Santa Cruz Skateboards, Etnies, Independent, Bones Wheels and Pharmacy Skate shop. While there was some support for female skaters, a few stand outs for C’naan were Brent Callahan at Supernaut Skateboards/Halos bearings, Don Brown at SoleTech, Rob Washburn at Powell, and especially Donny Damron at Pharmacy Boardshop.

While C’naan felt like a rarity as a young female skater at the time in her community, she did meet other women at the newly initiated All Girl Skate Jam (AGSJ) events. In 1999, despite some ankle injuries at various contests, C’naan placed 3rd at AGSJ in San Diego and got to know skaters like Alex White (now juggling her skateboarding career as a mom), Nicole Morgan (of Villa Villa Cola zine), Stephanie Thomas, and Cindy Gorset. C’naan said that she owed Cindy a big thank you for her support, as she was always encouraging the younger girls and watching out for them. Also, Cara-Beth Burnside was warm, welcoming, and encouraging. This was appreciated because there were times when the events were less than organized and even chaotic.

There’s a quick clip of C’naan doing a kickflip-to-fakie below, in a short video from 1999 by Luciana Toledo.

Contest organizers would usually slot the women in whenever it suited them: even during the blazing heat or early Sunday morning. As a young teenager traveling to random cities and being flown to places like Hawaii without a place to crash, or getting injured without a support team, the situation could be overwhelming and stressful. And it’s worth noting that not all the female skaters were inclusive and welcoming to a kid outside of a tightknit crew.

C’naan went on a tour at 14 to Slam City Jam but had sustained an ankle injury and couldn’t compete. We probably skated together during the warm up session!  It was so much fun that she was burning to return to Vancouver in 2000. She managed to juggle a bus to Seattle, shuttle to the airport, and a flight up to Canada at age 15, finally being met in Vancouver by a local skater, crashing on people’s couches and in random hotel rooms, just figuring it out with confidence. She fondly remembers Canadian skaters Louise Hénault-Éthier from Montreal and Michelle Pezel of Vancouver being especially welcoming.

Photos: Patty Segovia, Luciana Ellington

At Slam City Jam, the excitement of landing all her tricks and having solid runs were marvelous feelings, but she never imagined that she was about to win the whole contest! Faye Jaime was taking on the hand-rails, doing feeble grinds down an awkward rail that was head high in the middle, and the competition was solid. The moment C’naan won she called up her Pharmacy Skate shop family in Victorville to share the news! Footage is shared below from 411VM:

C’naan had an epic year with top results at all four World Cup skateboarding events, winning the World Cup of skateboarding and the Van’s Triple Crown. The 2000 skate season felt like a bit of redemption after injuries in 1999. Transworld Skateboarding magazine even awarded her as the best female skater!

Photos: Luciana Ellington

The win in Vancouver put C’naan on everyone’s radar and she soon found herself with big sponsors, touring, and in a relationship with Andrew Reynolds.  While all of this was most exciting there were many new pressures to navigate.  These pressures began to eat away at what initially drew C’naan to skateboarding.

C’naan was included in the Pharmacy Skate shop VHS video called Next Sunday: a skateboard cinema, alongside Matt Allen, Bryan Herman, Tony Silva and John Leal. The footage below was made possible thanks to Mindy at Rafik Video in NYC, who helped old tapes to digital. C’naan notes that Mindy is a badass in her own right, as a BMXer and all round cool lady. Props to Mindy!!

Through her network, C’naan met Luciana Ellington who had launched the women’s skateboard magazine Check it Out with Liza Araujo. In 2002, Liza wrote a profile on C’naan for issue 13, who shared that she loved skating rails and switch-stance and stepped up to teach at skateboard camps. C’naan also wrote a report in the same issue about the skate clinic in Santa Cruz she helped host with the All Girl Skate Jam. She said, “It was fun to see all different kinds of girls and to see what girls are involved in skateboarding. There were like twenty tiny girls per skate sessions who were so cute and they all learned at least one trick… it melted my heart!”

Along the way, C’naan met some legendary skaters like Peggy Oki, Jesse Martinez, Kim Peterson and Jay Adams, as documented by Nathan Pratt below:

C’naan was part of a whirlwind tour from Los Angeles to San Francisco with Alex White, Vanessa Torres, Amy Caron, Lisa Whitaker and Stacy Taylor, and remembers hitting up some famous spots and challenging each other to flip a gap and the energy of the session. Perhaps because there were such limited venues for women skaters to get seen and acknowledged, and such limited prize money, a sense of competition was present.

The early 2000s was at times a proving ground for women to gain respect, which meant pushing through injuries and not as much camaraderie, fun, or creativity as seen today. Such tours had minimal funding and could only cover three days. The three days included one night at Thrasher’s SOTY party leaving none of the women in any fit state to skate!

By age 17, C’naan was getting hurt so regularly that she was spending most of her time recovering from injuries rather than skating.  Mixed with larger existential questions she returned to her studies (after dropping out of high school at 15), exploring botany while getting a degree from Tufts University.  She continued to skateboard but mostly pools and curbs.  This terrain lent itself more readily to her interests. She even briefly reunited with creative people like Tiffany and Nicole Morgan of VVC.

The adventures continued, with travels and skateboarding in places like Kazakhstan, Hungary, Turkey, Russia and Israel. She worked designing store interiors and large scale murals. She is also an outdoor educator, teaching tracking, native ecology, and survival skills! And, C’naan continues to skateboard as seen below during a visit to Paris in 2019:

C’naan (Omer) Hamburger is now married with three little children and is living in New York City.  She is an outdoor educator and artist, most recently receiving a nod from the AXA Art Prize in 2021 and an Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation Grant in 2022. C’naan continues to skateboard, enjoying morning sessions at her favorite spots and being part of the playfully named Geriatric Skate Club—where she teaches women in their 30’s-50’s how to skate! “Time has altered how I approach skateboarding.  These days my concern is movement through a landscape/architecture. Imagination, fun, and the sensory experience are key.”

It was a blast to reminisce about the highs (and lows) of the skateboarding scene with C’naan. Thank you once again, and hopefully we can connect in person some day!


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