Flow State

(That awesome photo of Peggy Oki is by Kevin Steele.)

This wonderful article about former Zephyr skateboarder Peggy Oki took me back a few years. When I was in the 7th, 8th, and maybe 9th grades, I fancied myself a skateboarder. I bought skateboarding magazines and cut out amazing action shots of all the cool “Z-Boys,” which I taped on the walls of my bedroom. My first skateboard was a molded blue plastic toy, but eventually I saved enough money (from allowances, babysitting, and a birthday) to buy an actual Hobie Skatepark Rider. I spent way more money on that board than I planned to, letting the sales guy (who clearly saw a sucker) talk me into customizing it with super-flexible name-brand “trucks” and grippy polyurethane wheels a good bit fancier than I needed for the terrain I skated – which was mostly my suburban Columbus, Ohio driveway, and newly paved roads in our subdivision.

The low pivot turn (there was undoubtedly a name for it) that looked so fine and easy when Peggy Oki did it as a member of the Zephyr skateboard team in the 70s…
Peggy Oki, carving up the lip of a southern California swimming pool.

My then-best friend Linda and I took Polaroid Zip “action” photos of each other trying to look rad. I could manage a reliable kickturn, and could Hang Ten for about six seconds. I tried to copy an iconic Peggy Oki move and scraped a huge patch of my shin raw; it took years for the scar to fade. Eventually, an indoor skatepark opened about 20 minutes away from our neighborhood. My mother drove us over to spend a couple hours there, and I discovered that I was not nearly as fearless in reality as I was in my head. I tried a couple of ramps and moguls, but when it came to “dropping” into the empty pool (skating over the lip and down the side), where so many of those outrageous action shots on my bedroom wall were taken, I froze. I couldn’t do it. I can’t remember if Linda did; I was too humiliated. I sheepishly slid down the side of the pool on my butt, clutching my fancy skateboard, and wheeled around the floor, trying to stay out of the way of the Real Skaters. I still skated a little after that park visit – using my board around the neighborhood streets. But I was a little deflated: deep down, I knew I was a weenie.

Peggy Oki, still supremely “rad.”

Peggy Oki was never a weenie. She was one of the first “girl” stars of the male-dominated early skateboard scene (1970s), and she has stayed out in front of every challenge she set for herself. Her knees now pretty well annihilated by skating, she is still a surfer, an artist, an activist, and a rock climber who says that –  at age 63 – she’s “rock climbing harder than I ever have.” I want to be like Peggy Oki when I grow up: fit, fearless, fabulous.

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