Pro Skateboarder Cindy Whitehead Talks Style, The Smithsonian and More

I caught up with our resident style’n guru Cindy Whitehead aka The SportsStylist® to learn a bit more about her life as a professional skateboarder. Cindy has a no BS approach to life and she’s the epitome of what living hardbody is all about. She’s one of the coolest people you’ll ever meet and reminds us all to follow your passions and do what you love. Cindy doesn’t just say it, she lives it.




Cindy has a hundred and one things going on and she was kind enough to do this interview with us. She talks about what it’s like being a female athlete, her own style, life as a stylist, skateboarding down the 405 highway, her own skateboard, The Smithsonian and more.


Cindy Whitehead

Currently Reside in:
Hermosa Beach, California – the small beach town I grew up in!

You started skateboarding at a young age… Who helped you get started in skateboarding?

I asked for a board for my birthday because I saw people doing it and photos in magazines. Then once I started skating on the streets of Hermosa, the pier and the strand – local guys I hung out with encouraged/pushed me.

cindy whitehead skateboarderDid your parents approve of your skating passion?
They kind of realized that at a young age I kind of did my own thing. I had been living /traveling in a VW van with my mom and brother for over a year in Mexico & Guatemala when I was nine so “being yourself” was encouraged. And my grandparents lived nearby and they were my biggest supporters!

Do you still skateboard today?
Absolutely! I don’t drop into pools and skate vert like I did back in the day anymore but I do ride banked walls, cruise the street, as well as the strand by my house, and have fun.

How does one turn pro in the world of skateboarding?
You compete at the amateur level, practice hard, get some sponsors, win some contests and when you or your sponsors feel you are ready, you enter the pro division at a contest – which means there is prize money rather than just product when you win.

Once you turn pro in skateboarding are you always considered a pro?

Yes, you never go back to amateur status. Later when you stop competing you may still be referred to as a Pro Skater, OG Pro Skater, or a former pro skater – depending on who is talking about you.

Are there different divisions in pro skateboarding? Give the 411 on skateboarding for dummies, like me.
There are women & men’s divisions. Sometimes if there are not enough women competing the women compete with the guys in an “open pro division”. Then there are also types of skateboarding, like street, downhill, vert etc. and each discipline has its own pro division, but some people skate/excel in more than one category. Like my friend Judi Oyama, she is an old school pro skater in slalom & downhill as well as vert.

Who were your first sponsors?
My first big sponsors were Sims Skateboards, Tracker Trucks, Flyaway helmets and Puma Tennis Shoes

What advice would you give young skaters on getting sponsored?
I’d say it’s not all about getting sponsored; it’s about skating because you LOVE it. But to answer the question – sponsors look for someone who rides consistently, shows up on time to demos, contests and photo shoots and is going to show off their product well.

Do you remember your first magazine feature and what it was?

Oh yeah. It was a 2 page article and a centerfold in a skateboarding Magazine. I was grounded for a month at the time for ditching school to do a photo shoot, so when the magazine called my house to tell me that I had the centerfold my mom answered the said “that’s nice, but she won’t be able to see it until she is done being grounded in 10 more days”. Nice…

HaHaHa! That’s awesome.

cindy-whitehead7Cindy Whitehead Skateboarding magazine feature

Were there many girls skateboarding at the time you started?

There were not a ton of girls but there were enough to have pro and amateur divisions at most big contests. We were so spread out geographically that most of us rarely skated with or saw another girl skating vert at our home skatepark so coming together for contests was great! I met one of my close friends Judi Oyama at one of these events – in fact it was Winchester Skatepark and it was the contest I turned Pro at back when I was about 16 years old.

It’s stereotypical for men to look at women as lesser than in the world of sports, were there guys who were supportive of you and the other women in skateboarding?
I would say back in my day skateboarding if you gave respect and charged hard you gained respect from the guys. I never felt that the guys I skated with treated me as anything other than one of them. They never said, “let the girl drop in” or gave me preferential treatment – and I really appreciate that. It meant I was 100% accepted.

Did you sneak into pools and places you weren’t supposed to be in to skate?
Hell yes! Backyard pools, running and jumping fences and when the police arrived & if you didn’t run fast enough, or were unlucky, they sat you down on the curb with your hands under your butt and either wrote you up or called your parents or maybe on a good day, let you go with a warning. We got also got shot at with buckshot on the Indian Reservation when we snuck in to skate the legendary Arizona Pipes.

That sounds like quite the adventure!

What’s the thrill behind skateboarding or is it something you never fully understand until you do it?
I think it’s like anything you love – you crave it. For me it’s been about mastering a trick after falling hard hundreds of times trying it over and over again, the freedom of going fast, floating in the air when doing airs, hanging with good friends and pushing each other. Skateboarders are family for life. You can go anywhere in the world and say you are a skateboarder and I guarantee someone will have your back and welcome you in.cindy-whitehead1

There are photos of you rocking huge headphones while skating. What were you listening to?
Since they were “radio” headphones back then it would be anything from REO Speedwagen and the Beach Boys to Heart, Aerosmith and Led Zepplin. I wasn’t too into punk.

