Patti McGee began surfing at age 12 in San Diego and in her teens was part of the Pump House Gang. When she saw a skateboard in 1962 at the Hollywood Teen Fair during her Easter vacation, it seemed like a great option for days when there was no surf. Pat’s brother Jackie made one in woodshop, using clay rollerskate wheels and she was soon bombing hills and inventing new tricks. Pat even got herself towed by a Suzuki motorcycle (no helmet, pads, or shoes!) and clocked 47mph in the parking-lot of the California Orange County Fair, setting a new record.
Pat’s cousin introduced her to George Cooley in 1964, who created BunBuster skateboards, and decided to sponsor Pat and her brother. The highlight of that sponsorship was doing a demo at a Walt Disney movie premiere called, “The Moon-Spinners.”
Photos: Bill Eppridge, Ron Stoner
After winning the National Skateboard Championship at the Santa Monica park in 1964 (it was judged on the flip card system like ice skating, and she tied Danny Bearer for points), Pat took her trophy and glossy photos over to Hobie skateboards to insist they bring her onto the team. At that time, the Hobie team was exclusively young boys, and in their short video SkaterDater (1965), considered the first skateboarding movie, the girls were on the sidelines, a distraction for the boys who had all the fun.
Photos: Bill Eppridge, Ron Stoner
In an interview for Juice magazine, McGee recalled, “As I pulled into the shop at Dana Point at 5 o’clock, Hobie was racing out the door in his suit with his folders and skateboards… He said, ‘I haven’t got time for this.’ I said, ‘But look! I’m the Woman’s National Skateboard Champion and I want to be on your team!’ He said, ‘Can you babysit?’”
McGee did meet Hobie’s family, and fortunately, it was decided that Patti would be paid by Hobie to host demos and travelled across the U.S. performing in the toy and sports departments like Macy’s, which she loved. Because she was being paid ($250 a month) and was teaching skateboarding safety, she was no longer allowed to compete, but she landed some great gigs and is considered the first Professional Female Skateboarder.
McGee’s fame was sealed when she appeared on the May 14th, 1965, cover of Life at age 19 performing a hand-stand (her signature move). Photos were taken by Bill Eppridge for an article called “Skateboard Mania—and Menace: a teeter-totter on wheels is the risk new fad.” The cover photo triggered an avalanche of opportunities for Pat, including a cameo on the Johnny Carson show where she gave the host a skateboarding lesson. She also appeared on “What’s My Line?,” “The Mike Douglas Show,” and a commercial for Bell Telephone.
Pat was the first woman to have the cover of a skate magazine (Skateboarder, October 1965), where she shared her progress and thoughts with Susan Adams. McGee insisted that skateboarding was for everyone. She stated, “Well, some people say girl skateboarders are just a novelty. I myself think that skateboarding is 100 percent just as much for girls as it is for boys.”
Her last showcase was in 1966 at the Dick Clark Young World’s Fair in Chicago – she skated in front of 45,000 youth! By 1969, skateboarding tanked, being condemned as a menace and liability, but McGee maintained her connection to the scene. She became a brand ambassador for Silly Girl skateboards, and a photo of her, surrounded by ogling journalists became graphics for a board, arranged by her daughter Hailey of OG Betties.
McGee returned to skateboarding at age 55 in 2002, and was the first woman inducted into the Skateboard Hall of Fame in 2010 where you can find more photos and footage. She continues to promote skateboarding and her history. And, an adorable children’s picture book called There Goes Patti McGee! (by Tootie Nienow & Erika Medina) was released in 2021, sharing her inspirational story with young readers and skaters.
Photos: I. Lannes, Will Houston
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- Adams, Susan. “Profile: Pat McGee – The Lady is a Champ.” Skateboarder. October 1965 (Vol. 1.4): pp. 10 – 13.
- Craig, Snyder. “Patti McGee.” Skateboard Hall of Fame.
- Hanson, Nicole. “Exclusive interview with Patti McGee, first female professional skateboarder.” G.R.O.W. SK8 LIFE. February 1, 2013.
- Olson, Steve. “Patti McGee.” Juice Magazine. Nov. 13, 2018.
- “Skateboard Mania—and Menace.” Life Magazine. May 14, 1965, pp. 126-134.