Local residents have a chance to see The Signal Hill Speed Run, a documentary about the rise and fall of the legendary downhill skateboarding competition that took place in Signal Hill from 1975 to 1978, during the Newport Beach Film Festival at 8pm on Monday, April 29.
The 90-minute film, directed by Michael Horelick and Jon Carnoy and sponsored by the City of Signal Hill, chronicles the skateboarding competition that became world-famous in its heyday and today is considered “the birth of extreme sports” by many skateboarding enthusiasts.
As part of the Guinness World Records TV show, the competition was first staged and promoted by skateboard and hang-glider magazine publisher Jim O’Mahoney, now owner of the Santa Barbara Surf Museum.
The contest, which lasted for a brief four years, drew dozens of competitors and crowds of 5,000 people from all over the world, receiving international acclaim and coverage by television news crews and Sports Illustrated magazine.
Although today it is illegal to fly down the hill on a skateboard, bike or scooter, the City once permitted the competition, in which daredevil skateboarders launched down the more than 30-degree-angle slope of Shell Hill on Hill Street in Signal Hill and broke world records (and bones), as the first to reach speeds of more than 50 miles per hour. The hill was also famous for the Model-T Hill Climb in the 1920s.
Using innovative means, competitors, who wore dazzling leather suits and helmets, once barreled down the hill on skateboards while standing up, lying down or on their knees in a race for the fastest times. Competitors eventually started rolling down the hill in “skate cars”– metal, enclosed skateboards that required parachutes for stopping. Professional skateboarders today now consider the competition as the birthplace for “street luge” and downhill-skateboarding races.
The skateboarding competition was eventually shut down because of severe crashes.
The film features interviews with many of the original skateboarders today considered “legends” of their time, including Guy “Grundy” Spagnoli, the first to complete the attempt without any practice runs, clocking in at 50.2 miles an hour.
The film also features Tina Trefethen, a champion hang-glider who crashed into a pole coming down the hill in a skate car in 1978 at approximately 58 miles an hour.
Also in the film is the late Don “Waldo” Autry, a Long Beach native and “legend” of skateboarding who died just days before the film debuted at California State University, Long Beach in January.
For more information on the screening at the Newport Beach Film Festival, visit newportbeach.festivalgenius.com .