Bonnie Blouin

Bonnie Blouin (RIP) and her younger brother Blaize (RIP) were powerhouse siblings in the skateboarding community during the 1980s. While this entry does end tragically [*Warning*], the goal is to celebrate the life and contributions of Bonnie, whose presence in Thrasher was often the only positive portrayal of women, in contrast to its heavy saturation of content catering to pre-pubescent boys.

Photos: Billy Pickett

Bonnie was born on April 1963 in Santa Monica, CA then moved to South Carolina, and eventually headed to Richmond, Virginia and also lived in Charleston, West Virginia. Her brother Blaize was a vert legend and went pro for G&S.

Bonnie had a ‘zine called True Devotion that she wrote with her roommate Gigi Gits. In a letter to Thrasher in February 1986 she wrote, “‘Hey-O’ from the East Coast. This here’s Vol. II #5 of True Devotion. Many headaches later… What do you do when your only other female skate / mag partner quits skating, shines the zines and follows The Grateful Dead?! Ya smile, ya drink a few and then ya get down to business. And that’s exactly what I did… This is the ‘last’ issue of True Devotion.”

Bonnie was also contributing to Lapper Mag, which was based out of Virginia and launched by Bruce Adams in 1984, documenting the East Coast scene. A small photo of her appears in Lapper Mag Vol. 2, No. 3, with her brother Blaize on the cover as well as YAKK ‘zine #1, skating in the Psychoramp II Jam. In 1986 Bonnie submitted True Devotion to the zine department of Thrasher, along with a letter and made an impression that led to further publication.

In a memorial article for Thrasher, Skip Towne shared that, “Her writing is funny and hopeful, honest and feminist in a way that was unique to skateboarding at that time (and for the next 30 years, really). Longing for more women to skate with (and way before the Internet), Bonnie made trips to California to connect with the few female skaters she could find, reporting on their scenes with a mix of glee and frustration.”

Photos above by Mike Mapp of Ramptech

Bonnie’s name is most widely recognized for her contributions to Thrasher from 1986 – 1989 writing the “Skater’s Edge” monthly column. She first appeared in print in the March 1986 issue within an 8-page article titled, “Poetry in Motion.” Various skateboarders contributed actual poetry (some better than others) and Bonnie’s was called, “I See You.” She also had a letter published in that same issue in the Mail Drop, in support of a skater named “Jane Doe” who shared her alienating experience of being called a poseur and that “she sucked” simply for taking up skateboarding, which made her want to quit. Bonnie totally had her back! She explained how these “boyz” were simply thriving on their insecurities and that “kids are our future. NOW. They are gonna be the deciding factor on whether or not this sport survives… So next time you wanna bust on someone, think about it.”

The following month Bonnie’s game-changing article, “Sugar and Spice…?” appears in the April 1986 issue. At the time of her writing, she had only officially met and skated with three girls being Gigi Gits, Dee Dee Devine and Trish Wright, but this article opened up the doors for an underground network of women skateboarders to begin. While Bonnie had yet to meet these skateboarders, the article included photos of April Hoffman, Michelle Sanderson, Stephanie Person, KZ Zapata, Babs Fahrney, and the author.

In her article, Bonnie speculated on why many girls were reluctant to skate, and determined that society was fixated on this idea of girls being cute and sexy, and that aggression in sport was ‘unfeminine.’ She also noticed that some guys felt threatened by female skaters as if her presence was a ploy to undermine men’s manliness. Bonnie was frustrated because she was not out there to impress anyone, she simply just wanted to ride! But she was also tired of being alone.

“I guess the weirdest thing of all is that there aren’t any other girl skaters around. You don’t have any way to ‘measure’ your ability or progression. You always know when you are progressing or jelling, but you wonder, ‘Gee, can I really do that?’ If there were other girls around who you could see shredding, you’d have no doubts, ‘cause they paved the way.”

