How I met the skater who changed skateboarding, Mark Gonzales.


How I met the skater who changed skateboarding, Mark Gonzales.

Photos: Top two Venice Beach 1984 and Bottom two are San Diego 1984.

I am often asked when I first shot photographs of Mark Gonzales and if, at that time, I recognized that he was special and that he would change the course of skateboarding.

Well, the answer to the first question is that I met Mark at a freestyle contest in Venice Beach in July of 1984; at least that’s when I think I first met him. That day is definitely the first time I laid my camera lens on him. He was ollieing off the Venice Beach restroom roof along with a group of other skaters, and he actually snapped two decks, one of which was borrowed.

After Mark was done destroying boards, he asked if I wanted to shoot a nearby quarterpipe, and, of course, my answer was an emphatic yes. He then led me up an alley to the backyard of a house with a cool little quarterpipe setup and proceeded to rip it up on another borrowed board.

After that impromptu private session, I went back down to the beach and shot the rest of the freestyle contest.

Back in the 1980s, it seemed as though there was a contest every month, and the summer of 1984 was packed. The very next month after Venice Beach, there was a street contest in the parking lot next to the Holiday Inn at the San Diego Embarcadero. Back in those days, a street contest consisted of a couple of jump ramps; a horseshoe-shaped, double-sided steel curb; some parking blocks; a picnic table; and an old tire on top of a wooden platform. The usual assortment of pro and amateur skaters showed up at this contest with their friends and other industry types in tow.

Among the participants, I noticed Mark Gonzales on his board, darting in and out of the throng of skaters and throwing himself off the variety of obstacles on the rough pavement. The Gonz was sporting a different hairstyle than the previous month in Venice Beach, and he was doing street handplants on the parking blocks and bonelesses all around the course, turning heads and blowing minds.

The answer to the second question about whether I knew he would change skateboarding’s course? I knew Mark was special, and I knew he was changing skateboarding in that moment. But remember, back in that period, we only lived for the moment and really never imagined what skateboarding would be in the future. Now, looking back, I’m not surprised about his remarkable influence over skateboarding.

Here are a few photos from those memorable first and second photo sessions with Gonz back in July and August of 1984.

Prints available


  • Your pics capture what skateboarding feels like. I couldn’t pull off every move, but I could grasp what they felt like from your photos. And this many years later, it’s so fun to read about those days and what it was like for you to be in the middle of the scene.

    Jon Arntsen
  • The very elusive Alva Hosoi…had one the wood was horrible but I loved it…I grew up watching the mags not videos and you caught the culture very nicely…I love to see all of this amazing work in one place…thank you for your contribution to skateboarding…without the documentation the act of skateboarding is only in the moment and that is great but to relive that moment over and over again is even greater.

    Darrick Stiers
  • Thanks for bringing out these stories. Going to search for any podcast you might have done. Definitely want to hear more.

  • Amazing! Grant, your photos also changed and progressed skateboarding

    Scott Slagle
  • Enjoyed reading make a book on sure theres plenty of people who would enjoy it as much as I do

    Raul Castro

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