The Kennedy clan has their Hyannisport, tennis has its Wimbledon,
basketball has its Madison Square Garden & golf has its Pebble Beach.
Skateboarding has the Gonzales pool. Almost all skateboarding that is
seen & represented on the television, has its origins in the Gonzales
pool. The Z-Boys, The Bones Brigade, The X-Games, The Dew Tour &
everything in between & beyond can directly trace its roots back to
the round plaster walls of this one special pool.
The Gonzales pool. There are several places that remain legendary as
the ultimate early proving ground for our kind. Gonzo’s, Dogbowl,
Glory Hole pipe, Baldy pipe and Wallo’s ditch 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 sentinels watching over the adjacent properties. It has
been designated as a Historic Preservation Overlay Zone. These houses
were built right after World War II and contain excellently preserved
examples of mid-century architecture.
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
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 Stacy 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. Trick to trick vertical skateboarding was born.
It was a place where anarchy & art collided, where the participants
waved their middle fingers at the world & unknowingly created a signal
that generations would forever follow. When they were doing this, it
was a gesture of defiance at what was considered normal sports &
accepted societal activities. Skateboarding was born here. For us to
lose the Gonzales Pool & let it fade into the mists of obscurity is to
make a grave error. This place is a monument & the birth of a
movement. In every sport there needs to be someone to guide it.
Skateboarding is lawless. Its anti-authoritarian. Its very actions &
the mentality of the participants make it an unstructured mess in so
many ways. Skateboarders don’t want it to be anything other than that.
However, because it is being dragged–kicking & screaming–into the
mainstream, against all its better judgement, it still accepts the
paychecks that are handed out.
With the X-Games, skateboarders stopped
driving Honda Civics & started driving Audi A4s. Families are now
provided for. Health insurance premiums are paid. Skateboarders can
live comfortably. Monetary compensation aside, Nike, ESPN & other
mainstream sports authorities are making skateboarding an acceptable
alternative for youth by a mass of people who in the past thumbed
their noses at it. At Woodward in the late 1990s, parents told me that
they would almost rather send their son to a thousand dollar a week
football camp than a five hundred dollar a week skateboard camp.
Degenerates. Social misfits. Such was the nature & collective
impression of skateborders at the time. Now, in the last fifteen
years, skateboarding has become accepted & embraced. Gonzales Pool
started this whole thing rolling. Thanks to Bryce Kanights, Grant Brittain and the others for the images. Skate- Ozzie
Epilogue- I wrote this out a long time ago and then added an addendum to it. We sent it to a company of people as we were hoping someone would invest and buy the property to save the Gonzales pool from ruin. A skate team house. A haven. However, the property was bought by a random investor and the pool dozed. I am saddened but also happy that so many were able to session it before it was gone. -Ozzie