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Skateboarding News

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Cindy Whitehead Interview with isTia

Cindy Whitehead arrived on the skate scene in the late 70’s, when girls like Laura Thornhill, Ellen Berryman and Ellen O’neal were all coming up doing amazing freestyle routines. She started skateboarding at Hermosa Pier doing Freestyle but quickly switched to vert at Skateboard World in Torrance. This skatepark became her main place to skate and one of her first sponsors. That meant free food (important as she was there all day every day). Skateboard World paid for her entry fees to contests, and they let her skate and play video games for free. At the time, there was no distinction between bowl riders, pools riders and what we now call vert (big ramps). Everything on trannies was vert, period!

It was the time when SkateBoarder magazine was still displaying full covers of a barefoot Gregg Weaver cruising below the coping in an empty pool which was a big deal. But she rapidly surpassed Gregg Weaver in dexterity; the sky was the limit and she quickly became one of the few female Pros of the time and rode for Tracker Trucks, Sims Skateboards, Puma Tennis Shoes, Rector and Fly-a-Way Helmets.

After she briefly skated at The Runway in Carson, she switched again, this time to Marina Del Rey skatepark, but this time for good, that is until Marina close, for good. Of course she skated parks all over Southern California as contests were held different places each week or so. By 1981 she had skated over 26 parks across the USA, including Cherry Hill, Sensation Basin and Apple Skatepark.

She travelled across the USA for a skate tour, she did demos, photo sesh, tv shows, interviews, was hired as judge during skate contests and she was having the time of her life, skateboarding for a living, a much gnarly time than any girl at 17 years of age, all of the above with little to no supervision from the grown ups…

Now Cindy is still in the sport business. She works as a Sports Stylist®, a term that she coined. Top brands, like Gatorade, Nike and Adidas, hire Cindy to communicate their message to deliver it with style and integrity. She taps into each athlete’s individual style to create looks that are authentic, inspiring and she even sometimes works with old pals like Christian Hosoi, Dave Hackett, Lance Mountain, Brad Bowman, Shaun White and others. And she has the most impressive collection of Skatepark ID’s I have ever seen, all of them under her name…

Here’s the interview with a wild girl from Sims Skateboards…

Cindy Whitehead thinks Girl is not a 4 letter word... How 'bout you?  
Cindy Whitehead having the time of her life...
isTia.Tv: When did you start Skateboarding?
Cindy Whitehead:
I started skateboarding when I was 14 years old

isTia.Tv: How long until you turned pro?
Cindy Whitehead:
I turned pro at 16, so about one year and half, two years after I started skating.

isTia.Tv: What pushed you to do skateboarding?
Cindy Whitehead:
I saw kids doing it in my neighborhood and it looked fun, and I was not very good at swim team, I was not that great at baseball. It was also cool in the sense that you did not need a whole team to do it. You could do it by yourself.

isTia.Tv: What did it mean to be pro at that time?
Cindy Whitehead:
Turning pro meant, you had to give up your amateur status, you could then make money at contests, your sponsors could pay you, (hopefully), and you competed on a pro level, so you then were skating with more advanced skaters.

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isTia.Tv: So, you were making a lot of money!
Cindy Whitehead: (Laughing)! Did girl skaters ever make a lot of money? So, No! Not a lot of money. It allowed me to compete against more girls from all over, not just locally; it also allowed me to compete at a higher level in vert skateboarding, which pushed me. There were like 7 or 10 of us in the pro division usually. So it was nice to be able to go to those contests, have your sponsors pay your way to get there, have them pay for your lodging and meals and a few other things, like contest entry fees and maybe win a hundred bucks! If you were lucky!

isTia.Tv: Who were the other girls?
Cindy Whitehead:
Some of the other pro girls were people like Judy Oyama, she was awesome; Gale Webb who was older than us but still competing, Brenda Devine, Vicky Vickers, and at the amateur level there was Cara Beth Burnside, & I also remember Patti Hoffman.

isTia.Tv: Were they all skating vert?
Cindy Whitehead:
Yeah, there were all doing vert and half pipe riding…

