Woolf Women

We talk to Jenny Schauerte, about her upcoming film about life, friendship and her passion of blasting down hills at 100kmph.

Hurtling down a steep alpine road on a bit of wood with some tiny wheels sounds like a suicidal activity to most of us, but for Jenny Schauerte it’s her place of calm and sanity and a huge contributor to her mental health wellbeing. We find out about her, and a motley crew of like-minded souls who travel around the world seeking out the best bits of tarmac for skating down. I was fortunate to talk to Jenny and hear about her adventures and how it was encapsulated in a very honest and insightful film about her life and her gang of ‘Woolf Women’.

So, so tell us about the film. How did it come about? What, what were the thoughts or the chain of events that brought it together?

 I was travelling the world for doing races. We call it the Euro tour, like the tour in Europe from one race to another. I have been doing this because I had a camper van. I decided to drive to some races in Europe. I met all these wonderful women, and we are not that many, there’s like 6% women in downhill skateboarding. So or maybe it’s already a bit more, like that’s two or three years ago it was 6%. We bonded because first of all, we were the only ones, and it’s kind of intimidating often to skate in an environment with only guys that are amazing, you know, and you’re like just learning and you’re not that good yet and somehow it’s really intimidating to be in a group of guys as the only woman because you feel the eyes on you.

They’re looking and they’re talking and they’re like laughing about you maybe, or I don’t know, whatever is in your head. It’s just also think about, you have to stop thinking about what others think of you. It’s the biggest, I think that’s the biggest step you have to get rid of in your mind, that this doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks, really. It’s all about you in that moment.

So basically I found all these amazing women on the Euro tour, I ended up giving them a ride from one event to another and we ended up skating together on the mountains between the races and we bonded in another way, like different than a group of guys because, I don’t know, women have a different way of living, of thinking, we eat healthy, we know that when someone has an injury that it can get really hard and can get really depressing and difficult.

So we are supportive to each other. We cook well. It’s another group dynamic, let’s say, because also we feel stronger. Like a group of women, we get the recognition, we get the attention. Also, we are being taken seriously in a group. If I’m alone, I’m being laughed at. So this is one thing I really learned. We are stronger, we are together. It’s also important because otherwise you lose your motivation. If someone keeps picking on you and telling you that you’re doing bad or that all the mistakes you do or laughing at you how are you going to want to continue? Yeah. And yeah I really fight for that. We’re stronger together. 

So this feeling was amazing and basically, that whole trip I was filming with my GoPro and I was making a little 5-minute short video and actually it’s been really recognized and people saw it and they liked it and the girls were like excited about it to show our sports and show the women in our sport that we are not that many. At some point we decided, okay, this needs to be a proper film and it would be nice to have a documentary and to really display our sport as well. And that’s what I ended up doing. So I, it’s such a long story and it started in 2018.

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So now it’s 2023 and it’s only coming out now because it was such a long process to get the right people involved, get the financial support we needed to do a trip and to do all the filming. In the end, I did a lot of things. I’m a filmer, I was acting, I was skateboarding, I was organizing the trip and it’s a lot.

But we managed to do that one trip together where we all took the time and we travelled. We had an investor, she helped us with, you know, with getting there and filming and so on. So yeah, it all came together slowly but truly. I mean I had a lot of footage from travelling the world and racing already and a lot of it you can see in the film as well. So it’s basically a collection of all that footage from the last years plus the new footage we did and the storyline we wrote.

Have you got any other plans for trips together?

I mean, of course, we’re a wolf pack and wolves also go out far away alone and can, you know, are independent and can do things really well on their own, but we’re still always planning. Like, actually, it’s funny because after the film we all started moving to the same town because we want to be close to each other we want to skate we want to have that pack we want to go like yes tomorrow we go again yesterday the girls went um we’re planning a trip to Slovenia again and we’re planning like the euro tour this year it’s a little bit smaller since COVID, everything has changed a bunch.
So last fall, autumn, we have been to South America together.

