The sun was high overhead as the El Gato Classic moved over to the nearby Palm Springs High School. On a black asphalt lot, the Tony Hawk organization had set up its massive vert ramp. Tony, Eddie, Cab, Hosoi, Kevin Staab, Lincoln Ueda, Neal Hendrix, Evan and Tom Schaar began a late afternoon skyclimbing exhibition that left the vast Palm Springs audience in awe.
When one witnesses such high-flying talent, it is immediately evident how far skateboarding has come. Surf style and roots bled into finesse and technique which manifests itself in the fine art of vertical ramp skateboarding. Symbiotic. We cannot have a future without a solid past. The Hester Series and Gold Cup pioneers gave us exactly that. Foundation.
MRZ and I went to the hotel. We were pretty thrashed. It takes quite a bit to do what we do. I had hastily scribbled notes and thoughts while he had cards filled with photographs to download and process. I put together a small event update and we both cleaned up and were out the door. We were soon headed over to the Hacienda Beach Club for the legends dinner and the infamous Johnny Rad gig.
It would turn out to be a stellar evening of good food, socializing and memories made. A good friend of the Elguera family — Tammy Seheult — made a special cake for the event. It was really something to see. It must have taken the dessert chef a million hours to make it. The details were impressive. Later in the evening, the Tony Hawk Foundation was presented with a check to help with all the good they do. As far as I can tell, cake and donations of money always put people in a grand mood.
Johnny Rad came into the room and I couldn’t contain myself. I must have sang his songs off the Bones Brigade videos thousands of times. “I skate to school, I skate in the pool… skating is great!” Johnny Rad and his sidekicks started in on the first song. All I remember is, “I don’t need air and I don’t need water, just my skateboard and your youngest daughter.” I fell apart. It was so funny. Johnny Rad is the perfect name for that guy….
I walked around all night and watched and listened. I took it all in. The clink of glasses and silver wear on plates. Voices and laughter. Good times. I moved off to the side patio and stood beside a fire pit. It spat and sent sparks up into the darkness. Fifty feet away from me, I watched the legends of skateboarding as they chatted, ate and reminisced. I watch people. It is what I do. I pondered over it all so far… the El Gato Classic.
Dr. Rick Blackhart was larger than life. He spoke of trips to the Arizona pipes and rolling out of and back into pools long before most. Dave Hackett walked by with his wife and I smiled. He pulled Hackett slash grinds in the pool that day and I can honestly say that style is forever. He has it. Speaking of style, I saw Gregg Weaver signing someone’s Warren Bolster book… Gregg Weaver. The Cadillac Kid. He was ten feet from me and I just sat there and grinned like an imbecile.
I spoke with Doug Pineapple Saladino who was nursing some displaced ribs. He was ripping the pool that day. Gunnar Haugo and his lovely lady were present. Always gracious and accommodating, Gunnar talked about Kevin Anderson and his abilities at Mt. Baldy pipe. I smiled as I walked past Scott Dunlap, Arab, Steve Evans, Jay Smith, Scott Foss, Mike Folmer, Alan Gelfand, Mike McGill, Larry Balma, Henry Hester, Tony Magnusson, Eric Grisham and Steve Hirsch. Unreal.
The night wrapped around me. I was soon alone with my thoughts. My youth. Pennsylvania. Snow-covered hills. Skateboard magazines spilling over the blankets of my bed. Reading. Peering intently at the photographs… and here they all were. I shook my head at the strangeness of life. I had watched the stars come out…
The El Gato Classic Three will be ready tomorrow. Thank you to MRZ and Orlando Welsh for the images and the attendees for the inspiration. For more on the Golden Era of skateboarding, the William Sharp book ‘Back in the Day’ will be available soon. Back In The Day Update I will inform everyone on the Blue Tile Obsession as the book approaches release. – Ozzie