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isTia.Tv: Was vert really girl’s stuff?
Cindy Whitehead:
No! I started skateboarding by doing freestyle because it was big back then. The girls like Laura Thornhill, Ellen O’Neil, Robin Logan, Ellen Berryman, they were all doing a lot of freestyle and then they started slowly moving into vert, but by the time I started coming up the ranks, they were slowly leaving. That was the heyday; that was the great time in skateboarding, we had a lot of fun, a lot of opportunity, but by the time it hit our group the opportunities were maybe a little less because we were more going into vert skating at the time. There was less competition for freestyle, very few freestyle competition left and once those girls left the circuit, it was pretty much gone…

isTia.Tv: Cara Beth; isn’t it amazing that she is still at top level after all those years… How old was she at the time?
Cindy Whitehead:
She was like 12 or 13 at the time… She was an amateur. Yea! It is amazing that she is still skating, and I say “Good for her…”
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You know, people like her and Tony Hawk never left. They continued through the dead years and I would like to give them a lot of credit for that. There are people who have come and gone and that are back now, but Cara Beth and Tony Hawk are the ones that come to mind that have stayed with this through everything. Obviously there were others like Steve Caballero, Lance Mountain, Tony Alva, Dave Hackett, & Steve Olson just to name a few It’s a sport that stays with you for life…

isTia.Tv: Those vert girls that you mentioned, if you are in the inner circle of skateboarding, you know them, but they never made mainstream… What kind of coverage did the girls have at the time?
Cindy Whitehead:
It was not as extensive as the guys coverage. I would say that when I started skateboarding I would always see Robin Logan in the magazines, Laura Thornhill, Ellen O’Neil and Edie Robertson and I was like, whoooa those girls are so cool and by the way - I still think they are cool. We have now become friends and I love them to death! When my group started coming up, we did get a little bit of coverage here and there. I was lucky enough to get a centerfold in Wild World of Skateboarding magazine, and that was a big deal at the time, and I guess it still is a big deal because we have not progressed as much as I thought we would have by now, but yes, the coverage was very light! You had to look hard to find women in magazines… You had to look for them…

isTia.Tv: So, girls are complaining now, but you seem to say, the absence of girl’s coverage has been going on since the beginning?
Cindy Whitehead:
I Think it has been like this since the beginning of skateboarding. I think that back when they were doing freestyle, there was a little bit more of coverage, still not as much as they deserved, obviously, and not as much money as they deserved, but they got a little bit more coverage and when we went into vert skating for girls, the coverage became less . I really don’t know why that is.
Marina Del Rey Skatepark
Surfing has started to change with the women, not as much as it should but in skateboarding we are still not there… pause… I’m just gonna throw something out there… pause… Is it because if the average weekend skater guy sees a picture of a girl tearing it up in the magazine, they may think “if a girl can do it, then any guy should be able to do it and it can’t be that hard?” I don’t know! I should not even say that… Laugh!!! Just strike that, I just don’t want my ass kicked!!! Laugh!!! We still just don’t have the coverage we merit. These girls are ripping it up and they don’t have the coverage they deserve

isTia.Tv: You said that the freestyle girls had more coverage... Wouldn’t it be because freestyle is a more feminine expression of skateboarding and that’s why they had more coverage? Might that be a reason why the freestyler girls had more coverage than the vert girls?
Cindy Whitehead:
Maybe you are right – maybe that is how some people perceive it. Freestyle can be very beautiful and graceful. But vert can too, I mean, look at those girls, they have beautiful style, in vert… Less of an attacking style than the guys perhaps?, … I think we should ask the photographers & the magazines & tv producers why the girls do not get as much coverage…

“Cindy was a stylish, iconic figure at Marina Del Rey Skatepark.
I remember her pretty smile, so cute, skating the vertical pools with
the other locals (mostly guys).
She still has same pleasant personality.
I gave her Marina bumper stickers at her request and she helped promote Marina.
As I remember she always had a flyaway helmet and was on the Sims team.”

