RIDE ‘EM TILL THE WHEELS FALL OFF
By Neal Kearney @split_peak_soup
It is first light at the Seascape skatepark and there’s already a crew of pre-teen shredders doing laps across their cement playground on scooters and skateboards. A mom sits on a bench, face deep into social media, while “Over the Hill Bill” skates on wobbly knees as he attempts to keep pace with his daughter. Suddenly, a dark-haired women, old enough to be her grandma flies by, effortlessly gyrating in the tight transitions, utilizing banks to propel her up the intimidating wall ride. All eyes are now on this mystery ripper as she jams her way back.
As a kid, Oyamas brother built a skateboard at Aptos Junior High, which he began using in the driveway. She would spend hours riding that board, and her parents recognized her passion for, and enchantment, with skateboarding and decided to buy her a real skate from O’Neill Surf Shop
“I’ll never forget that board,” recalls Oyama
“It was a Bain Skateboard with Cadillac Wheels that costed $24.95”
At the time, skating wasn’t much of a sport, let alone one where there were many females involved, yet the Oyama’s supported their daughter’s love for skating, as when they were the same age they were being held at WW2 Japanese-American internment camps-three years taken away from their childhood, where they had no choice to go out and play.
“Because of what they went through they pushed me at an early age to enjoy me life,” Oyama says with pride.
She got good enough to try out for the NHS skate-team, which consisted of skating a bank behind where the Boardroom stands today. Novak and S. ended up handing her a few skates and she’s been representing Santa Cruz and Independent Trucks ever since.
She entered her first contest when she was 15, the Capitola Classic.
“It was the fastest and steepest hill I’d skated. I ended up crashing, scoring a mean road-rash that skinned up my elbow,” remembers Oyama.
“It was still so fun! I placed 2nd and still have pictures from that race!”
It wouldn’t be her last photo, either. Her father, who shot professionally, would shoot most of her slalom races. He was responsible to drive her to Southern California for events, although he may have had a bit of extra motivation.
“He’d drop me off at the skatepark, golf all day, and then pick me up—sometimes three days in a row!”
While Oyama’s forte were snake runs and bank slaloms, she did compete in some vert events as well, such as Winchester, which happened to be her favorite pool.
“I rode some of my best runs because of the adrenaline with all the people, and the whole contest atmosphere,” she remembers.
It wasn’t long, however, until she decided to stick to timed events, due to some suspected judging bias, she’d encountered at certain events.
“It wasn’t always about who was the better skater,” she recalls, regretfully.
Since then, she’s only competed in slalom events, a high-speed, high-stakes form of skateboarding that demands quick reflexes and nerves of steel. The only major injury was a mild concussion and road rash at age 19 when she took a spill during the Capitola Classic.
“I slid twenty-five feet down the hill on my shorts,” she remembers fondly.
Now, Oyama has been skateboarding for over 45 years, still competing. She looks at legends like Tony Alva still shredding into old age.
“I don’t rip like that but my slalom racing is a lot faster and aggressive than when I was younger. The hills they put the races on is a lot steeper and the equipment has gotten better. I still thrive off the adrenaline rush I get from going fast,” admits Oyama.
Apart from skateboarding, graphic design has been her life’s other passion and a means to support herself. She designed the Beckmen’s Bread logo and helped Jimbo Phillips paint the wave at Mike Fox park. She founded Maximum Impact Design in 1987, a professional design service for action sports and lifestyle brands.
She started a Crossfit/Skateboarding inspired brand called “Badass Skatemom” that she is very proud of. She creates Crossfit signage, tank tops, and stickers that say “Girls Kick Ass”, as well as her best-selling Ninja Mermaid gripping a jump rope and kettlebell. She wants to empower women and give them the support she felt lacking in her youth.
“I remember not being spoken to; and I know that a few hoots or words of encouragement go a long way”.