Girl is NOT a Four-Letter Word

A pro skateboarder and stylist shares her story on how fellow South Bay women helped pave the way for her success.

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    Cindy Whitehead

When I was 16 I used to wonder what led me to become a female pro skateboarder and why I was a girl who didn’t really care about following most of society’s ideas of what a girl “should be.” My grandmother would smile and say to me, “It’s in the water.” 

What I think she meant is that there are a lot of trailblazing women here in the South Bay, maybe because of the beautiful ocean that’s right out our front door, but also perhaps because of our nurturing, small-town environment.

I could have been labeled the girl who was “weird” if I had grown up elsewhere, but here in Hermosa Beach it was different. I was following in the footsteps of girls like 1930s surfer Mary Kerwin, who rode the green, glassy waves right off the pier with the boys who had funny names like Velzy, Hop and Doc. 

I had girls who came before me like Bunny Seawright, who in 1935 aquaplaned from Catalina to Manhattan Beach in a race against the local boys, and Rosemary Reimers-Rice, who in 1962 was the first female surfer on the famous Dewey Weber surf team. I had girls at my school like Liz Benavidez, April Hawley, Susie Rampe and Michelle Kolar, all who surfed or skated as hard as the boys, and it was considered absolutely normal. Here in the South Bay, I fit right in. 

It wasn’t until I started venturing out of the South Bay and traveled for skate contests and tours that I got the stares and the whispers of, “Wow! She’s really good … for a girl!” My only thought was, why wasn’t I just good, why was the girl part added into the comment? I’d just smile and rip all the harder and turn my headphones way up to drown out the distractions.

I kept on doing what I loved and fighting for what I wanted. I skated hard to help dispel any myth that girls might be “less than” boys in any way. I cheered on the girls around me, firmly believing that giving another girl your support does not diminish who you are in any way. It only makes us all stronger and better. 

I learned all these lessons and gained strength and determination from the South Bay women who came before me, as well as those girls who took a chance on their own dreams and surfed and skateboarded right there beside me. 

I feel very lucky to have grown up here with such awesome female role models like Rosemary, Bunny and Mary. And as I watch this generation of strong young girls making their own mark here in the beach area, I am very proud to say that I’m a GIRL from the South Bay.

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