Dennis Ogden, Marina Del Rey Skatepark Owner.
October 19, 2010

"I was lucky enough to get a centerfold in Wild World of Skateboarding magazine
and that was a big deal at the time"
isTia.Tv: You started vert just at the time when skateboard plunged into punk rock, so, were you punk at the time?
Cindy Whitehead:
No! Laugh… I was never punk, Laughs… I was the opposite of punk… Big laughs… I was a Sims team rider and I kinda dressed with a color scheme so I was kind of the opposite of punk. I had a lot of friends who were more punk style obviously, like Steve Olson, Dave Hackett, all those guys, they were pretty rad and I was pretty mellow compared to that…

isTia.Tv: Is it because there were different tribes… The Indy Tribe and the Tracker Tribe?
Cindy Whitehead:
There definitively was and there still is that perception. People ask me “But you rode Indy, right?”. Yes, I rode Indy for a short time, but I was a tracker girl. And it’s really like, Indy was one thing and Tracker was another. But you did not really, really focus on that when you are at the skatepark and you were with your friends, and you were just riding and competing. But, now that you mention it, yes, there were two different vibes.
Cherry Hill Skatepark
Maybe the Indy people were more punk rock in style, and Tracker was a little bit more all American? I don’t know…

isTia.Tv: And when you see the evolution of the two brands, Indy morphing into Thrasher and Tracker giving birth to Transworld those are very…
Cindy Whitehead:
…very different magazines, definitively… back in the day when I was there, there was Skateboarder magazine and Wild World of Skateboarding and it was all kind of a level playing field and those two were much like the same vibe as to what they were covering in photos… But you are right! The birth of those two magazines gave skateboarding a different sense and ushered it into two completely different directions…

isTia.Tv: What happened when Skateboarding died down?
Cindy Whitehead:
You could see the slow phasing out of Skateboarding. The parks were closing, people were at loss, people had to travel further and further to skate parks. You kinda knew it was coming. It was a slow progression. For me it wasn’t a huge shock but it was very sad. I think it slowly phased out. It did not come to a grinding halt one particular day, but I do remember when Marina Del Rey closed. It was a sad day for me and my friends. That was the place I went every day and night, and all of a sudden, it was not there anymore…
In 1979, Christian Hosoi was only 12 years old, but he was already a star shredding at
Marina Del Rey with Cindy Whitehead as a sis...
Photo Unknown (From Marina Del Rey Website)

isTia.Tv: Which skateparks were you going to at the time?
Cindy Whitehead:
When skateboarding started to die down, I was going to Marina Del Rey skatepark… Every day. Prior to that, I was going to Skateboard World, The Runway, a lot of different parks…

isTia.Tv: What was your fist impression of Marina Del Rey?
Cindy Whitehead:
I loved it!! Everything was great! The upper keyhole was my favorite, and the Dog Bowl was awesome. That park was my home.

isTia.Tv: Who were you skating with at Marina Del Rey?
Cindy Whitehead:
Everybody!!! All the Dogtown boys were there, Jay Adams, Tony Alva, Polar Bear Dennis Agnew (R.I.P.), Wes Humpston, all the guys from Sims who I skated with; Brad Bowman, Bert Lamar, Christian Hosoi… That was the favorite park of almost all the skaters. If you lived outside of Upland, that was the park to go to at the time …

isTia.Tv: All those guys are still skating now…
Cindy Whitehead:
It’s amazing. Like Christian Hosoi, I started to skate with him when he was just a little thing. He was just 12 years old when he was skating Marina Del Rey. He was amazing back then, he is amazing now. He is another one I give props to… I think skateboarding is coming back full circle. All the guys that I grew up with are all in their late 40’s and early 50’s and they are skating again. It’s like if they are still 18 and they never left, they are ripping and shredding just as hard they did then!

isTia.Tv: Do you think a girls’ master contest is missing?
Cindy Whitehead:
Yeah, I’ve been asked about that a few times. If we could get enough girls; that would be a good thing…

Steve Alba at Upland Photo Jim Goodrich
Jim Goodrich SkateBoarder Portfolio
"I barely knew Cindy back in the day but she always impressed me with her
great skating and being a classy lady.

I admired her talent and always regretted not being able to get to know her better then. But we've become good friends since reconnecting on Facebook and at the La Costa reunion.

Like many skaters from that era, I can tell that we'll be friends for life."

