At the top of a ramp Emily Collier, 10, of Whitehouse, stands with her helmet and kneepads on, skateboard in hand. After hitting record on the GoPro video camera, her father Travis Collier, 31, runs over to assist her as she hits a rail.
It's a sunny afternoon at Noble E. Young Skatepark in Tyler, and Emily has the day off for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The camera captures several attempts, some successful on her own, and some with help from dad. Later the footage will be compiled into the latest upload on the YouTube page SheSkates 926.
Travis manages the online account for his daughter, who has 1,200 subscribers on the SheSkates 926 page. Travis uploads a new video each Sunday.
"He's the engine for my YouTube channel," Emily said.
The videos range from Emily competing at skateboard contests, to learning new tricks — most of the time landing the trick but sometimes falling — to videos of gratitude thanking her viewers and subscribers from all over the world and wishing them peace. Current subscribers represent 105 countries. The page was started in March 2017 as a way for Emily to showcase what she's learning and to connect with other skaters.
Emily got her first skateboard at age 3, but she didn't start skating seriously until age 6 when she was inspired by her watching her stepmom, Sarah Allison, 26, skate.
"When I'm skating it feels smooth, calm and challenging," Emily said, adding that most times she and Sarah are the only female skaters riding boards.
After watching Sarah and Emily skate together, Travis decided to pick up the hobby as well.
"We would all take turns with one board," Travis said, "Now, we have stacks of boards we've won at competitions."
Travis said Emily skates more adventurously than he does. She drops in to the big bowl — an empty pool-style area at Noble E. Young Skatepark — without hesitation. She's a vert-style skater, meaning she enjoys the transitions from horizontal riding to going up inclines and down ramps and rails.
"I love watching her skate," Sarah said. "It's everything I wish I would have done as a child. I think about if I had started out earlier, where would I be now? She's going to have that, so it's awesome to provide her that experience."
The name SheSkates came from the boys at the park who would see her approach the bowl and ask out loud, "She skates?" As she dropped into the bowl their question was answered.
"Emily's YouTube page has literally inspired adults who skated as kids to skate again, and it's encouraged girls and kids to keep trying it when it is difficult," Travis said, "We get thank you messages a lot."
"Skateboarding makes us a stronger family unit," he said. "Without it, we may not spend such valuable time together. We wouldn't take road trips to skate contests, and we wouldn't be giving each other as much positive reinforcement and encouragement."
Travis said that skateboarding has been beneficial for the mental and physical health of his family. He lost 70 pounds after a year of skateboarding. Emily has matured through learning to be aware of her surroundings and understanding the importance of right of way, which is taking turns with other skateboarders.
"Emily has learned persistence, to not give up," Travis said, "She has learned not to judge others even if they are bigger or older and cannot skate as good as her."
Emily's goals right now are to get more comfortable with the 50-50, a grind with both the board's trucks (the T-shaped metal pieces that mount on the underside) on the edge of the rail, and a rock to fakie in the big bowl. A rock to fakie is when a skater rocks up an incline, then rides back down going the opposite way they rode up.
The fourth-grader loves to be challenged. In school, Emily's favorite subject is math.
"I like math because it's difficult, and I like to challenge myself," she said.
In December she won a mini ramp contest in Kilgore, and she's placed first, second or third place over the years in beginners competitions at Noble E. Young Park.
"She inspires us with her determination," Travis said adding that it's been inspiring to see the skate community support his daughter whether it's checking on her when she falls or cheering for her when she lands a trick.