In 2020, Deanna Calkins was inducted into the Skateboarding Hall of Fame and her bio provides a thorough history of her impact. What is also worth noting is how Deanna advocated for amateur women skateboarders and was part of the massively popular Wednesday “Girls Night” events in the late 1970s at Runway skatepark in Carson, CA.
Deanna was born in Inglewood, California in 1959, and she ended up going to the same school as Laura Thornhill’s brother, South High School in Torrance. Deanna took up skateboarding in 1976 and just before graduation in 1977 she “discovered the slalom course at Skateboard World in Torrance, which came to her naturally. Employing a parallel ski stance, Deanna was beating everyone on the slalom course at the park within three weeks—and on borrowed equipment, no less!” (SHOF).
Deanna’s first sponsor was Magnum by Mattel, as she was present at Skateboard World when the team was having a photo session, and they witnessed her skills on the course. She was soon competing and took first place in Slalom at the Catalina Classic in November 1977. Footage of the women’s event is captured below, and Deanna’s interview starts here.
Di Dootson reported on the event in the December 1977 issue of the National Skateboard Review, which was full of drama! It was Calkins’ first pro event and in the preliminaries she took out Robin Logan to move into the semi-finals against Kim Cespedes, who had taken out Ellen Oneal. Kim ended up falling at the finish line, so Calkins advanced to the finals against Terry Brown who had moved forward after rounds against Judi Oyama and Ellen Berryman.
The finals was Calkins versus Brown, and while it appeared that Brown had won, she had hit so many cones (which resulted in timed penalties), that Calkins was declared winner. “Calkins won the $400 first place purse and a place in the history of this event” (p. 3). This result helped Deanna acquire further sponsors including Hobie, ACS trucks, Vans, Rector and Hang Ten.
In March 1978 for the Kona Pro-Am at the Kona Skatepark Deanna placed 4th in Pro Women Banked Slalom. The top five pro men received cash prizes from $2000 down to $50, and the women received nothing. Perhaps this experience is what prompted Deanna to write a fantastic letter to Di Dootson, which was published in the April 1978 issue of National Skateboard Review.
Deanna wrote, as a Hobie Professional Team Member, “I am really interested in getting girls involved in skateboarding. I would like to encourage the amateur girls to keep practicing… Some girls can always think of reason not to ride… The friends and people you meet really make it all worthwhile. Also, the more girls there are in competitions, the more prizes, money and travel opportunities will be awarded… I would like to see prize money equal to the men’s. Girls practice just as much as guys do, and they deserve what they work for!”
Deanna was true to her word in supporting young female skaters. In the June 1978 issue of National Skateboard Review there’s a special Women’s Section. Deanna is seen hanging out at the Runway Skatepark in Carson during their “Girls’ Night” along with Resti Polendey and Bonnie Valent. Apparently, the special Wednesday evenings would draw 150 girls!
In the July and August 1978 issues of Skateboarder, ACS took out a double-page colour ad out featuring Deanna, along with Robin Logan and Ellen Oneal. “Girls get radical too on ACS trucks.” And, a photo of Deanna competing is printed in the October 1978 issue of Skateboarder, where she placed 2nd in Slalom to Terry Brown at the Akron World Championships, in Ohio. Deanna also gave bowl-riding competition a go at the I.S.A Northern California Pro Park Competition (Aug. 1978) at Winchester, with a respectable 3rd place behind Terry Lawrence and Vicki Vickers.
Photos: Hobie team tour by Jeff Ruiz in 1978
Deanna had some fantastic media features, including an interview in the February 1978 issue of Wild World of Skateboarding called “Profile of a Winner,” and for television and movies she was part of “Skateboard Kings,” a “Women in Sports” BBC documentary, and the “Challenge of the Sexes” on CBS racing Steve Olson at the Runway skatepark. Her SHOF bio also describes a variety of ads beyond skateboarding products, such as 7-UP, JC Penny, Santori soda pop and Arnold Palmer Sports Wear in Japan. She was even able to buy a house at age 18 with the earnings of these commercials.
In 1979, Lavada Weir published a book called Advanced Skateboarding: a complete guide to skatepark riding and other tips for the better skateboarder and Deanna offers expert advice throughout such as how to approach curves and transitions in a bowl. Weir shared how, “Deanna decided to become a professional because she felt that her skills had at least reached a professional level. She said that she has always like the challenge of competing with someone just a bit better. ‘I worked up to it by entering amateur competitions’” (114).
Deanna finished her professional skateboarding career in 1982, after having enjoyed being part of demos for Hobie throughout the Midwest, and skateboard tours like Skateboard Expo and Skateboard Mania. While explaining the difference between amateur and professional, Weir uses Skateboard Mania as an example since the hotel and travel expenses are paid for, a daily allowance is provided, as well as a weekly salary. “Deanna Calkins, a member of the cast, says, ‘It’s a good experience. Although, we put in a lot of hours—sometimes we practice 14 hours a day—it’s fun. But I am also learning to take orders and do what I’m supposed to do. It’s knowledge-expanding. I’m learning the discipline of staying in character. I love the make-up—it’s like Halloween. Our costumes are beautiful and they have full safety gear built into them. It’s a good experience’” (113).
In 2018, two years before Deanna was inducted into the Skateboarding Hall of Fame, she was honoured at the Mighty Mama Skate-O-Rama as a skateboarding legend. It was their 15th Annual fundraising event supporting women and children in need, held on Mother’s Day. The experience inspired Deanna to get back on her board for a cruise along some smooth Arizona roads.
These days Deanna enjoys playing golf, being outdoors and her full-time work as a realtor.
- Calkins, Deanna. “Skaters Opinion.” National Skateboard Review. April 1978.
- Dootson, Di. “Catalina Contest.” National Skateboard Review. December 1977.
- SHOF. “Deanna Calkins.” Skateboarding Hall of Fame 2020.
- Weir, Lavada. Advanced Skateboarding: a complete guide to skatepark riding and other tips for the better skateboarder. Wanderer Books, 1979.