They came from everywhere. San Diego, Northern California, the beaches… pro skaters, amateurs and spectators made the long drive to Upland and the Pipeline Skatepark for the Hester II final contest in 1979. The Hester I Series had been the year before and it shook the skateboarding world. It was a ‘put it on the line’ event where legends were made and egos were battered. The magazines at the time were pushing their own agendas.
Hot shots and pin ups were finding their way into skaters bedrooms around the world as glossy photographs were Scotch taped to walls. Heroes. The skaters involved were too busy to notice at first. They just wanted to skate and progress. Most spent the day at whatever local skatepark they had, perfecting lines and tricks. Some were inventive. New tricks were unveiled at each contest gathering. The surf style, speed and lines of the Hester I Series were quickly swept to the wayside as bigger airs, innovative tricks and unique lines were being put down by contest riders in the next contest season.
Hester II ushered in a new list of names and the magazines scrambled to feature these skatepark heroes. The veteran riders of the contest series found that they had to evolve. Skateboarding was changing so quickly, some could barely keep up. Some found themselves on top of the skateboarding world and a year or so later, they were virtually ignored by the magazines and sponsors. The Pipeline skatepark was a heavy scene. It had a full pipe, huge bowls and the massive Combi bowl. The Pipeline Combi was not for the faint of heart. Massive vert, huge coping, rough flat bottom concrete and a heavy local contingent of vertical masters were enough to intimidate virtually all who ventured to the Badlands. The heat and smog were another issue. It was like going into a dragons lair.
Some couldn’t skate the Combi and others didn’t even try. Local brothers Steve and Micke Alba were — by all accounts — the absolute rulers of the Combi pool at this time. Make no mistake, the lines drawn in the Vans Combi of the current generation were born in the Alba household. Heavy hitters of the Hester II made the drive to Upland on that weekend. The Upland final. It was a brawl. What those few riders did on that weekend will echo forever.
Eddie El Gato Elguera is an innovator. He brought new tricks and combinations to every event. He was responsible for a dramatic wave of progression in himself and those that followed in his footsteps. Eddie Elguera raised the bar for generations to come. His El Gato Classic event has been a huge success. He began by paying tribute to the legendary skateboarders of the Hester Series and Gold Cup eras. He endeavored to educate the current generation of skateboarders of where they come from. He built an event that marvels history and all of its traditions, yet isn’t bound to it. Skateboarding is doing just fine. Men and women are pushing skateboarding into new territories. The future is in good hands and the El Gato Classic will forever remind that future of its incredible past.
Please join William Sharp and I on Friday at 7:00 pm, January 26th at the Hard Rock Hotel in Palm Springs. There will be an art show and we are having a photographic exhibit and will have books for sale and signing. Tony Alva will be there as well as many other legendary skateboarders from this era for signatures. The event is free and a Legends Talk will follow. Tickets for other events at the El Gato Classic are available here – EL GATO CLASSIC TICKETS / INFO
For direct online purchase of Back In The Day click here – Back In The Day
Thank you to Eddie Elguera for the initiative, influence and hard work. Thank you to his kind wife Dawn for all of her involvement. Thank you to his church for all of the volunteer efforts. Thank you to William Sharp for allowing me to do this book project with him and for allowing me to pillage his archive. We will see you this weekend X Ozzie