A little more than seven years ago, two-time world-champion skateboarder Eddie “El Gato” Elguera, senior pastor at C3 Church in Palm Desert, set out to celebrate an era of skateboarding through the El Gato Classic.
“There’s Lords of Dogtown, about a group of skaters who skated pools in the ’70s,” Elguera said during a recent interview. “… There’s another documentary with Tony Hawk, Steve Caballero, Lance Mountain and others (about skating in the ’80s) called the Bones Brigade, so there are a lot of people who think that skateboarding went from that era to that era—but there’s the era in between, and that’s the era that I’ve been a part of. In that era, there are a lot of legends who really revolutionized skateboarding into what it is today, in terms of it being in the Olympics.”
Honoring that late-’70s/early-’80s era of skateboarding, the El Gato Classic has hosted competitions, featured legends of the sport, and celebrated some of the forgotten history of skating. This year’s event, the first since 2018, will take place on Friday, Nov. 11, and Saturday, Nov. 12.
“A lot of tricks that were invented and founded and stuff were in that era, and it’s kind of like they were forgotten,” Elguera said. “I wanted to put the event together and gather all these legends together who didn’t get the recognition, because back in the day, there wasn’t a lot of video; there wasn’t a lot of social media, so the only coverage that you would be able to see was in a skateboard magazine. If somebody invented a trick, the magazine would come out two months later.
“There was no recognition. There wasn’t any money; there wasn’t any corporate sponsorship. It was more of the pioneering of vertical skateboarding. What I wanted to do is just gather and honor these guys, and it was more of a gathering of legends, so I call it the ‘Old Classic Legends Weekend.’ It’s kind of like a high school reunion for them, and we do different things throughout. A lot of them still skate, and a lot of them just come to hang out and be a part.
“We gathered them all together, and then all of a sudden, it just grew, and a lot of the guys were stoked on it. Every year, we’ve tried to do things a little bit different, so we have an art show; we have a concert with bands; and then we have the skating aspect of it. That’s kind of how it separates itself: It’s not just a regular skate event. It’s not just a regular contest—but it’s kind of an experience of legends.”
While the El Gato Classic is rooted in the past, Elguera insisted that the event is playing a role in ushering in the new era of skating.
“It was my purpose to honor the past, the champions, the guys who went before, who many may not even know their names … but let’s also champion the future,” he said. “What we’ve started doing is doing a generations contest. We have five teams, so five legends will pick out a skater from the pros, girls, amateurs and masters, and they all compete. We’re not only honoring the past, but championing the future, so some of the people who will be here were in the Olympics; some of them weren’t, and so it’s going to be kind of exciting.”
Each year, the event attracts notable skaters like Christian Hosoi, Kevin Staab, Steve Caballero and, of course, Tony Hawk, giving fans an opportunity to get up close and personal with their heroes.
“We do a thing called Legends Talk, at the art show that we do, and the legends get to talk about history; it’s really like a live podcast,” Elguera said. “People get to ask them questions; (the legends) get to talk about their experiences, and people say, ‘Wow, I get to understand history from back in the late ’70s and ’80s, and I got to hear from the person who invented it, and what he was going through and what was going on.’
“Also, people get to see the level of skill that the legends who still skate have. You could still skateboard in your 60s, I’m going to be 60 on Nov. 12. Skateboarding isn’t just for little kids. A lot of people get to meet their heroes who they’ve never met before; they get signatures; they get their boards and have them signed by a legend. It’s a great event all around in terms of that legendary aspect of skateboarding.”
“It’s kind of a replica, but with some changes, of a legendary skateboard park pool called the Combi Bowl, and the reason it’s called the Combi Bowl is because it has a combination of the square pool and a round pool in the shallow end all together,” Elguera said. “It makes for a good pool to skate in, because there are so many lines that you could do within it. I helped design that with Lance Mountain and with Spohn Ranch, the builders at the skatepark. The Combi Bowl, in 1979, was used in the finals for the Hester Series, the series that started vertical competition. In 1979, Upland Pipeline skatepark built this new pool for the finals, so it’s kind of cool, because now we’re able to bring it out, and a lot of the guys that skated in those finals will be skating there. We’re also adding pump tracks, which have been really popular at skate parks, and we’re going to be doing some pump track races. A lot of these legendary skaters will be doing the pump track races, and a lot of them will be skating in the bowl.”
The El Gato Classic will take place Friday, Nov. 11, and Saturday, Nov. 12, at the C3 Church, 75400 Gerald Ford Drive; and La Quinta X Park, 46170 Dune Palms Road, in La Quinta. Events at C3 are free; tickets start at $25 for events at La Quinta X Park. For more information, visit elgatoclassic.com.