Peggy Oki was the only female member of the legendary Z-Boys, the team from Santa Monica and Venice, California that revolutionized skateboarding as a sport in the 1970s.
Their surfer-like style became iconic for exuding grace and power, which was unprecedented at the time. That same style and the mesmerizing skateboarding tricks that it spawned became the standard in the skating world.
Such showmanship invigorated the sport and gave birth to the skateboarding culture we know today. Competitions such as the X Games and upcoming Olympics in 2020 were made possible by the culture that the Z-Boys nurtured for decades.
While dominated by men, the skateboarding scene was given tremendous flair by Oki back in the day. When the Z-Boys made their competitive debut at the 1975 Del Mar Nationals, Peggy Oki immediately stood out, winning first place in the women’s freestyle category.
In a recent interview with Popsugar
, Oki shared that she was not particularly focused on the impact that she and her group were creating at the time.
“I was doing something that I really loved doing. I didn’t really think about, ‘gee, I’m the only girl on the team, where are my girlfriends,’ or anything like that. I was just doing it,” she was quoted as saying. She shared that the team’s focus then was mostly on “skating the banks and pulling off moves and having a good time.”
Oki, whose Japanese parents escaped from Hiroshima to the U.S. during the war, joined the Z-Boys when she was a teenager. She recalled that at the time, she was already used to engaging in a sports landscape that mostly attracted boys.
“I was riding Schwinn bicycles over dirt mounds back then,” she noted. “For me to be in a male-dominated sport, it wasn’t really that new to me.”
Oki, who is now an environmental activist, further states how she came to love skateboarding in her youth.
“I love the motion, the flow, the movement of skateboarding. I even love the sound of skateboard wheels,” she said.
In 2020, the sport will finally make its Olympic debut at the Tokyo Games. According to Peggy, she is still unsure how the sport’s inclusion in the Olympics would impact the skateboarding scene as a whole.
“I’m not sure what it’s going to do. I think it’s going to spark some more curiosity,” she noted. “It will be interesting to see how many people, after seeing these things in the Olympics, are going to go, ‘Well I’m going to go out and buy a skateboard.'”
Oki hopes that young girls would also be encouraged to take up skateboarding.
“I think that young girls should try skateboarding, or anything that seems like it’s going to be something fun that they’ll be interested in doing,” she added.
Now 63, Oki noted that she keeps herself fit by practicing yoga and rock-climbing. Oki also holds public speaking engagements to inspire others who want to lead a more fulfilling life.