Colleen Boyd Turner is a fine addition to the Skateboarding Hall of Fame (2021), and as her Instagram account proves, she’s still very active in her seventies! I highly recommend checking out her page, as it is a wealth of skateboarding history and an inspiration, especially those with grandma status.
Colleen shared for the Encinitas Advocate that she was five years-old when she set foot on a skateboard. It was 1956 and her big brother Greg hammered steel Mickey Mouse roller skate wheels to a piece of 2×4 plywood. Greg “plopped me down on my butt on the board at the top of the driveway and gave me a push.” Her parents were very supportive of her athletic pursuits, including surfing and volleyball.
It wasn’t until Colleen entered Junior High that she pursued skateboarding with intention, and launched “La Femme Skateboard Team” – the first-ever all-girl skateboard crew with Donna Cash-Harris and Suzie Rowland-Levin in 1963.
La Femme was a women’s clothing shop who provided the girls with matching plaid wind-breaker jackets, and then Suzie’s mom made 10-inch back patches to make it official. Colleen writes that this was in response to the fact that the boys’ teams weren’t interested in them, and so they wore their jackets proudly “while skating around town until the Palisades and Hobie Skateboard Teams recruited us.”
La Femme skaters had a great time scheming new tricks, like carrying each other on their shoulders and balancing on top of a trash can / on top of a skateboard!
In a Huff Post article, Colleen reflected on her senior’s state, alongside her fellow pioneers from the Palisades Skateboard Team (1964-1966), which also included Suzanne and Donna. The article celebrated the team’s reunion for the production of a documentary, Skateboarding’s First Wave (2015, Directed by Don Burgess), which was a follow-up on Tim Keller’s book, Skateboarding’s First Wave: A Palisades Story (2013).
The reunion sounded like a blast, although Colleen realized that a 50-year break from skateboarding took a toll on her when she skated for the filmers. She also wrote that, “We didn’t realize at the time that we were being pioneers. We just loved skateboarding, and the more difficult the challenge, the more we liked it!”
Tim Keller’s timeline explains why the three dominant skateboard companies (Makaha, Hobie and Palisades) all formed in the vicinity of the Pacific Palisades. Essentially, the proximity to the beach, to surfing, and the fact that being located on the sides of the Santa Monica Mountains resulted in playgrounds having slopes covered in asphalt, which could mimic surfing. He also shared the evolution of the Palisades’ sponsorship, which was curiously from Don Burgess Pools, and his inventive non-skid paint for pool decks, but applied to boards!
Besides sponsoring a team, Don Burgess also happened to enjoy using his 16mm to make movies, which is the foundation of the documentary. The film even ended up having a feminist bent considering that the competitions were often mixed gender, and you can see the kids all practicing their high jumps and surf-style on the banks, having fun.
The first International Skateboard Championships in May 1965 was held at La Palma Stadium in Anaheim. It was televised by ABC’S Wide World of Sports, and Colleen’s barefoot performance was featured, which gave her 2nd place with 24 points just behind Laurie Turner DeMott. Colleen won the flatland slalom, was 2nd in the figure eight, and 2nd overall for Girls. The results and photos were also published in the August 1965 issue of Skateboarder magazine.
Colleen noted that she didn’t get to see the footage until 50 years later, when the content became public domain. She is 13 years-old and the announcer says, “This gal is hot!” to describe her. Colleen’s innovative moves, which incorporated gymnastics were cutting edge at the time.
Contests continued to spring up, like the South Gate Open Contest in July 1965, the Palisades-Malibu Jaycees Skateboard Tournament in 1966, battles between sponsored teams, etc. Colleen was consistently placing in the top positions, head-to-head with Wendy Bearer Bull and Laurie Turner DeMott. In 1966, she was recruited by Hobie to be part of their team performing demonstrations in shopping malls and can be seen riding their waffle board with shoes! When she won a contest in SoCal in ’66 Colleen has the honour of receiving her trophy from none other than Patti McGee!
In her Skateboarding Hall of Fame profile video, Colleen explains how skateboarding was a lifesaver because there was no ‘Little League,” and she could “skate alone or with friends, and I just loved it!”
Colleen has an awesome sense of humour—she heckles herself for pushing “mongo,” her lack of shoes, having long 60s style bangs, she has proposed a 65+ category for the Olympics, and even shared the fact that the hand-stand she performs in the ABC clip was something she only practised that morning. In the Encinitas Advocate article she says, “Those were the days before ollies, half pipes and skating in empty pools… The only terminology that hasn’t changed is ‘face plant.’”
I liked the story of the time she was challenged to a race by a boy down the long, smooth cement driveway of the Palisades High School. She was ripping down the lane and round a bend at full speed, nicked a small rock and went flying into blackness. Fortunately, her boyfriend was cruising around in is Ford Woodie wagon, and take her to his parents’ place to recuperate… she had little recollection of what happened, beyond the evidence of her bail.
Fortunately, Colleen’s memories of skateboarding are still bright, and she has graciously donated some of her memorabilia to the Surfing Heritage Museum, and possibly the Smithsonian. Colleen jokes that she’s on a comeback and looking for sponsors… possibly Ben Gay, Bandaids and Depends. I love it!
Do read her full interview with Karen Billing below. The final quote is killer! “I hope I can be an inspiration to young women athletes… When boys didn’t take us in, we started our own group. We skated no matter what and we didn’t let any obstacles get in our way” (I take that literally!).
- Billing, Karen. “1960s skateboard pioneer Colleen Turner inducted into Skateboarding Hall of Fame.” Encinitas Advocate. Nov. 3, 2021.
- Keller, Tim. “Skateboarding’s First Wave: a Palisades Story.” Tim Keller Arts. 2013.
- Turner, Colleen. “Skateboarding’s First Wave: back to the ‘60s in our 60s.” Huffington Post. May 17, 2015.