Mother of all skating

Andrew Edwards

Watch out soccer moms -- the skater moms are riding.

Laguna Beach is home to its share of shredders, and the

distinctive sound of skateboard wheels rolling over sidewalks and

streets is a part of summer in towns across Orange County.

Skateboarding is often perceived as a teenage boy's domain, but in

Laguna, moms -- and daughters -- show that you don't have to be a

dude to skate.

"I call myself a skate-at-home mom," Top of the World resident

Barbara Odanaka said.

The author of a children's book titled "Skateboard Mom," Odanaka

discovered skating when she was a child.

"I started when I was 10 when Santa brought me my Hobie Super

Surfer skateboard," she said.

She spent six month's on Hobie's amateur team but quit when her

track coach told her she had to choose between running and skating.

She spent about 25 years off a skateboard deck until her son Jack was

born in 1996.

"A therapist said to me, 'You need to find something that gives

you great joy and do it 10 minutes a day,'" Odanaka said.

Odanaka visits skate parks in nearby cities and often skates near

her Top of the World home, though she sticks to the smaller hills.

"I've never charged Park Avenue or anything like that, though I've

been tempted," she said.

She also skates inside.

"I keep the wheels clean," she said. "After all, I am a mom."

Looking for other moms to ride with, Odanaka founded the

International Society of Skateboarding Moms. The group held its first

Mighty Mama Skate-O-Rama on Mother's Day, and though many are Orange

County denizens, women from as far away as Argentina and the

Netherlands, have signed on to the group, Odanaka said.

Her 8-year-old son has not become an avid skateboarder, though her

husband Paul keeps two boards in his car.

In North Laguna, riding is a family affair for skater mom Sunny

Elizabeth and her three daughters, two of whom skate competitively.

The family traveled to San Francisco to participate in the All

Girl Skate Jam over the Independence Day weekend, Elizabeth said. Her

youngest daughter, 9-year-old Caity, took second place in her


Caity started skating when she was 3-years-old, after a

psychiatrist recommended to Elizabeth that Caity take Ritalin.

"I said, 'No way man, we're going to go skateboarding,'" Elizabeth


Elizabeth skated as a teenager and got back into the sport when

Caitlin started. Elizabeth's older daughters, 15-year-old Carly and

17-year-old Vienna, took up skating around the same time.

"I didn't know that it existed, that chicks skate, but they rip,"

Carly said.

The family's North Laguna apartment is home to a cache of

skateboards, and the walls are plastered with pictures of Elizabeth's

daughters on skateboards or at the beach. The family often travels to

skate parks to ride together.

"It's just kind of a way to push each other and cheer each other

on," Elizabeth said.

The family favors an old-school skating style that favors surfing

influenced moves over aerial tricks -- the kind of skating featured

in the documentary "Dogtown and Z-Boys."

"It's more, just kind of like, one with everything, it's more

about style," Vienna said. "It's more natural."

"It's not just the plain old things like kick-flips, 180s,

hand-plants," Caity explained.

The Laguna-based Ocean Pacific Girls Learn to Ride conducts

clinics across the country teaching skateboarding and other action

sports to women and girls. Lagunan Mark Sperling started the company

five years ago.

Market research shows that the amount of girls skateboarding has

doubled in recent years as the sport becomes more and more popular,

thanks to televised events like the X-Games.

"A lot of it has to do with it being more mainstream, it being on

TV," Sperling said.

In town, employees at the Laguna Surf and Sport have noticed an

increasing number of girls are buying skateboard gear.

"Lately we've had a few girls come in and buy shortboard decks,

not longboards," employee Katie Martensen said. "Not too many, but

more than normal."

Despite the sport's popularity in Laguna, there are no skate parks

in town, though the YMCA has sought to build a park in town for


In 2000, the Act V parking lot was selected for the park's home,

but in 2001 the City Council decided to keep parking and shifted the

site to the Bark Park. Worried that dogs and skateboarders may not

get along, the Council moved in 2003 to build the park at Big Bend.

That site was rejected this year because of traffic safety concerns.

Though dog lovers may not want a skate park built next to the Bark

Park, the YMCA has a contract with the city to build a park there.

Caltrans has also determined the dog park is a safer location than

Big Bend, said South Coast YMCA chairman Larry Nokes.

"It looks like the Bark Park is probably where we're going to put

our efforts," he said.

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