As recently reported, vert skater Neal Hendrix has been accused of engaging in sexual acts with a minor between 2006 and 2008. Hendrix, who older skaters may remember from the New Deal videos, had been working for Camp Woodward since 2005 and at USA Skateboarding (USAS), a group recognized by the Olympics as the “national governing body for skateboarding in the United States,” since 2003.

In a six-page self-published letter, Julie Lynn Kindstrand Nelson, a vert and bowl skater who goes by Julz Lynn, detailed her abusive sexual relationship with Hendrix when he was in his 30s and she was between 14 and 16.

The Costa Mesa, CA police department confirmed they will investigate Hendrix. Woodward, where Hendrix was the Brand Manager, and USAS, of which he was a founding board member, have both suspended him for the time being. So far Hendrix’s only response was an email to the Wall Street Journal in which he said, “the claims are 100% false.”

While mainstream news outlets referred to Hendrix and Lynn as if all skateboarders are familiar with them, a lot of skateboarders today probably aren’t. Throughout the ‘90s and ‘00s, Hendrix competed in the X Games and the World Cup of Skateboarding, and toured with the Vans Warped Tour and Tony Hawk’s Boom Boom Huck Jam. He still skates vert today, placing 2nd in a competition earlier this year. As Woodward’s Brand Manager, Hendrix was involved in marketing the camp, recruiting visiting athletes, and developing the reality web series Camp Woodward.

Lynn started skating in 2003, and by 2007 was competing and getting sponsored. She’s placed first in a number of contests and earlier this year competed in the X Games and Vans Park Series.

In her letter, Lynn describes meeting Hendrix at the Vans skatepark in Orange, CA in 2006 and quickly becoming close. The then 14-year-old Lynn came to Hendrix for advice on navigating competitions and sponsorships, and within a few months they established a secretive routine where Hendrix would drive Lynn to his apartment for what Lynn called “sex lessons.”

According to the letter, these “sex lessons” included Hendrix showing Lynn photos of “young girls” he would masturbate to, photographing Lynn naked, and forcing her to perform oral sex on himself. Lynn wrote that after Hendrix started pressuring her to have intercourse with him, which she did not do, she decided to stop the visits sometime in 2008.

While this account is disturbing on its own, Lynn went on in her letter to describe how this trauma has had more perverse impacts on her life and skate career. Because Hendrix often served as a contest judge, Lynn would see him publicly for years. She writes that at some of these events Hendrix touched her butt, showed her pictures of his penis, and once invited her up to his hotel room for sex. Her nervousness and anxiety from being around him negatively impacted her skating, and over time as Lynn heard nasty rumors about herself circulating within the skate community, she began feeling ostracized by the industry.

Although Lynn writes that she would warn parents at competitions against leaving their kids alone with Hendrix, she waited 10 years to speak out because she feared she would lose her sponsors and be further outcast. As Lynn states, only after she heard others tell stories of Hendrix “being ‘creepy’ with other young girls and boys” did she decide to bravely come forward.

The attention Lynn’s story is getting and the quick decisions from Woodward and USAS to suspend Hendrix are positive signs. They suggest skateboarding may be becoming more responsive and responsible. But this isn’t exactly an isolated incident, and looking at this case closely reveals areas where skateboarding and everyone involved in our industry have room to improve.

In 2011 a different pro vert skateboarder, Brian Patch, who was colleagues with Hendrix at Woodward, pled guilty to having sex with a minor. The minor Patch had sex with was Lynn. But Patch’s story isn’t extremely well-known within skating — I’d never even heard of him until this news broke.

Unlike Patch, I imagine the news of Hendrix spread quickly because he was involved with the Olympics. But skateboarders before and after Lynn who have experienced their own abuses and traumas—and either haven’t been heard or haven’t been able to speak out—deserve to be believed and supported regardless of how known or unknown their abusers are. Looking forward, hopefully Lynn’s story marks a shift toward reporting and preventing abuse sooner, rather than becomes one more incident in a list of atrocities.

Because skateboarding often mixes kids with adults in unsupervised settings, we need to keep watch on these older-younger power dynamics. In her teenage blog, Lynn wrote about how much she looked up to Hendrix and Patch as heros, and how thrilled she was just to know them. With that in mind, it’s heartbreaking to read Lynn’s account of an older skateboarder abusing his position of influence so horribly. Skateboarders within the industry can do a better job of keeping each other in check to try to prevent these kinds of abuses of power.

Hendrix is also a prime example of skateboarding’s problem with being overly protective of its “legendary” figures. Once a skater becomes old or revered enough to be called a “legend,” their fans may even turn a blind eye towards their shitty behavior, including in the case of Jay Adams, murder charges. Skateboarders are great at complaining about each other, but we need to get better at holding each other accountable for our actions, no matter how influential the skater may be.

In talking with other skateboarders about Lynn’s story, we heard from a woman who worked in skateboarding for the past 15 years. She said she’s heard her own share of stories of older skateboarders taking advantage of potentially underage girls at contests and events. Abuse happens, but it doesn’t have to.

Anyone noticing it needs to step up, and can do so by contacting the National Sexual Assault Hotline for general guidance and reporting, or SafeSport for those involved in Olympic activities.

