Sheryl Grunde slaps a helmet over her curly hair, jumps on a skateboard and soars down her Ashland street toward North Mountain Park with her kids near her side.
She looks steady on the four-wheel board, gliding past cul-de-sacs and other potential dead ends as she tries to keep up with her son Jayden, 10, for the half-mile ride.
Barbara Odanaka, who has written children's books about skateboarding and founded the International Society of Skateboarding Moms (www.skateboardmom.com) offers this advice to beginners:
Then she meets a roadblock: a steep decline. She jumps into the air and lets the borrowed board run into the curb.
"She can't stop," says her daughter, Anjali, 9, who is behind on her scooter.
Summer is the time to have fun, hang out with kids, and for about 2 percent of moms, to skateboard, according to Barb Odanaka of Laguna Beach, Calif., who founded the International Society of Skateboarding Moms in 1996 after her son was born.
"When I was growing up in Newport Beach, there were nearly as many girls on skateboards as boys," says Odanaka, 50, who gives school and library presentations across the country to teach the importance of diligence, patience and the satisfaction of trying something new.
"No one I knew considered it a boys' sport back then," she continues. "But in the late 1970s, as skateboarding's surfy vibe evolved into more of a punk-rock mentality, and the sport itself became more intense — higher, faster, crazier — many girls stopped skating."
Through her nonprofit organization, she tries to empower women and girls to skateboard, and she promotes literacy with her Rolling4Reading program.
The author of three children's books, including "Smash! Mash! Crash! There Goes the Trash!" she collects new and gently used books and has them delivered via skateboards to kids in need.
"Although I may look silly appearing as Skateboard Mom or Skateboard Cow, which are characters from my books, I take my school appearances very seriously," says Odanaka, who is organizing a Mighty Mama Skate-O-Rama tour that will roll into Oregon this year.
"As a middle-aged woman who rides a skateboard, I enjoy demonstrating how stereotypes are not to be believed," she says. "I know that my performance might actually inspire a child."
Ashland mom Grunde is not deterred by the low number of women skateboarders or by the fact that she has seen only one other female — a teenager — on a skateboard since she started riding four weeks ago.
Her intentions are not to compete or impress. She's riding to spend time with her son, who will enter sixth grade at Willow Wind Community Learning Center.
"He thinks it's more exciting to skateboard than to walk after dinner," says Grunde, 36, a yoga instructor, massage therapist and doula.
An unexpected benefit has come from navigating her skateboard. She has found that building core strength, which she advocates to yoga students and others, is helping her stay upright and balanced on a piece of wood that's 8 inches wide.
"Skateboarding helps me balance and feel confident," she says. "I bend my knees and drop into my center to ride."
She also has noticed that when she takes a fall, she hasn't been injured. She says a twisted ankle didn't amount to much because her connective tissue is strong.
Studies show that, when practiced safely and properly, skateboarding can be a full-body exercise that builds cardiovascular and muscle strength, enhances flexibility and improves balance and coordination.
Time spent on a skateboard can also translate into better performance in snowboarding, surfing and wakeboarding.
As for other skills, experts say the sport teaches goal setting, the importance of practice and patience, and how to take calculated risks in a controlled setting to master new terrain and tricks.
Grunde is also showing her children that a person is never too old to learn something new and initially scary, and that everyone has her own style.
Her son's friends calls her "goofy footed," because she leads with her right foot, rather than placing her left foot in front.
She gives a that's-OK shrug. She has the rest of the summer to learn. She sees her son rolling, turning, swiveling and launching off the curb.
"I haven't tried jumping yet," she says quietly.
She's also finding that her new mode of transportation is a breezy way to get around close to home.
"I ride to the mailbox," she says, "but you won't be seeing me at the skate park anytime soon."
As for her daughter, Anjali, who will be a third-grader at Walker Elementary, Grunde has seen little interest in a skateboard.
"She sits on it but doesn't try to ride it," Grunde says. "She prefers her Barbie scooter with brakes and handlebars."
Reach reporter Janet Eastman at 541-776-4465 or firstname.lastname@example.org.