Kate the Skate

“Kate the Skate” was the name of a column dedicated to women in skateboarding within the British magazine called Skateboard Scene from January 1978 (issue 3) until August 1978 (issue 9), for a total of seven features.

Under the list of Editorial Staff appears the name Kate “Kicktail” Mahony as Assistant Editor. Kate now lives in New Zealand and continued her career path in writing, becoming a published author with a new book coming out in September 2023! Kate shared via Facebook that while she dabbled in skateboarding, writing was always her true passion and motivation, although she did enjoy meeting and interviewing skateboarders.

While there had been women who contributed articles to skateboard magazines before, like Cindy Berryman and obviously Di Dootson who ran the National Skateboard Review magazine, this was the first regular column committed to highlighting women skaters.

The first article from January 1978, is more text than image. Kate explains how the column was a battle to see the light of day, as she had to persuade Skateboard Scene and its editors that the effort was worth it.

“There’s a dreadful rumour going around that girls just aren’t bothered about skateboarding, and that they’re just not a force to be reckoned with. Rubbish! I say that the girls can prove to be just as good as the guys any day, and this page in Skateboard Scene is all set to prove it each month.” Kate notes that women have excelled in skiing, surfing, tennis, so why not skateboarding?

There’s loads of advice, examples of girls who ride, and fist-pumping! The legendary Thea Cutts (15) is mentioned, along with her crew of friends called the “Skate City Ladies Team” which includes fellow Logos team member Alicia Bernard (14), Karen Broughton (14), Terry Kluth (15), Teresa Redford (16), and Lorraine Rossdale (13).

In February 1978, the introduction reminds readers that, “This is the page that challenges you girls to make your mark in the most exciting, fastest-growing sport the world has ever seen! If you have the misfortune to be bugged by one kid brother laughing hysterically at the sight of you wobbling against your mate’s shoulder as you attempt to push off to greatness, ignore him. What does he know about the kind of sex appeal you’ll have once you master the wobbles?”

Liz Karlsen (17) is the feature skateboarder who shared that, “Like most girls I began by using a borrowed board and then got so keen I bought my own… My only real advice to other girls thinking about taking it up, is just to practise and practise.” I have reason to believe that this is the film producer, Elizabeth Karlsen as she was born in NYC before moving to the UK. Very cool!

The article concludes with some fun news of two girls looking to set up a girls’ skate club. “Karen Weaver and Angie Blexie are thirteen year-olds from Salisbury and they want to set up an all-female club (wonder what the Sex Equality people will say to that?). If you live round their area, you can write to Kare at 8 St. Andrew’s Road, Lower Bemerton, Salisbury. Or phone Salisbury 20065. More news next month.”

We finally get to see some skateboarding in action by March 1978 in a two-page spread with Thea Cutts stomping a kickflip and Ellen Berryman performing some choreographed freestyle gymnastics. Kate interviewed both Thea and Ellen who was in England for the “Skateboard ‘78” demonstration. She also gave props to a few more skaters that she met at “Skateboard ‘78” including Cleo Rocos (15) from Brazil who was sponsored by Alleycat just like Berryman, and three-year-old Andrea Bell from Letchworth.

The column keeps getting better! For April 1978, readers received an exclusive interview from the legendary Robin Logan who was always keen to give shout-outs to her friends like the ripping Kim Cespedes and how she often put the guys to shame in pool and bowl.

May 1978 was absolute gold! A full interview with Minh Duc Tran (17), the UK Girls Freestyle Champion from the Skateboard ’78 competition. It was not often that skateboarders of diverse backgrounds were featured, and Minh was of Vietnamese descent. Minh was skating in the pipe, getting air and grabs and was super determined to get sponsored to go to the U.S. Her interview was a joy to read.

Kate began her June 1978 column heckling her male co-workers that they were a bit clueless of what was going on around them, until 18-year-old Sue Slade and 15-year-old Janet Adams appeared from the “STP Toomer Zoomer” team! Sue had originally wanted to form a girls only team, but the friends were persuaded to be sponsored by STP and compete in freestyle. Sue was known for her flexibility, doing the splits on two skateboards, but soon discovered the joys of skating the half pipe.

The last article is from August 1978, again featuring two athletic friends who motivated each other. Michelle Lee and Debra Brown took up skateboarding after being avid roller skaters and witnessing a demonstration from an American team. They were soon hooked, practising for four hours every night, and loved hitting vert in their local halfpipe called Skateside in Kettering. Debra shared that, “We gain a lot of confidence from one another. We spur one another on to greater things.” The two were sponsored by Yowza and were receiving coverage in their local newspaper.

Skateboard Scene did not continue past that August 1978 issue, unfortunately.

I would love to glean more feedback from readers / skaters of the era. Did the column inspire you?!

A special thank you to Iain Borden for scanning and sending the missing issues I needed!

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