Beth Fishman

Beth Fishman appeared in a four-page spread within the April 1978 issue of Wild World of Skateboarding after winning the SKAbo ESA Eastern Skateboard Championships held over three days in October 1977 at The Asbury Park Casino Arena in New Jersey. Her win was against all boys since there were no other girls competing beside one teenager in the over-18 category.

It was reported by Neil Britt that Beth was 11 years old and “back when she was a little girl (seven is ‘little’) she borrowed her old brother’s skateboard. She took it out on the street and found that skateboarding was really fun. It didn’t take her long to become adept at the basics of the sport and she was soon asking her folks to take her out to Jersey’s first skateparks” (Britt).

In an interview I conducted with Beth on February 23, 2023 she shared how living in a beach town in New Jersey meant that she learned to surf and boogie board at a young age. Beth had two older brothers and found one of their skateboards in the basement, like a vintage board with clay wheels. She immediately started skateboarding in her driveway along with a neighbour.

Beth noted that she was athletic, she like to ski and skim board which both require balance, and skateboarding was another sport she immediately enjoyed. “I loved it and I just kept doing it and practising tricks, and then they opened up The Paved Wave which was in Oakhurst, New Jersey… it was like the first skateboard park in New Jersey.”

Beth would insist that her dad drive her to the park practically ever day after school. “I was the only girl, I mean the only girl like anywhere, ever, back then” she shared. And yet, it didn’t occur to Beth that being the solo female was a deterrent. Beth was invited to join a team called The Islanders, hosted by a surfing / skateboard shop in Jersey. “They had said to me, ‘Hey, there’s going to be a contest. And you can enter it skating for the team.’ So, I was like, ‘Okay, that’s cool.’”

Beth inquired what she would need to do to prepare and learned that she would have to perform a three or possibly a five-minute choreographed freestyle routine and skate on ramps, and there would be different divisions. And that was the sum total of the support she received. Beth admitted that she had a competitive spirit, and that summer “I was all over it!” She rehearsed tricks in her driveway 24/7 incorporating multiple boards into her routine and balancing maneuvers.

“And so the contest day comes and I get there and, it’s like you saw in the article, 5000 people! It wasn’t just Jersey, it was the East Coast championships. Tons of people… and I was really excited to do the routine I had practiced for weeks. I was thrilled to be there.” Beth’s family was also there as she performed her floor routine and tricks on a giant ramp, and at some point, her dad dashed out to bring her grandma to the event, not wanting her to miss the action. And then they were calling out the winners for her division. “The third place goes to ‘John,’ second place go ‘Larry,’ and first place is Beth Fishman, and I’m like ‘Oh my god, I won,’ It was an amazing feeling.”

She received a trophy wearing her Islanders team t-shirt, and then a photographer requested a picture of Beth standing beside her grandma, and likely proposed that she wear a helmet, which she obliged even though Beth noted that it was rare to see a smile on Grandma Rose’s face considering her journey as a Jewish immigrant who fled her country. Beth posted the photo on her Facebook page on June 18, 2016 and wrote:

“Going through [a] box and found this gem. Me and my grandma Rose. I had just come in first place in a skateboard contest. Some photographer took one of my helmets and put it on her head for the shot. Priceless. Oh and I’m in wearing a puka bead necklace. Late 70s. I want to add that my grandma started her life in a small village in Russia, fled to this country, learned some english and lived her life in a seaside town in New Jersey. You never know the arc of your life and I think its so cool she ended up at a skateboard contest in this photo with her grand daughter.”

Di Dootson also reported on the event in the December 1977 issue of the National Skateboard Review. She wrote that how the competition “attracted over 5,000 spectators during the three days and one of them, at least, was determined to try the sport. Mrs. Rose Fishman, an 85-year-old grandmother from Asbury Park, New Jersey, was so thrilled by her 10-year-old granddaughter’s win in the amateur freestyle competition for 9-to-11-year-olds that she is ready to compete next year. ‘I have to learn how to skate first,’ said Mrs. Fishman after congratulating her granddaughter, Beth Fishman, of Bradley Beach, New Jersey, for her win against an all-male field of competition.”

The following day the phone starts ringing for Beth, which was strange for a kid since she never had received a phone call for herself. Suddenly ABC wants to feature her on television for a morning show in New York, and after getting her mom’s permission Beth is finding herself alongside random people like the stylist Vidal Sassoon! She kept a whole scrapbook of the various newspaper articles. Beth and her family were interviewed for New Jersey public television (NJPTV) for a 15-minute segment, she was featured in the New Jersey Monthly magazine (May 1978) and the limelight didn’t stop.

Beth was invited to showcase her skills on a children’s variety show called “Kids are People Too.” The episode was filmed on December 6, 1978, and she was interviewed alongside child star Adam Rich. She also performed a skateboarding demonstration with confidence.

