Beers, steers, and ears.
Beers, steers, and ears.
Cart 0

what if... anita tessensohn had turned pro?

Off-the-nose kickflip—a give or take 3.5" nose, mind you. Ask any kid who watched Powell-Peralta's Public Domain, aka Bones Brigade Video 4, when the VHS tapes first hit skate shops in 1988 and that's one of the highlights they're sure to remember from Anita Tessensohn's 15-seconds of instant video fame. This was, I believe, an on-video NBD at a time when most skaters were still learning how to do regular ol' kick flips in the mobbest of eras. Oh, not to mention the fact that hardcore female street skaters in the '80s were the equivalent to spotting hen's teeth in the mouth of a unicorn—or at least so it was in my red neck of the Midwest woods where skateboarding was frowned upon in every single imaginable sense. So, to see a girl seriously kicking ass on street made the fantasy of the West Coast… well, even that much more fantastic.

If you're unfamiliar with Anita or need a refresher thereof, here's a neat and tidy encapsulation of her historical contribution to skateboarding as it was presented on the big screen prior to her induction to the Skateboard Hall of Fame this past May. Want to know more? Well, first and foremost, you should listen to the The Bones Brigade Audio Show podcast featuring Anita. The show hosts, Larry Ransom and Matt Picker [1], were primarily responsible for coaxing her back out into the spotlight last year after conducting a quick social media excavation, and this interview is what planted the eventual "What if… ?" seed in my head. That's where I plan to start this portion of the tale, but I'd be remiss not to also mention this extensive profile on Anita's history by Natalie Porter on womxnskatehistory.ca, which you should definitely go give a good gander as it includes all (well, almost all… haha) known documentation of Anita.

That's Anita front and center in red sweats, living the Bones Brigade dream of thousands around the globe (1988).

What I did not know about Anita—and learned only through the aforementioned podcast—was the fateful injury that occurred in 1988 after being struck by a car. This unfortunate incident effectively derailed her skate career and finally provided an explanation as to why I had never encountered her during any of the amateur team gatherings once I started working at Powell-Peralta in 1989 [2]. That said, this particular point in time opened up a sliding door in my mind to a parallel dimension where had this injury never occurred and Anita continued to progress, what if she had eventually turned pro for Powell-Peralta? Because if so, there was a very real chance I would have been entrusted with the graphic chores on her model, making this hypothetical story all the more interesting—or at least to me in the conceptual moment. I still had to connect with Anita and gauge her level of interest in actually pursuing such a floating thread in the skate-time continuum.

Thanks to an approving heads- and thumbs-up from Larry Ransom, Anita was into the idea, if not humbly so, and we proceeded to embark on an exchange not to dissimilar from what I would have had with any other Powell rider back in 1989—albeit through the ease of text messaging and not fax machines. My goal at the onset was to create a board and graphic for her as close-to-era-correct as possible. Anita provided a few key design details and interests—most notably that fairies were very much on-brand for her at the point of time in play—and it was all but impossible not to lean into the legendary "Some Girls Play With Dolls" ad that ran in the December 1987 issue of Thrasher, the burgeoning union of street skating with graffiti, and a commingling of her woodsy Oregon and concrete California roots. A few back 'n' forths later and we landed on a graphic that would ultimately be screened onto a mini-ish shaped board, circa early 1990, complete with double-drilled front truck holes and a mellow kicknose concave [3].

And now for a few extraneous notes I'd like to add where bullet points are best served because I haven't a cohesive clue how to wrangle them into any sort of paragraphic flow:

• I only found out about Anita being added to the list of 2023 inductees to the Skateboard Hall of Fame after we'd begun our spitballing process, so this was very much an unexpected bonus to the overall story. It also gave us a much more stern deadline for production.

• In my early communication with Anita, I learned that many of the skate belongings she'd held onto were lost in a house fire—all except for her Powell-Peralta Ray Barbee board that just so happened to be out in the garage because of a stripped bolt and stuck truck.

• When I asked Anita if she had any never before seen documentation of her skating, she reached out to her longtime friend Circe Wallace who unearthed the photo below. Thanks, Circe!

Rock 'n' roll slide on a "Street Cab" model, circa 1988.

• For a period of time, circa '88–'90, Anita worked at the fledgling SMA/World Industries offices in Torrance, CA. One of her earlier duties was driving the stake bed truck down to Huntington Beach to pick up finished boards from Screaming Squeegees. Fast forward 35-ish years later and we finally met her in person at Screaming Squeegees the day before the Skateboard Hall of Fame ceremony. Boards were signed, photos were taken, and the peculiar circular path of life was not lost upon any of us.

A few outtakes from the layered screen printing process on Anita's "What if… ?" model.

• You can find this elsewhere, but I just had to share it here, too: Anita made a featured appearance on The Reading Rainbow, circa 1990, where you can see she's riding a World Industries Mike Vallely "Circus Elephant" mini. 

When it comes to breaking down doors, altering perceptions, and inspiring generations of female skaters, Anita's 15-seconds of footage from 1988 did all that and more—much more. That said, this has, without a doubt, been one of the more exceptionally fun and meaningful projects I've had the pleasure to be involved with over the sordid history of my career, and I'll be forever grateful to Anita for allowing us to share and participate in her story. —Sean Cliver

************************

1. I doubt any of this would've happened without the devotion to historical skate lore entertained by Larry and Matt, so here's a tip of my hat to them as well. Thanks, guys!

Left to right at the Skateboard Hall of Fame on Thursday, 30 May, 2024: Anita, Matt, myself, and Larry.

2. I did in fact encounter Anita for one brief moment on a schoolyard in the South Bay of LA, circa 1990. Half of my brain wants to tie it to a CASL event, but the other more reliable hemisphere insists it happened while I was tagging along with Per Welinder on a weekend trip down to see Steve Rocco. I don't recall much, clearly, but I do have the distinct memory of her spinning whimsical cart wheels on the playground.

3. For all of you Powell-Peralta nerds out there, this would be very similar to the mold formally known as "K1," a moderate kick and mellow concave construction which replaced the sorely outdated spoon-nose mold in the latter months of 1989. 


Older Post Newer Post


  • WD on

    So rad to see. I remember the video drop and being shocked!!! Also locked in the mid-west shelter just some 2 hours southeast of madison…. Now to see the RR segment and Lavar on a J Lee deck…. that just causes a flood of the memory banks and harkens back to a great era of skateboarding and life…. Thanks for this time warp graphic and taking me back there, even if only for a fleeting moment.

  • Fd on

    Romper Bomper Stomper Doo. Tell me, Tell me. Please tell me Boo. Have all my friends had fun at play. Have all my friends had fun today.
    “Aloha”-Mr Hand

  • Jerry on

    Amazing write up and deck. I vividly remember that Powell ad and having and instant 10 year old crush.


Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published