As Lynn’s story shows, just being observant and vocal can make a difference. Lynn didn’t report Hendrix until after she realized she wasn’t the only one seeing his abuse, which resulted in Hendrix’s swift removal from all positions of power.

Skateboarders pride ourselves on calling each other out for the most insignificant things (like how we grab our boards) so we can and should do better at calling out things that have real impact.


Editor’s correction: An earlier version of this article used a photo of Lynn with Jake Brown and another unidentified man. Because Brown has no involvement with the allegations surrounding Hendrix, and because the photo we used of Brown and Lynn was taken under the supervision of Lynn’s father, we have since removed it from the article.

Comments

  1. Fuck Kevin

    October 29, 2018 4:41 pm

    Kevin likes children confirmed

    Reply
    • Kevin

      October 29, 2018 6:04 pm

      No I don’t. I’m just saying that she’s just as big a piece of shit as those men are. She didn’t have to fuck or suck anyone. She’s probably just bringing the shit out in the open because her career has hit a wall and she likes the attention.

      Reply
      • Duckyfuckie

        October 29, 2018 6:54 pm

        Fuck this guy

      • Darby Crash

        October 29, 2018 6:59 pm

        Hey Kevin chew on this…
        As an adult if some 15 year old girl came on to me for any reason I would would be suspect that something bad is happening to her ..whether abuse, drugs, or mental health issues. I would be compelled to report her actions to either authorities or her family depending on the vibe I got.
        Unlike Neal or maybe you a predatory CHOMO who would take advantage of the situation.. Come by Mesa introduce yourself we will be very happy to meet you. Hope Neal stops by again soon too.

      • Kevin Blames Minors for Sexual Assault

        October 29, 2018 7:21 pm

        You’re completely morally bankrupt, and feel the need to anonymously call a child a whore for being taken advantage of and abused. There’s no hope for someone who holds such a disgusting worldview.

        Please, go to the gun cabinet you undoubtedly have and see which shotgun you can get to suck start.

      • Fuck Kevin 2: Electric Kookaloo

        October 29, 2018 9:19 pm

        Kevin is Neal confirmed

  2. Sally forth

    October 29, 2018 5:07 pm

    What if it isn’t true? Have you read that letter?
    So many inconsistencies and issues there – Guilty until proven innocent seems to be the law of the land – just because ‘she says so” doesn’t make it true –

    Reply
    • klor

      October 29, 2018 6:07 pm

      I am copy pasting here a thing that was shared with me by others:

      “Innocent until proven guilty is, yes, an important principle in our society. And it’s often said that it is better for many guilty people to go free than one wrongly accused person be unjustly punished. But someone needs to explain how this principle of “fairness” is fair to all of the victims who cannot “prove” what happened to them beyond a reasonable doubt. A sex crime, date rape in particular, is by its nature almost always a case in which “proof” is absent. A typical case is just two people in a room, the evidence usually circumstantial or relying heavily on testimony. Even with physical evidence to substantiate claims, consent is rarely documented and with a standard of consent that involves moment by moment affirmative consent, it might even be impossible for the two parties to be sure they have it from the other in any ironclad bulletproof way. Is it reasonable to demand the same standard of proof that we have for other types of criminal conduct in the case of a crime that so fundamentally eludes the establishment of cold hard facts by its nature? I am not saying I know the answers to that question, there may not be a good answer. I just know that I am hearing one thing, mainly from men, concerned mostly about the possibility of false charges ruining the life of a man, and another thing from women, deeply frustrated that our society prioritizes those male concerns over their trauma, their victimhood, their quest for some form of justice that could help them heal or bring some sense of resolution. Many men are hearing “believe women” or “believe survivors” as “disbelieve men, including you,” and it’s not hard to understand that embracing such words, removing a level of the individual in favor of the general, renders some men feeling vulnerable. But of course, most women have been feeling vulnerable to predatory behavior all their lives, so one could say to those men, Welcome to the party, the party as the other side has been living it all along. Maybe only that shared vulnerability leads to real change”

      Reply
    • Barbed Wire

      October 30, 2018 5:06 pm

      Exactly.

      Reply
  3. Leave a comment

    October 29, 2018 5:28 pm

    I’m not saying he’s innocent but what happened to “innocent until proven guilty”?
    People are so quick to virtue signal all the time, as if they think they themselves would be accused of the crime in question if they won’t hate on him loud enough.

    Reply
    • fuckmeup

      October 29, 2018 6:23 pm

      innocent until proven guilty is a legal concept. this isn’t a court.

      Reply
      • Leave another comment

        October 30, 2018 10:08 am

        Of course this isn’t a court you idiot..
        How about this then, I hereby accuse you of raping and killing 45 women and you can’t deny it because this isn’t a court.
        You are guilty because of the accusation, reality and or proof are nothing in the court of the public eye.
        moron

  4. Ramen

    October 29, 2018 5:50 pm

    Good story, but srsly why did you have to put the Jay Adams thing in there.. It wasnt murder… Hear him out and read other peoples statements about that incident. Early 80s was a really violent time in the LA punk scene..He was the one who instigated the fight NOT the acutal one who had the steel boots and cracked the poor guys head.

    Reply

Leave a comment