Jim Goodrich. October 20, 2011

Laura Thornhill, Masao Myashiro, Cindy Whitehead, Dennis Ogden at Venice skatepark, July 2010.
Photo courtesy of Dennis Ogden

isTia.Tv: Who would go? You would go for it!
Cindy Whitehead:
Laughs!!! I don’t know. I would have to start skating pretty hard every day to go… It would be nice to see this reunion but I’m not sure who would go. I have heard that Denise Flemming is still skating … So maybe Denise, maybe Laura Thornhill, Judi Oyama. Judi is shredding. Judi for sure would go! She’d kick my ass! There are quite a few girls that would go to a master’s. It’s just taking time getting there and giving it priority…

isTia.Tv: What were the two best skateparks in Southern California?
Cindy Whitehead:
A lot of people loved Pipeline (Upland). It was not my favorite; the bowl was a little too massive for me. I am barely five feet tall so the bowl felt huge. I loved Marina Del Rey and loved Del Mar Skatepark.

isTia.Tv: Del Mar is more in San Diego, so, those were the 3 magnets of skateboarding, right?
Cindy Whitehead:

Brad Bowman at Del Mar 1978. Photo Lance Smith

Brad Bowman at Oasis. June 1980. Photo Jim Goodrich.
I first met Cindy Whitehead in the late 1970's at an L.A. skatepark, Marina Del Rey or Skatercross, I believe. She was decked out in the latest Sims Team outfit and putting her moves out there along the boys that she was busy jockeying for a drop-in into the bowl. Those that were there know what I'm talking about- a group of A-pesonality kids jacked up on sugar, surfing, skating and other things all trying to get a run before the next dude or girl, which was either Cindy or Vicki Vickers. Cindy would get her fare share of fun only by trash talking the bro's (which she's still quite good at!) then dropping in while their heads turned in puzzling astonishment. In the Dogtown days of yore one had to cut some pretty sharp teeth to be included into the pack and Cindy's were quite razorlike when necessary.

She was the token female on the LA team, aside from Edie Robertson in Santa Barbara and held her own in many locations. I have remained friends and in touch with her after skateboarding as we both went into the fashion industry to seek out new horizons and careers. She is still one of the top wardrobe stylists going and is always on the move, job after job. We've shared many laughs over our 30+ year friendship and I don't expect it to slow or stop anytime soon. She was a great skater, is a great stylist and a true friend whose shooting star trajectory has paralleled my own for years. Life is a trip and mine has certainly been enhanced by Cindy's friendship.

Brad Bowman October 19, 2011.

Frankly, Cindy Whitehead has more Skatepark ID cards than you: 26.
If you have more than her, feel free to post a picture of the cards in the comments below...
isTia.Tv: Were you going often to Del Mar?
Cindy Whitehead:
I was going often, but it was just depending on if friends wanted to go down there and if there were a lot of contests down that way. The Hester Series, went through Del Mar I ended up going to Del Mar for contests quite a few times…

isTia.Tv: How old were you at the time?
Cindy Whitehead
: About seventeen...

isTia.Tv: How long did Marina Del Rey stand?
Cindy Whitehead:
I Think Marina Del Rey Skatepark was open three years maybe four years. It seems like a lot longer but I guess that was it…

isTia.Tv: Those people you skated with, were they just acquaintances or friends?
Cindy Whitehead:
They were all friends. We spent so much time at the skatepark, literally, you know, up until it closed, at nine, ten or eleven at night and sometimes we hung out afterwards to skate because Dennis (Ogden) would let us. I was mainly seeing people at the skatepark. You would go there knowing that somebody you knew was going to be there. There was always somebody you knew. Whether they were pro or amateur or just a friend who casually skated, it was a meeting place and then we also did things together outside of skateboarding. But our main focus was skateboarding that’s what we lived, ate, and breathed, everyday…

isTia.Tv: In the 80’s and 90’s did you still have contact with those guys?
Cindy Whitehead:
In the 80’s and 90’s, I was kind of out of touch with a lot of people. I would say that Stacy’s movies on Dogtown did help a lot. It brought skateboarding back to the forefront again. It caused a resurgence of popularity and I think that because of that we started to see art shows that had to do with skateboarding. We started to see things in later years like the La Costa Reunion We started to see a lot of events come back that had been dead for a long time. So people could get together, race, skate, and a lot of guys started skating again, some of the women started skating again,. Because of those reunions, I have met people that I had never met and that skated before me, like Robin Logan, Laura Thornhill, Di Dootson, Patti McGee, Edie Robertson and the two Ellen’s , and newer racers like Cat Young. I had never met them in person before these events y, and now I feel like I have known most of them forever… That’s cool.