Are women getting more coverage in skateboarding now or are they still left in the shadows like the early days?
I think the women are getting more & more coverage for sure. They are excelling faster than ever, and banding together to make sure that 2013 is the year of the “Girl”. There are now more competitions, they are raising their visibility and are a force to be reckoned with. Amelia Brodka’s new movie UNDEREXPOSED is also something to look out for in women’s skateboarding.

Was Dogtown and Z-Boys an accurate portrayal of the 70s skating scene?
It was a fun movie made by friend and fellow skater Stacy Perlata, and it was about of one small part of the skateboarding scene during the 1970’s. It wasn’t meant to be an overall view of skateboarding – it was about the Dogtown crew. If you watch Stacy’s new movie, THE BONES BRIGADE you will see an amazing inside view of another part of skateboard history – the Powell-Peralta Bones Brigade Team. There are more movies coming out about different teams/parts of skateboard history and if we piece together important information from each of those, we can get a more complete portrayal on skateboarding history as a whole – and that itself is not a movie has been done. Yet.

Are there any girls that stand out today and ones to watch?

Absolutely! So many great girls are skating/competing today – Lizzie Armanto, Alana Smith, Julz Lynn, Nora Vasconcellos , Leticia Bufoni, Mimi Knoop, Amelia Brodka, Allysha Bergado, Amee Jay, Katherine Folsom, & Jean Rusen, are just a few names to watch for in the women’s division. The younger girls like Poppy Starr Olsen, Annika Vrklan and her sister Klara, Bryce Ava Wettstein, Jordyn Barratt are some that I am keeping a close eye on. See how long the list is and I haven’t even named them all! That makes me smile.

Wow, that’s awesome.

Does skateboarding still mean freedom to you? How is skateboarding a lifestyle?
Yes absolutely. Every time I skate or am just around people that skate I feel like I am “home”. Family. Love. Those are all things that come to mind. It’s a mindset we grow up with and an understanding and a deep appreciation of one another as skaters and people.

What was your “style” of skateboarding?
Skating pools and half-pipes I had to be a bit more aggressive and charge the wall but I also tried to have a smooth style when I skated – that was and still is, something that I thcindy-whitehead5ink is important.

What would you typically be rocking at the skatepark for a wardrobe?
Shorts (padded if I was trying a new trick) OP cord shorts if not. A fitted team tee or striped short sleeve, low socks, Pumas or Nikes (before I was sponsored by Puma), red knee and elbow pads and a bad ass flyaway helmet if I was skating in a skatepark.

So you were the stylish one at the park…?
I think we were all pretty stylish – even the guys! If you look at mainstream fashion now, they are constantly referencing and emulating those looks, so we all must have been doing something right to be trendsetters!

Do you feel like your work as a stylist was influenced by skateboarding?
Absolutely on certain shoots, like the commercial I just did for a big shoe company. It was all about the skater lifestyle and influence via the styling so you can imagine what a rad day I had working on that!

You keep a blog where you identify trends and cool shit. ( It seems like skateboarding is “Fashionably cool” lately. Do you like the integration and is it an accurate portrayal?
I think anytime a sport like ours is being looked to set trends and used as a fashion reference, it only helps us in the long run. I do find it interesting when I see something in Vogue where the model is in high heels and a beautiful dress holding a skateboard – but being in the fashion industry, I embrace it all, and I understand the fashion world’s fascination with it.

Skateboarding is often associated or thought of as a California sport. Were there any other hotbeds for skateboarding in the 70s?
There were kids skateboarding all over – Florida was a big area for awesome skateboarders – my Sims teammate, Mike Folmer came out of Florida and he was a huge pro skater, as did legendary freestyle genius, Rodney Mullen. Places like Cherry Hill, NJ and Apple Skatepark in Columbus, Ohio also had amazing skaters. These areas had a couple of the best skateparks outside of California! California had the most parks and the main magazines were based here, so yes the coverage was greater BUT skateboarding was happening all over the USA.

We used to see “no skateboarding” signs everywhere – do you still see those around?
I unfortunately still do. Even right near where I live. I am hoping in time that will change.

You skateboarded down the 405 FWY during Carmegeddon. Was that the biggest adrenaline rush for you as a skateboarder?

It was one of them for sure. And it was a hell of a lot of FUN. The planning, the trying – we tried for over 2 hours before we could safely access the 405 fwy and not get caught. Finally getting to skate it was mind blowing. I have lived in LA all my life and I spend more time than I’d like to on that fwy so it really felt like a F-You of sorts over the usual traffic I encounter daily.

