Lauri Kuulei Wong

Ladies Skateworld was a ‘zine that launched on April 15, 1986 highlighting the scene at Del Mar Skate Ranch, and was possibly the first skateboarding ‘zine written by and for female skaters. The DIY publication was signed by an elusive skater named “Lauri” or simply “L.K.W.” Some clues to her identity included reference to Hawaiian words and an acknowledgment in California Amateur Skateboard League (CASL) contest results that listed one “Lauri Wong.”

Through the wonders of the internet, I learned more about Lauri, whose family heritage is Chinese-Hawaiian, although she grew up in Long Beach, California. Lauri would include a Hawaiian word of the month in her ‘zine to celebrate her family’s background – the first issue featured “HOLO PAHE’E” meaning “to skate,” and in issue #2 the word was “HO’OKALA” meaning “to grind.”

Lauri worked at the Del Mar Skate Ranch in the 1980s while living at Long Beach, and to avoid a long commute and to be closer to the skatepark she eventually rented a room from Tony Hawk, in what happened to be Tony Hawk’s first house! It was a special time to be working and skating at Del Mar, said Lauri. “A legendary place where famous skateboarders were. I remember so many cool skaters and got to travel to tournaments. It was an exciting time…”

Lauri explained that, “I competed at various places across the U.S. and was very fortunate to have made great skate friends whom I still keep in contact with today. This picture [below] was taken at a competition in Riverside. I was with Terence Yoshizawa that day. His cousin Lester Kasai was the street board I rode… A good friend of mine back then was Tod Swank. He was a skater and very good photographer / journalist.”

The motivation behind Ladies Skateworld ‘zine, was to rally female skaters in a time when the internet didn’t exist and long-distance calls were not cheap. As well, the women who were competing were tired of being lumped together with the guys because of lack of participation and they knew more female skaters would come out if they didn’t have to compete against the guys. This effort was led by Lora Medlock, who wanted to establish a network of women skaters. In issue #1 she lists Breakers Surf Shop in San Diego as the address to make a connection.

Issue #1 also included the first-ever interview with legendary ramp skater Lori Rigsbee who was age 14, contest results (with reference to Stephanie Person – who was competing against the sponsored guys!), lots of photos, ‘zine recommendations, a special “Guy’s Page,” and funny quotes. In her “Note from the Editor,” Lauri wrote, “Inside for my first issue isint [sic] much but hope to have lots, and better things. Every issue will have an interview with a new female skater… I hope to have it every month, but money prevailing will tell. This issue is full of typo’s so dont mind it, Reason being is I only have the wee hours of the morning to work on this because I drive back and forth from Del Mar to Long Beach… by the time I finish working on the zine it’s 3:00 AM!!! I’m half asleep, hope you understand.”

The ’zines are so much fun to read with some biting humour. There’s mention of Rhonda and Ericka Watson who were locals at Del Mar and when asked why they wanted to skate Rhonda claimed, “So I can get hurt,” and Ericka shared, “To have fun.” And, in Issue #2 the cover warns readers… “DANGER It’s that time of the month.”

Again, in issue #2, there’s a rallying cry for female skaters to connect through Lora Medlock. “We need 7 or more female skaters to enter in our own division for the C.A.S.L. series. We would be skating against each other. Sounds like fun? If so please contact… Lora Medlock… WE MUST BE ABLE TO PRESENT A LIST TO CASL ONE CONTEST PRIOR TO OUR ENTERING THE FOLLOWING CONTEST SO HURRY NOW AND CONTACT.”

In Lauri’s editorial, she gives props to her dad for funding the project, as well as brother Jason and friend, J.R. She also included a special shout out to Thrasher journalist and skateboarder, Bonnie Blouin who had just published her “Sugar and Spice..!” article earlier that month! Lauri wrote – “I also wanted to thank Bonnie for finally writing me, Hi Bonnie. It took me quit[e] a while getting a hold of you. Oh and thanks to all the locals at Del Mar, they have been the best in putting up with all my shit, you know stupid questions, taking anonymous pictur[e]s. God my spelling is bad. So I hope you all enjoy this one, read on.”

The highlights of issue #2 include a feature interview with Freestyle skater Michelle Sanderson, a fan letter from Melissa C. who started skating in June 1985 at Del Mar, and a fun gossip section. Apparently, Stephanie Person was spotted at the N.S.A. contest at Del Mar (but was “just visiting”), John Lucero had a secret girlfriend he didn’t even know about, Tony Hawk was really into sushi, and his birthday is May 12th!

Lauri noted that, even though there were very few girl riders, one of the perks was that while purchasing her VANS at the original store, they started giving her gear for free to support her! Right on, Vans! Plus, it makes total sense that Lauri would pursue zine-making as her preferred form of communication considering her punk roots! Lauri was in a punk band called “Death Roster,” which was featured in a zine called Fight for Freedom back in 1984.

Lauri acknowledged the financial support of her dad, funding the Ladies Skateworld zine in Issue #2, who truly was her hero. She was raised by her dad, Gilbert Wong and said that, “My Dad is my idol. Way back when, I wanted to do everything he did. So down the line… I rode motorcycles, raced cars, was in a mini truck [car club] just like him, knew how to fix my own car…”

A selection of photos via her Facebook page show Lauri as a toddler with her super stylish dad, ditching school to go ride her dirtbike in 1985, racing at the Irwindale Speedway, and reveal how badass she really was. Lauri shared how one time, in the 1980s, “I was riding my motorcycle (Katana) home from Los Angeles back to Long Beach on the 405 in rush hour traffic. Most in L.A. know the 405 is horrendous in rush hour traffic. I was white lining it in the fast lane for about 18 miles when a motorcop pulls up next to me and motions me to pull over. We stopped, I got off of my bike, went to take my helmet off and my waist length braided hair fell out of the helmet down my back. When I turned around to face the officer his mouth dropped to the floor. He said ‘You’re a girl!’ and I replied “Well of course I am.’… No ticket, didn’t even look at my license.” So hilarious!

While Del Mar Skate Ranch was sadly torn down in July 1987, and Lauri sought other outlets to fulfil an adrenaline rush, she continued to lead a remarkable life! There’s reference via a personal blog in 2012 of her experience with living with Lupus, such as dealing with the intense pain, the insurance costs, and the life-altering changes one must make to cope. She absolutely persevered, and even decided to purchase 40 acres of undeveloped land in Snowflake, Arizona with another family to become self reliant, off-grid, and eco friendly. They called it the “Double OT Ranch,” in reference to the Hawaiian word Ohana, which means “family.”

The town of Snowflake, Arizona is so lucky to have Lauri in their midst! In June 2022, she received a Governor’s Award for her service in the community, as the former president and captain of the Sheriff’s Auxiliary Volunteers in Navajo County, her tireless work for abused and neglected children in the state foster care system, and her award-winning charity called “Future First Responders of America” offering training for youth to be a first responder. Wow!!!

Even in retirement she is a relentless advocate for her community and is now running for her City Council. If you live in the town of Snowflake, Arizona please vote for her on my behalf (November 8, 2022) – she absolutely rules.

Special thank you to these Instagram accounts for posting digital scans of Ladies Skateworld: @notlikeyouzine; @kurt.the.carlson

References: Facebook conversation

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