Kim Adrian

While interviewing skateboarder Kim Adrian it occurred to me that I was speaking to a true “skater’s skater” – someone who skated for the love of it, committed to the actual doing of skateboarding versus self-promotion. I also believe that she should be on everyone’s radar because based on the photos that were shared, Kim was possibly the most underrated and talented female skater of the 1970s. This is a bold statement, but her photos are showcasing grinds, backside melon grabs and frontside grabs with serious amplitude at Lakewood and Whittier parks!

Kim began her skateboarding journey in 1976 in Lakewood, CA when she noticed a crew of guys in her neighbourhood messing around on skateboards, practising freestyle moves. Immediately she knew this was something she wanted to do. “There were just skater guys in the neighborhood, and I go, ‘Oh my god, that looks like so much fun.’ And they were just doing nose wheelies, jumps, handstands. So, I just go, ‘Hey, I wanna skate with you guys!’ So, I got a skateboard and just started learning the basics… and then somehow, I got a ramp, a little ramp in the front yard. It was just like a piece of wood. So that means in ’76 I was already learning transitions that first year and the guys inspired me. I learned 360s, handstands, headstands.” In fact, Kim’s first contest was at her high school and, “I won because I could do a running handstand.”

Photos: Ken Hada & Kim’s collection

In the 1970s, skateboarders often pursued the whole range of disciplines and Kim ended up later competing and winning in pipe and pool, freestyle, slalom races. Kim found out about the Concrete Wave in Anaheim, which was her first park, and “somehow I got on the team with Guy Grundy, the downhill skater. He gave me a jersey and maybe skateboard stuff.” Grundy worked at Concrete Wave and must have noticed her skill, so she was part of his team until she switched to Chuck Dunn (of C&D skateshop). C&D was innovating new products which meant that Kim got to test new wheel designs and would share her input on if they were too soft or too slow. The experience was positive, and she is still in touch with Chuck Dunn.

Kim found some of the skateparks and their runs a bit limited, and she wanted to challenge herself on vert, so she headed to Skatopia and ended up meeting her mentor there – Erich “Shreddi” Repas (see Skateboard World cover below)! Just before our interview the two skaters had connected and Shreddi recalled that, “I knew you had it!” Essentially, he knew she had an edge and recognized that she had the potential to really rip. They skated Skatopia as well as the first park in Anaheim called Brookhurst park that had cool features like curved concrete flowerpot obstacles.

“And so, one day we were over there, and he does a frontside air off the little two-foot curved blocks around one of the trees. I go, ‘Oh my god, that’s so cool. I gotta learn how to do a frontside air, and that’s what inspired me to do it.” While top skaters today often have coaches and mentors, Shreddi was the closest thing for Kim. “Shreddi helped me a lot because he was very advanced compared to me and he just pushed me, and I just went for it.”

Photo: Ken Hada

Kim also shared some good times with Amy Pike Bradshaw and Suzette Owens, whom she would love to reconnect with. “Suzette was really good at freestyle, but our friendship was more about partying, but Amy and I skated a lot, and we are in touch now. I just think that Amy loves skating so much, and she is getting popular now because of her social media presence, all her videos and overall passion for skateboarding.” Kim also remembered seeing Jana Payne skate, performing a headstand at a contest, and being really impressed.

Back at Skatopia, Kim was riding hard and got recruited for Sims. The best story was when she learned that one of the requirements to be on the team was a declaration of being a non-pot smoker, which was pretty hilarious! “Of course, we all smoked pot back then – we all did! Everybody smoked pot. That’s what you did back in the 70s.” Kim went along with it and got on the team, but Sims seemed a bit narrow in their focus on contest results and performance.

Around this time, Kim was filmed skating Skatopia, with footage of her in the half pipe and snake run appearing in the documentary film Skateboard Kings (1978). She remembers being vaguely aware of someone filming her and dodging a collision, and that it was likely around 1977 just as she was beginning to learn frontside airs. The first clip is brief:

In the second clip, Kim is wearing her Sims jersey:

Kim then shifted her attention from Skatopia to Lakewood because it was closer to her home and came with a lot more vert, and “that was totally taking it to the next level. Have you talked to anyone that has ridden that halfpipe? Did they tell you how big it is? The halfpipe was very shallow in the beginning, and progressively got deeper, was slightly downhill, and then at the end of it, the bowl was like 20-30 feet deep. So, if you needed to step up your game, that’s where you’re gonna be able to do it. You could get so much speed if you had the right equipment, and you could really get that amplitude – catapult yourself into the stratosphere. And that keyhole! There were a north keyhole and a south keyhole. The one you see me doing the air in and the carve grind is the north one.”

In a conversation with Ken Hada, Kim shared that “I got into vert because as I got better, it’s that feeling of weightlessness that was so amazing especially when I caught air doing tricks. There is just no way to explain how amazing that feeling is. I love that” (2020). Fellow skateboarder, Barb Odanaka recognized the scale of what Kim was accomplishing with her frontside airs at that time. And based on my review of photographs from that era there really is nothing comparable considering the air-time Kim was getting!

