Family and friends raising money for injured skateboard entrepreneur

Tomoko Oikawa injured in annual Dolores Park Hill Bomb

When Tomoko Oikawa’s family rushed to the hospital after the prominent skateboarder and entrepreneur was critically injured during last Thursday’s Dolores Street Hill Bomb, they were comforted by a waiting room full of her friends and skate family.

“We were terrified, but it was nice to see the support,” said Shizuka Fung, tOikawa’s eldest sister. “At first we thought maybe she bumped her head or scraped knees and that we could just take her home.”

But Oikawa, who was known in the skate community as “Tomo,” would not go home that night.

More than a week after a rough fall during the unsanctioned event that over the past three years has become a tradition in the skate community, Oikawa remains hospitalized and in critical condition.

The 22-year-old suffered from a traumatic brain injury that required her to undergo emergency surgery. According to Fung, Oikawa fractured the back of her skull. The injury resulted in major swelling and bruising to her brain, requiring surgeons to remove part of her right skull.

“They are keeping it incubated in a lab in Los Angeles,” said Fung, who added that her sister was heavily sedated for the past week for “pain management,” but on Thursday regained consciousness after doctors scaled back her medication.

Oikawa is not yet able to speak but “she is conscious and listening to us, she is responsive,” said Fung.

While Oikawa’s family is celebrating the small successes, Fung acknowledges that her sister’s road to recovery will be long. Since Wednesday, Oikawa has been suffering from a fever, and doctors worry that she may have contracted pneumonia.

“You have to go day by day and minute by minute,” said Fung. “The doctors say that because she’s young and fit, they believe she will make a positive recovery. We are not promised anything — but we are here for her 100 percent.”

The same can be said for her tight-knit community. A few of Oikawa’s friends have launched a GoFundMe campaign seeking to raise $50,000 towards her medical bills. As of Friday, the campaign had raised close to $17,500.

“I didn’t realize how big of an influence she is — I have always seen her as my baby sister, who was so passionate about her grip tape and skateboarding,” said Fung. “All her work has paid off. I’m proud of her.”

According to Fung, Oikawa, who was raised in San Bruno, was introduced to skateboarding by their middle sister at age 7. After studying business management at San Francisco State University, Oikawa, who works full-time in a hair salon, transformed her passion for skateboarding into her side hustle.

Oikawa, who is half Filipino, recently built a skate ramp in their mother’s hometown in the Philippines and provided local children with skateboards and lessons.

She launched Tomo Skate Co., an online skateboarding company centered around selling custom-made grip tape for skateboards. Brightly colored designs that Oikawa has crafted for her customers include images of butterflies, roses and broken hearts.

In its first year, the Dolores Street Hill Bomb — which each year draws dozens of skaters who meet at Dolores Park by word of mouth and whiz down Dolores Street between 20th and 18th streets for cheap thrills — came with major sponsorship, including from skate shops such as Snack Skateboards and FTC, and offered a cash prize reward for the fastest hill bomber.

But the next year, in 2017, participants clashed with police who attempted to control the event, and the confrontation resulted in rubber bullets being fired and three people hospitalized.

Since then, the contest has morphed into a rogue tradition. A member of the skate community told the San Francisco Examiner that each year the day “claims a few victims.”

Among them was longtime Thrasher Editor Jake Phelps, who in 2017 suffered a concussion and head injury after crashing while bombing down Dolores Street. That same day, another skater hurled over a San Francisco Police Department cruiser.

Phelps was found dead in his home earlier this year, but the cause of his death is unknown.

Fung said that Oikawa’s biggest supporter is their mother. But last Thursday, Oikawa did not tell her family that she was headed out to bomb Dolores Street, perhaps because she didn’t want them to worry.

“She told my mom, ‘I’m going to this event — I’ll see you soon,’” said Fung. “She hugged and kissed my daughters goodbye and said, ‘Will you miss me? Will you miss Tomo?’ And then she left.”

Fung said that she is not blaming the family’s tragedy on the skate community or on law enforcement — but she wishes those as passionate about skateboarding as her sister would protect themselves.

“Do I have hard feelings? No. Do I think they could have done more to prevent this? Hard to say. We can’t focus on the past,” said Fung.

“I want to thank the entire community for their love and support. It really touched our family,” she said. “I don’t want my sister to be put in the spotlight for her injury but I want them, when they think about her, to think more about their safety.”

lwaxmann@sfexaminer.com

 

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