The ‘Gonzales’ pool. There are several places that remain legendary as the ultimate early proving ground for our kind. ‘Gonzo’s, ‘Dogbowl’, ‘Glory Hole’, Baldy pipe’, ‘Wallo’s’ and a few select others will undeniably remain etched in the skateboarding collective memory as places we all should’ve had the chance to ride.
‘Gonzo’s’ was located in a quiet area of Los Angeles. The old spanish-style homes around it, had red- tiled roofs in abundance, well-manicured lawns and brightly-colored flowerbeds. Huge, shadowing Ficus trees lined the sleepy streets, looking like sentinals watching over the adjacent properties.
The pool and property was owned by Mr. Jose Gonzales Gonzales. He was an actor on the hit TV show, ‘Bonanza’ and had many film credits to his name. ‘Mr. G’ had a large family and had the pool installed by the ‘Anthony Brothers’ pool company out of South Gate, California. It was constructed in the pool-building frenzy of the early 1960’s. ‘Gonzo’s’ was a huge ( I mean HUGE!) right-hand kidney. It had a very long deep end and a hip you could -literally- walk up. The transitions were big and mellow and the entire pool was surrounded with smooth bullnose coping.
The story that I was told of its discovery has always remained with me. It was a perfect tale. From sources like Tony Alva, Ray Flores, Wes Humpston and Stacey Peralta…I feel that it has to be the truth! They were the key players in its discovery and the formation of its legend. Ray Flores found ‘Gonzo’s’ in 1977. He was skating down a street and as he passed an alley, he noticed a heavy stream of green water flowing into the gutters, Following the water trail, he saw a door opening in the ten foot high block wall surrounding the yard. Stealthy as a cat, he approached and peered inside. The pool was almost pumped empty and the bright, white plaster glittered and hurt his eyes. It was perfect. As it turned out, he somehow knew a member of the Gonzales family and an agreement was soon reached.
Ray, Wes and others of the Z-boys, found themselves a permission pool unlike anything ever before. They brought TA over eventually and he showed them just exactly what could be done in such a huge pool! Jokingly, I was told that the Z-boys initially didn’t tell TA about ‘Gonzo’s’ because he usually travelled in an entourage and they didn’t want the drama. Truth or myth?
When queried, TA told me that back then, photographers always showed up wherever he skated. It was accepted by that time. He had won the World Championships and was the first to pull consistent tuck-knee frontside airs out of a pool.
Whatever the case may be, all the Z-boys were stoked to be riding ‘Gonzales’ pool and breaking new ground. After that, ‘Gonzo’s’ quickly became a staging area for the Z-boys to gather and push both themselves and each other.Limits were reached and exceeded. TA pulled back-to-back frontside airs, the others nailed edgers, hip rollouts, grind transfers deep-to-shallow, and forevers. New ground was discovered by all.
I grew up among the cold dreary farmlands of central Pennsylvania. In the mid 1970s, I found skateboarding. I then discovered Skateboarder, Wide World of Skateboarding and other magazines. Huddled inside, during the long , bleak winters, I would see photographs of ‘Gonzo’s’ and wish I could be there.
My friend Jim Howell (who still rips to this day), and I would build ramps in our barn and glue linoleum bathroom floor tiles under the cinder blocks we used as coping. We would skate and pretend we were ripping ‘Gonzo’s’.I finally had a chance to ride the famed ‘Gonzales’ pool in the summer of 1999.
I had subsequently moved to California and became friends with TA and other OG pool skaters. After many backyard sessions with TA, I would always question him on the ‘Gonzales’ pool. He never gave a really good answer and all was left fairly cryptic and unspoken. July 10th 1999 the phone rang at 1:37am.
TA was on the line. “Drive to LA tomorrow morning. ‘Gonzos’ is empty for one session only.” I scribbled directions with a shaking hand and swore to be there. Needless to say, I slept little that night. I was too pumped to close my eyes. I thumbed through Glenn E Freidmans’ ‘Fuck You Heroes’ books and watched the old Bones Brigade videos as Cab and Lance tore ‘Gonzo’s’ apart.
I rode the next day with TA and it was an epic day. One of my top sessions ever! The next year, I asked TA if I could hold my 38th birthday party at ‘Gonzo’s’ and we went and spoke with ‘Mr. G’. A price was agreed upon and I drained and painted the entire pool. These pictures are from the session. It was too epic to believe. In attendance were Wes Humpston with his kids, Salba, Dave Ferry, Marc Smith, Ray Flores, Andy Mac, Matt Moffitt, Jake Piaseki, Toby Burger, Rhino, Preston, John Zask, Tyco, Pete the Ox, Bryce Kanights, Shaggy, Buster Halterman, Scott Ward,Tony Farmer, Lance Mountain and his son along with about 50 other pool pals.
That session lives as one of my greatest memories EVER! Sadly ‘Mr. G’ passed away from illness just two months after the party. He was a great friend to TA and the other Z-boys. He never had to let anyone skate, yet he always was willing to let them have, ‘just one more session’. Thanks to everyone who attended the birthday in 2000. Thanks to everyone that made pool skating happen. Thank you to my pool pals, Toby Burger and JGrant Brittain for the photographs. Skate Long and make your childhood dreams a reality. -Ozzie