Giant Tubes
isTia.Tv: Were you going to La Costa back in the 70’s?
Cindy Whitehead: I never skated La Costa. I didn’t do downhill and I didn’t do slalom but I did go to the La Costa reunion back a few years ago. I did not race, I went to the party with everybody and it was awesome, very cool, everybody in one room. Henry Hester, the whole Logan family, Wes Humpston, Laura Thornhill, everybody was there…

isTia.Tv: Who was your best skater friend?
Cindy Whitehead:
One of my best female pro skater friends back in the day was Judi Oyama. I did not see her all that often but we kept in touch by regular mail! Can you imagine? Snail mail. We wrote letters to each other, to keep in touch in between contests. Now Jusi and I keep in touch via email and Facebook Also Gale Springer was (and still is!) one of my best friends in skateboarding I would skate with her every day at Marina. As far as the guys, I would say all the boys from the Sims team (Brad Bowman and Marc Hollander were 2 of my fav people) and the Dogtown team along with my good friend Chris Upson.

Old stuff on display at at Hermosa Beach Historical Society...

isTia.Tv: Isn’t it a shame that there was almost no girl contest in 2011?
Cindy Whitehead:
I have heard rumors that the girls weren’t getting TV coverage because “there are not enough people who want to see girls skate”. I find that hard to believe. We have young girls out there that are looking up to surfers and skater girls as role models. They want to see coverage, and they are asking for it They are asking for the clothing that the girls wear, they want to be like those girls and they want to live that lifestyle. If the younger generation is asking for it, why aren’t we giving it to them? Why are we not promoting women skaters all this time and especially now…?

Dave Hackett, Brad Bowman, Steve Olson, Lance Mountain. If you like the way they look, thank Cindy, that's her job...
isTia.Tv: Isn’t it that some people still believe that, to be a skater, you have to be some kind of punk, but when I see those girls right now, like Lizzie Armanto, Amelia Brodka, Abby Zsarnay, AmeeJay Papelera, they are really pretty and neat and well behaved…
Cindy Whitehead:
I don’t think there was ever any skater girl, that I knew, who was really seriously punk. If you look at Laura Thornhill, and the other girls of that generation, they were hot!, They had long hair, and when they did 360’s their hair just flowed. I remember seeing pictures of Laura Thornhill, and I still see them now on girl’s blogs because they think it’s such a cool look seeing her hair fanning out and looking very Californian.

Abby Zsarnay: not really punk or tomboy... Photo Chris Zsarnay
I’m sure that there are a lot of girls that want to emulate them. I just remember girls being very color coordinated and having cool clothes and looking naturally pretty. Like a natural California look, and I think now it’s the same thing. They are all adorable. Just like the girls you see surfing. I think all these girls deserve more coverage.

isTia.Tv: I’ve heard you are thinking about writing a book?
Cindy Whitehead: Yeah, I’ve been working on two very different book proposals for a little while, both involve skateboarding. I’ve been working with an agent on that… laughs… I gotta get my ass in gear on finishing!

isTia.Tv: You will let me know?
Cindy Whitehead:
I will let you know as soon as the dotted line gets signed…

isTia.Tv: Those guys that you used to see back in the day, Brad Bowman, Jim Goodrich, how did you lose contact with them and how did you reconnected?
Cindy Whitehead:
Jim Goodrich, I used to see him at the skate parks, but I never really knew him, and now we are good friends on Facebook. It’s really cool. He said to me recently: “I can’t believe I never shot you!”. Damn! We should have known each other back in the day – he is a cool guy. You know, life happens. What happens is you get to a certain age, you go into different directions, you get married, some people stop skating, people move, people start working. We lived in a very carefree time… All we were doing was skating. What’s what we were doing for a living. That’s what we did every day, day in and day out. So, of course we saw each other every day, but when skateboarding ended and people had to get real jobs and do other things, we kinda drifted apart, just like you do after High School or College. I think Facebook helped bring a lot of us back together and I think that’s really positive…

