Laura Thornhill Caswell – Skateboard Champion & Hall of Famer

by | May 23, 2017 | Cover Story

Laura Thornhill Caswell was born and raised in Dallas, Texas. She was an avid roller skater as a young child. The day she saw a skateboard, something changed, and she knew she was destined to ride. Laura explained how she used to borrow the neighbors skateboard for a few days at a time because they always left it in the yard. She would practice in the driveway and on the sidewalk and taught herself how to kick turn. She had a natural aptitude and interest for it. Laura was a total tomboy and grew up doing every team sport imaginable! She excelled at them all and was highly competitive with the boys. Laura said, “what I liked most about skating was the sense of freedom and happiness that was triggered by the inherent balance that I had.”
In January 1974, the family relocated to Redondo Beach, California.  Laura had her 13th birthday coming up and all she wanted was a skateboard. Her wish came true and she got a Black Knight with black urethane wheels. Laura entered into a school skate contest in 8th grade and beat all the boys. This was a turning point and a confidence boost for her real passion. In 1975, Skateboarder magazine was a huge inspiration to her and it became her dream to appear in that specific magazine. Laura had entered into the Steve South Bay’s Skateboard contest in 1975, claiming both the first and second place. That day she was asked to be on one of the biggest skate teams in the world called, “Logan Earth Ski” which surpassed her initial hopes. Laura said, “ things just  blew up from there.” Within the next two weeks, she was on her way to Encinitas to shoot photos with Warren Bolster to be featured as the very first female to have a “Who’s Hot”  for the next issue of Skateboarder Magazine.
Laura was living her dream, winning and/or placing in the top three of every contest she entered. She even had a few World Champion titles. She had many different endorsements and plenty of sponsorship support. She had the honor of having the very first “Female Signature Model” skateboard. She also had the first Female Interview in Skateboarder Magazine as well as the distinction of having the first Centerfold for a female in a Skateboarding Magazine! It was from the 22 foot pipes in the Arizona desert. Not only was she featured in almost every issue of Skateboarder Magazine, considered the Bible of Skateboarding in the 1970’s, she won the 1977 Skateboarder of the Year Award, which was a Poll for favorite female skater. One of the most famous skaters of all time, Tony Alva, won the Poll for the guys. To say that life was good would be an understatement. Laura has been featured in countless articles, books, newspapers and magazines, television sports specials, films & even some stunt work. She is also featured in a newly released best selling book called “Game Changers: The Unsung Heroines of Sports History”  by Molly Schiot about game changing females in sports history. Laura was known for being an all-around skater, and exceled at everything: Freestyle, Downhill, Slalom, Skate parks, Pools, Pipes and always loved super smooth fresh black asphalt! Some of her favorite freestyle skate tricks were 360s, nose and tail wheelie’s, kick flips and space walks, but she always preferred riding pools, pipes, parks and anything that had a cool and smooth flow to it!
In 1978, Laura, suffered a fully dislocated left elbow, that was basically the beginning of the end of her competitive career, however, she loved to skate and remained active within the sport and continued to have a presence at skate events through 1980 when the Golden Era of Skateboarding came to a successful close. She had accomplished so many of the feats that she had set out to achieve, but at that point, Laura decided to pursue other dreams, goals and interests.
During the next several years, Laura worked at a record company, and then later for a lighting company on the closing ceremony extravaganza for the 1984 Summer Olympics. Her next move was working at the well known S.I.R Studio Instrument Rentals, booking all the rehearsal studios and soundstages and working on music videos. A few years later she and her husband and their partner built and opened up what would quickly become the premiere rehearsal studio facility in the world called Center Staging Musical Productions in Burbank. It specializes in state-of-the-art rehearsal studios and also had a beautiful Sound Stage. It was home to a cavalcade of stars with the biggest names in the music industry filling the studios daily. In addition to all of that, they also provided gear and backline production support for every award show on the planet from the Grammy’s to the Golden Globes, to the Country Music Awards, the Academy Awards, MTV Video Music Awards, American Music Awards… you name it, they did it!
Laura Thornhill Caswell has indeed had a colorful life and has experienced many wonderful achievements. In 2013, she was inducted into the Skateboarding Hall of Fame and has been the event coordinator and co producer for the SHOF Awards for the past four years. Needless to say, she is still very active within the skateboarding community and is still an all around athlete that excels in cycling, mountain biking, snow boarding, trail running and surfing and matt boarding that is like boogie boarding on steroids! She still enjoys riding her skateboard. In fact, Laura has her vintage signature Model Skateboard and photo on display at the Smithsonian American History Museum in Washington, D. C. She’s a living legend! She has inspired so many people along her path and has forever changed the game.
Today, Laura Thornhill Caswell is an on the go, eternally active and a very proud mom to her two amazing kids, her son Sage who is 28, and daughter Kylie who is 23. She is happily nestled in the Santa Clarita Valley where she calls home. Seven years ago she designed and built a dream home which took five years for its completion and had the time of her life pursuing her passion for design and architecture. Although Center Staging was sold about seven years ago, life is still very busy with family and friends. She is still heavily involved in skate culture and is looking forward to the 2020 Olympics with the inclusion of her beloved sport/lifestyle of skateboarding! In Laura’s own closing words, “I wake daily being full of gratitude in knowing that I have had an extremely blessed life and am forever thankful to still be an athlete and ever-evolving in as many ways possible!”

Laura Caswell is not only a legendary athlete, she has become art. Golden Globe Actress, Lena Dunham, has paid tribute to the Hall of Famer by having an image of Caswell doing an impossible stunt tattooed on her hip. You might remember Dunham from her quirkiness on the set of Girls (also created by Dunham), an HBO series that gives a comical look in the lives of a group of “girls” in their mid-20s.  Earlier this year Dunham underwent a surgery to combat her endometriosis and was left with a scar. She was inspired to turn life’s lemons into lemonade by using the scar as inspiration for body art.

 

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