Mother’s Day Is Also for Getting Footloose

Times Staff Writer

Some moms are feted on Mother’s Day with flowers and with breakfast in bed. Others are taken out to brunch at a fancy restaurant. But in Laguna Niguel on Sunday, dozens of women and their families marked the day by skateboarding in a fundraiser for Orangewood Children’s Home.

The sun was shining, the Beastie Boys’ song “Hey Ladies” was blaring, and women from all over California were gliding, grinding and occasionally tumbling across the undulating concrete expanse of the city’s skate park in the third annual Mighty Mama Skate-O-Rama.

“Why go on Mother’s Day and eat when you can enjoy the outdoors, exercise and have fun and do what you love?” said Jaime Sparks, 35, of Corona. “Skateboarding is the new Jenny Craig.”

Added Sparks’ 12-year-old daughter, Paige: “Just being able to skateboard with my mom is very, very cool, because not many moms skateboard with their kids.”


The event was started in 2004 by Barb Odanaka, the author of the children’s book “Skateboard Mom.” The 43-year-old Laguna Beach resident had skateboarded as a child but stopped for many years. After she gave birth to her son, now 9, Odanaka was having a rough patch and sought the help of a therapist who asked her to remember what gave her great joy in her life.

“It took me a nanosecond: skateboarding,” Odanaka said. “The minute you become a mother, you become this whole different person, mostly for the better. But at times, you reach a point, ‘Where did I go?’ My whole youth and the fun of my childhood is tied into these little boards. When I get up on my board, I’m 12 years old again.”

In 2004, when Odanaka suggested a gathering for like-minded women, 19 people took part. The event has grown every year, and on Sunday dozens of moms, aunts and their families took part.

Gale Hart, 50, an artist from Sacramento, made the event the centerpiece of a nine-day vacation visiting skate parks around the state. She took up the sport eight months ago.

“Your mind has to be totally focused on this and nothing else,” she said. “It’s one of those activities that takes you over. It consumes you, the fun of it.”

The camaraderie of the day, with women cheering beginners’ tentative glides and rushing over en masse when a boarder fell, is what drew participants such as Kristin McGowan, 37, of Tustin.

“Its hard to find women who are not too girlie. A lot of us feel like we don’t fit in,” said McGowan, as her eyes began to well with tears.

“We all encourage each other no matter what skill level or what body type. It doesn’t matter. We can all do this together.”

Her sons, 17-year-old old Alex and 12-year-old Christian, were manning the raffle ticket table, whose proceeds would benefit the library of Orangewood Children’s Home, the county’s center for abused and neglected youth.

“I get to brag about her to all my friends,” Christian said. “It’s awesome to have a mom that’s different from all the other moms.”