Happy Fiftieth Birthday Eddie ‘El Gato’ Elguera. The word went out. There would be a birthday session at the Vans Combi. The social media engine slipped into gear. Travel plans were made. Couches reserved. Phone lines buzzed with anticipation. As the day approached, Ray Zimmerman and I prepared ourselves. We talked about how to present the event and do it justice. We spoke of Eddie’s influence. We both grew up in the seventies era of skateboarding. We talked about the Hester One contests and the changes we saw in the Hester Two series, a year later. We both agreed that Eddie Elguera played a pivotal role in the innovation of technical tricks during that time. We wanted to give this event the respect it deserved.
We arrived a bit early and there was a pretty good sized crew rolling in the Combi and crowded on the decks. Ray set up lights and I started speaking to those I had chosen to question in regards to the man of the moment. “What does Eddie Elguera mean to you and how do you regard his place in skateboarding?” Answers varied. Some pondered. Most readily offered up “Innovator” and more than a few skaters consider Eddie a “Pioneer”. The session soon began in earnest. Scott Foss flew with style and calm grace. Adrian Demain, Mike McGill, Jeff Hedges, Owen Neider and others all were ripping. Andy Macdonald was doing something pretty unique. He was riding the Combi pool and was doing a line consisting only of tricks that Eddie invented. It was inspiring to those that actually caught what he was doing.
“If it wasn’t for Eddie Elguera, the frontside rock-n-roll wouldn’t be a part of skating. Skateboarding would have a hole in it. I learned the frontside rock at thirteen years old, after I saw a photograph of Eddie. The frontside rock is the style, the roots and the ritual of skateboarding. In contests, I always do a frontside rock. If you take away all the cameras, crowds and money, it’s just skateboarding. I’d be skating and doing frontside rocks regardless.”- Andy Macdonald
“I started seeing photographs of Eddie in the magazines before I had a concept of how skating was. It was a new world. Eddie was creating a future in skateboarding and this helped me to find my place in the world. I was an awkward kid. It gave me something to strive for. This is where my identity all comes from.” – Adrian Demain
“He is perfectionism. It is strange that one of my childhood heroes is only two years older than me.” – Mike McGill
“Eddie Elguera was the innovator. He always came up with completely new stuff.”- Lester Kasai
“Eddie was innovation. Looking at the magazines, I saw Eddie as one of the first skaters to really mix it up and continually invent things. His intensity during the contests was notable. It really grew intense during the Gold Cups with Duane and Eddie. They had the whole Varibot and Santa Cruz thing going… To me, Eddie Elguera represented change.” – Eric Nash
“For me, it all began with Eddie, Stevie and Duane. This is where technical bowl riding really comes from. What they did, makes skateboarding what it is today. Eddie was a huge part of all this.” – Jeff Hedges
“Eddie Elguera represented that next step. Competitive skating. In the early 1980’s he was innovation. He raised the bar high.” – Pat Ngoho
“It is easier to be the dog than the rabbit. Eddie Elguera was the rabbit. We always chased him as he led the way. He set the standards for that era. Eddie set the bar. It was an honor and a privilege to see him skate. He lifted everyone up.” – Scott Foss
“I skated Carlsbad in 1976. I saw guys like Wally Inouye. We rode Caster and IPS boards. I rode Del Mar and it was the same. In 1979, Variflex came out. I have to admit that Eddie was the ONLY person to ever get me to change my entire set up due to his skating. I saw him skate and immediately went and bought an Elguera board with crappy Variflex trucks and wheels. He was the only one!” – Owen Neider
“Eddie’s contribution to skateboarding is iconic. He was the pioneer of technical skating. Guys like Tony Hawk emulated him to progress the sport. What Eddie did was truly special. He liked to take skating to the next level. To see him still progressing is inspiring. He just learned backside Smith grinds. He inspires people in skating, he inspires people to persevere, to stand for something… he is a man of god. I am proud of him. I am proud that he is on Hosoi skateboards and that we get to travel and skate together. We share our love of skateboarding.” – Christian Hosoi
The microphone was hijacked from the DJ and Eddie spoke about his friendship and rivalry with Duane Peters. Steve Van Doren presented Eddie with a gift and a cake was later brought out and everyone sang Happy Birthday. There were young guns, women and all ages represented and skating in celebration of Eddie Elguera’s birthday. It was pretty unreal. Milestones. Memories.
Thank you to Vans and all the sponsors. Thank you to everyone that celebrated with us. Thank you to all of the skaters that took the time to give me their thoughts and thanks to MRZ for the images. Skate- Ozzie