Minh Duc Tran

In the very first issue of Skateboard! (Britain’s first skateboard magazine), which came out in August 1977, there’s a photo and short blurb on a skater named Minh Duc Tran in the “Who’s Hot” section. The feature shared that Minh was 17, had been skating less than a year and was from the Kensington neighbourhood in London. “She is probably our hottest female on wheels,” noted the author. The discovery of Minh is also special, as it appears that she’s the first female skater of Vietnamese descent that I’ve stumbled upon.

Minh would skate at the legendary South Bank and in Holland Park, and another location called ‘The Broadwalk’ (which I assume was no longer accessible, as she was missing it). In a short period of time, Minh was mastering handstands, elbow stands, one foot 720s, nose wheelies and tail wheelies with a speciality being “handstand slalom.”

Minh explained that, “I got started when I made my first board out of roller skates. Now I’ve got a good board, and I’ve been on TV for Magpie at Brands Hatch.” [Note: Magpie was a British TV show for children, and Brands Hatch was a motor racing circuit, although perhaps there was skateboarding nearby?].

There was mention that Minh was planning on entering the first UK National Championships to be held at Crystal Palace (originally planned for July but heavy rains delayed it until August 10th, 1977). Minh stated that she was interested, “but I think they should have separate events for boys and girls, then I think I could do really well. More girls are skating here than people think – and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t get as good as any of the guys. I’m really keen to get more girls interested in the sport.”

The results of the Crystal Palace skateboard contest show that the organizers decided not to create a separate category for the girls, and there’s sadly no mention of how Minh performed as she would’ve been competing against 200 skateboarders.

A young woman named Helen Thomas from the Bristol Skateboarding Centre was interviewed for an Evening News special report on the National event. “‘People seem to think girls aren’t interested in skateboarding – but they’re completely wrong,” said 21-year-old Helen, who lives in Victoria Square, Bristol.” The author responded with, “Well, we’d be interested to hear whether that’s the case. All we can say is that we didn’t see a great many girls around at Crystal Palace.” Boo! How disappointing and predictable.

The following year, in 1978, Minh was featured in another UK magazine called Skateboard Scene within Issue No. 7. Minh was interviewed for the “Kate the Skate” column where it was shared that she won the Girls’ Freestyle Trophy at the “Skateboard 78” competition and even quit school to concentrate on skateboarding full time! She joined the Blue Tile team as their resident pro for sales promotion and planned on entering more contests.

In the article, it explained how “Minh began, like many other skateboarders, on a home-made board. She and her friend Otto Wilkinson first saw some people riding boards on the street. ‘I decided to go home and dig out my old roller skates, so we could build a board. At school we had woodwork classes, so we designed one ourselves. We started a little business selling them to the other kids at school too!”

Besides freestyle, Minh also raced slalom and skated bowl, and was grateful for the encouragement she received from fellow skaters like Simon Napper. Although, it hadn’t always been easy for Minh. She broke her ankle at Skate City but was back practising two weeks after her cast was removed, hitting up the local ramp.

Minh shared her dream, saying “I’m hoping someone will sponsor me to the States. I’d love to enter the World Championships. I would work really hard if I got the opportunity.”

If anyone knows more about Minh Duc Tran, or even has access to the Magpie episode she’s in, send me a message.

If interested in UK women skaters, also see: Sue Hazel; Sheenagh Burdell; Thea Cutts

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