Right now, there is no denying that parkour is a male dominated sport. This is changing, as more and more girls see that it’s okay to go train with guys. These 7 traceuses have risen to the top of the growing wave of girl parkour.
Luci “Steel” Romberg
Luci Romberg is probably the most famous traceuse out there right now. She’s a member of Team Tempest, and was therefore a part of their famous gym video; she’s been on American Ninja Warrior (where she earned the nickname “steel”) and the Red Bull Art of Motion several times; and she works as a stunt double.
She was the first “good” traceuse I discovered, and her oldest video is years ahead, skill-wise, of every other girl video at that time. I wouldn’t call her the David Belle of girl parkour, but she’s close.
Erica Nicole Madrid
Erica is an interesting character. She began her movement quest at the age of two (2!) when she started gymnastics. She kept up with that for 15 years, winning regional, state, and national meets. She then started taking up skateboarding, another male-dominated sport. Two years later, it was through a random encounter in a park with some guys from Apex Movement that she found parkour. She’s the first person – male or female – to perform an inward flyaway laché, which she decided to name after herself: the Madrid. Her parts in the Apex Movement 2012 bail reel are side-splitting hilarious. Erica also runs a fitness blog at strongisthenewsexy.com
Of everyone on this list, Tamila is the one I’m most excited about. Unlike virtually everyone else, she doesn’t have a background in elite gymnastics. Instead, she climbed trees and rode horses. This background comes through strongly in her style of movement, which I personally think is the best example of genuine parkour I’ve ever seen in a female. It seems like she just gets the quick-efficient-motion part of parkour better then any of the other girls on this list. The way she strings together the parkour moves just looks right. She’s not doing the moves because that’s what she’s seen, she’s doing them because she understands that they really are the most efficient way to move.
I think that Tamila is the one of the first of the next generation of traceuses. If I was an ordinary, non-gymnast girl, I would be so much more inspired by Tam than someone like Luci or Erica. Don’t get me wrong, those two are amazing athletes, but with their background, they better be. For guys, it’s the difference between trying to be like the highly-trained Damien Walters and trying to be like the founding members of 3Run, who were just average guys who decided to become urban ninjas.
I’m very much looking forward to seeing more from Tamila Benabdallah.
Most famous for her unfortunate nose break, which landed her a spot on Tosh.0, American Parkour athlete Natalie Stresser is also (to the best of my knowledge) the first female to ever successfully perform a kong gainer. This feat (and appearing twice on American Ninja Warrior) was doubtlessly aided by her 13 years of gymnastics.
Another former gymnast and frequent contestant at the Red Bull Art of Motion, Pamela is a member of the Ape Connection team from Austria. Sadly, she seems to keep a much lower profile than anyone else on this list.
Alexandra Shevchenko / Sasha Sheva
Of all the former gymnasts on this list, Sasha has broken the most free from the stricter gymnastics style – presumably the influence of training with Alexander Gisych (aka Shade Zlat) and his buddies. She was in the Red Bull Art of Motion London 2011, which I don’t think really showcased her abilities well. Her strengths seem to lie in improvising and having fun with more open spaces – it would have been interesting to see what could have done with the course in Japan that year.
Julie is not here for her athletic achievements, although she does train. She’s on this list because she’s done more for worldwide parkour than everyone else on this list combined.
Julie Angel, Mike Christie, and Scott Bass are the “Big Three” in the parkour film-making world. Mike makes things for TV and Scott deals mostly with the fine artistic points of parkour filmmaking (as well as the occasional viral video). Julie makes philosophical, informational videos. Her YouTube channel is packed with awesome films, including one on girls in parkour as well as Jump Westminster.
Julie is also the first person in the world to have completed a parkour PhD, done at Brunel University´s Screen Media Research Centre. She’s a doctor of parkour. How cool is that?
Bonus: Faith Connors
This fictional traceuse from EA’s Mirror’s Edge is actually based on Tracey Tiltman, a Parkour Generation athlete. Faith is here because, as the face of the only real parkour video game, she’s exposed at least 2 million people to parkour. Not bad for a collection of pixels.
These 7 women are here because of their skill, but also because there’s information available on them. There are at many others who could be on this list, but can’t get a full entry either because they only have one video, it’s been a long time since they uploaded anything new, or I could find no more information on them: Kat from Mexico, Hana, Ann Grjukach, Carolynn Grigsby, Tamara, Rachel Scarbrough, Nastia Checheneva, Daria Lanskova, Julia Kuhn, Maria Raptaki, Juliana Dantas, Michaela Benthaus, Julia Rühlmann, Isis Ribas, Yana Pekarskaya and the Underways Girls. I also want to give a personal shoutout to my parkour mommy, Katie, and my parkour progeny, Kallie. Kallie taught me how to teach, and if it wasn’t for Katie, I would never have found parkour.
What Happens Next?
There are many, many more traceuses out there. I’ve heard from several different traceuse friends that girls generally don’t have the desire to make videos the same way guys do. But please, girls. If you are out there, and you have that ability, make a video. You may not want to, but you may also inspire more girls to take up parkour. Tamila said that the Hana and Tamara videos were a big part of what inspired her training.
The big wave of traceuses has begun. In the next few years, I believe that the parkour scene will see a huge explosion of female parkour videos. Genuine parkour, performed by girls who have come to this discipline new to the movements but old friends with movement, ready to develop their own distinct styles. They’ll be the ones that have looked up to Luci and Erica and Tam and the rest. They’ll have the benefit of learning from these traceuses’ experience. They’ll be able to use those experiences to leapfrog to new heights of progression, ever faster and faster.
The traceuses on this list will not stay alone for long, but they’ll always have been a part of the first generation of female parkour.