Thursday, December 24, 2009

Las Vegas, Hektor Esparza, and the spirit of giving

When I was living with Hektor his most extreme moment of giving was when he sold his skate gear to buy ingredients for a huge pot of soup to feed all the gutter punks in the park. I had to stop him at the point that he was turning our apartment into a shelter. Months before he came home wide eyed from having found Jesus in the center of a big kickflip. I could go on for miles of blog but here's Andrew Kiraly's brief exposé on him and his current doings in the city of sin. If anyone wants to help out Hektor's skate based giving, or hosting an art show, anything else, let me know and I'll see to it that you get your money, space, or time to Hektor.

Hektor Esparza
Photo: Jeferson Applegate

Story and photo lifted from Las Vegas City Weekly-

Shredding sensei teaches young skaters sick tricks -- and life lessons

On a recent Wednesday, Hektor Esparza is pulling a little morning shred session at the Winchester Community Center skate park. He's carving the concrete banks, casually popping airs and nailing kick-flips, and going on and on about ninjas and samurai and God and health food and Chinese medicine and punk rock -- tying it all together, of course, with skateboarding.

"It was Sho Kasugi who got me into skating," he explains. "He was this famous actor who was in movies like Enter the Ninja and Revenge of the Ninja in the '80s. I was at Gemco or some store and I saw this skateboard with this graphic of him on the bottom." It was 1986, and Esparza was a confirmed martial-arts geek who'd never even set foot on a 7-ply. However, the ninja connection would transform his life into what might be called Enter the Shredder.

"So, see, it was the ninja that brought me into skateboarding," he says. "And now it's like full circle, because I'm trying to bring the ninja back to skateboarding."

What he means is bringing a sense of discipline, honor and self-improvement to a skateboard culture that's gone crazy at the extremes: corporate at one end (see Tony Hawk) and Cro-Magnon at the other (see the countless mayhem vids inspired by Jackass). As the skate park program leader at Winchester, Esparza schools a select class of 14 teens in a yearlong skateboarding course. But the lessons he teaches apply both on and off the deck.

"Skateboarding isn't just a sport, it's an art form, with traditions and culture," says Esparza, who readily rattles off history-of-skateboarding factoids from the advent of urethane wheels to the invention of the McTwist. "But it's also about how skateboarding can be a positive force in life and really open doors for kids. A lot of these kids come from some pretty tough situations -- drop outs, drugs, rebellion."

Esparza whips them into shape with a handful of carrots and sticks. To remain on the team, members must maintain at least a C average in school and practice some form of art, whether it's painting, film or music. He also urges them to volunteer in everything from county cultural events to food drives. "I don't want these kids to be lopsided."

Team member Josh Baldwin says the program taught him much more than a few new tricks. "He really pushes you. If you're getting Cs and Ds in school, he's like, 'Let's get those up,'" says Baldwin, 17. And when Baldwin's single-parent household collapsed and his life was thrown into chaos, Esparza was there for him. "If I didn't have clothes or a jacket, Hektor would always find me one." A graduate of the team, Baldwin hopes to eventually go pro or pursue a career in film.

Esparza also gives private skate lessons and puts together skate contests ... and is into alternative medicine and Jesus and breathing techniques and -- well, let him explain.

"I call my skate style east-west style because part of it's about health food and herbal medicine and martial arts and the Tao -- that's the east style," he says. "The west is about skating, and punk rock and jazz and ..." Ride on, Hektor.


Link to older Hektor post 1 (at the Hollywood Skatepark)

Link to older Hektor post 2 (at the Horizon Ditch)


Amey said...

I love hearing old stories of Hektor like this one. Thanks Kai. He is one special dude, getting better every day and every kickflip...

Kai said...

Yup, he's the metric equivalent of three special dudes, on a bad day. One of these days you and I will meet and we can spend too many hours telling each other our Esparzisms. Take care and enjoy