In high school, Joshua Aguirre would gaze across the 805 freeway from Hilltop High’s campus at a steep incline that curved wide at the top, had a sharp turn near the bottom, and ended in a broad cul-de-sac.
On Monday, November 11, Aguirre, now 20, was out there on the now-familiar ground, skateboard in hand, the fences marking the edge of Hilltop High School visible across the expanse.
"It's called free riding," he said between runs down the hill in the Lynwood Hills area of Chula Vista. “You get up to speed and you kick out your board, go sideways. You slide through the turn; you drift through the turn. It's a gliding feeling."
He hopped on his board, picked up speed, and launched into a series of zig-zags, as if a sailboat sharply tacking across a lake. The faster he went, the more he drifted.
Aguirre is part of a growing coterie of South Bay skaters (about ten) who are practicing derring-do on slopes like this one, a tenth-of-a-mile run on a 12-percent grade where traffic is rare and the course ends in a cul-de-sac.
Riders of the hill say they go as fast as 25 miles an hour. The velocity, and the grade level as well, are not estimates, but determined by their GPS devices.
On Monday, Aguirre was garbed in black sneakers (“regular shoes,” he said, not made especially for boarding), gray jeans, a sleeveless T-shirt, gloves, pads, and a helmet on which a camera can be mounted.
Hard plastic pucks built into gloves and knee pads are their brakes and shields, slowing riders down as they touch the pucks to the pavement and breaking their falls.
On a run Monday, Aguirre set his shoes onto the grip tape and zigged and zagged down, flapping his arms at one point as he knelt low to the ground and touched his left hand puck to the pavement. Finding his balance, he kicked out and drifted across the street, coming to a stop just above where the slope curves acutely around a blind driveway.
“It's just starting to come into its own in this area…. Just last night we were skating at Del Rey, a straight grade,” he said, referring to a slope off of H Street said to descend at a steep 16 degrees.
As to safety concerns, there are few residences along the road and hardly any traffic. A regular reports "a few spills,” but nothing beyond scraped knees or elbows.
With police, there have "never been any problems really,” said a 15-year-old skater. “We try to be as nice as we can and not be an obstacle to cars, as well as cleaning up after ourselves.... We scream 'car!’ if a car is coming."