Leslie Jo Ritzma
Name? Leslie Jo Anderson
When, where born? Los Angeles, California, July 10, 1956.
Year started skating? Actually, I made my own skateboard in 2nd grade from some roller skates and ended up breaking my arm. So I guess it was around 1964. Roller skate wheels nailed onto a 2 by 4.
How did you end up the first woman champion at Signal Hill? My ex-husband Jim Drake and I opened the skateboard store called Mitchell's in Garden Grove. The guys were talking about registering for the Signal Hill Speedrun and they said they don't let women race. It's too dangerous. I thought that was ridiculous. It was the '70s and women's rights were going on, so I contacted the Women's Equal Action League in Washington D.C., and CBS Sports Spectacular who filmed at Signal Hill. They put pressure on the organizers to allow women. The truth was I had never skated downhill before in my life!
Were you scared? Definitely. And no, I wasn't high! I was laying down, face forward, on my stomach. We made some metal pieces shaped in an "L", and we bolted pieces of tire onto those, so when I pushed my feet down, it slowed me down. Very primitive brakes.
Who designed this skateboard? Mitch and Jim. It had Tracker Trucks with Teflon bushings. It had Tunnel Rocks on it, with some special German bearings ordered just for me. For some guys, the bearings were getting so hot they would seize up since the grease would melt.
How did you do? I'm in the 1978 Guinness Book of World Records. "....the women's speed record is held by Leslie Jo Ritzma, 20, of Redondo Beach, California who has been clocked at 51 miles per hour." I was the only woman to complete the run and tied for 6th place along with several other skaters to include my husband!
How did it feel to be the fastest female skateboarder in the world? Great. It was my 15 seconds of fame. We sold Tunnel stickers that said, "Leslie Jo Ritzma, Fastest Woman in the World!" I wish I still had one of those! I do still have my helmet and leathers with both Tunnel and Freeformer on them since I was co-sponsored by Freeformer after my first successful Signal Hill run.
What are you up to these days? I work as a Patient Advocate at a VA Hospital. We are really busy right now trying to help our men and women returning from Afghanistan and Iraq. My husband and I ride motorcycles and I garden for fun.
Family? Married to a great guy, Ron and have a golden retriever named Chance.
How do they feel living with the fastest woman in the world? They don't care as long as they get fed, feel the wind in their face and get to walk everyday!