64-year-old veteran skateboarder defies expectations

CBS News

Skateboarding has exploded in recent years with an estimated 85 million people worldwide grabbing a board.

Around 75% of skateboarders are 18 years old and under, but in Santa Cruz, California, a veteran skater is defying the expectations of age.

Judi Oyama is a world champion and at 64 years old, she said she feels stronger than ever. In her 50-year professional career, she has traveled around the world competing. So far this season, she's ranked second in the world in slalom ahead of teenagers who are a quarter of her age.

"When I go to the airport or I'm like getting rides and I have skateboards, they go, 'Oh where's your grandkids or your kids?' And I'm like, 'Uh, no, these are mine,'" Oyama said.

Oyama was a kid herself when her brother built her first skateboard in 1973. From there, it was her parents who encouraged her love of skateboarding, at a time when so few girls were in the sport.

Oyama said she used to struggle to be her own advocate for equal pay and opportunities in such a male-dominated sport.

"When they first did some of the X Games events, ... the women's first prize was $2,500," she said. "They were giving men $2,500 to show up and skate. They didn't even have to place and they were getting the same amount of money that the women were getting for winning the event."

Oyama, who teaches amateurs how to skate, encourages more women to pick up a board. She sees a bright future for women in the sport as she has been pushing the limits for decades.

"I think it's headed in a really good space. I think that it'll just be natural and normal for a young girl to say, 'I want to skateboard and I want to compete.'"

But Oyama herself isn't slowing down anytime soon. This fall, she's heading to the World Skate Games in Rome.

"I think I take every day as a gift and I try to get more out of a day than I think most people.  I think I took skateboarding as some fun thing that not everyone gets to do," she said. "I just feel like I wanted to get the most out of it, but I never thought I would still be getting the most out of it."

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