In the late 1970s and 1980s, the best female skateboarder from Canada was Sophie Bourgeois from Drummondville, Quebec but you would hardly know it due to the limited acknowledgement, if any in Canadian skateboard magazines.
A tiny announcement appears in the March 13, 1980 issue of the newspaper La Tribune Sherbrooke, for an article about a gala event in her hometown. The article states that, “C’est ainsi que Sophie Bourgeois, championne Canadienne de rouli-roulant… recevront une plaque-souvenir,” which implies that Sophie was Canada’s skateboarding champion as early as 1980 and received a plaque for her efforts. Sophie is briefly mentioned in the December 1980 issue of SkatnNews in the team directory section, for representing Gull Wing trucks as an amateur.
And, thanks to Canadian skateboarders Monty Little and Claude Regnier, a few photos from July 1981 were shared, including Sophie receiving her trophy as Canada’s National Champion at the Great Canadian Open. Some of the female skaters she competed against were Margaret Winter and Denise Frohlick, who won the Bowl-riding event. In an article within the September 1981 issue of Thrasher about the contest, it says that “Sophie Bourgeois of Quebec showed us that she can blaze in Slalom as well as Freestyle.”
Sophie competed and won the Canadian Nationals many times and was selected for the Eastern Canada Team to compete at the Transworld Skateboard Championships in 1986, which was hosted in Vancouver, Canada as part of the “Expo ‘86” festival. In an article from the December 1986 issue of Thrasher, it’s noted that Sophie placed fourth in women’s freestyle behind Corina “GoGo” Spreiter (Switzerland), Sue Hazel (England), and April Hoffman (United States). And, Sophie was also the only woman who raced in the giant slalom event, as seen in the video Radical Moves (dir. Larry Dean, 1986).
The whole Transworld competition was supposed to model the Olympics, with skateboarders from international countries competing for points for their nation, but apparently the women skateboarders were just a sideshow for the spectator’s amusement! It was reported in Thrasher that, “For some reason, the Women’s Freestyle was considered a completely separate event, so the women didn’t receive points toward the overall team award” (Lucero). Not cool, and a bit disappointing. At least Sophie was having a good time because according to Monty Little, she was dating legendary freestyle skater Rodney Mullen at the time of the event!
Sophie’s freestyle performance (she’s wearing pink shoes) is the first one shown in this clip from Radical Moves, although be warned that the commentary by Kim Blackett regarding the women skaters is a tad painful by today’s standards!
And her slalom run begins here:
On June 2nd, 1987, a photo by Bernard Weil in the Toronto Star newspaper for a fashion shoot showcases Sophie’s skill. The caption reads: “Sophie Bourgeois, 22, from Drummondville, Quebec is rated the best female freestyler in Canada and ranked fourth in the world.” She’s wearing classic 80s gear including Club Monaco cotton button-fly ‘jams’ (shorts), Surf Paradise t-shirt, Airwalk shoes, and a Swatch watch!
Strangely enough, the most thorough article about Sophie was printed in The Sun Times (September 17, 1987) newspaper from Owen Sound, Ontario where I was born and raised! I would have been nine years old… if only my parents had taken me to see her! Luann LaSalle wrote how Sophie trained as an athlete and had a strict regimen – “It takes a lot of strength and power to flip the board.” Sophie was 23 at the time but had begun skateboarding at age 15.
Sophie shared by email that she moved to California and was performing amateur freestyles shows with Rodney, as they dated for a long time. She also got to know the whole scene, including Tony Hawk. Sophie became a professional with her tours and demonstrations, arranged by an agent in Toronto. In 1988, Sophie was featured in Powell Peralta’s 1988 video “Public Domain” although she was simply called “Sofie.”
Sophie states that, “I definitely think that there’s a place for girl skaters. I think that it’s not because we’re females we can’t skate. We just skate differently.”
Sophie had fond memories of spending her summers in British Columbia, getting to know Kevin Harris, Mike Blake and Monty Little. She said that Monty Little is the real hero. “This guy has done so much for skateboarding. He was incredible. We all owe him sooo much. And an amazing personality too! Funny, kind, devoted to the Canadian Skateboard Championships… He was the engine behind it!” (2022).
In 1988, a photo of Sophie was taken for Gturn freestyle zine, competing at a CASL contest in Anaheim:
Sadly, Sophie’s knee injuries forced her to quit skateboarding, but then she went on to aviation. “I became a private pilot and studied to become a professional pilot” (2022). These days, she is an English and Spanish teacher, and consultant living in Victoriaville, Quebec. She has also returned to Aviation school because flying airplanes is the closet adrenalin rush to skateboarding that she could find!
Thank you, Sophie for reaching out!
- Bourgeois, Sophie. Personal conversation by email. November 5, 2022.
- LaSalle, Luann. “Skateboarder works hard to keep competitive edge.” The Sun Times. September 17, 1987.
- Little, Monty. “The Great Canadian Open.” Thrasher. September 1981, pp. 10-11.
- Lucero, John. “Ten days in a zoo.” Thrasher. December 1986, pp. 53-59, 94.