Lori Rigsbee

Lori Rigsbee* from Del Mar, California skated purely for the love of it and in the late 1980s and early 1990s she was one of the few female skaters in the mainstream skateboard industry limelight. She is recognized today for her iconic ads for Independent trucks (Thrasher June 1989) and Airwalk (1990), and for her Powell Peralta video parts in Public Domain (1988) and Propaganda (1990). Lori was also included in a three-second clip within The Search for Animal Chin (1987) skating Chris Borst’s ramp, and in a Sk8TV interview feature by Nickelodeon, which originally aired January 21st, 1990. Her main sponsors were Powell Peralta, Independent, Airwalk, Skate Rigs and Witt’s.

Even though Lori technically started skateboarding at age 4, it wasn’t until she started going to the Del Mar Skate Ranch that she really became committed. On the Del Mar Skate Ranch website there’s an interview with Lori from 2002 by Mark Waters (RIP). She first went there at age 10 or 11 in 1981-1982 with her brother Kevin and would visit infrequently, pushing around on a “skinny board I got at Gemco.” By age 13, “I bought a Caballero board and started ‘skating seriously.’” The park was close to her home and her favorite terrain was the Square Pool and the halfpipe. Lori alluded to being hassled by non-local guys and an incident falling on her head, but mostly it was positive skating there and she remembered the 1986 Pro-Am contest as being amazing.

Lauri Wong was skating and working at Del Mar when she produced a ‘zine called Ladies Skateworld, which included an interview with 14 year-old Lori in Issue #1, April 1986. The article notes that Lori’s first sponsors were Lester and Gremic Skates (with hope for a sponsorship with Powell-Peralta), and that she competed in Streetstyle / Tight Slalom at a C.A.S.L. contest in March 1986 and followed it up in April winning 2nd place against the guys for ages 13-14 skating the Keyhole.

The interview displays Lori’s biting teenaged humour when she shares that her dream man has, “Black hair, dark brown eyes, and real fat, about 300 pounds, and a hair lip, looks like Ted, has a long neck.” She quips that she likes Del Mar because, “it’s the only skate park next to where I live,” and that outside of skating her favorite hobbies are, “More skating, Motorcycle riding, and playing on motor[bike] in dunes.”

In issue #2 of Ladies Skateworld, fellow skater Ericka Watson shared out a collage of photos featuring Lori that she took, showcasing her progress. On the “Vert is Dead” website, Lauri Wong wrote that, “I remember Lori when I worked at DMSR. She was an amazing skater. She was quite the catch for the young teenage boys who would die to have a chick who skated for a girlfriend. She was somewhat younger than I but I do remember that I needed a place to spend the night one night instead of going back home to OC. Her family was super nice” (April 9, 2012).

The tiny clip of Lori from The Search for Animal Chin (1987) is without any acknowledgment, which is too bad considering the plethora of passive girls sitting on the sidelines. It’s no wonder Lori had little patience for being a role model and trying to rally other women when the majority were simply vying for girlfriend status with the pros. Fortunately, things improve in terms of coverage a year later, except for the fact that Del Mar was shut down in 1987.

Lori did receive a Powell Peralta sponsorship and in their video Public Domain (1988), she states, “Skating is the funnest thing I’ve ever done. I wanna skate until I’m old and gray, and my bones break and I won’t be able to do it anymore so I can’t skate.”

The skateboard industry took notice and in the June 1989 issue of Thrasher, which happened to be their 100th Collector’s issue, Lori’s notorious ad for Independent trucks appeared. The statement, “No Plastic Allowed” and four Barbie dolls crossed out summed up Lori perfectly. Some context to the ad is also shared in a blog post by Justin for “Vert is Dead” from 2008. Apparently, Independent trucks might have been making a dig at Tracker trucks, which had a rivalry going. Independent was aligned with Thrasher magazine, and Larry Balma of Tracker and his crew were aligned with Transworld Skateboarding mag. Tracker trucks had plastic baseplates, so this reference to “No Plastic Allowed,” could have been interpreted as a diss. I just took it at face value – no plastic Barbie types allowed.