And this is when my interview with Beth leaves me awestruck! On that same episode, the legendary musician Patti Smith was also performing (as seen in this YouTube video)! At the time, Beth had never heard of Patti, and while waiting in the green room, Patti shows up “And she was amazing to me. I was a kid, and I was just like, ‘Wow. Who is this woman? She’s so powerful. She’s so unusual. She’s so cool.’”

Beth spent all day with Patti because “the filming was like literally morning to evening… so whenever there was a break or anything, she’d be like, ‘Hey kid, come with me. And we would hang out, and it was so cool. And we talked all day and then in the end of the day, she says to me—this is so funny—‘What do you like to do besides skateboard?’ And I said to Patti Smith, ‘Well, I like to write poetry.’”

Are you kidding me?! I can almost imagine young Beth sharing this tidbit to Patti, with not an ounce of ulterior motive! This is the kind of scenario most amateur poets dream about!

Beth continued, “She says, ‘Well, you know, I wrote poetry too. Come with me to my limo and I’ll give you my new stuff.’” And that’s exactly what happened. Beth and Patti go out onto this street in New York outside the studio, “her limo pulls up and she gets out like this leather satchel and she takes out all these papers and she hands them to me… she autographs it, ‘To Beth – the Champ.’ And she says to me, ‘You know, you’re awesome. Such a cool kid.” And then, noticing that Beth was wearing braces, Patti said, “‘Take me advice… leave your braces on because I tried to take mine off with a pair of pliers in my garage and it really fucked them up.’”

At this point I’m just howling! What an epic memory!! And as Patti drives away, Beth was just thinking what a really cool rocker lady to have connected with.

On January 21st, 1979 a feature article in The Daily Register (Red Bank, NJ) provided some follow-up on Beth’s experience competing at the SKAbo championships and with “Kids are People Too.” Beth was clear that her win was a result of hard work. “That year, I started to learn new tricks and I practiced a lot… I had never taken any lessons. You have to have a sense of good balance, and when it comes to tricks and routines, you have to practice them over and over. I also watched other people to see what they did and then tried those things myself. Reading skateboard magazines helped, too.”

And Beth just kept on skateboarding. Her team The Islanders wanted her to go on a European tour, but “My parents wouldn’t let me. I was very annoyed with that.” They were not keen on their daughter going to Europe with men who were in the age range of 15 to 20!

In terms of inspiration from other female skateboarders, Beth remembered that she might have seen the child actress Kristy McNichol skateboard on television, but never interacted or skateboarded with another girl unfortunately. In The Daily Register, Beth seemed content to skate with her neighbors and balance her school work load and a whole variety of activities from team sports to chess.

Beth continues to live a life of adventure as she is still skateboarding as she is part of a crew in Seattle that enjoys Long-Distance Pumping or LDP skating with a very specific set-up. “I have a couple of boards that I LDP with, and I live right near an amazing skate park where I go to skate. I meet the best people there and always get encouragement from the younger people there.”

As well, Beth has had a prolific career as a multi-media artist having studied at the Rhode Island School of Design and Pratt Institute. She became a glassblower and specifically moved to Seattle to be part of the thriving glass-blowing community. Just like skateboarding, Beth noted that glass-blowing is also about movement and choreography, which was a good fit for her. And then, when COVID hit she started painting – Beth’s vibrant artwork can be enjoyed here on her website.

On a special sidenote, Beth was able to reciprocate the kindness that Patti Smith showed her as a child. She had come to Seattle on a book tour but had hurt her wrist, so she wasn’t signing autographs for the public. Beth had to pass along a red glass vase that she had made for Patti to a stage-hand, and hope that she received it. “Patti Smith came out, and you know, it’s a packed house. I’m not exaggerating. She came out on stage, and she says, ‘Hey, Seattle. It’s so good to be here. I just got the most beautiful red glass vase. Whoever gave that to me, thank you so much. And somebody else gave me an apple pie.’ And I was like, ‘Oh my god, it made it!’”

Thank you so much Beth for this glorious interview and story! I can’t wait to visit Seattle someday and skateboard with you!

Photos: Neil Britt

Special thanks to Kevin at the Look Back Library for the Wild World of Skateboarding magazine scans!


  • Britt, Neil. “She’s a small-fry: but on the east coast, Beth Fishman is a whale of a skater.” Wild World of Skateboarding. April 1978, pp. 22-25.
  • Dootson, Di. “SKAbo Championships.” National Skateboard Review. December 1977, p. 5.
  • Falk, Jonni. “A borrowed skateboard leads to big opportunities.” The Daily Register (Red Bank, NJ). Sunday, January 21, 1979, p. 24.
  • Fishman, Beth. “Personal interview.” February 23, 2023 via Zoom.

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