PLEASANTON -- Laura Turner DeMott was a skateboarding trailblazer when she was a teen, but its been nearly a half-century since she has experienced the thrill of the ride.
The Pleasanton woman was stunned when she found out the passion of her youth led to her being inducted into the International Skateboarding Hall of Fame.
"It's so surreal the way the whole thing happened," DeMott said. "This is amazing, and I don't know why it's happening, but I'm just going to go with it."
DeMott, a dancer, surfer and retired teacher, got a call out of the blue this spring from a childhood friend and fellow skateboard team member, Cliff Coleman. The two hadn't spoken in decades, yet Coleman fondly recalls the skateboard skills DeMott pioneered in her teens.
"The truth is that Laura DeMott was the greatest female skater of them all in the clay-wheel era of the 1960s," Coleman recalled from his Berkeley home near where the friends grew up together. "She deserved to be in (the hall of fame) and will be forever."
Coleman, who still competes in "the old guys category," nominated DeMott to the hall of fame to ensure that her place in skateboarding history would not be forgotten.
"Not many people know the history of what she was involved in back in the day." Coleman said proudly. "I'm one of the few people alive who has any credibility in the sport, so I lobbied for her. It was a big deal. There were many, many competitors back then. For the era, she was the best of her time. She deserves her place in history. To see Laura finally be inducted to the hall of fame was great."
DeMott and more than a dozen of her family and friends made the trek to Southern California in May for the induction ceremonies. The Northern California native's skills will be forever commemorated at the Skateboarding Hall of Fame & Museum in Simi Valley.
DeMott was a kid of just 14 when she first rode a skateboard. She took up the new sport with the goal of honing her surfing skills.
"My neighborhood guy friends and I and one of my girlfriends were all into surfing," she recalled. "Skateboarding developed out of wanting to do something similar when the waves were down and you couldn't go surfing. I took a two-by-four, and I split my metal roller skate and made my own skateboard."
The spunky teen used her homemade skateboard to fly down the steep hills in Berkeley and practice her tricks on the playground at Whittier Elementary School. She ultimately perfected her handstand on the skateboard and the 720 -- a full double-circle spin on the back wheels only.
"We had little skateboarding safaris where we'd try to find cool concrete structures," she said. "We were trying to find interesting structures to throw our tricks."
DeMott and her friends were featured in a popular skateboarding magazine, earning her $15 that she put toward buying her first surfboard. Her male friends formed a team they called the Topsiders, named after the trendy shoes all the cool kids wore. That team was invited to perform at a boat show at the Cow Palace, where the skilled skaters caught the eyes of talent scouts.
Hobie, the famous surfboard brand, and Vita-Pakt orange juice sponsored a Southern California skateboarding team and wanted to form a Northern California team. The Topsiders were chosen, along with DeMott and another talented female skateboarder.
"Once we were chosen as the team, they supplied us with all of our equipment," DeMott said. "They gave us jackets with the embroidered logo on the back. They would take us to shopping malls and places to get kids to come out and watch us do tricks to encourage the sale of skateboards."
The Super Surfers team, as they were known, hit the big time in May 1965 when they traveled to Anaheim for the first International Skateboarding Championships. DeMott was only 15 when she took the world stage to show off the skills she had worked so hard to perfect.
She walked away with the women's title and was even featured on ABC's "Wide World of Sports." Her performance can be found online on YouTube.
"I was just a kid out there having fun," DeMott said, still clearly amazed at her own skills. "At the time, I didn't think I was going to win the competition because it was such a big event. I didn't realize I was that good. I was just having fun and doing my thing, and it ended up that I won it. I was shocked."
"You had to throw as many difficult tricks as you could," she added. "The main reason I won was the trick riding. I threw two 720s. I also did a handstand, and I threw another 720."
It wasn't long after that breathtaking performance that DeMott walked away from skateboarding for good. She continued to surf, but turned her passion toward dance and eventually became a schoolteacher.
Christa Winquist, DeMott's only child, knew about her mom's glory days of skateboarding, but she never fully grasped her mother's outstanding skills until the hall of fame came knocking.
"She used to let me ride her championship skateboard," Winquist recalled. "They had clay wheels and wooden boards. I would play with her trophies. She told me (about her past), but as a kid, I didn't put two and two together. I thought these were just cool toys and my mom was an awesome skateboarder."
Winquist is proud of her mother's accomplishments for the widespread recognition and in setting an example for DeMott's three grandkids, particularly her only granddaughter.
"This is such a cool thing for women and my little girl to see that she was the first woman to do this internationally," she said. "I'm excited this is finally happening. She's awesome. Sometimes you don't think of your parents having a life before you. It's cool for me to know she has such a super-cool back-story."
DeMott is taking the accolades in stride as she enjoys her retirement, her family and her latest passion, golf.
"It's really surreal and random the way the whole thing came down," she said. "Being a person of faith, I just have to believe that God has something in mind for me."