Laurie Turner DeMott

The first appearance in a skateboarding magazine of a female skateboarder (and photographer) was of Laurie Turner from Berkeley, CA in Volume 1 / Number 1 Winter 1964 issue of The Quarterly Skateboarder on page 37. The caption reads, “Laurie Turner of San Diego submitted three photos above with a note that the money received for the photos would go toward a very worthy cause – her first surfboard… Laurie shot the photos at the Whittier school grounds in Berkeley and receives $15.00 – toward her new surfboard.” Two of the photos are of her friends “Bootsey” McGhee and Danny Escolante, and one is of her.

Laurie said that, “My neighborhood guy friends and I and one of my girlfriends were all into surfing… Skateboarding developed out of wanting to do something similar when the waves were down and you couldn’t go surfing. I took a two-by-four, and I split my metal roller skate and made my own skateboard” (East Bay Times). Laurie described going on “skateboarding safaris” with her friends to explore the neighbourhoods to find “cool concrete structures.” And Whittier Elementary was where young skaters often went to practise their moves, as well as Berkeley’s Grizzly Peak Boulevard. Laurie would spend afternoons taking the bus to the top of hill and bombing down to improve her skills.

Some of Laurie’s friends had a team called the Topsiders and six of them attended the “Sports and Boat Show” at the Cow Palace in San Francisco. An agent for Hobie and Vita-Pakt orange juice were in the crowd as they already sponsored a Southern California skateboarding team and were looking to expand with a Northern California team. When the agent inquired if the Topsiders boys knew any female skaters, Laurie was vetted for the team along with Laurie Allen.

The team was nicknamed “The Super Surfers” and the kids were delighted to have all their equipment supplied. Laurie remembered that, “They gave us jackets with the embroidered logo on the back. They would take us to shopping malls and places to get kids to come out and watch us do tricks to encourage the sale of skateboards.”

The Hobie team also traveled to Anaheim for the first International Skateboard Championships in May 1965, which was held at La Palma Stadium. The event was televised by ABC’s Wide World of Sports, and at age 15 Laurie became the overall winner in the girls’ division—oblivious to the cameras and crowds! She placed second in the flatland slalom, first in the figure eight, and first in tricks, just edging out her closest competitor Colleen Boyd.

It was a close call, as Colleen and Laurie headed into the tricks contest tied according to Skateboarder magazine (August 1965), but Laurie performed a hand-stand and several smooth 720 spins for the win. It was reported that, “Laurie, showing a dazzling form and complete mastery of her board, nosed out Colleen by an eyelash.”

Laurie candidly shared with journalist Cathy Jetter that the Anaheim experience also included a team dinner at the Disneyland Hotel, a custom surfboard from Hobie, and a $500 college scholarship. “Skateboarding was a godsend for me… My family was going through hard times; my parents were divorced, my dad wasn’t around. Back then that was the exception, not the rule… That positive label of champion got me through lots of difficult times.” Skateboarding essentially kept Laurie active, surrounded by friends, away from her house, and distracted from problems at home.

Spokane Chronicle May 24, 1965

Fifty years after her stunning performance, Laurie was inducted into the Skateboarding Hall of Fame in 2014, and she was very surprised. “It’s so surreal the way the whole thing happened… This is amazing, and I don’t know why it’s happening, but I’m just going to go with it.” An article for the East Bay Times explained how Cliff Coleman, a childhood friend and Hobie team member nominated her. Coleman reached out to Laurie completely out of the blue to share the news of her nomination. And, he affirmed that she was “the greatest female skater of them all in the clay-wheel era of the 1960s.”

Photos of Laurie’s competition were shared in the August 1965 issue of Skateboarder and Coleman explained that, “There were great skaters there, but she wanted it more than they did. Laurie was mentally tougher than they were… she hung out with a bunch of guys and she pushed our limits, too… The first (female) champion deserves to be in the Hall of Fame” (Jetter).

When she reflected on her 1965 contest win, Laurie noted that, “I was just a kid out there having fun… I didn’t realize I was that good. I was just having fun and doing my thing, and it ended up that I won it. I was shocked.” While Laurie ended up focusing on ballet and dance, and pursuing her career as a school teacher, she was grateful for the skateboarding recognition especially for Laurie’s daughter and grand-daughter to know her “super-cool back-story.”


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