Mighty Mama Skate O Rama May 12 at Laguna Niguel Celebrates 20th Birthday

Today the Mighty Mama Skate O Rama will be celebrating its 20th birthday in Laguna Niguel Skatepark in Laguna Niguel, California from 10-2 benefitting Waymakers OC. It’s time to celebrate, so Juice caught up with Mighty Mama Skate O Rama founder Barb Odanaka to talk about this landmark occasion and what’s next. Congrats and Happy Mothers Day to moms everywhere!

JUICE: How does it feel to hit this milestone? 

BARB ODANAKA: Gosh, I guess a mix of awe, disbelief and relief! Part of me finds it hard to believe that our little Mothers Day gathering 20 years ago is still going on. As I mention at the start of the event every year, that first gathering was basically a fun (and selfish!) way for me to launch my first children’s book, Skateboard Mom. Authors usually have a little book launch party at a bookstore or coffee shop, but I figured it would be fun to debut Skateboard Mom with a skateboard party. I figured three or four women would show up that day, but suddenly there was 19 women, along with plenty of news media that started spreading the word. 

The irony is that news didn’t do much for my little book, but suddenly I was getting a lot of emails from women all over who said, “I can’t BELIEVE I’m not the only woman obsessed with skateboarding!” It was a trip! Suddenly there was a whole community, female skaters of all ages and stages, coming together out of a love for these little rolling contraptions. And laughter. Lots and lots of laughter! 

JUICE: What has changed over the last two decades?

BARB ODANAKA: Well, early on our communication platform was a Yahoo email group, so there’s that! As far as skating goes, I think the biggest change by far has been that women no longer compare themselves to the guys. When I first got back on a board (my 24” Hobie Skatepark Rider!) after 25 years away, I went to a skatepark and was stunned for two reasons: there were zero females and every guy there had a scowl on their face. I’d started skating in 1972—when everyone on a skateboard was so stoked! When I came back decades later, I couldn’t fathom why everyone looked so glum.

When I did see another girl at the skatepark, she’d usually look like a scared rabbit, standing back. I couldn’t blame them, it was intimidating, but it also felt so unnatural. Skateboarding is fun! Why was everyone acting like it isn’t? 

That’s one reason I loved seeing our group grow. Not just with former skate chicks getting back into it after years but also with women, some in their 40s and 50s, trying it for their first time. Whether they were just gliding down a sidewalk their first time or managing their first kickturn, the joy was always so real, so pure. Their stoke was contagious and fueled the group.

Now, with female skating on a much, MUCH higher level, everything’s changed. Female skaters young and old feel much more welcome, both at the skatepark and by the industry in general. That makes us happy. That glum skatepark attitude of the early 2000s has been replaced, at least from what I’ve seen, with a whole bunch of happy faces. You no longer need to hide your happy. 

JUICE: What your hopes are for the future? 

BARB ODANAKA: There are so many female skate groups now, I no longer feel the same sort of mission we had in the past. Back then, we felt a drive to recruit females to learn to skate. Kind of our way to balance out the skateboard universe. Now we no longer feel like outsiders. We’re free to just get out there, have fun, get our workout and therapy on wheels. We still try to be role (roll) models for younger girls. I think that’s always been important to our group but possibly more now, since most of us from the early years are now old enough to be grandmothers or great-grandmothers. Maybe we should change the name from Mighty Mamas to Mighty Mentors! 

As far as the event goes, I am starting to step back (though not out!). Hailey Villa very generously offered to help me co-direct the Mighty Mama Skate-O-Rama this year. She and our board of directors have been a great help. It’s not a huge event, but it does take a lot of time and energy to make it happen, so having that support really saved me this year. 

And the future? It’s a little hard to say right now since we’re in something of a transition phase, but I’m pretty sure it’s only going to get better and better! 

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