By Dawne Belloise
Jodi McDonald is on a spunky and positive roll unwinding her incredible journey. She and her son Adam live in the “Pirate House,” Steve Griggs’s typically Buttian-quirky trailer that Jodi refers to as a castle. It is a home of similar funkiness from her childhood. “My mom was a hippie and we lived in Florida on the Swanee River in a treehouse. We actually went down to the river to do dishes and take baths. Dad was a stockbroker, three-piece suit, fancy wife and a brand new Cadillac on Palm Beach,” she says proudly of her parents’ polar opposite lifestyles.
Jodi likes her java and only drinks Camp 4 organic coffee because, she tells, “I have stage 4 breast cancer that I’ve been fighting for six years. It’s been stage four for five years.” Nevertheless, last year she got in 52 days of snowboarding on the mountain, “Which only means I have to get more this year,” she grins.
She is a skater and started skateboarding in 1984, “When it was really starting to pop up. I grew up at the beach and the boys would go surfing and ask us to keep an eye on their skateboards for them,” so she and her friend began riding those boards as young teens. After Jodi graduated from high school in 1989, all she really wanted to do was skate and Daytona Beach, Florida seemed like the place to be. She skated Stone Edge Skate Park, famous in the world of skaters. It was the pivotal point in her life that set her on a pro course. “I went to Charleston, South Carolina, and skated the Hanger, also Atlanta, and Dallas,” she tells, before working her way west to San Diego, “Where I got heavily involved with the vert scene (ramps) and backyard pools.”
As a girl in the predominantly male skateboard world back in the day, Jodi said she was like a circus side show, but “By 1992 I was pro.” As a rare female on a board, she recalls that companies scrambled to send girls to events and demos, “Because you were an anomaly. I was one of the first pro female skaters.” She adds that she held the title and fame as second best in the world for a decade. “There were three of us and we were good.”
By the time she turned 22, she had already competed in three X Games. The games were only a mile from Jodi’s house in Mission Beach, San Diego, “So I grabbed my board, a boombox and a joint and went down to compete. They were experimenting to see if they could even have a women’s division,” which, she says, actually took a few years to finally develop. Jodi remained in the San Diego and the L.A. areas for 14 years, skating competitively. “With sponsors, you can sell a lot of the stuff they give you like skateboards, clothing and wheels,” which helped to subsidize her lifestyle.
“Eventually,” she says, “I worked my way across the country on a tour, traveling and skating. Once you reach that level, you start traveling and skating around from park to park, meeting with friends.” Jodi had sponsorships to support her travels as she worked her way across the country.
At one point, Jodi blew out her knee and she turned to partying and drugs to ease the pain. After several arrests, she became determined to change her course. “Literally, I just got in my car and drove. I went up to Lincoln City, Oregon, another famous skate spot, and started skating again.” All her friends had written her off. “They thought I was done, down and out,” she remembers. A woman from Canada with a grant to do a movie on women skateboarders came searching for Jodi, but Jodi’s friends didn’t know where she was since she had dropped out of the scene. The moviemaker had been tipped off that Jodi might be in the Pacific Northwest, so the filmmaker drove to Lincoln City where she found Jodi living in her bus at an old abandoned gas station that backed onto national forest on the side of the road. “I drove a little 1979 Bluebird shortbus with stickers all over it.” The filmmaker, who had seen the bus on TV, was driving by and realized it was Jodi’s. “She pulls over with her crew, knocks on the door and says, is Jodi McDonald here?”
There was a skateboard contest in Lincoln City called the Golden Otter in 2004 that week, which Jodi was competing in. No one had seen Jodi for four years and she arrived under the radar. “I took my runs and took the contest,” she says. She was 34 years of age. Word spread that she was back and skating better than ever. “It meant a lot to me to be able to skate that well at that time, under the circumstances.” She has a prominent part in the 2004 film Skate Girl. She also competed in the X Games twice more, in 2006 and 2007.
Jodi headed south to the Florida Keys for a season, working as a cheese clerk on the waterfront. She laughs, “I was cutting the cheese all day, and skating, but not competing.” Friends suggested that Jodi go to Colorado… so she hopped in the school bus and went to Fairplay, where they had built a great new skatepark. Afterwards, she went to Breckenridge and waited tables.
Along her path, Jodi married, and the couple lived on and off in Breckenridge for a decade. In 2009, Jodi’s son Adam was born and they moved to Oahu’s North Shore for two years. “I was just raising my baby and making jewelry. I like to bead.” She had started making jewelry when she was pregnant and couldn’t skate. “I was making pretty stuff and my friends started buying it, then I took it to shops. So I had a little side hustle.” They decided to return to Breckenridge because, Jodi says, “I love the mountains and Colorado.” The couple later went their separate ways.
Adam was just seven when Jodi was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2017. She decided the cancer was about her spirit and so she started a deep rewiring of her neuronet. “Your mind is made up of neurons that make hardwire connections of thoughts and emotions over time that can lead to illness or bad health.”
She was living in Arvada but decided to move to Gunnison with her son, living in her van for three months. “We rolled into the most humble little church in Gunnison,” which took her and her son in. “They asked if anyone needed prayer. So we prayed for housing. The next day someone gives me a matchbook with a phone number for housing that’s not even advertised – a two-bedroom trailer in Gunnison for $650 a month. It’s all universal alignment.”
Jodi’s cancer was undetectable when she arrived in Gunnison. She did a five-month raw vegan water fast and opted for alternative treatments. “But I let stress back into my life and within nine months it went from undetectable to stage four.” She went back to fasting, this time a 47-day fast with juice and 90 calories a day and alternative treatments again, putting herself into what she calls third stage starvation, “Where the body will consume everything it registers is not necessary for life including tumors. They did shrink but not as much as I needed. I felt fine. I keep managing to push this cancer back into the corner.”
She was advised to integrate western medicine, and even though she felt it was “carpet bomb chemo,” she accepted targeted chemo for the more aggressive cancer. “The years are rolling by and I’m feeling strong and healthy, riding my dirt bike aggressively in the summer and getting lots of days on the mountain in the winter. I wanted to live in Crested Butte since I got here, and my dear friend Steve (Griggs) allowed me to move into his Pirate Ship. I’m just stoked to raise my kid on this mountain.”
Jodi says her full-time job is fighting cancer and living life, ”I was supposed to be dead years ago.” This is where she feels she’s supposed to be and wants to be, “Raising my son, high up in the Rockies. I believe God led me into this valley so I would have the help and support I would need. Living Journeys has stood with Adam and me since the beginning. The love and care from God through these folks, the Gunnison church and Oh Be Joyful church has supported me in this crazy, awesome, scary life, and I hope for much, much more to come.” Jodi has a custom Sined skateboard named after her and the art on it is perfect, “Joan of Arc burning at the stake and screaming at the sky when the French king told her to renounce her God. She basically said, ‘Life’s a bitch.’”
(The Jodi McDonald board is available on Sined. Her GoFundMe link is: https://gofund.me/9d2c9f8f).