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Sunday, November 7, 2010

Patti McGee 1965 Skateboard Champion

Pat McGee, inductee at the IASC and 1965 skateboard champion
Patty McGee in the original picture of Skateboarder Magazine' cover
Patti McGee: The First Betty is a champ!

Last year, after the first round of inductees at the IASC was announced, several girls got pissed off that out of the five nominees there was no girl. This year, the IASC has learned its lesson and the very first women skateboard champion is part of the cru.

And guess what? Known by her peers as the “First Betty”, Patti McGee was already skateboarding when your mother was not even born! She recalls that she and her friends had to skate in deserted parking lots until the security guards or the police would come to chase them. Doesn’t sound familiar? She started skating right when “they invented parking garages. The exits were a challenge not to mention having to watch out for the security guards. Yep, not much has changed for skaters there!”

Pat McGee, inductee at the IASC and 1965 skateboard champion
Patti was born on August 23, 1945 at Santa Monica and like most skateboarders at the time, she says that she “started out as a surfer, so when there was no surf my friends and I would find a hill to ride. That’s how I started skating". McGee, who grew up in Southern California, was an avid surfer and begged her mom to take her to the beach to catch the waves. When skateboarding entered the scene, McGee found a new freedom and, in 1962, she started skateboarding with a "Bunbuster" by Cooley, during the Easter vacations when she was at the Hollywood Teen Fair. In an interview for Skateboarder Magazine in 1965, she recalls that: ”I had been asked by a sporting goods store to give away a skateboard at a drawing every evening. One evening, the kid that was supposed to do the skateboard demonstration did not show up and they asked me to take his place. So, in front of 1500 kids, I did my first skateboard demonstration.” Already a skateboard warrior at the time, she set the trend for many decades to come. She recalls that “no hill was too steep, no parking lot too tall, no pavement safe; we couldn’t get enough.” Something that could definitively be the title of the next YouTube craze.

The year was 1965 when Patti McGee, only 19 at the time, became the first women skateboard champion at the “Women’s National Skateboard Championship"(Danny Bearer won the men’s division). Following that achievement, she became the first professional female skateboarder in history and the demo girl for HOBIE Skateboards (and Vita-Pak) and traveled for about one year demonstrating the boards at a national level. The craze for skateboarding was high and everybody wanted to be with Patti. So, she did several commercials for national brands, then she appeared on national television program like “What’s My Line” and “The Johnny Carson Show”.

Patti McGee
Pat McGee, inductee at the IASC and 1965 skateboard champion
Patti McGee
On National television, she demonstrated to the whole world what could be done with a skateboard: a kick-turn (also know as a tic-tac), a 360, several walking the board maneuvers and a handstand. Those flat tricks were considered radical at the time, especially if you remember that the wheels were made of metal, that they had no grip, that they were doing an awful noise; and that the boards were made of skinny solid wood that was not wide enough to place both feet.

But what she considers as the highlight of her carrier is not the national tour with Hobie or the TV shows but the cover of Life Magazine. She recalls that "I appeared upside down on my board doing a hand stand on the cover of LIFE magazine on May 14th, 1965," she said.

"I also got the cover of Skateboarder Magazine. That will always be my pride and joy. It’s also another first for girl skaters." Yes, on the cover of the fourth issue of Skateboarder Magazine! And that was back in 1965.

Unfortunately, as Jim Fitzpatrick told isTia in a (exclusive) forthcoming interview with isTia : “The crash was the result of people discovering that skateboarding is painful. The excitement of "How cool is this?!?” became: “Shit, this hurts!”. So, most kids who bough a clay wheeled-skateboard never bought another one. One and done! This is too difficult, it hurts when you fall!”.

Suddenly, due to poor quality equipment (Steel and Clay wheels) which lead to numerous accidents, many American cities banned skateboarding and by Christmas 1965 Skateboarding had died and along with it the national contests dried up, the sponsors disappeared, the brands and the magazines went out of business and it took 10 years for the next skateboard revival to hit the concrete with a vengeance.
Pat McGee, inductee at the IASC and 1965 skateboard champion
A Blue-eyed blonde, Pat McGee is a rare combination of
beauty and skateboard talent. Pat, 19 says the secret of her
championship form is plenty of practice.
Original comment from JohnSeverson - Skateboarder Magazine
When Dogtown Legends like Tony Alva, Jay Adams or Stacy Peralta started ripping the empty pools in 74-77, she had already left the scene for skiing at Lake Tahoe. And it's just too funny that the most famous image of the 1965 national champion is showing her skating around a pool... Then she went into Turquoise mining in Nevada and later worked as a leather smith. For 15 years, Patti ran a southwestern Trading Post in a place called Cave Creek in Arizona and she is currently involved with in a screen-printing business with her daughter, Hailey Villa. The business, “First Betty”, prints skate-inspired girls clothing line. Still in the skateboard business after 53 years!

And this year, she will stand beside skateboarding inductees and icons including Torger Johnson, Stacy Peralta, Steve Caballero, Eric Koston and Bob Burnquist at the next IASC event .

“IASC recognizes the importance of honoring the pros that made skateboarding what it is today,” said John Bernards, IASC executive director. “Without those icons and legends, the tricks skateboarders are doing today would not exist. This year’s inductees represent the best, most progressive skateboarding from 1960 to 2010, and we congratulate each of them on their accomplishments.”

Pat McGee, inductee at the IASC and 1965 skateboard champion
Because of women like McGee, skateboarding has become more than a just a sport for the dudes. She has certainly paved the way for other female shredders. While it’s true the industry caters toward our counterparts, it’s nice to see McGee will receive the recognition she deserves.

These days, Patty McGee is not shy to say that she is 61 and that she still rips like in the good ol’ days. Her top two skateboarding influences are Dave Hackett and Peggie Oki, she stills read skateboarding magazine (she is a fan of Concrete Wave and Thrasher) and she is riding a Dave Hackett board, a gift from Death Box.

So next time you se a grayish ol’ woman ripping on a skateboard ask her for advice, she may have a trick or two that she has kept secret during all those years… You never know who you talk to…

Also, visit the October 2011 interview of Patti McGee on isTia.Tv
All pictures from Life and Skateboarder Magazine.


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posted by Xavier Lannes @ Sunday, November 07, 2010 

Blogger Cindy Whitehead said...

Yeah Patti - love her to death. Great article!!

November 8, 2010 at 1:13 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

patti .. is what god created when he invented class on 4 wheeles

April 21, 2011 at 5:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

George Cooley was the inventor of the Cooley Bunbuster, Jr. Bunbuster and Challenger Skateboard. He also worked with Jan and Dean ont he song, "Sidewalk Surfing." For a promotional stunt he rode down a San Francisco street super fast and wiped out. I believe he was the first mass producer or one of them of the skateboard! Long live Cooley

February 24, 2012 at 3:09 PM  

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