Skateboarding moms shred for 20th annual Mother’s Day session – Orange County Register

Barb Odanaka remembers her struggles as a new mom and how skateboarding helped her push past those tough days with a newborn, a way to mentally and physically have an outlet away from the dirty diapers.

“The reality is, I was having a hard time transitioning to motherhood,” said Odanaka, now 61, who grew up skateboarding in Newport Beach in the ’70s.

Back then, there were not many other female skateboarders rolling around. But more and more, females started showing up at skate parks, finding a community that has kept them connected through their shared passion.

Skateboard Moms and Sisters of Shred held its 20th annual Mother’s Day skate session on Sunday in Laguna Niguel, a gathering that also serves as a fundraiser benefiting Waymakers OC, a nonprofit that helps victims of human trafficking and abuse.

While many participants came from across Southern California, others came from as far as Arizona, Florida and Australia for the gathering – a reunion of sorts for the group.

Odanaka said she had nearly forgotten about her love for skateboarding as a kid, until a therapist helping her through her new mom struggles told her to think of something that made her happy.

Immediately, she thought of skateboarding.

Years had passed since she had ridden a board, but a birthday gift from her husband gave her the push she needed to get back out there skateboarding, she said. After rekindling her love with skating, she wrote the book “Skateboard Mom.”

Instead of having a book launch at a coffee shop or book store, she held a gathering at a local skate park 20 years ago, trying to find other skater moms to join.

“When the day came, we had 19 women, including an 80-year-old who got on her board,” Odanaka recalled. “It was really only going to be a one-time thing. But we got a lot of media coverage; the word started getting out.”

Skateboard Moms was officially born, holding regular skate sessions as the group grew. They’d have skateboarding road trips and slumber parties, and of course, their annual Mother’s Day bash.

“We just skated, a lot,” Odanaka recalled.

Odanaka said she was “stunned and saddened” to see how few girls were out there at skateparks 20 years ago.

“If you did see one, they looked kind of like a scared rabbit waiting to take a turn,” she said. “It was a very macho vibe at the skatepark. I think part of me was like, ‘This isn’t right.’

“In Newport, boys and girls were equals when I was growing up,” she said. “I think that’s part of the reason I was so eager to recruit women to get onboard. I wanted to be a role model for the girls in the next generation.”

Part of her motivation, besides the sheer fun of skating, was watching other women get on boards for the first time – some in their 40s and 50s who had never ridden before, but wanted to know the thrill.

“They become hooked. You get this huge rush. Even watching a beginner do the smallest trick, that’s more exciting for me,” Odanaka said. “I get stoked watching them learn and improve.”

Times have changed, with high-caliber female skaterboarders found at local skateparks all the way to the Olympic podium in 2020.

Several dozen women showed up this Mother’s Day, not all of them mothers, but fellow skaters they call “sisters of shred,” she said.

Since the start, the event has also served as a fundraiser, the past few years benefiting Waymakers OC.

“It’s just the most heartbreaking thing to think of, that these children have gone through that,” she said, noting that their group has also had skate lessons with the nonprofit.  “If we can bring a bit of joy to their lives, it’s worth doing.”

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