Latino skateboarders have been killing it the last few years: Leo Romero, Vincent Alvarez, Stevie Perez, Furby, the list goes on. But it’s nothing new – Latino skaters have been influencing the skate scene since its resurgence in the ’70s. Here are just a few of the many Latinos who put it down.
The Eccentric Genius: Mark Gonzales
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In the ‘80s, Mark Gonzales was the “Mexican kid with crazy, rad style.” Now he’s one of the most influential street skaters of all time — one of the first skaters to ride handrails, “The Gonz” is known for his childlike curiosity and ingenuity. While other skaters nail down tricks for videos, Gonzales, a poet and artist, appears to be painting the streets with his board.
Now pushing 50, Gonzales still skates with the energy of a twentysomething:
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The Magnetic Enigma: Paulo Diaz
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Paulo Diaz was the pied piper of L.A. skating in in the ‘90s. An immigrant from Guatemala, Diaz was so popular with skaters in his ‘hood that he was dubbed L.A.P.D (Los Angeles Paulo Diaz). Diaz skated for Stacy Peralta’s Bones Brigade before joining the influential Chocolate team. He was on the verge of skate stardom when he abruptly gave up skateboarding to pursue art and to travel the world. Diaz, who later admitted to having drug problems, recently returned to skating in Supreme’s Cherry video.
The Guys Who Put “Street” in Street Skating: Fabian Alomar & Joey Suriel
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In the ‘90s, the Menace team was like the N.W.A. of skateboarding. Fabian Alomar, who grew up in a family of gang members, tripped people out with his skills on a board. He made a name for himself on Menace’s 20 Shot Sequence skate video in 1995. Alomar, however, got caught up in the street life and spent eight years in prison for robbery. After being released from prison, Alomar started working as an actor.
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Joey Suriel, instantly recognizable with his long curly hair, was another street-smart member of Menace in the mid-90s. Along with Alomar, Suriel showed that you could grow up in the ‘hood and still become a pro skater. He continues to leave his mark in skateboarding as a brand manager for Diamond Supply Co.
The Immigrant who Made Skating His Home: Chico Brenes
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In 1985, Chico Brenes immigrated to the United States from Nicaragua. He was just nine years old. Soon after, he began skating on the streets of Daly City in Northern California. He turned pro at 16, joining World Industries before moving on to the respected Chocolate team. In 2009, Brenes opened a skate shop in Nicaragua’s capital city of Managua to provide affordable skate equipment to kids from his native country.
The Pioneer Turned Entrepreneur: Stacy Peralta
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The Rockstar on a Skateboard: Tony Alva
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Tony Alva brought swagger to the Z-Boys. Alva, one of the top skaters of the ‘70s, believed he was the best and wasn’t afraid to say it. He looked like a rockstar and lived like one, too. Alva was one of the first to perform frontside airs in a pool, considered the precursor to modern vert skating. He was only 19 years old when he turned his back on major skating companies to form his own, Alva Skates. Today, it’s the norm. Back then, Alva was the first.
The Skater Who Rode to His Own Tune: Tommy Guerrero
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In the ‘80s, everyone wanted to be in the the Bones Brigade. A crew skaters who rode for Stacy Peralta’s Powell-Peralta brand, the Bones Brigade was led by a young star named Tony Hawk. One members of the crew, Tommy Guerrero, mixed things up with his distinctive street style. Guerrero became a hero for city kids who couldn’t afford to ride pools or install vert ramps in their backyard. Guerrero is now an accomplished musician – he’s released five albums and several EPs.
The Manic Hispanic: Ray “Bones” Rodriguez
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Let’s see… when your signature deck has one of the most iconic graphics in skateboarding history, and you’re the guy who the Bones Brigade was named after, you’re a big deal. Rodriguez, who grew up in Los Angeles to a Mexican father and a Malaysian mother, was also a punk rocker at heart. He was a member of Manic Hispanic, a cult Orange County punk band that played Latino-ized covers of popular punk tracks.
The Venice Beach O.G.: Jesse Martinez
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Martinez grew up around gangs and violence in Venice, California. All he wanted to do was skate. When he was 6 years old, Martinez’s older cousin gave him a skateboard he found in a stolen car. Fast forward years later and Martinez was riding for Powell Peralta. Over the years, Martinez’s love for skateboarding in his hometown has never wavered: for the last five years, he cleans and maintains the Venice Beach skatepark in skating shape.
SUPPORT Venice Beach Skatepark HERO Jesse Martinez… over five years maintaining the park for all to enjoy! BIG respect from Maverick to anyone that has a positive impact on parks, the unsung heroes of the Skatepark – www.gofundme.com/Venice-Skatepark #maverickskateparks #skateboarding #skatepark #venicebeach #hero #jessemartinez #buildskateboarding
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The Guy Who Skated Just Like You: Ben Sanchez
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In the mid-90s, Ben Sanchez kept it old school. As a member of the Chocolate team, Sanchez was surrounded by superstars – Eric Koston, Guy Mariano – who were pushing the limits of street skating. In comparison, Sanchez looked like a regular guy who was lucky to be on the team. Despite his flaws, Sanchez became an underdog of sorts – the kid who skated just like you and your homies. In the late ‘90s, Sanchez quit skating and became a mechanic.
The Prodigy Turned Superstar: Paul Rodriguez
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Paul Rodriguez was once a precocious skater with a famous name. Now, “P-Rod” is arguably the most recognized skateboarder today. He’s been featured in multiple commercials, including one with Kobe Bryant, and is the first pro skater to receive a shoe deal from Nike. The son of Mexican-American comedian Paul Rodriguez, P-Rod has captured eight X Games medals, including four for gold. Rodriguez competed for Girl and Plan B and recently launched his own skateboarding deck company called Primitive Skateboarding.