Like first time we met in Argentina all of us racing in the world skate games. Then two of us went to Brazil, the others went to Chile, then we met other friends in Chile, and then we all met in Colombia again. It was a pretty nice you know, like a flow. Everyone has kind of their own ideas with what they want to do, but it’s also really authentic in its way, because this is how we do. We’re not always in a pack together because that would just not work. We would probably kill each other. But for a lot of weeks in the summer we are together and we do that.

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One other significant part of your story was a horrific crash and some potentially life-changing injuries that a lot of people would have spent a lot longer recuperating from. You seem to defy the laws of medical advice and just got back on it incredibly quickly. So what can you tell me about that? Is it just sheer belligerence and just not wanting to give up or have you just got some sort of superhuman ability to endure pain?

I wish! It’s funny because breaking the biggest bone in your body it sounds really like wow oh my god it’s the worst thing you can do but I’ve had worse injuries that were more painful and took longer to heal. Of course it’s a big bone and of course you don’t take it light and it changes your life and it changes your whole perception of the sport and you really question why are you doing this and do you want to continue doing this but I realized that without it I would be mentally unhealthy. Yeah. And I prefer to continue doing something that makes me happy, even though I know this might end my life or this might be the reason why I have to stop everything. But it’s worth every second that I’m on a board, I fight for that. So I can’t say that it was easy at all. And be careful out there because trying this without training and without the experience and so on is very dangerous. And you need to know a lot about also the safety regulations and how you can make the dangerous sport as safe as possible by whatever, using walkie-talkies, having an assistant to spot, closing the road is the best thing you can do, like there’s traffic and so on.

I think I have a lot of willpower as well, and I didn’t want to give up. And I didn’t want other people suffering from my, I don’t know, stupidity. From my injury, from whatever happened to me, it wasn’t only about me, it was about us as a group. And I knew if I go on this trip to film and to do what we have been planning and calculating for a long time beforehand, and had the financial support, we had everything ready, and then I got fucking injured. I knew that I can, yeah, that I’m not alone on this and I know that if I have trouble with anything I have that supportive cloud. My brain still works really well and my body I can make it work. 

In the film you were clearly having mobility issues with your leg. I was watching it tentatively thinking how the fuck is she gonna get on a board now? It looks painful walking…

Walking is more difficult sometimes. Right. I mean, of course, you have to be physically strong. And I wasn’t really because I mean, my my my left leg was really strong. Overcompensating probably. And the rest of my body was strong. Yeah. And I can rely on myself as well. I know my sport, I know what I’m doing, I can rely that I do things good, but of course if you have a piece of metal inside you and no muscles then that really changes everything.

So after that I had another accident actually, a little bit more, I would say worse than breaking your femur. I dislocated my ankle. Yes. And after two years I still have trouble with it. So I’m not competing on the same level that I have been back before I was injured. But I would say breaking like my femur it made me stronger.

It made me stronger afterwards because breaking a leg, it’s first of all your muscles goes completely away and you’re like, oh my god, this is me and then you realize I have to work really hard to get it back and then you attempt to get stronger, I would say. Mentally in a way it takes a while until you can trust yourself again and be confident, but after overcoming an injury and getting strong again and knowing the process of all this, you have a deeper understanding of your body. I noticed that, okay, I was going to the gym all the time after the injury, I started getting really strong in my legs and I was kicking the boy’s asses all the time.

So you appreciate your life a lot more now?

If you’ve been to a point that you’ve almost lost your life, afterwards you’re fucking happy. I don’t know, weirdly good mood, although I was in hospital with my leg in pieces, but in a way it’s also changed your perception of life. It shows you that life is really valuable and that you can appreciate it more and enjoy small things and little things in your life more. 

It comes across in the film, that you apply an extreme version of mindfulness in your pursuit of adrenaline and it really benefits your wellbeing. Would you prescribe the same medicine for others with negative mental health?

