Ellen Oneal (Deason)

In May 1975, Ellen Oneal from San Diego, CA received a skateboard for her sixteenth birthday and began to translate her skill and athleticism from activities like gymnastics, bike-riding, ballet, body-surfing and water-skiing to skateboarding.

As a guest columnist for Skateboard Journal (November 1977), Ellen contributed some of her back story. She said, “My own introduction to professional skateboarding came through a newspaper—a summer job as a delivery girl for the San Diego Union Tribune got me interested in a skateboarding contest that the paper sponsored in the Summer of 1975. After a lot of coaxing from my family and friends, who had seen me practicing in my driveway and around the neighborhood, I took the plunge and faced my first real competition.” When Ellen arrived at the San Diego Stadium, she discovered 260 male contestants and when the one other female contestant was too overwhelmed, Ellen was the lone woman in the field. Ellen came 2nd against 70 guys that day and kept on practising.

Later on, Ellen noted that “Although the number of women skaters has continued to increase in the past two years, I don’t think that my problem that day in San Diego was unique. There are many, many young women who want to enter to the world of professional skateboarding and who either find themselves without the necessary encouragement from family and friends or find the number of male skaters versus female just too overpowering” (Nov. 1977). Fortunately, Ellen found her skateboarding soulmates such as Laura Thornhill.

The first team Ellen joined was California-Pro as an amateur, after meeting Ed Nadalin and John Wilson, manager of the team, at the Belmont Indoor contest. Ellen skated for them until September 1976 when she turned professional at the California Free Former Invitational at Long Beach. Ellen was then sponsored by Gordon & Smith (G&S) from 1976 to 1980 and had a host of other sponsors including Bennett Trucks, Vans, Kryptonics Wheels, Rector and Hang Ten apparel.

Ellen’s first profile was in the August 1976 issue of the National Skateboard Review, where she was noted for being a top Junior Amateur competitor and her accomplishment at her first contest. The article shared that, “She feels a lot of the boys in contests leave the fun at home and show up looking for, ‘blood, money, and prizes.’ She hopes the girls can avoid this attitude and manage to keep the plain fun of riding as a main reason for doing contests. ‘It must remain fun or no one will want to do it. I’d rather do a school demonstration than a contest any day.’”

For the February 1977 issue of Skateboarder, Ellen was featured in a “Who’s Hot” profile with Brian Gillogly who admired her range of tricks including wheelies, walking the dog, aerial jump, V-sit and handstand, “to the tempo of the Beach Boys’ classic, ‘California Girls’” which was a crowd pleaser at her first pro event, the Free Former Invitational.

For the April 1977 issue of Skateboarder there was a collaborative article with 22 of the hottest pro skaters including Ellen and 4 other women called “Freestyle Symposium.” When asked about her inspiration and who was up-and-coming Ellen acknowledged that “Desiree Von Essen is one of my favorites mostly because I think she introduced skateboarding to girl competitors… Kim Cespedes and Becky Martinez are hot slalom contenders, and are really getting good in the freestyle area.” She also shared how much she enjoyed having music during freestyle as “It helps me take my mind off the audience and enjoy riding. It also makes it more enjoyable for the person watching. I like riding to anything with a good steady beat. Beach Boys, usually.”

Ellen’s progression was rapid, and she appeared on ABC’s Wide World of Sports and Good Morning, America TV shows and had the opportunity to travel to the Canadian Pro-Am Skateboard Championships where she appeared as a Guest Star, judge and commentator, as well as Japan where she provided demos for G&S. Ellen also didn’t shy away from skating transition, as seen in this photo by Guy Motil at the Skateboard World park, published in the October 1977 issue of Skateboarder:

For a book called Lives on Board: the Skateboarder’s Journal, Ellen contributed a story about her trip Japan in 1977. She reminisced that, “we were put up in the nicest hotel in downtown Tokyo, put on numerous demos and were treated like royalty. We traveled to Sapporo on the bullet train, visited Osaka and Kyoto. We were doted on as if we were celebrities! (Well, I guess we were?). Everything from the finest Kobe beef steakhouses to all the sushi we could eat.”

It wasn’t just in the U.S. that Ellen received coverage. In a UK publication called Skateboard! Ellen and Laura Thornhill were interviewed in the October 1977 issue as a feature. The most hilarious question that was asked was, “As a girl, how conscious are you of getting your face hurt?” Ellen must have been a little stunned, as she exclaimed, “I don’t worry about my face, more my legs!” Her final piece of advice for British readers was, “Let your neck hang loose, bob your head up and down with the rhythm of skating. Be aware of your senses. Go fast. Feel the wind… Set no mental limitations. Then you’ll be free to reach for the sky.”

