Cindy Berryman

Cindy (Cynthia) Berryman will be the first to tell you that the real skateboarder of her family was little sister Ellen, seven years younger. And yet, Cindy played a crucial part in promoting and advocating for women in skateboarding in the 1970s and deserves recognition.

In Ellen’s story for the book, Lives on Board (2009, ed. Jack Smith) called “From Recluse to Footloose, and Back” she repeatedly acknowledges Cindy. The Berryman family were living in Encinitas, CA and did not have things easy as their mother suffered for paranoid schizophrenia and their father was paralyzed from the waist down, although he did teach himself to walk, to the surprise of his doctor.

Ellen stated that she was mostly raised by Cindy, especially when their father returned to hospital for long stretches and struggled to support the family. Ellen was 13 when Cindy left for college, and she became reclusive and shy, although was coaxed to try gymnastics.

The gamechanger was when Cindy returned home in 1975 and introduced Ellen to skateboarding. Ellen said, “Cindy knew some skateboarders, and we would drive to Black Hill at La Costa to hang with them.” A photo of Cindy doing a hang-ten taken by Warren Bolster from that time was shared in the 1975 Winter issue of Skateboarder (Vol. 2, no 3). On her Facebook page, Cindy states that this is likely the only photo of her skateboarding in existence.

There’s also mention in John O’Malley’s book Urethane Revolution: the birth of skate San Diego 1975 (2019) that Warren, as photographer / editor of Skateboarder magazine “derailed Cindy Berryman from law school and onto a successful writing career.” Apparently in 1976 “finding a skateboarder to put together one thousand words on deadline was a very tall order, so Warren was happy to grow the talent that he needed where he could.”

And when Cindy moved to the North Shore of Oahu in 1976, Ellen spent the summer with her, preparing for the first FreeFormer World Championships (which she won), and enjoyed the company of Cindy’s pro surfing friends.

Big sister Cindy also took charge when two men in suits showed up with a briefcase and demanded to sit down with the family. Ellen recalled how, “Being from a small beach town and a blue-collar family, it was strange to have men with suits sitting on our living room sofa. I’m fairly sure my mother was pretty clueless about what was going on. They wanted to sign me on to a touring show called Skateboard Expo. To my good fortune Cindy took charge and made sure I was treated fairly. And the producer of the show, Patrick Mulcahy, was so impressed with her chutzpah that he signed her onto the tour to do public relations. Eventually he married her.”

Cindy had a passion for writing and put her skills to good use by writing a critical essay called “Let’s Hear it for the Ladies” in the August 1976 issue of Skateboarder. Her goal was to draw attention to the growing talent of female riders, their concerns, and accomplishments. The introduction of Berryman’s article stated, “Just setting pen to paper to write an article on the skate ladies is an admission that there is something different about the women.”

She acknowledged that the participation of women in skateboarding was increasing daily (approximately 10% at the time in Carlsbad) and she believed that “Once a skate lady puts her efforts into bowl and bank riding, there are no qualitative limits to competent riding.”

Cindy discussed pay equity in contests and the debate around gender roles in skateboarding, writing that while women were typically revered for their grace, balance and freestyle rhythm, aggression is often necessary when skating banks and bowls, and it shouldn’t be pigeon-holed as a masculine behaviour, exclusive to a certain gender. Cindy was concerned with how some women appeared to accentuate their “femininity” when not competing to over-compensate for being active in a male-dominated activity.

The article included several voices and was enhanced with photos of skaters like Francine Hill and Dodie Hackemack ripping around the deep-end of some gnarly pools, freestyle action by Desiree Von Essen, and even a six-year-old girl named Jennifer Dimon riding off a small kicker. Legendary skaters like Kim Cespedes, Robin Logan, and Laura Thornhill also have their place in the article, and it must have been so inspiring to read when the issue first hit the magazine racks.

Cindy made comparisons in her article to the bigger picture of women’s participation in sports, giving props to Billie Jean King, Chris Evert, Dorothy Hammill, and Olga Korbut, as well as highlighting the popular magazine that had been released called WomenSport.

Von Essen contributed to Berryman’s article, calling out the double standards at contests for women. She noted that the girls end up “usually the last event of the day, or they schedule us for free-style while the men do slalom, so we’re never noticed.” And the icing on the cake was at the Belmont Park Freestyle Contest in San Diego. All the girls and women, regardless of experience were clumped together and while the men’s winner received a trip for two to Hawaii, the women’s winner won a trip… to San Diego (where the contest was held!), even though it originally was San Francisco.

Cindy concluded that while the power behind the skateboard movement was primarily male, there was still a place for women. “They’re a significant factor in skateboarding, and their accomplishments are not to be overlooked.”

Several months later, Cindy followed up the article by writing Ellen’s “Who’s Hot” feature for Skateboarder magazine in the December 1976 issue, describing her sister’s rapid progress. Cindy is definitely Ellen’s biggest fan, and more recently on Facebook she explained that because Ellen never posted her own skateboarding photos, Cindy was doing it for her!

Cindy was especially excited for her sister’s induction to the Skateboard Hall of Fame in 2016, which she felt was a long overdue. On Facebook December 2015 she wrote, “I’m so proud that my little sister Ellen Berryman is one of the inductees. She’s kind of nervous about giving a speech, but I know it’s going to be awesome. I mean, really. She used to perform flawlessly in front of thousands. This should be a piece of cake with the encouraging group of fellow skaters I know will be there to support her. I look forward to seeing all my skating friends.”

Cindy also joked that this round she planned on not being hungover considering that John O’Malley wouldn’t be there, and he notoriously provided her and Robin Logan some stiff, yet tasty margaritas at the pre-party the year before!

Besides Skateboarder magazine, Cindy wrote for Surfer, and continued to write. She is now a freelance writer for articles about investments, lives in Orange County and is an avid gardener.


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