I believe that stepping out of your comfort zone on a regular basis is like the key to happiness. Because every time you do and you do something that you never do and that freaks you out brings your body in another place, you know. It’s really, I don’t know, makes you feel proud about what you’ve done and proud about yourself that you were able to do it, that you dared to do it. And physical exercise on a regular basis is really healthy, you get the circulation, your brain cells don’t, you know, shrink or cool down or whatever. But yeah, I would say that adrenaline rushes now and then are really healthy and they can sort out many things. For example, I was suffering from depression and from eating disorder and if you are physically active like that, you need to eat and you just realize okay this is essential for being strong and being able to do what I want to do and I can really recommend you have your regular adrenaline rushes.

Where sits in your heart as the best bit of road that you’ve explored as a traveller but perhaps also you know careered down at high speed as well?

I think the one that comes like two two tracks come to my mind that are like deep engraved in my heart and one is Yaku Raymi it’s in Peru okay and it’s the spring of the Amazon. We had a race there and it’s like four and a half thousand meters altitude so the air is damn thin up there. And that’s who we really struggled with, that actually a lot of people got super sick. You really have to acclimatize and doing an extreme sport like that we all fainted we all you know had that moment of “I can’t breathe” that place was mind-blowing.  I mean I’ve never seen a road that high and that long like we as they were being on that race we went down all the way down the mountain and we skated for like two or three hours constantly usually a drop is like two or three minutes so after a bunch of time you always have to stop rest your legs because it’s like squat squat squat high mountain and there was a blue lagoon and there was snow on the mountain and we had a shaman lady, Patricia, to like there was a bit of rain clouds and she prayed away the rain and the rain went away and the road dried and we could skate and it was just this I don’t know such a sacred place. I got the goosebumps all the way through. Awesome. And also the experience in that village where we slept, where we had our camp. The people were amazing and a mountain village in Peru is just, you know, wow. It’s just something you don’t see every day. No, quite. Especially being a European, it’s very different and beautiful. So that one I think it would be my favorite place or most, like let’s say the best experience I ever had to skate. 

Is there a perfect gradient for what you do? I mean is some of some passes just too steep or is there such thing as too steep or?

I mean if you can’t walk there then it’s probably too steep to skate but then no one would build a road where you can’t walk. So I guess it doesn’t matter depends on what you like. I like steep and fast. Others like flat and windy. I don’t know, it depends on what you like. But definitely steep. Steep means fast. And eventually if the road is windy and steep, there’s like a lot to do because you have to slide a lot. You have to slide, slide, slide, slide before you even manage to stop. So there’s a lot to do and it’s fun.

Talking of speed… You have a world record, I believe with a team of Men?

Yeah, the only girl as well, I get this world record It’s the fastest connected downhill skateboard chain in the world. I have to admit that we did this in the UK and the UK really doesn’t have that many steep roads unfortunately. And it was a real quick thing because we had to do an advert for Virgin Media too so they most The easiest road they could find or the fastest and it was only steep enough to go 52.7 I think miles per hour but that’s really not that easy because we have to do it over a hundred meters and We have we had to stay connected like all people behind each other. Yeah that’s why you get faster as well because you’re heavier and The first one okay has all the drag, he has all the wind resistance and everyone behind him doesn’t so whoever’s behind is like pushing him.

You’ve talked about the possibility of film number two coming out if all the planets aligned to do so what’s next on the list what are your plans are you back out on the roads are you camping down in Innsbruck for a bit or what’s the what’s the future?

I love South America and I want to come back as often as I can and there’s a bunch of places that I haven’t seen yet and there’s also the Andes mountains that I would love to to explore more. Patagonia. I think that’s the next place I want to stay.

I’m inspired by your journey and your honesty with the difficult parts of it so you know keep keep sharing that because I think it will help an enormous amount of people. The loss of your Dad had a massive impact on you.

My dad he was so brave, he was so brave and he taught me all those things I needed to know. I don’t know when I was three he taught me how to ski. He showed me that travelling will educate me and that it’s important for life to know about the world. And he did a really good job. And every time I’m scared or I’m on the top of a mountain and I don’t know, you know, what will happen skating down, he’s there and he’s my companion and my guardian angel.

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Jenny’s film ‘Woolf Women: Now or Never’ is out in cinemas from 8th June. It’s a truly inspiring story of, friendship, adventure, bravery and overcoming adversity.  https://woolfwomen.com/

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