There’s some glorious  1978 footage of Ellen feeling the wind via the Getty images website, radiating so much joy which appeared in a BBC Editorial. She is most known for her appearance as “Jenny Bradshaw” in the cult classic movie Skateboard: the movie (dir. George Gage, 1977) alongside Tony Alva as Tony Bluetile. Ellen summed up the film nicely in Michael Brooke’s book. “It was a trashy b-movie produced and directed by people who know nothing about skateboarding.” All the same, a long-time friendship with Alva was formed as a result, although according to Jim Goodrich she had to stand her ground during the filming, which earned his respect. Alva even convinced her to breakaway from freestyle and try skating ramp!

Warren Bolster published a proper ten page interview and photos of Ellen in the January 1978 issue of Skateboarder. Ellen shared her views on freestyle skating, media attention, Santa Monica versus San Diego scenes, contests, ego, and the future of skateboarding.  Her impression was that “I think in the last year the parks have really helped more girls get into the sport. When I was working at Moving-On, I’d see more and more girls every week.”

Ellen did express concern over motivation, with some skaters and certain companies only caring about making money, while it should be about having fun. She also acknowledged that some people thought her persona was “goody-goody” and that her smile was fake, but she stated, “I can’t help it… I’m just enjoying myself… I don’t feel like I should have to keep up an image or impress people… or worry about what people think.” Ellen’s hope was that when she stopped competing, she would continue to be involved as an instructor, encouraging and mentoring women skaters.

In an interview for the Kryptonics Wheels website, Ellen recalled that some of her favourite memories were of skating La Costa and photo shoots with Jim Goodrich. As well, receiving her first ever pay cheque, which was $17.00 from G&S, working at Home Avenue “Movin’ On” Skatepark with Steve Cathey as the resident pro in San Diego, and her favourite ad was a photo taken by Doug Saladino – “I just remember it was at Oasis skate park and the shot was AWESOME!!”

Ellen had a cameo appearance skating La Costa in the documentary, Skateboard Kings in 1978, as well as the TV show Wonder Woman during an episode called “The Skateboard Wiz” (Season 3, episode 8), which aired on November 24, 1978.  While Lori Rarey doubled for Lynda Carter, Ellen was the stunt double for Cindy Eilbacher as “Jamie.” The plotline had Jamie as Diana’s god-daughter, who happened to be a skateboarder with a photographic memory. Jamie helps Wonder Woman uncover an illegal gambling organization after they attempt to use her as leverage for blackmail. The photo of Ellen with Lynda Carter, and fellow skateboarders Dennis Martinez, Steve Day, and Rene Carrasco, is pretty joyous.

Ellen retired from competition in the late 1970s but briefly stayed involved by judging contests and even became the Advertising Manager for Action Now magazine into the early 1980s. In the May 1980 issue of Skateboarder, for a “Where are they now?” article, Ellen explained that she was pursuing modeling. And, in 2002 Brooke noted that she became a manager at a top-level executive placement company.

In 2008, Ellen was honored at the annual Mighty Mama Skate-o-rama and a few years later, in 2014, she was inducted into the Skateboarding Hall of Fame for her early accomplishments. In October 2020, at age 61, Ellen sadly passed away and is deeply missed by her community of skateboarding friends from over the years. In her feature for Skateworld Journal (Nov. 1977), Ellen said that “I can truly say that the highlight of my professional career to date has not been any one contest or any one award. The highlight has been the friendships that I have been able to form with other women skateboarders.”

Photos: Guy Motil, James Cassimus, Jim Goodrich, Jim O’Mahoney, Warren Bolster, Quynh

Contest Results:


  • 2nd place Overall Freestyle, August 1975 at the San Diego Union Tribune contest, San Diego, CA.
  • 2nd place in Pro/Am Freestyle at the 1976 Ventura State Championships.
  • 1st place in Women’s Freestyle, 2nd place in slalom at the 1976 Northern State Championships, San Francisco, CA.
  • 1st place in Amateur Women’s Freestyle and 2nd place in Slalom, June 1976 at the YMCA La Costa contest.
  • 1st place in Women’s Freestyle and Slalom, and overall champion, July 1976 in Ocean Beach, CA.


  • 3rd place in Women’s Freestyle at the Free Former Skateboard World Championships, September 1976 at Long Beach, CA
  • 2nd place in Women’s Slalom, 2nd in Flatland Freestyle, 5th in Bowls Freestyle at the September 1976 at the 2nd Annual Hang-Ten contest at the Carlsbad Skatepark.
  • 1st place in Women’s Freestyle at the 1977 CBS Youth Invitational at Tampa, Florida.
  • 1st place in Women’s Freestyle at the 1977 World Heavyweight Championship at Ocean City, Maryland.
  • 2nd place in Freestyle at the Free Former Skateboard World Championships, September 1977 at Long Beach, CA.
  • 4th place in Women’s Pro Freestyle at the I.S.A. National Freestyle contest, June 1978 at Oceanside, CA.


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