“I know there are girls out there who ride and take it seriously. I wonder all the time what they are like, how they are progressing and if they have the same thought that I do as a girl in a guy’s game… I saw a girl doing a boneless in the new Powell video and I was like, ‘Hey, wow, that’s a girl, rewind it.’ No one else even noticed.”

Bonnie concluded that “One of my dreams as a skater is to see-through the formation of a nationwide, non-profit girl’s skate club, a directory of names and addresses, a video and a contest. We are out here. We are few and far between, but we are out here” (April 1986).

As a result of her article, a skateboarder named Kim M. from Virginia Beach, VA wrote a letter of gratitude to Bonnie, published in the May 1986 issue of Thrasher. Kim said, “She’s right. It is hard for girls to get out there and shred without getting criticized by some stuck-up skater. Let me tell you skater dudes something I know for a fact: some guys don’t want us around, but tuff. We are here to stay and we’re going to be out there shredding too.”

In June 1986, Bonnie Blouin represented at the “Public Menace” skateboard contest in Pennsylvania, captured below by Steve Villarreal.

Photos: Steve Villarreal

And then things began to open up! Bonnie acknowledged that, “The last girls article in THRASHER brought in a lot of positive response. As a result I’ve become acquainted with numerous pen pals, including the Women’s Skateboarding Club, and have participated in ‘Push Push Then Go,’ Karen Zapata’s zine. Best of all, I got off my buns and headed out to San Francisco to skate with Karen Zapata and Amy Paul. It was [my] first experience skating with other dedicated females” (Feb. 1988).

Push Push Then Go (1987, Issue #4):

During her roadtrips to the westcoast, she became close friends and pen-pals with KZ Zapata, who was aligned with Bonnie’s vision of not wanting to be compared to male skaters, but simply be a skateboarder and progress at one’s own pace. KZ, Amy Paul and Bonnie skated Oakland together and started expanding their network, which also included Stephanie Person.

Bonnie rhapsodized about her experience skateboarding with other women in her February 1988 “Skater’s Edge” column. Swapping tricks, motivating each other, blowing people’s minds ripping around town as a crew. “Most of all, you have someone to share your hopes, your fears and your dreams with, and that, in itself, is an indescribable privilege.”

Photos: Billy Pickett, Jim Noonan

The experience of returning home was hard. Bonnie also reflected on how some of the leading female skaters of the 1970s and early 1980s were pioneers and inspiring, but she almost seemed abandoned by them. Her lack of role models and mentors was a point of deep disappointment.

“I no longer wonder why more girls don’t skate… Unless a girl has the total strength and desire within herself to ride and to keep riding, there is truly nothing to keep her motivated. In fact, society and a lot of guy skaters prevent girls from skating” (Feb 1988).

While the article is heart-breaking to read, Bonnie had to know that her contributions and voice was sustaining so many female skateboarders during such a bleak time of misogyny and isolation for women skaters. KZ Zapata certainly was inspired by their friendship, and still has many of her hand-written letters.

Bonnie had a fantastic run of articles, taking on the Skater’s Edge column for Thrasher from October 1987 until May 1989. Her complete set of articles is linked below, and they cover a wide range of topics from dating, unstoked parents, road trips to rallying your skateboard community. They are a joy to read.

From here, I’ve found it really challenging to conclude this entry. Reading through her articles, which are so intelligent, passionate and articulate it’s hard to imagine what was going on internally. Life is good and skateboarding is freedom, and to anyone reading this last paragraph, who has any doubt please remember you are unique to this world, and you are loved. Reach out to a friend or a professional if things are feeling dark, and find the light to sustain you, and that flicker of hope that things will change for the better.

At age 32, on September 11th, 1995 Bonnie tragically took her own life and then her brother, Blaize died in a car crash a few years later.  Skip Towne writes, “For Thrasher readers of the late ‘80s, especially girls and women, her voice and even her very existence was world-expanding, enriching and inspirational. Lest we forget, Bonnie Blouin.” RIP Bonnie, you beautiful, radiant skateboarder! WE SEE YOU and we won’t forget you.

Skater’s Edge articles in Thrasher:


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