Biographical accounts from Don Piburn Pt.3: Sue Feldman
Don Piburn, a surfer, ’70s outlaw skateboarder is back with another series of stories to regale.
This round he's sharing tales of his adventures with Sue Feldman in part 3 of his biographical accounts.
Part 3: Little Sue Feldman
Our mid- to late-1970’s Mission Beach (MB), California crew navigated an intersection in quad skating history. Kenny Means out of San Pedro, California set the vertical quad skating baseline beginning in 1974. He inspired a considerable pool of vertical quad skating enthusiasts, many of their stories now posted as Veterans of Vert blogs on this very website. Long discussions could ensue regarding who were the principal male heirs to Kenny’s vertical legacy, but his brother Bobby was certainly among them. In mid-1970s Bobby had carried the Means’ legacy south to San Diego. The widespread use of skates for transportation and personal expression in MB cultivated the balance of skills necessary for a small, but talented group to propel a fresh and completely different use for roller skates literally to new heights. Bobby served as the catalyst for MB locals Miles-from-Nowhere, Chris Miller, Donny Rodgers, Pete Stewart and “Little Sue” Feldman to take their flatland performances vertical. Ensembles of these quad skaters began accompanying our band of vertical devotees into the outlaw pools, and then Carlsbad Skate Park and Skateboard Heaven Skate Park in 1977, Oasis Skate Park and Del Mar Skate Ranch in 1978, and beyond.
Little Sue Feldman is among a very short list of first-generation CIB. She came by her nickname because of her diminutive proportions, but Little Sue’s persona was life-sized. She had a tender spirit, but with more than enough street-honed charisma to win over even the most core among our very hardcore group. Sue was fast, fluid, and she wasn't at all afraid to lean in to something new and radical, or in this case to drop into it. None who saw her skate or who competed against her could rightly dispute that she was San Diego's best and most versatile female vertical quad skater of that era.
Steve Barilotti worked the counter at Sea Skates in the late 1970s, the same MB rollerskate rental shop cited in the Pete Stewart CIB Veterans of Vert (VOV) biographical account. Around 1980 Steve produced this retrogression to the era of silent film and slapstick comedy as a project for a film class at San Diego State University. The male lead on skates is Mitch Hull, one of Steve’s co-workers at Sea Skates.
The female lead is Little Sue Feldman. Steve shot his film along the boardwalk on and about Ventura Boulevard and Ocean Front Walk. When Sue’s mime character first appears, she repeatedly rockets by Mitch in a side- or what we called spider-stance. That’s what Bobby Means called it, probably as a nod to his brother Kenny Means skating in a Spiderman costume at big arena shows with that era’s apex skateboarding professionals. Regrettably any pictures or clips of Little Sue skating vertical have been lost over the years, but for those of us who skated in the outlaw pools and first-generation Skate Parks with her, the power, speed, and grace evident throughout Steve’s film evokes memories of Sue fully airborne and face down in a spider-stance, her body arching well above the level of the coping and pool deck. She most rivaled Pete Stewart in her approach, because he was the quad skater she spent the most time skating vert with. Petey was making the skateboard magazines, and they pushed each other to the highest levels of vertical performance. Little Sue Feldman ripped.
MB local surfer/skateboarder Seal Morgan shared the only photograph we have of Little Sue on skates. Sue was semi-sponsored by Hamel's Surf and Skate Shop. This photo was taken in 1978 during a Street-to-Ramps Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Association Benefit Contest. They blocked off Ventura Boulevard where it truncates into the boardwalk, and held their event right there on the beach. You can see the Jerry Lewis sign on the left side against the curb.
Image: Little Sue Feldman 1978 Hamels Street to Bowls MB Contest
Sue is cross-stepping her skates to build speed for the first quarter-pipe ramp that was positioned on the north side of the street right in front of Hamel's main entrance. A second ramp was situated across the street about 30 feet away. Another female competitor is waiting for her turn in the background to Sue’s left by the curb. They called it a competition, but Little Sue’s skills towered over the other competitors, including her sense of style flaunting her fashion trademark pom-poms tied into her laces. There was never a question that she would win, but true to her caring nature she busied herself between runs coaching some of the female competitors to maximize their performance against her.
We note that Becky Howe mentions Little Sue as one of the few 1970s radical female skaters in her CIB interview, and we are left wondering if there might have been some cross-pollination between those Mission Beach and Venice Beach pioneering women back in the day. If so, we'd love to hear the particulars on that.
Perhaps raising Little Sue’s profile can serve as a catalyst of sorts. If other VOV dust off those 1970s photo albums or review their film reels, a picture or clip might surface of her skating vertical. Finally, we would love to know how Sue is doing now. Seal last heard from her over two decades ago. We are hoping that this small note of her skate history finds her and that she is doing well.
Don, Seal, and Steve