In the May 1979 issue of Skateboarder there’s an article about a skate contest in Albany, Australia, located on the southwest coast which had a surprise competitor being the now-legendary surfer Jodie Cooper! If you don’t know Jodie, she was the surfing stunt double in the 1991 cult-classic film Point Break and was a fearless lesbian surfer. She won 13 international pro surfing contests in the 1980s and 1990s, was a 2020 Australian Surfing Hall of Famer, and more recently showcased in the kickass documentary Girls Can’t Surf (2020). [This film is a must see!!]
Back in 1975, students from the Albany high school created a “Skateboard Track Committee” and raised funds to build the park. The Town of Albany was impressed by the efforts and pitched in an additional $10,000, and the following year, in February 1976 the Albany Skate Track snake run was built on a former gravel quarry site. It was one of the first Australian skateparks and is now considered the oldest surviving skatepark in Australia.
The 1979 contest that Jodie featured in was the National Championships, and competitors would ride “down the 140-meter snake run, through steeply banked bends rising to vertical walls.” It wasn’t a timed run, but rather critiqued by six judges with a scoring system comparable to a surfing contest.
Before writer Jim Macaulay discussed the guys (his sons Graham and Steven were skateboarders), he wrote that, “An additional point of interest was the appearance of a girl skater, attractive 14-year-old Jodie Cooper from Albany, who was in there trying for the open prize money of $500. Jodie showed that, as in ice skating and skiing, women can be equally as proficient as men. She successfully pulled off most of the tricks the men attempted, including forehand and backhand kickturns from the vertical turning boards, one-and-a-half 360’s on the sloping walls and a range of other tricks as she progressed down the long winding track.”
The commentary doesn’t completely make sense to contemporary readers and the need to comment on Jodie’s appearance is unfortunate, but it was exciting to read that Cooper was originally a skater when she wasn’t destroying the surf. There’s no indication of how she placed or photos in the article. Fortunately, there’s some early footage of the Albany locals skating and Jodie is in the mix! She’s wearing a grey V-neck sweater with burgundy trim and a plaid shirt underneath.
Another interview I found via Facebook, when Jodie was seventeen years old explained how she had recently placed first in a skateboard competition and then proceeded to win consecutive Under 18 surfing contests. At the Western Australia Pro-Junior Surfing Championships she was highest scoring female competitor, and sixth overall.
In a 2016 article for The Guardian, celebrating the skatepark’s 40th Anniversary, a skater named Jill Johansen (55) said that there were only a handful of girls that skated back in the 1970s, including her friend Jodie Cooper. There’s a tiny photo of Jodie within the Girls Can’t Surf documentary, that was likely from that time.
In an interview with Surfing World, Jodie shared that, “I was the only girl surfer when I grew up in Albany and I didn’t see another girl on a board until I’d been surfing for a year and a half… I was a late bloomer… I was a skateboarder and played every sport under the sun. I was a real sporty kid so I picked it up quickly and by the time I was 19 I was on the World Tour” (Elliss).
Jodie persevered through a variety of hostile situations from being slapped by notorious pro surfer Johnny Boy Gomes in 1993 and harassed by him for two years, surviving a shark attack in 1997, and more recently, in 2021 an arrogant arsehole on a surf mat held her head under water when his manhood was hurt, and she took him down in court for assault. The proceedings are both infuriating and comical.
Jodie was also the first openly gay surfer and had to deal with a barrage of toxic and ignorant commentary, and wary sponsors. She experienced homophobia and misogyny in what she describes as “the most bigoted, closeted sport,” but still came out knowing that it would better the world for future generations. Total Legend! Trolls and haters be damned.
While skateboarding didn’t end up being her prime passion, it was her original pursuit. And, it’s obvious that her skills translated well no matter what kind of board she was on based on her 1979 performance.
To read about an earlier Australian skateboarding legend, see: Lynne Grosse.
- Elliss, Reggae. “Jodie Cooper: big wave trailblazer, stunt woman, crowd favourite.” Surfingworld.com.au. 2017.
- Macaulay, Jim. “Albany Open.” Skateboarder. May 1979.
- Smith, Jed. “Words of wisdom from first openly-gay world tour surfer Jodie Cooper.” Surfer.com. March 23, 2020.
- Tan, Monica. “The Snake Run veterans: Australia’s oldest skatepark turns a gnarly 40.” The Guardian. February 16, 2016.