Lynne Grosse from Adelaide, Australia was given a nickname – “the underdog from Down Under” after she turned up at the Magic Mountain Masters Contest in Valencia, California in May 1976 and won the freestyle event! She had never been outside of southern Australia before being invited to the U.S. and was only 15 years old.
Her story as the first Australian female skateboarder to make headlines, followed by a lifetime of extreme sports, is fascinating. “Linny” was born in Sydney in 1961 and moved to Adelaide with her family in 1969. She was always active and loved doing gymnastics and enjoying her trampoline as a kid.
When Lynne saw other kids take up skateboarding and wanted to try, her dad “turned her ‘dodgy’ old roller skates into her first skateboard!” According to a profile in the Falls Creek Alpine Winter 2018 newsletter, in 1975, at age 14 she “entered the South Australian championship and won!
A small team of skateboarders was formed… and two high-profile USA champions arrived in Australia to promote the sport… A month or so after they departed, Lin returned home from school where she found her parents in deep discussion and a telegram inviting her to the World Invitational Skateboard Titles in Los Angeles, USA!”
It was a big decision “for her parents to give permission for her to attend—but they did—and she won! She was nicknamed the ‘Little Dark Horse from Down Under.’” Lynne surprised everyone, including her sponsors (John Arnold Skateboard Team and Golden Breed) with first place in Freestyle ahead of Ellen Berryman and Laura Thornhill, the leading American skaters.
In an article about the contest from Skateboarder (October 1976), Brian Gillogly reported that, “The freestyle had its dark horse as well; young Lynn Grosse, whose high ratings for difficulty of manuever and versatility helped push Laura Thornhill (the upset of the day?) into 4th place in the eliminations and out of the running for the three-women finals (‘She’s still the hottest!’ Lynn admitted afterward).”
As a result, Lynne received a “Who’s Hot” feature in the same issue, also by Gillogly. He felt that “looks can be deceiving,” because Lynne appeared too frail to be a threat to anyone. He also explained that it was Stacy Peralta and Russ Howell who had toured Australia the year before and Howell “recommended Lynn for the trip as ‘the only Aussie who might have a good chance’ against Southern California’s best.”
Lynne had picked up different tricks and slalom technique from reading U.S. skateboarding magazines but was especially impressed with Peralta. “’I really like Stacy’s style,’ she recollected. ‘When he came over (last fall-winter) I really didn’t have a regular style. And then I saw him skate, and I started dragging my foot like he does. It makes such a difference; now everything’s much easier.’”
While Lynne got mixed up in her slalom race, going round the wrong cones, she wasn’t psyched-out for the freestyle. Lynne thought highly of Laura Thornhill. “’She’s great! I’m not expecting to get anywhere, but it’s worth the experience.’” Lynne had also twisted her ankle in practise, but ended up having no trouble in the final.
In her routine, Gillogly reported, “she space-walked, kick-turned off a small wooden ramp and went through a variety of difficult maneuvers in an upright, poised and aggressive yet graceful style. One trick at a time, then quickly into another usually flawless move, not repeating any prior maneuvers, she knew exactly where she was going: that is, into the finals.”
Lynne stepped it up with “an elbow stand, a few classy slides on the ramp, a long, perfectly controlled two-board nose wheelie… and the judges’ verdict was unanimous, giving her the highest points in the women’s division.”
She took her $300 first-place prize money and went to San Diego to skate for a week, and then up to San Francisco where she had a repeat experience at the Northern California Championships. Her name also appears in the competitor list for the 1976 Freeformer contest for freestyle and slalom with Ultra Flex as a sponsor.
Back in Adelaide it was her goal was to practice all the new tricks she was introduced to. “I don’t know if it’s worth it though: if I get good in Australia it’s not going to get me anywhere. But I think I’d enjoy it anyway, feel good in myself.” In response to Gillogly’s question about her impression of California, she said she would like to come back and live there. Her parents “expect that when I come back I’m going to settle down, and not skate so much. But, ya know… they have another thing coming!”
Footage of Lynne, as the former champion, demonstrating Freestyle tricks in the 1976 “Skateboard Winter Olympics” in Sydney is found here:
After her tour of California, Lynne returned home with a broken thumb, “but also with an interest in surfing, as all of her skateboard mates were also surfers. So, while she fulfilled her skateboard tours [of New Zealand], she took up surfing, and within a few months had won the South Australian Women’s surfing title!”
Lynne ended up winning two Australian Surfing Championships, and even took up skiing at age 16 and became the first Australian woman to pull off a backward somersault, winning the Australian freestyle ski championships! She eventually opted for warmer settings and became a deep-sea dive instructor on the Great Barrier Reef.
Lynne sadly passed away in 2018 but had such an amazing life-affirming legacy. She’s quoted as saying, “Everyone is gifted. It may be sports, art, technology, or maybe you don’t know. Only you shall find it. Follow your dreams, there is no shame in trying.”
- Gillogly, Brian. “Competition: second summer, second time around.” Skateboarder. October 1976, p. 93.
- Gillogly, Brian. “Who’s Hot: Lynn Grosse.” Skateboarder. October 1976, pp. 88-89.
- KB. “Linny Grosse and the Summit Masters.” Falls Creek Alpine Highcountry.com. Winter Edition 14, September 2018, p. 12.
- Murray, Mark. “Vale Lynne ‘Linny’ Grosse – ‘the little dark horse from Down Under.’” Newsport. April 17, 2018.