From A Maryland Farm To The Doorstep Of Paris, Skateboarder Ruby Lilley Is Enjoying The Ride

by Bob Reinert

Ruby Lilley looks on during the women's park preliminaries at the 2024 Olympic Qualifier Series on May 16, 2024 in Shanghai, China. (Photo by Getty Images)

Sometimes, Ruby Lilley still feels like the little girl who grew up on a Maryland farm with seven siblings and is still trying to master ballet and ballroom dancing. In reality, she’s a 17-year-old member of the U.S. skateboarding team trying to reach Olympic Games Paris 2024.

“It’s crazy because I never would have expected this,” said Lilley, who now lives and trains in Oceanside, California. “I never started skating with the goal and plan to go to the Olympics and be an Olympian or get an X Games medal. That was never the intention, and to know that that’s happening for me is just unreal.”

Lilley is currently preparing for the final Olympic qualifier in the women’s park event, which will take place June 20-23 in Budapest, Hungary. She’s ranked No. 14 in the world, and third among Americans. Olympic qualifiers in four sports — breaking, BMX freestyle, skateboarding and sport climbing — will be determined following the event in Budapest.

To keep undue pressure off herself, Lilley said she focuses on her love of skateboarding and tries to have fun and stay in the moment.

“I go into (every contest) with the same mindset,” she said. “It’s still just a contest.”

Lilley has come a long way quickly since pulling away from ballet and competitive ballroom dancing at about age 10 to follow her older brothers into skateboarding. She knew of only one other girl in her native Ocean City, Maryland, who skated at the time.

“That’s what really got me sparked on skating for the first time was realizing there was another girl doing it, as well,” she recalled. “We pushed each other, and it just made me more comfortable and confident to show up at the skate park and suck at skateboarding but just really be determined and try really hard.”

Lilley’s background in dance was beneficial in her ascension in skateboarding, she said, though nothing she’s done compares to the mental and emotional workload that comes with skateboarding.

“It’s more difficult than anything I’ve ever done before,” she said. “You’re just fighting these battles in your head constantly. It’s like a wave you’re riding. It just keeps going up and down.

“I think that’s what got me so attached. It’s nothing like I’ve done before or experienced. It’s really interesting, and it’s really addicting.”

Ruby Lilley competes during the women's park preliminaries at the 2024 Olympic Qualifier Series on May 16, 2024 in Shanghai, China. (Photo by Getty Images)

She turned that addiction into remarkable success. After making her X Games debut in 2022, Lilley achieved an early-career milestone when she won a silver medal at the 2023 X Games in Chiba, Japan.

Lilley, who rides in the goofy stance (i.e. left foot in front), competes in both the park and vert events, though only the former is part of the Olympics. Street and park skateboarding became Olympic sports at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.

From her early days just loving to ride with her brothers to now traveling the world and becoming friends with skateboarders she idolized as a young girl watching them on TV, Lilley is cherishing the journey.

“I trip out sometimes,” she said. “It’s just so crazy. Grateful for everyone who’s helped me and given good advice and just looked out for me all around.”

Lilley skateboards four to six hours a day on weekdays, sandwiching two sessions around school. She usually has events on weekends. She stretches and has physical therapy to maintain her health.

“Some days you have it every try,” said Lilley of skateboarding, “and the next day, you can’t do it and you just have to walk away from it and give up and move on to something else, and that is like the hardest thing for me.”

She’s had her share of injuries and broken bones bouncing off concrete over the years.

“That’s part of skating. You pay to play,” Lilley said. “It just makes you stronger. Just never give up. It honestly does make you stronger, though, physically and mentally.

“I’ve been taking care of myself more off the board. It really does make a big difference.”

This month she’s a whole country away from the farm where her large family raised Angora rabbits, sheep, chickens, goats, dogs and ducks.

“I miss our Angora bunnies,” she said. “They’re so cute and so fluffy. We would spin their wool into yarn and knit scarves and a bunch of clothing out of their fur. That was so much fun.”

Instead, Lilley finds her fun by spinning around skate parks in pursuit of an Olympic berth.

“It’s rare, and I’m super grateful,” she said. “If I took it for granted, it just wouldn’t be as fun. Who’s getting to do that at my age and for such a cool event? It’s amazing.”