“Without a past, you can’t have a future.” – Ende
Eddie Elguera took a great idea and ran with it. Gather together all of the Hester Series and Gold Cup legends and hold an event. It was an idea that I have heard bandied about before, though not to such a degree. I myself have fantasized about how amazing it would be to see the early pioneers of skateboarding in one place. Tribute. Accolades. Commemoration. I don’t care what anyone thinks and I admit it frequently… the Hester Series / Gold Cup skaters and all of the early riders helped shape and form me into what I am today. I know that I’m not alone. Eddie Elguera definitely feels the same way. It is evident. He took this idea and turned it over and over in his mind. He realized that in order to do this thing, he’d need a great deal of support, timing and luck. After all, many of these legends no longer skated that often, had quit all together or were unable to be located. Would they come? Could they skate? How would it work? He prayed over the entire thing. His wife Dawna, his family and church believed in his dream. They said, “We are one-hundred percent behind you.” They wouldn’t disappoint.
Eddie wanted it to be a weekend filled with fun, skateboarding and — most importantly — a commemoration and acknowledgement to all the early pioneers that gave us what we have today. Eddie said it quite succinctly- “I strongly believe that if skateboarding honors the past and champions the future, skateboarding will never die.” He planned and saw it through. A perfect weekend. The El Gato Classic was developed with the help of the Palm Springs community. At first, they were somewhat skeptical, but once they heard that Eddie was going to do it with or without their support, they thought, “Well, this might be something we need to get behind and push. These people have initiative.” So it began.
Eddie planned an art show with skateboarding’s photographic masters for Friday evening. It kicked the weekend off in fine fashion. Saturday morning, the sun would shine down over a legends jam, complete with a full panalopy of skateboarding legendry. The legends jam would be followed by a vert ramp demonstration with Tony Hawk and his friends. What a treat. He scheduled a legends dinner at the swanky Hacienda Beach Club for a personal meet, greet and eat. Johnny Rad and his band were set up to play a hilarious and time-warping gig afterwards. Sunday would be a service at his own church – The Rock Chapel. It would be no ordinary service. Legendary skateboarders, Dennis Martinez, Steve Caballero, Christian Hosoi and Eddie himself would provide a personal panel talk with each man telling his experience and ultimate acceptance of Jesus Christ as their personal savior. Sunday afternoon, the El Gato Classic would conclude with a legends pool contest at the Palm Springs Skate Park. The entire event was massive in scope and logistics. Many volunteers had to be found. The church and community rallied around Eddie and supported him to the fullest. ‘You can count on us!”
Friday night, the sun dropped behind the hillsides. One of the finest skateboard photographers in the world was on point to capture the entire El Gato Classic. Ray Zimmerman AKA MRZ, has been shooting skateboarding photographs since the 1970’s. He’s as good as they get. Indefatigable. He attended the art show Friday evening. The photographs that were on display speak for themselves. Color saturated images bleeding from the walls. Kodachrome. A bygone era… that somehow etched itself so deeply into skateboarding’s collective psyche, that the photographs are as fresh and vital today as they were when they were captured thirty-plus years ago. All life is colors…
Photographer King James Cassimus gave us Jay Smith, Brad Bowman, Ray Bones Rodriguez and others. Time stands still. Glenn Miyoda’s stark and grainy images pulsed from the wall. Kevin Worm Anderson stood on top of a tall wall in Paramount and drew a sharp line in the cement. It was a line few others would ever cross. These images spoke of a pain-filled past. Sharp learning curve. A time before money, energy drinks and Instagram. A time of soulful searching… all of the right reasons.
Saturday morning, I found myself pushing past the wind turbines on the gaunt road leading towards Palm Springs. Listening to The Buzzcocks, I wondered how the day would be. Would I see Wally Inouye, Kent Senatore, Duane Peters, Jim Gray, David Hackett, Brad Bowman, Shreddi Repas, Jerry Valdez, Arthur Viecco, Jay Smith, Gunnar Haugo, Stacy Peralta, Chris Strople, Dr. Rick Blackhart, Steve & Micke Alba, Danny Mini Shred Smith, Doug de Montmorency, George Orton, Pineapple Saladino, Steve Bulky Olson, Darrell Miller, the Logan family, Jim Muir, Billy Yeron, Steve Cathey, Eric Grisham, Steve Hirsch, Freddi DeSota, Allen Losi, Laura Thornhill, Gregg Weaver, Gregg Ayres, Scott Dunlap, Tay Hunt, Harvey Hawks, Dennis Martinez, Jami Godfrey, Ray Bones Rodriguez, Charlie Ransom, Lee Gahimer, Doug Marker, Howard Hood, Bobby Valdez, Kirk Talbot, Alan Gelfand, Tony Jetton… my mind reeled. The list continued in my brain and I pictured the 1978 1st Annual Skateboarder’s poll awards article in my minds eye. The asphalt roads stretched out in front of me and I couldn’t get to the El Gato Classic fast enough.
I met MRZ, famed skateboard photographer William Sharp from the long-defunct Skateboard World magazine and legendary pool, park and pipe rider Kent Senatore at the Palm Springs Skate Park. Huge crowd. Booths, banners and the brotherhood. A gathering of the tribes. I walked onto the deck of the pool and was fairly certain I might faint. Every childhood hero I ever had was literally on the deck with me. Half of the names listed above were either ripping, thinking about ripping or talking about ripping. Fly on a wall. I took out my notepad and started taking notes. Some of these skaters hadn’t lost a thing… except a bit of flexibility and hair. The style remained and the power was evident. Who can escape what he desires? They dropped into the pool and things grew hectic.
The legends drew sharp lines. Alexandrian… the pool was dissected with clean surgical precision. Surf style was evident. Technique met face to face with the fluid drive of a surfing bloodline. I saw a skater with a t-shirt that represented an old-time value system. “I hate Vari-Bots’ The Variflex team of the 1970’s– which Eddie Elguera was a part of– represented a technical pulling away from the fluid surf roots of skateboarding. Tricks. Technique and finesse. The Variflex riders were called Vari-Bots by some of their contemporaries of the time. These skaters felt that the Variflex team rode in a robotic manner. There are arguments for both sides. I understand and appreciate both. Skateboarding means different things to each individual. I realize that as the Hester I slipped into the Hester II and the Gold Cup was on the horizon, it must have really irked more than a few early pioneers to see the classic surf style of their youth becoming usurped by a side-to-side, trick to trick approach. Coupled with ‘Compulsory’ runs, contests changed dramatically.
Bobby Valdez and his invert were a threshold moment in vertical skateboarding. A compulsory run was added to the contests. It went something like this: frontside carve, frontside grind, backside carve, backside grind, air, invert and a few other things… these were part of the compulsories and many early riders from Hester I and Hester II couldn’t or didn’t want to learn the invert. The past met the future. Some didn’t care for it. Life. Both met on the Palm Springs battlefield at the El Gato Classic. There was no ill will. Brotherhood. A friendly banter was overheard. There was a great deal of laughter. Stoke was everywhere. Looking around, I realized that this was the first time in probably over thirty years that all of these guys rode together like this. History.
Part TWO of the El Gato Classic will be ready Wednesday. Thank you to MRZ for the images. Skate- Ozzie