Sunshine Lee

In the late 1970s Sunshine Lee was an up-and-coming skateboarder in southern California sponsored by Vans but her full story has yet to be discovered.

In his memoir, Authentic: a memoir by the founder of Vans Paul Van Doren explained how “Each Vans store manager was encouraged to choose seven or eight skateboarders and supply them with shoes, and the skateboard companies donated their boards. Vans soon became an important partner and sponsor of the sport” (p. 153). What was special about this arrangement was that both boys and girls were encouraged to try-out for the team, which meant girls like Sunshine Lee, Amy Pike Bradshaw, Yvonne Cucci, and Elaine Poirier were some of the earliest Vans riders along with more prominent skaters like Ellen Oneal, Deanna Calkins, and Terry Lawrence.

Sunshine Lee first appeared in the June 1978 results at the I.S.A. National Freestyle contest at Oceanside, CA, which was reported on in the National Skateboard Review two months later. The event was a big deal with amateurs competing on the 17th & 18th, and the professionals the following weekend. While many contests did not offer the women competitors cash prizes, or if they did it was a pittance compared to the men, the I.S.A. Nationals actually stepped-up, so the stakes were high and $2000 in 1978 would have been a windfall. None of the heavy hitters listed Van’s as their sponsor, just Sunshine Lee, who placed 5th in the Female Sponsored 9- to 12-year-olds category!

The following year in March 1979, Sunshine won the Skatopia Freestyle event in the Girls 10 and under, and then she tried a bowl contest, competing at the All American Amateur contest at Marina Del Rey in August 1979. The event was sponsored by Vans, and Sunshine placed 3rd behind Heather Hall of Sims and Katrina Tena for Girls 10-under.

The lone photo of Sunshine appears in the November 1979 issue Skateboarder magazine as she competes at the Oceanside Nationals in July 1979 in front of thousands of spectators. The captions reads: “Veteran freestyle competitor, Sunshine Lee, included a rail walk in her well-seasoned routine.” Results show that Sunshine placed 3rd for sponsored girls 9-10 behind Bonnie Votaw and Gina Esparanza [Esparza], ahead of Heather Hall.

Would love to know more about Sunshine if someone has a connection! She must have been born in the late 1960s.


  • Van Doren, Paul. Authentic: a memoir by the founder of Vans. Vertel Publishing, 2021.

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