Wendy Bull really wanted to play Little League. But in the 1960s, girls weren’t allowed to play. So at the tender age of 11 or 12, she took the wheels off her roller skates, nailed them onto a flat piece of board, and went skateboarding.
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Only the fourth woman inducted into the Hall
by Samantha White
“I loved baseball, and I couldn’t play,” Bull said. “But no one ever told me I couldn’t skateboard, so I did.”
Inducted May 9, Bull skated her way into the International Skateboarding Hall of Fame (ISHOF). She was honored at the 4th Annual Skateboarding Hall of Fame and Icon Awards Ceremony, which was held at the Sheraton Park Hotel in Anaheim, Calif.
“It was really cool,” Bull said regarding the ceremony. “I didn’t expect as much attention. A lot of people knew who I was. I had no idea that they would. It was amazing! Everywhere I walked around, people would walk up to me, especially the girls.”
Bull said she was surprised by the number of young, female skaters who thanked her for contributing to the sport, especially considering that she was just trying to have a good time.
“I did my best to have as much fun as I could,” she said. “I didn’t purposely make big splashes.”
But Bull obviously made a lasting impression.
According to the website ESPN.com, “The process for selection [of inductees] is fairly extensive.” International Association of Skateboard Companies (IASC) Director Josh Friedberg and ISHOF founder Todd Huber work with their organizations to “put together a nomination committee of 25 industry veterans, media and previous Hall-of-Famers.” The committee “votes on potential inductees and assembles a ballot with 10 names for each of three eras: 1960s, 1970s and 1980s—and five names for the women’s category. The ballot then goes out to 300 industry veterans to vote.” For the first time this year, the women’s category was split into two eras, which were the 1960s and the 1970s.
One of only four women inducted so far, Bull was recognized in the women’s 1960s category.
Bull grew up in the Pacific Palisades near Santa Monica, Calif., an area that she referred to as the “hotbed of skateboarding.” She and her older brother, 2012 Hall of Fame inductee Danny Bearer, skated the paved hills near Paul Revere Junior High, Brentwood Elementary and Bellagio Elementary schools, locations that later became iconic to skateboarders.
In “Scarred for Life: Eleven Stories about Skateboarders,” a book by Keith David Hamm, featured skater Jim Fitzpatrick was quoted as saying, “Going to Paul Revere [Junior High], going to Brentwood [Elementary], going to Bellagio [Elementary] was phenomenal. Going to Bellagio was like going to Waimia Bay or Sunset Beach –it was about getting to the bottom without dying.”
Bull explained that in addition to being steep, the pavement was riddled with cracks. She added that when she started skating, skateboard wheels were made of metal or clay and were much less forgiving than the urethane wheels used today.
“If you hit a pebble, the board would stop and you’d keep going,” she said.
Bull said modern skateboards also have sealed bearings on their wheels, making them “a lot safer and nicer.” She explained that on early skateboards, nuts used to fasten wheels onto a board would often tighten, preventing the wheels from spinning, or become too loose and fall out.
She recalled a time when her board got stuck in a crack, launching her into the air and causing her to flip and land on her “rear end.” However, she said she preferred this option to doing a “face plant.”
In addition to helping them turn sharper, Bull said urethane wheels allowed skaters to roll over the little rocks. She said her first set of urethane wheels were given to her when she was a member of the Hobie skateboard team. They were a welcomed gift.
“We were in heaven when those wheels came out,” Bull said. “It meant we could do a lot crazier stuff.”
In the early years, rather than going straight down a hill, skaters would serpentine to the bottom in a fluid movement, turning their skateboards like they were surfboards. In fact, early skateboarders were often referred to as “sidewalk surfers” because the tricks and maneuvers that they performed on a skateboard closely resembled surfing, and the rolling California hills echoed the swell of the waves surfed at nearby beaches.
“Back then skating and surfing were really connected,” Bull said. “All the moves that you would do on a skateboard were the same as you would do on a wave. Now the sports and tricks are completely different.”
In addition to kick turns, 360s and wheelies (now called manuals), Bull said early skateboarders did a lot of “walking moves,” attempting to get as close to the nose of the board as possible. A popular trick was the “nose wheelie,” which was a lot like “hanging ten” on a surfboard, a trick that was accomplished when surfers got all 10 of their toes over the nose of their board.
“Skateboarding is fun, but surfing is even better,” Bull said. “You are moving on something that’s moving. There’s no other sensation like it. Heaven is going to be endless waves and warm water—surfing is that much fun!”
She added, “I loved all sports. [Skateboarding] was just another sport to try to excel and get better at.” But she said skateboarding was “definitely a big part” of her life.
“Back then we were pioneers, trying and doing things that were never done before,” she said, adding that no one taught her how to do any of the tricks that she learned. “I taught myself. I watched other people and figured it out.”
Joining the team
Bull became so adept at skateboarding that her brother invited her to join the first ever Hobie skateboarding team.
“I think he was proud of me because I could skate as well as the rest of them,” she said. “My brother was the most graceful skateboarder, and he said the same thing about me. Back then, that was important.”
The 2013 induction ceremony program, features a quote from Bearer regarding Bull’s abilities.