405 skateboarding, cindy whitehead

Cindy skateboarding down the 405 interstate while closed. #crazyCool

It received quite a bit of press and you didn’t get arrested so that’s a score. LOL! Speaking of F-You…You have your own skateboard now “Girl is not a 4 letter word” a collaboration between you and Dusters California – what does that mean to you and how did the idea come about?
The idea came about one day over lunch at my house with Michael Brooke who is the owner/editor of Concrete Wave Magazine and is also the founder of Longboarding For Peace, and Nano Nobrega who is the creative director at Dusters California skateboards. We were all talking about the cool stuff Longboarding for Peace is doing all over the world, and Michael suggested that Dusters do a collab with me and we tie it in to LB4P and any other non-profit I wished to help out. So that’s where the idea was born and 9 months later here we are! I am very excited about this collab as I believe in everything LB4P is doing and being able to also contribute to GRO (Girl Riders Organization) is awesome too as many more girls will be able to try out and/or continue their love of skateboarding, surfing, snowboarding etc.

How involved were you in the creation of the board and what’s your favorite part of it?
I was very lucky to be involved in every aspect of the design process while working closely with Nano Nobrega in making this board. The phrase “Girl is NOT a 4 Letter Word” is something I thought up and have been using for awhile now and I like the strong message it sends, the artwork & lettering was all hand done by me via pencil, paintings and ink and the message on the tail of board is a combination of phrases I like/say often. We discussed colors and board shape + size at great length – I really wanted a cruiser board that everyone could easily ride but that could also be ridden in a skatepark (old school style!) if you wanted to. Some of my favorite things are the gold trucks that are completely badass (you don’t see too many boards with gold trucks out there), the little skull and the words “Girl is NOT a 4 Letter Word” in the wheels, the skull embedded in the grip tape, and the Longboarding for Peace logo as well as GRO on the tail in metallic gold. It’s these elements of design that set Dusters apart from a lot of other boards on the market. And I am stoked they went the extra mile for me in every part of the design process to produce a board that I am 100% stoked with.

A portion of the board sales will go towards GRO “Girl Riders Organization”. Why that organization and where can people find more about it?
GRO ( helps girls of all ages get into action sports so if you wanted to learn to ride a skateboard, snowboard or surf you could show up at a GRO clinic and have people help you and provide all the gear so you could try that sport out in a safe, female friendly, environment. GRO has done a lot to teach young girls about the female riders that have come before them and to help further women in action sports, and I fully support that message.

Where can people buy the board?

The board is being stocked at skateboard shops all over the USA and abroad. Boards are hitting the stores as early as June 15 in some parts of the USA! You can follow us on Facebook at Girl is NOT a 4 Letter Word or via the Dusters California website to stay up to date on where boards are being sold.

It will also be part of the VANS WARPED tour, right? What’s the skinny on that?
Yes! We will be giving away 1 board at each stop on the Vans Warped Tour All you have to do is pick up a “passport” at the Concrete Wave/Longboarding for Peace booth, get 6 non profit booths at the Warped Tour to stamp it to be entered to win. I am really stoked that the board is part of the tour this year!

You’ll be speaking at INNOSKATE and be part of the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC, along with Tony Hawk. That’s pretty rad. How did that come about?

The amazing people at the Smithsonian Museum (Jeff, Betsy, Jane & Kate) have been so awesome to all us skaters over the past couple years and I can’t say enough nice things about them – I feel that they are now part of the skateboarding family – they know us all that well. Their team flew out here again recently for IASC & the Skateboarding Hall of Fame & the next week they called me up & asked me to speak at Innoskate (not email text, etc.) How professional and nice is that? I was so excited – what they are doing on June 22 is part of skateboarding history. There will be a 1/2 pipe set up in front of the museum; guys and girls will be doing demos on the ramp all day. Various speakers will discuss skateboarding, innovation, fashion, and the future of skateboarding and everyone is going to have an AMAZING time! For the National Museum of American History and the Smithsonian’s Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation to put on this huge unprecedented event is really something you don’t want to miss. You can actually read more about it here:

What items will the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History’s sports collection be accepting from you on June 22?
I am donating quite a few of my late 1970’s & early 1980’s skate gear and apparel as well as the prototype of the new “Girl is NOT a 4 Letter Word” board and all it’s original artwork. I am really honored to have some of my personal skateboard history be accepted into this amazing museum!

Cindy's Smithsonian donation.

Cindy’s Smithsonian donation.

That’s a HUGE honor. Do you have your speech written or will you wing it?

I have a general idea of what I’m going to be talking about for Innoskate but yes, some of it I will be winging so it feels more authentic and that’s how I think I work best.

You also have your own shirts / clothing coming out, right?

The t-shirt line is new, and we are just getting started, but we have gotten great feedback so far on the prototype’s we have made. They say things like “Pretty Radical” and of course “Girl is NOT a 4 Letter Word”.

When will that launch and where can people find out more about it?

The hats and t-shirts will be released in the next couple of weeks and can be found on the new website and via our facebook page.

Thanks for your time Cindy. You’re an inspiration! I really appreciate you sharing a bit of your story here on Hardbody.

Thank you so much for having me on Hardbody, it is an honor! And I’d like to give a shout out to the amazing people & companies who made all of the above possible; Longboarding 4 Peace, Dusters California, Concrete Wave Magazine, Dwindle Inc., Vans Warped Tour, the Smithsonian Museum, GRO, my awesome husband, and every girl and guy out there that loves skateboarding. xx

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