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Skateboard Mom

This is Diana Nyad for KCRW, and this is The Score.

It-s early May which for sports fans means the NBA is sizzling toward the final match-up. Hockey players are skating their way toward the coveted Stanley Cup. The pro golf tour is in full swing.

This Sunday there-s a lesser known event, happening right here in our own back yard. It-s a Mother-s Day celebration, more for participants than spectators. Actually that-s the point. It-s called Mighty Mama Skate-O-Rama. Middle-aged moms will be popping ollie-s , walking the dog, and spinning 360-s down at the Laguna Niguel Skatepark on Sunday and, trust me, this is not some meek, take-it-slow, it-s-just-good-to-get-some-exercise bunch. I went down to the park last week-end to check them out.

The Laguna Niguel Park is a series of more and more steeply graded bowls, along with series of steps, and rails and flats. As I approach, I see kids of all ages, more boys than girls, careening around, trying their tricks. Then a flash of red shorts and long blond hair zooms by me, down into the deepest bowl, up around the edge, smooth as butter, catching a little air up onto the top flat, and then makes some slick slalom moves back toward me. It turns out this is 43-year-old Laura Thornhill Caswell who 30 years ago was the best girl skateboarder in the world. Laura was a maverick back then, hanging with the Beach Boys, breaking ground in a new sport where boys ruled. She was the star of the week-end competitions at places called The Funnel, The Reservoir and Skatetopia. And, as seems to be the case with all these moms, Laura is also surfer, biker, and general fearless wonder. A badly dislocated elbow back in -77 slowed her down but, years later, that free spirit welled up and beckoned Laura back to skating. She loves to recount what she calls the -old school- days. Today, everything is -rad-. If you aren-t hip enough to figure it out, that means radical. Laura laughs remembering the Old School phrase -pulling a Mr. Wilson-. That-s when your board would fly up in front of you, as if you had slipped on a banana peal, as did Mr. Wilson when he-d come out his front door and slip on one of Dennis the Menace-s toys.

Now, Isabelle Caudle, 43, is truly hard core. She-s got two kids, 13 and 11. And downhill is her specialty. Isabel flies down a 10-mile stretch, hitting speeds of 40 mph. Every 10 to 15 seconds during these death-defying runs, she throws in what they call a -pendulum slide- whereby she deftly flips the board 180 degrees, which slows her instantaneously to about 2 mph, then presses downhill again until the speed is almost out of control. Then time for another pendulum slide. Isabel says there-s no turn-on like riding the concrete wave.

The leader of this pack of skateboarding moms is Barbara Odanaka. She not only skates the parks. She rides her board from her kitchen to the living room. As Barbara puts it: -What else are hardwood floors for?- Barbara is 41 and says in her day skating was a way of life. Besides the parks, she and her friends would drive around and get out and slide when they-d find an empty pool or reservoir. The world was their playground.

In the early -80-s, the sport cooled off and many of the parks around the country closed. But by the -90-s the fever for street skating heated up and now parks are resurfacing, too.

Not only is a new generation of kids popping ollie-s, but the girls of the -70-s are back out in force as well. How about you? Does the rebel still stir within you? Get down to Laguna Niguel this Sunday and mix in with some real active moms. There-s info at SkateboardMom.com. And Happy Mother-s Day, dude.

This is Diana Nyad for KCRW, and that-s The Score.

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