“My sister was the most graceful [on the team] and had a moderation for stability and centering,” he said.
Bearer was originally a member of the Makaha skateboard team.
According to “Scarred for Life,” Makaha Skateboards was founded in 1963 by Larry Stevenson who also published Surfguide magazine. In the book, Fitzpatrick estimated that a “bona fide” Makaha skateboard team was formed by the summer of 1964, and he recalled Bearer as being one of the “main guys” on the team.
Bearer later joined the Hobie team, which was formed after the surf and skateboard company launched a partnership with Vita-Pakt Orange Juice (a company that was owned by the wealthy and famous Hilton hotel family). First-generation skateboarders Steve and Dave Hilton were also on the team.
“Steve and Dave Hilton are the sons of the Hilton hotel owner,” Bull explained. “They are Paris Hilton’s uncles.”
Although she was a member of the Hobie team, Bull said she didn’t consider herself a professional skateboarder because she wasn’t paid. However, Hobie supplied her with skateboards, and the team had matching uniforms.
Bull said the team would go to department stores that sold skateboards and “do tricks for the kids.” She said the team also performed tricks on television variety shows.
However, because Bull was the only female on the original Hobie team, she was excluded from some team activities.
For example, she said the boys got to go on a cross-country tour in a recreational vehicle, but she didn’t get to go because there wasn’t a female chaperone available.
“It wasn’t like I wasn’t as good as the boys,” Bull said.
But she did get to compete in contests.
Shortly after joining the team in 1965, Bull and her team competed in the International Skateboard Championships at La Palma Stadium in Anaheim, Calif. The televised competition was sponsored by the National Skateboard Championship Association. Bull was 13, and it was her first competition.
“Our team ended up winning the whole event,” Bull said, adding that, due to the victory, the Hobie team earned the title of national champions.
A video of Bull skateboarding in and being interviewed before the competition can be found at:
Because the competition took place years before Bull was married, she is called by her maiden name (Wendy Bearer) in the video.
Bull said she usually skated barefoot, but the Hobie team offered to buy her a pair of Vans skateboarding shoes before the competition. She said she was so excited to own a pair of the name-brand shoes that she didn’t care that they didn’t have any in her size, and she wore a pair that were one or two sizes too big for her in the competition.
Unlike fellow 2013 inductee Alan “Ollie” Gelfand, who invented the “ollie,” Bull said she never invented any tricks that were named after her. But she did have some specialty moves. For example, she said she could “handstand forever,” and she received three 10 scores in a contest held at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium (former location of the Academy Awards) in Santa Monica, Calif. for jumping over a moveable horizontal bar that was attached to two vertical posts.
“That was a big deal,” Bull said regarding her scores. “No one had ever seen that happen before, guys or girls.”
Bull said a photograph taken while she performed the trick showed that she was about four feet off of the ground when she cleared the bar.
The photograph was the inspiration for a painting of Bull that will be hung at the ISHOF in Simi Valley, Calif.
About the ISHOF
According to the 2013 induction ceremony program, the ISHOF “honors by enshrinement those individuals possessing exceptional skateboarding careers, as well as those whose body of work has effected positive development in the skateboarding industry. The museum, featuring over five decades of memorabilia including over 5,000 vintage skateboards, offers free admission and is open seven days a week.”
All proceeds from the Skateboarding Hall of Fame and Icon Awards Ceremony benefit the not-for-profit ISHOF, which offers safety demonstrations, has developed a mobile display showcasing the history of skateboarding, and offers clinics teaching skateboarding skills and safety. Proceeds also benefit the Go Skateboarding Foundation’s (GSF) Just One Board initiative.
According to the program, “Just One Board is a skateboard-recycling program created to benefit underprivileged youth, engage skateboarders with their local community, support skateboard retailers, and serve as the base of a campaign promoting the positive power of skateboarding.” The IASC and GSF collect, refurbish and distribute 1,000 complete skateboards to disadvantaged youth in a different city each year on June 21, which is Go Skateboarding Day. “Instead of millions of boards winding up in landfills every year, used skateboard equipment is being recycled into a community-building tool to effect positive change in cities all over the world.”
Life after Hobie
Bull modestly stated that she “won a few [skateboarding] contests here and there and then moved onto surfing,” as she and her brother were also members of the Hobie surf team.
But Bull’s years on the Hobie teams were short-lived.
“Once I went on to college, I just skated and surfed recreationally,” she said.
Today, Bull is a local substitute school teacher, wife and mother of two daughters, Erin and Victoria. She has lived in Harney County for more than 20 years, and said many of her local friends and acquaintances are surprised to learn about her skateboarding past.
Laughing, she asked, “What am I going to do, walk around with a sign on me that says, ‘I used to skateboard?’ ”
But Bull said she likes to skate on a long board with some of the kids that live near her home in Burns, and she still surfs whenever she gets an opportunity. In fact, she hit the beach while she was in California for the induction ceremony.
In her spare time, she also enjoys bicycling, skiing, camping, snowshoeing, fishing and photography. She and her husband are also planning a cross-country trip on a Harley-Davidson Ultra Limited touring bike this summer.