isTia.Tv: When you were skateboarding, how were the boys looking at you? Just like another skateboarder or like a girl that was skating?
At Venice Skatepark, October 16, 2011
Cindy Whitehead: That’s a very good question… I always thought the boys always looked at me as their sister and kinda protected me from outside boys trying to ask me out which was kinda frustrating, but I came to find out years later there were guys who wanted to date me but I was so clueless - I just thought they were all my buddies. I didn’t know. I didn’t realize guys looked at me like that, but now I hear about it and it’s kinda funny…

isTia.Tv: Did you date a skateboarder?
Cindy Whitehead:
I did. I dated a couple. One of them was from the Sims team who was a great friend and is just an awesome guy. I dated a roller skater as well

Laura Thornhill, Dennis Ogden, Cindy Whitehead at Venice Skatepark in July 2010. Photo Courtesy Dennis Ogden.
isTia.Tv: How many tours have you done is the US?
Cindy Whitehead:
When I was a skateboarder, I only did one tour that was sponsored. It was for me and for a roller-skater (Duke Rennie) who skated vert. It was kind of a different thing having a girl skateboarder and a male roller skater. We went to Cherry Hill, New Jersey, Apple skate park, Sensation Basin in Florida and a couple of other ones. We toured for three weeks. It was just the two of us. So that was pretty cool, It was really a great opportunity. I was 17 years old and I got to travel to all theses skateparks and have everything paid for , see the country, and meet the other skaters. That was great.

isTia.Tv: How about the Pepsi team?
Cindy Whitehead:
I wasn’t part of the Pepsi Team. I did a few demos with them and I also skated on the Pepsi Ramp, but I was not part of the team.

isTia.Tv: On what occasions did you skate the clear ramps?
Cindy Whitehead:
The one where my centerfold was shot was called the 360 ramp in Fountain Valley and then I skated the Pepsi ramp at a few demos. Both ramps were very slippery…

isTia.Tv: I can imagine… Made of Plexiglas right?
Cindy Whitehead:
Yeah, blue Kryptos were very good for that ramp, very sticky…

isTia.Tv: I skated the same kind of ramp, very high, very skinny, no flat, and dangerous. Did that centerfold change anything for you? Was there a before and an after?
Cindy Whitehead:
It did! I didn’t notice it at first but I would go places and sometimes people would recognize me and I couldn’t figure out how they knew me. Like when surfer or skater kids would stop me in stores and say “Hey it’s Rad Lady” because that was the name of the article. And I at first, I was kind of embarrassed by that tagline and then later in life I realized that it was sort of cool actually. So yes, it did change things for me - it gave me more sponsorship, and it gave me a little bit more coverage. It was also sort of the catalyst for me turning pro.

isTia.Tv: What does skateboarding represent to you?
Cindy Whitehead:
I think skateboarding means three things for me. It means freedom. It’s the freedom you find in the sport that just transports you away from everything else in your life. I definitively think it means lifestyle. It’s a lifestyle that you have, that you will always have & a feeling about what you do every day in life. Most importantly, it’s friendship. It’s people that you meet throughout the years and when you find out that you have a skateboarding in common, you instantly bond with those people I can be on a photo-shoot somewhere and skateboarding will come up and somebody will go “Oh yeah, I skated too”. And next thing you know we’re friends. It’s a common denominator with skaters: you will always have those friends for life.

Thanks to Jim Goodrich, Dennis Ogden and Cindy Whitehead for the pictures.

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I skate therefore I am: skateboard pools, pipes, parks, bowls and vert, daily skateboarding news...
posted by Xavier Lannes @ Thursday, October 20, 2011 

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Looooved the interview & Love my good friend Cindy...:-)

October 21, 2011 at 8:40 AM  
Anonymous Judi Oyama said...

Great article Cindy. She rules. Thanks for the nice words. You are the best. It's been great to reconnect. Love all the great photos and memories. Fun times for sure.

Judi O

October 23, 2011 at 5:35 AM  

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