Justin of “Vert is Dead” wrote that, Lori “did a lot of technical mini ramp tricks and thus became the dream girl of numerous lonely boy skaters who were looking for a lady friend that understood skateboarding.” Mark Waters (RIP) turned out to be the chosen one, as they dated at this time. In the November 1989 issue of Transworld (Volume 7 Number 7) Mark wrote up an interview about Lori who had been skating for four and a half years by then. She said, “I started skating at Del Mar Skateboard Ranch. I pretty much skated everything, but mostly the square pool and the half-pipe. For a while I didn’t skate the keyhole, but then I started to skate it a lot. I didn’t like the banks for a long time, and then about six months before it closed down I started skating them. They were fun.”

A blurry video of Lori in 1988, competing and being interviewed by Cesinha Chaves can be found here, and she shares that she was bummed out when Del Mar closed but still had ramps to skate, and mini-ramps were her preference. Her advice to girls starting to skate was that, “Don’t worry about most of the skaters being guys, just try it, you know, and you’ll probably like it, it’s a lot of fun. Just go skate with the guys.”

After Del Mar closed down in 1987, mini-ramps were where skaters thrived, and Lori was fortunate to have the space to build a mini-ramp in her backyard with her dad, brother and friends. The ramp was one of three core mini-ramps in north San Diego county. She would also hit up Mike McGill’s Skatepark.

In Propaganda (1990), Lori shows off her ramp and collection of C.A.S.L. contest trophies. As a kid she was never one to play with Barbies but was perfectly content to hang with her brother and skate with the guys. She loved riding motorcycles in the desert with her mom and was going to the University of San Diego. There’s also funny moment where she shows a fan letter, which included some kids lock of hair!

Lori Rigsbee is even more bold and funny in her 1990 Sk8TV interview for Nickelodeon. “Being a female in a male-dominated sport, I guess, doesn’t make any difference to me. I like it. I like skating with guys all the time. It doesn’t bother me at all… I’ve been skating for about 5.5 years and I had my ramp for 2.5 years… it’s a really good ramp, it’s fun, I’m really glad that I have it.”

The interviewer must have asked a stupid question because Lori sarcastically replies, “Of course there’s a big difference between the skateboards and the equipment that girls use from guys. Girls we like the nice soft feminine pink wheels, boards with flowers, trucks that don’t grind, extra padding ‘cause, you know we need a lot more… Of course there’s not a difference between the equipment that guys and girls use, it’s the same boards, the same pads, everything is the same.”

“Girls that don’t skate, don’t really relate to me skating or what I do, so I never really hung with any girls that didn’t skate. And actually, I don’t hang out with girls who skate either. I skate with guys most of the time, all the time actually. I really don’t think it matters whether skating is feminine or not, it’s probably not, but that doesn’t matter at all to me…. As far as skating goes, I don’t do it to be a role model for other girls, and if I am then you know, that’s fine, but if I’m not it doesn’t really matter to me because I’m just going to keep skating and having fun.”

In Thrasher, February 1989 there’s a photo of Lori skating ramp in Santa Barbara at a Powell Peralta “Skate Zone Expo” event from October 1988. As well, Stephanie Person‘s article called “Equal Time” for Poweredge Magazine (March 1989) includes a photo of Lori on ramp. Lori also appeared in Volume 1 / Issue 2 of Equal Time ‘zine, edited by Lynn Kramer within a Powell Peralta Bones Brigade ad. The readership of Equal Time were definitely girls that could relate!

The last published photo of Lori was on page 58 in Thrasher’s December 1990 issue with a frontside tailslide.

While Lori sometimes suggested that she mainly skated with guys, she did join Cara-Beth Burnside on the ramp for a feature on SK8TV, which was expected to air on January 21, 1990 to the excitement of readers of Equal Time zine. The footage from a VHS below is sketchy, but great to see the two of them together:

Lori also made a more recent appearance at the 2018 Exposure Skate event along with the Look Back Library crew! Lori is now an accountant living in the Del Mar area and continues to enjoy surfing and snowboarding.

Photos: Ericka Watson, Dan Sturt, J. Grant Brittain, Kline, Mark Waters

*Rigsbee is often misspelled as “Rigsby.”


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