The legacy of pro skater Terry Lawrence (@silvereagletraders) and his skateboarding journey is awesome. In his own words, “My name’s Terry Lawrence. I’m 57 years-old, my pronouns are he/him/his and I’m transgender. I was a professional skater in the ‘70s and early part of the ‘80s, when I was skating, I was skating as a female” (2020).
Photos: Bob Ballou, Jim Cassimus
Terry shared part of his story with the beloved Jeff Grosso (RIP), in the June 2020 episode called Van’s Loveletter to LTBTQ+, which included some vintage footage of Terry competing.
“I rode pools, I rode vertical, I had a lot of sponsors,” for example, Alva, Pepsi, Vans, Independent, and Powerflex, who released Terry’s signature board. According to his Skateboard Hall of Fame bio, “Terry started skateboarding at the age of eight on a neighbor’s Roller Derby with metal wheels. Terry’s first skateboard was a metal deck with urethane wheels, a Christmas gift from Mom.” And, he acknowledges his sister Kim Araujo for driving him around to skateparks, and the fact that he has Indigenous heritage, which has inspired him to take up beadwork and drumming.
Terry became sponsored in 1976 and in the March 1978 issue of Sessions magazine, he was listed as a member of the United Amateur Skateboard Association including a photo. Terry turned pro that year and soon began dominating contests, for example:
- July 1978, Terry entered the Big O Skatepark in Orange County taking on Leilani Kiyabu and took first prize for hitting 15 one-wheelers, and Leilani 12.
- August 1978 at the I.S.A. Northern California Pro Park Competition at Winchester Skatepark, Terry won the bowl riding event ahead of Vicki Vickers, Deanna Calkins and Judi Oyama.
- November 1978 Free Former contest at the Runway Skatepark in Carson, CA Terry took first place again in bowl riding ahead of Vickers, Wendy Gooding, and Rosemary Cortez, taking home $400, according to an article in the March 1979 issue of Skateboarder.
- February 1979, at the first annual Lakewood World Pro Halfpipe contest, Di Dootson reported that Terry was the best skater, “making roll outs, edger stalls, and nice quick carves.” This time, Terry took home $500 and was ahead of Leilani Kiyabu and Brenda Devine.
- April 1979, at the First Annual Gyro Dog Bowl Pro at Marina del Rey Skatepark, Terry is first place ahead of nine other competitors, and is acknowledged with a photo and a comment on Terry’s “incredible power and consistency” in the August 1979 issue of Skateboarder.
- Eventually, Terry wound up in 3rd place at the 1979 Hester #3 Pro Bowl at Del Mar in Colorado, behind local skater Leigh Parkin and Brenda Devine, but the contest reports state that this was due to a bad case of the flu.
Photos: Glenn Miyoda, Ted Terrebonne, James Cassimus
A photo of Terry mid-competition representing Alva appears in the June 1979 issue of Skateboarder, alongside the announcement that he received the “most improved” skateboarder of 1978 based on the annual skater’s poll.
*Thanks to Instagram followers, we learned that the photographer of this photo above with Terry riding Tony Alva’s leopard skateboard at Marina Del Rey, was William Sharp: @williamsharpimages
As a result, Terry was featured in a “Who’s Hot” interview in the same issue with King James, which was recorded en route to the Marina del Rey skatepark from Terry’s home in Lakewood. Terry was sixteen and shared that, “I started at the Concrete Wave about a year ago when I first saw Jana Payne. I just wanted to do what she was doing so I started riding there every day… Finally, I started riding pools and vertical. Then I heard about the Hester [Pro-Bowl] at Newark and that Leilani won and what she was doing; so I thought I would give the next contest a try. That was the Hester/Big ‘O’ and I ended up with first place.”
Terry had tons of drive, skating three hours a day, and just wanted to keep learning new tricks in anticipation of the next contest. Terry acknowledged that pools and vertical is where the most energy is, so freestyle and slalom were not a priority. Plus, Terry was having fun sneaking into pools when there was a drought, and full pipes like “Nukeland” near a military base at San Onofre.
Terry was influenced by Tony Alva, Jay Adams, and Steve Alba, and stated that “I want to be able to, at some time, enter a contest in the men’s division and place in the top 10, doing things that the guys are doing—hand plants, aerials and things like that.” And that was a perfectly valid response. Why not?
Terry’s concluding comments in Skateboarder were, “Just practice a lot and have fun skating.” And, the caption on the photo of Terry in a yellow shirt at Marina del Ray states that Terry “is closing the gap between male and female potential in the realm of vertical skating.”
In the 1978 footage of Terry skating in ABC’s documentary Blaze On (dir. Al Benner) at Lakewood, it’s evident that he was motivated to keep progressing and to win contests.
Emanuele Barbier followed up with Terry for Skateism in a fantastic article called “Blazing the Trail in the 70s’” (July 4, 2020). Terry explained that skateboarding gave him a “sense of freedom and finding my own place to express myself,” and he loved the scene in the 70s because “So much was being developed, so much was new and exciting. In a lot of ways, it was developing its own culture, its own voice. It was the sense you could be and do whatever you wanted, it had that rebellious aspect.”
In his youth, Terry didn’t have the vocabulary around trans identity, or even know of any trans or out gay skaters, but he did find that through skateboarding “I could express my masculinity and my competitive aggressiveness and it wasn’t looked down upon in a way that it would have been in another type of sport… I didn’t have to conform to stereotypes.”
Through skateboarding, Terry learned not to pay attention to what others thought about him, and actively transitioned and changed his appearance five years ago. Terry noted that the skateboarding community is still evolving, and reflected on the 1980s, which was extremely male-dominated and heteronormative, which perpetuated an environment of fear and hostility towards LGBTQ+ people.
Terry acknowledged his induction into the Skateboard Hall of Fame in 2020 as a trailblazing female professional skateboarding, and made it clear that he “didn’t want to do a revisioned history of my life,” since he was a role model to women at the time. Terry didn’t want to disown the past, but moving forward to be gendered “as who I am now.”
In his interview with Grosso, Terry said, “Queer skating is awesome, I really like to see the diversity that’s happening. I hope that the environment continues to be safer and safer for folks that are not only like me, but the whole spectrum of the community and for everyone because to me, skating has given me a great life and a great perspective on everything I’ve done.
- Barbier, Emanuele. “Blazing the Trail in the 70s’” Skateism. July 4, 2020.
- Dootson, Di. “Lakewood 1st Annual Pro.” National Skateboard Review. April/May 1979, p. 10.
- Fineman, Craig. “The Gyro Dog Bowl Pro.” Skateboarder. August 1979, pp. 47-51.
- Grosso, Jeff. “Loveletter to LGBTQ+.” Jeff Grosso’s Loveletters to Skateboarding. June 11, 2020.
- James, King. “Who’s Hot: Teri Lawrence” Skateboarder. June 1979, pp. 76-77.
- Skateboard Hall of Fame. “Terry Lawrence.” 2020.