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Mothers are big wheels

Skateboard moms love the rush

May 07, 2004|Barbara Odanaka | Special to The Times

It isn't every day you think about rolling yourself in bubble wrap. Or padding your pants with marshmallows. Or writing "O+" on your sneakers, just in case someone needs to know your blood type in a hurry.

But when you're a skateboarding mom, extreme thoughts come with the territory. Especially when standing atop a skateboard ramp for the first time, trying to psych up for the drop.

Ever since a few friends and I founded the International Society of Skateboarding Moms -- a just-for-fun group of about 50 women from the United States, Canada and England -- reactions have been fairly predictable.

A typical inquiry: "Skateboarding moms? Why on Earth would you want to do something like that?"

Granted, there are times when some of us ask that very question, what with all the pressures and responsibilities of parenthood directing our minivan lives. But then a spare moment is found. We pounce on our boards. And within seconds, there are exclamation points in our eyes.

Who are these crazy women? We are teachers, artists, system analysts, children's book authors, stand-up comedians, marriage counselors, trauma nurses, furniture designers and "skate-at-home" moms. We are single moms and moms of multiples, home-schoolers and environmentalists, peace marchers and survivors of domestic abuse. We come from 10 states and range in age from 25 to 80. (Yes, 80. Liz Bevington of Santa Monica skates the boardwalks of Venice Beach on her wind-powered skateboard.)

The International Society of Skateboarding Moms -- even we smile when we say it -- is about making time for play, no matter your age. It's about staying fit (despite those half-eaten kid meals you've gobbled). It's about dispelling stereotypes (moms as domestic divas, skaters as delinquents). It's about living for the moment, if only for a moment in time.

But mostly, it's about the ride.

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Loving the glide

In the 1970s, thousands of girls rode skateboards, particularly in California's beach communities, where "sidewalk surfing" was born. Treated as equals by their male counterparts, skater girls learned to "tick-tack," spin 360s, even do handstands on their boards. They rocketed down hills. They fell in love with the glide. Three decades later, many of those girls have kids of their own.

For many of our members, becoming a mom is what got them back on board. Their kids started skating and suddenly there was an irresistible urge to give it another go. Yes, there are falls, lots of them (the society recommends full safety gear), but the passion tends to come back just the same. Bumps and bruises are our merit badges. Ours is a black-and-blue kind of bliss.

That was apparent at a recent all-girls skateboard camp held at Woodward West, a skateboarders' paradise tucked in the mountains of Tehachapi in Central California. The three-day camp, part of the Op Girls Learn to Ride series, saw beginning skateboard mom Sherri Cruz, 41, of Newport Beach improve from "cul-de-sac cruiser" to mini-ramp rider. Her daughter, 9-year-old Rhiannon, rolled with her, smiling all the way.

But we don't just goof around. Just ask skate moms Isabelle Caudle, 43, of Encinitas or Rose Bernfeld, 25, of Oceanside, both serious riders who commit body and soul to the sport. Or 1970s freestyle skate queen Laura Thornhill Caswell, 43, of Valencia, who is getting back on her board. Or myself, a skate-at-home mom so taken with what skateboarding pro Brian Howard calls the "tango with gravity" that I wrote a children's book ("Skateboard Mom"), launched a website (www.skateboardmom.com) and began tracking down others who share the obsession.

On Sunday, many of us will celebrate Mother's Day at our inaugural event: the Mighty Mama Skate-O-Rama, a "play date" for Women Who Dare to Have Fun (and their supporters). The event, at Laguna Niguel skate park in Orange County, is a fund-raiser for Orange County Public Library's Children's Services. It's also the kickoff to our own program, Rolling for Reading, which puts new and used children's books into the hands of kids in need. Books will be distributed on skateboard, of course.

And after the Mighty Mama Skate-O-Rama? Well, we just heard a rumor about a new series of skateboard camps for women that will combine sessions at skate parks with stays at five-star spa hotels.

Skateboarding and spa treatments? Sounds like the perfect Mother's Day gift to me.

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Barbara Odanaka wrote "Skateboard Mom" (Putnam) and is a former reporter for the Los Angeles Times.

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