The Pioneering Skater Girls Of The 60's & 70's
Recalling memories from when she was a babe in arms, Patti has said of her initial interest in skateboarding "You know...I always had something with wheels", but who knew that something would land her in the skateboarding hall of fame some 50 years after she first began her fascination. From a bicycle to roller skates she propelled forwards, (quite literally) on a homemade skateboard at the age of 9 and within the next 10 years her image could be found on the cover of Life magazine preforming her signature trick of the rolling Handstand.
Today we know skating as a craze that was adopted by long haired teenage boys in baseball tops and vans, but before the culture had a uniform it stood as a free for all where anyone with the passion to hit the pavement could take skateboarding as their own. Patti was a home grown athlete before there was a reason to become one.
Images of her sporting an impeccable bouffant hairdo, opting for barefoot over any shoe and clean cut in a matching outfit are dazzling in their uniqueness when compared to what we see in the sub-cultures style through later decades. Patti Mcgee champions as the pioneering skate girl, when asked what the look was during the 60's for skaters, her answer perfectly evidences her exceptionality, "A LOOK? Well, it was just ME!"
During the golden age of skateboarding the scene adopted a distinct look and personality which seriously shaped the appearance of skating as we know it today. Clothing Company's tapped into the sport and soon brands which catered to the shredders needs, from firm footing to breathable threads, became a sub-culture success, (just look at Vans).
Kim Cespedes is remembered as one of the best female skaters of this time, images of her are wholly representational of the California skate scene due to her free spirited approach to the board and iconic 70's style.
A symbol for the power of getting back up and trying again, when Kim first approached a skateboard she was met when the floor within moments, but after a niggling longing for something to fill the gap that her beloved first sport of surfing had left in her, she persisted and was soon travelling to japan on sponsorships from the likes of Nike.
After 50 years in the spotlight skateboarding has reached a moment in which pushing the boundaries has become somewhat of a challenge, and that's especially when we cock our heads to look at what Ellen Berryman was achieving on the board by the age of 16. As a talented gymnast Ellen was inspired to combine her knowledge of the two sports, making a name for herself through a catalogue of unique tricks, one of which involves an impressive handstand that goes into a spider (toes touching head, don't try this one at home).
Skating was dominated by two styles, an aggressive approach built on spend and a smooth, gilding method which was developed from surfing. Ellens involvement of gymnastic-type moves brought a whole new level of possibility, focusing on grace with a notably balletic form of movement.
In what has become a belligerently male dominated sport, it is nothing short of moving to appreciate the women who were making history in the scene with absence of hesitation or fear of their belonging. Photographs of Laura Thornhills revolving mane of sun kissed California blonde hair, as it flourishes with the twist of her footing is the perfect example of a girl displaying unbeatable skills with an unbeatable aesthetic to match.
The internet combined with an inflamed DIY culture has bred many a group of boarder to record and edit there sessions for the world to see , but before Wifi and the accessibly of hand held cameras movements in culture where word of mouth or otherwise found in the popular magazines of the time. Skateboarder magazine was the rag of choice and one in which Laura was featured as the first female skater in their "Who's Hot" segment, to have an interview and later to have a centrefold in the magazine.
For some women who adopted skating it was in their nature to offer a gracefulness to the sport which many men didn't have, this wasn't the case for Peggy Oki. Her aggressive approach came naturally to her and soon she was a leading star in the famous boys club, suitably titled Z-boys.
When asked to recall her difficulties as a female who was focused on breaking into the culture Peggy replied, "I think that it is a part of a female's personality to take on a male-dominated sport and a truly personal choice to persevere through all the adversities."