Unfortunately, in 1979 Kim hyperextended her knee trying to avoid a bail, which meant a six-month recovery from her injury. “I really needed more like 2-3 years off. After six months or so, I came back, and I just had to be careful it didn’t pop out because it was the back ligament… So, I kept riding Lakewood and Whittier. I had entered the pro circuit, but I was still recovering from the knee injury at that time, so stopped competing.”

Photo: Ken Hada (Kim’s injured arm!)

It’s worth noting that the safety equipment at the time was limited in quality. Kim said, “Those pads didn’t offer any protection and we didn’t know about knee sliding or anything, so you could get some bad knee injuries… You’ll see those on me in 1979 and in addition to that the decks were just too big and bulky for someone my size, like it wasn’t abnormal for them to be 10, 10 and a half inches wide. I think that maybe restricted female riders with the kind of decks there were.”

In addition, the skateboarding industry wasn’t exactly established to support their sponsored riders beyond rallying them to represent at contests. Kim’s sponsors weren’t actively promoting her in magazines or securing interviews even though some of these photos, in my opinion were magazine cover worthy! “They didn’t do much for me. They just gave me equipment. I had a sense that they didn’t care that much. You know, I just love skating. I didn’t think I’d ever compete or be on a team, I just wanted to skate. I didn’t care about being popular, so I just skated, and it just so happens that I got in movies and got on teams somehow… I think it was a popularity thing and I just wasn’t into that.”

The contest regiment also sounded exhausting. In a two-year window Kim pushed through over twenty contests, and with the variety of different events entered, she racked up over 30 first place finishes! In fact, in 1979, Kim was the overall point winner for the USASA Big Five Series for women between age 16-19.

Meanwhile, Kim returns to skateboarding, trying to keep things mellow but then she starts hearing about Skate City Whittier park that opened in 1979. “They had a full pipe, a large pool, a kidney pool. They had a clover leaf, and a small half pipe. That’s where I’m doing the backside air out of [below]. So, it was just perfect because I didn’t want to compete anymore. I don’t remember exactly when I left the Sims team, but I was happy to have met Tom Sims and ride with my Team but didn’t miss having to enter so many contests constantly. The last team I unexpectedly got invited to ride for after Sims was guess who? Santa Cruz through Steve Olson. Yeah, he took me on and gave me his signature checker bottom deck with Blackhart wheels which was bulky but fun to ride.”

By the late 1970s and early 1980s the skateboarding industry itself was unstable. Parks were closing due to insurance and the popularity of skateboarding was in decline. For Kim, “it was more about the injury. I moved out at 18 and then I worked and then I started college, later receiving a BS in Business from Pepperdine University. And not just that, but you would hear this mentality that once you were over 18 you were too old to skate! I’m serious, people thought you can’t skate after 18 or 19 because you’re too old. I don’t know – that’s young now to skate.”

Kim stopped skating and competing in 1980 but the creative freedom that skateboarding gave her still resonates! “Even today I’ll dream about skateboarding. I’ll dream about the last trick I was trying to learn, which was a frontside invert, and then I wanted to learn the Alley-oop. I just thought it could be a simple trick, I could do front and backside air, so I could probably do an Alley-oop. I’ll dream about these tricks… I almost wish I could have been born 40 years later and get more into it cause the girls are just killing it today.”

Considering that she was innovating and pushing the level of skill for female skateboarders at the time, Kim doesn’t have a particular hero from that era (besides her friends Amy Pike and Suzette Owens), but she does admire more contemporary riders like Vanessa Torres “because she’s so creative and versatile and has such a cool personality.” As well, Lizzie Armanto for being a mentor and powerful skater, and Nora Vasconcellos – “she has that smooth, creative surf-style skating. I just love watching her skate.”

Kim reunited with Skatopia buddy, Ken Hada and Amy Pike Bradshaw and returned to skateboarding in 2016, although when COVID hit, that put a damper on the fun. There were still some epic memories, like living in L.A. and getting paid to be a skateboarding extra in films including “Different Kind of Winning” (1980) for pumping around a pool and being in the background!

As we wrapped up our interview Kim was so kind and encouraging – she understood the value of sharing stories and bringing people into the light to help celebrate this history that has sometimes gone under the radar of the mainstream skateboard community. It felt like a real privilege to get some insight on the scene and to receive such an awesome selection of photos. Kim even noted that the black & white photos (above) from Lakewood were taken by a female photographer who was a fan, and just gave them to her! So, there’s an unknown female skate photographer to be discovered as well! The adventure continues.

Thanks again Kim for sharing your story and photos! I am so beyond stoked.

Photos: Kim’s personal collection, Ken Hada, *mystery female photographer*


  • Adrian, Kim. Personal interview. March 12, 2023.
  • Hada, Ken. “The History of Women’s Skateboarding: Part I.” June 21, 2020. Facebook.

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