You know those late nights where you wake up in a cold sweat and can't get back to sleep...The kind when your mind races with all of the things you need to get done the next day? Emmanuel Guzman, the 30-year-old Californian skateboarder with an eye for hillbombs, is all-too-familiar with those sleepless nights.
"It keeps me up at night," says Guzman. "I can't sleep."
Guzman was born from Mexican immigrants in Santa Cruz, which some have described as the "most hauntingly beautiful place in the world." History says that Santa Cruz was once the sacred home of the Ohlone Indian Nation, and like many Native American Tribes, they were ousted from their land and a city was built on top of it. At least three Indian burial grounds have been discovered inside the Santa Cruz city limits, and many strange and terrible events have plagued the coastal city since the Ohlone's demise.
Destructive fires, regular ghost sightings and completely bizarre occurrences happen regularly in the coastal town. In 1961, thousands of seabirds suddenly appeared on a foggy day, terrorizing the town and smashing into buildings. Santa Cruz resident Alfred Hitchcock immortalized this event in his 1963 film The Birds. Then, during the 1970s, Santa Cruz became the "Murder Capital of the World," largely due to a pair of evil serial killers who killed more than 20 people in two years. The city's killings inspired the plot for the movie The Lost Boys as a paradise surf town where evil things happen.
As a native Santa Cruzan, Guzman is familiar with the legends and curses that haunt his city, but there are other things that stop him from sleeping. As you may be aware, Guzman is the man who put his life on the line for Thrasher Magazine's Prevent This Tragedy video, when he bombed a hill that could've easily been his last. On any skateboard, Rampart Street easily generates speeds of more than 50 mph and it is a legend in its own right. Rob Roskopp, a Santa Cruz skateboarder, first bombed it in 1989 wearing full leather protective gear, a helmet and high-speed 65mm Big Balls 97A wheels strapped to his longboard to help him get down the hill alive.
In Santa Cruz, the city is full of skateboarders and big wave surfers who risk their lives for thrills. Mavericks, the renown "widow maker" surf break, has some of the fastest and largest waves in the world and is a regular spot for Santa Cruz locals who want to make a daytrip. The way that some describe it, big wave surfing and bombing hills on skateboards has been an engrained and inherited part of life for many Norcal natives.
"It's where the mountains meet the ocean… There is this mentality that bigger and faster is better and gnarlier," says Guzman. "You have no control over the circumstances, you just have to trust that you're going to survive."
Considering that ancient Indians might have cursed the asphalt you are flying down, there is a whole lot of trust being put into an eight-inch wide board and four urethane wheels. It's a factor that Guzman didn't consider when he bombed the hill the first time with a buddy, without a camera.
Unknown to most skaters, the footage from Prevent This Tragedy is actually the second time that Guzman bombed Rampart Street. In fact, the first time he did it, he used his own 8.2 Santa Cruz with 53mm hardwheels and loose trucks.
"It definitely wasn't the right setup for it," Guzman says. "It got sketchy and I almost ate sh!t...there's a rough patch halfway down. It wobbled really bad."
When he returned, he used Thrasher filmer P-Stone's broken in setup of 60mm wheels that were worn in and well-loved bearings with his trucks tightened down as far as the bushings would allow. According to Guzman, it made more sense to use a set up that's got some miles on it, because "you never know what could happen with new gear." Then, he pushed into the hill, with onlookers in a Jeep following behind to try to clock the speed of the wild ride.
"The Jeep was going 40mph and I was just leaving it," says Guzman. "Comparing it to how fast I've gone in the past, I'd say I was over 50mph…You go that fast on a skateboard and it's like you're in another realm."
When Guzman bombed Rampart that day, it was the first stop on the trip for Prevent This Tragedy and the first clip for that he filmed for the part.
If you ask him if he would do it again, he doesn't hesitate to say "yes."
However, just riding down again isn't good enough. To seal the deal, Guzman says he would test fate and go down the monster…switch.
"It's kind of a dream of mine," says Guzman. "If I could do that, I would be completely content with my skateboarding ability...but then I think about it and the thought of doing it terrorizes me."
Just like Indian burial grounds and serial killers, there is something in Santa Cruz that keeps Guzman from sleeping soundly. It's not an earthquake or a pack of wild seagulls tormenting his town – instead it is a hill on skirts of the county and the thought of going down it backwards. He says the idea of it haunts him a bit, but it's better that way.
"I'd rather be terrified by something that's my choice," says Guzman."