Downhill skateboard racing finds its origins right here in Long Beach, CA, back in 1975 on Signal Hill at the “Signal Hill Speed Run”. I am extremely proud of this fact as Long Beach is my home, my birthplace and the birthplace of Wheelbase Magazine.
It’s been almost 40 years since downhill’s founding fathers—pioneers such as John Hutson, Waldo Autry, Guy Grundy, Cliff Coleman, Mike Goldman, and a handful of others—dared to ride their skateboards down Signal Hill faster than anyone in the world had ever dreamt possible. And yet, this critical chapter in skateboarding history has been neglected, rejected, and omitted by many of skateboarding’s most prolific historians as if it were some kind of apocryphal abomination. Regardless of such shortsightedness on behalf of the tellers of our tales, downhill skateboarding is flourishing all over the world these days with millions upon millions of skateboarders riding down everything from steep and winding mountain roads, to undulating back roads and various urban descents.
Today’s current world record for speed on a downhill skateboard is just over 80Mph, which is undeniably impressive and totally fucking cool! It’s also a lot faster than the 50+ mph that the OGs accomplished on Signal Hill back in the 1970s. That said, I believe paying homage to the skaters and roads that make up our rich history is of critical importance. Without these amazing people and iconic hills such as Signal Hill we would not have had the inspiration or markers of possibilities that have made us the skaters we are today. Our origins provide us with perspective.
My intent here is in no way meant to be sentimental or nostalgic. Contrarily, I despise both with fierce disdain. My purpose here is rather to simply state my belief that the roots of downhill skateboarding are something to be proud of and cherish. I believe that the rich history of downhill skateboarding provides us with perspective and allows us to better gauge and navigate the future. Before there was “longboarding”, before “street skating”, before Alan Gelfand invented the ollie, and before a long list of arbitrary taglines and bullshit terms were attached to skateboarding by various assholes over the years—before all of that—there was Signal Hill and there was crazy ass skaters willing to skate down it. Downhill skateboarding is OG as fuck! Fact!
The history of skateboarding is an endless volume with new chapters being written and added to its pages every day. Signal Hill and the pioneers who shredded it back in the 70’s are a radical and significant part of the larger story. Know your origins, pay homage to those that paved the way, and keep on exploring what’s possible. Shredlove forever!