Culture | June 28, 2022 6:30 am

How an Old-School LA Skater Is Welcoming a New Generation to Night Skates

“At 32, I was like, ‘This isn't sustainable’ — like jumping out flights of stairs, sliding down rails to get my jollies”

Jorge Gonzalez
Jorge Gonzalez
Jorge Gonzalez

The pandemic brought its miseries, but for Jorge Gonzalez, a San Bernardino native with tattoos and teenage punk-rock skate dreams, it also meant opportunity — and a few sets of light-up wheels.

Gonzalez’s Knight Skate Supply services skaters all over Los Angeles and San Bernardino County. InsideHook got a chance to sit down and talk about hustle (he still drives full-time doing rideshare, on top of owning his shop as well as a payroll business), skating and pushing through aggression to coast onto chill.

InsideHook: Tell us how long you’ve been skating.
Jorge Gonzalez: A little bit since I was nine. [I’ve been] aggressive skating since I was 14, and then really only aggressive skated from 14 up until my early 30s.

How has skating changed for you as you’ve coasted past your “teenage dirtbag” years into adulthood?
I never skated for life or health-related reasons or just to skate. It was always literally just trying to do tricks. But [at] 32, I’m like, “This isn’t sustainable” — like jumping out flights of stairs, sliding, down rails to get my jollies — like, it’s just not going to be realistic for the rest of my life. I may have 10 to 15 years left. It’s obvious that it’s going away. I’m not gonna be able to do it, even if I want to. I’m gonna have to scale it down. So I was like, “What is my next iteration gonna look like for me for rollerblading,” right? Because I want to rollerblade. I love rollerblading.

How hard was it to find a skate community when you became an adult skater?
I started a page literally called “Blades and Brews” or something on Meetup.com. I still have it, but I changed the name to something more generic. [It’s now called Los Angeles Urban Inline/Roller Skating] It was kind of hard to muster up a group — [even though] my entire network of friends were rollerbladers. I couldn’t muster up a group of people to come out. I started organizing some night skating, followed up with a few beers. And you know, that’s it. [It was] only just regular skating — which sounds silly, but coming from my paradigm, it wasn’t normal. Case in point being: I reached out to my friends. We’re all rollerbladers. I’m like, “Night session.” [They were like] “You know, what spots are we gonna skate?” And I’m like, “None, we’re just gonna fucking skate around, you know?” And they’re like, “Oh, like skate around from spot to spot?” And I’m like, “Nah, like, just like…skate, you know?” And they were having a hard time comprehending what I’m saying. So — not within our paradigm.

Knight Skate has a name similar to The Night Skate, an existing skate community here in Los Angeles. How did you come to it?

I randomly saw a post from someone [for] a meetup in downtown LA [that was] basically exactly what I wanted to do [called The Night Skate]. It was exactly what I wanted to do. I didn’t want to reinvent the wheel — why [not] attach myself to that? I built that up. I felt like I had a big part of increasing the amount of people that came. At first it was probably like five or six people that showed up — then it got to the point of 10 people showing up. It was like, Whoa — 10 people! Now it’s like regularly 20 to 25 people plus — and high-level skaters.

Did that inspire the name a bit? 

I was already known for night skating. A friend of mine was making these [videos of me skating]. I started making them as well, but everyone we just knew was like, “Oh, Jorge. He’s the night skate guy. He skates The Night Skate. I thought, Ugh, I gotta think of a name, and I was like…you know what? Let’s just go with Knight Skate. We came from that bitch. Let’s make it easy — confuse the shit out of people [and] make it easy at the same time. And so, that was the genesis of the name. I didn’t even ask for permission. Like what was Jenni [Editor’s note: That’s TNS owner Jenni Phoebe, who offered her blessing to Gonzalez’s venture] going to do? Wanna fight? Ha!

Tell me a bit about how the pandemic changed things for skaters — and how it created an opportunity for you.

Everybody was a little restless. Rollerblading outdoors especially happened to be very COVID friendly, right? You could stay socially distanced. It was like a perfect group activity, if you were so inclined to do a group activity at that time. All of a sudden, all these people who never tried it before — or used to ice skate but the ice skating rinks were closed — were just looking for somewhere to skate. At that point, I’d been skating outdoors for five years. It sounds silly, skating out at night. I’m so used to it. [The pandemic made me realize] how unique of an experience it really is, just cruising down the streets. When people started coming to me for skates, I was like, “You know what, I’m actually in a position to be able to focus 100 percent on growing a business — fuck it, let’s do it.“

What have been your most popular sellers?
The [light-up] Luminous wheels are our top sellers. Now roller skates: Impalas. And then [for] our rollerblades, it was a combination of FRs and the Powerslides.

Will you be carrying fibers [aka skates with fiberglass wheels]?
Not yet. I’m working on that for sure. That’s the push I want to make, that style of skating. Indoor, kind-of freestyle.

With skate rinks all over LA closing, what’s the future for skating here in Southern California?
I feel like there’s a big uproar because some rules are inadvertently racist. [A number of top Black skaters gravitate to fibers; they feel disproportionately targeted by regulations limiting their use on certain floor types, which in terms limits fiber-users’ access to these rinks.] I’m not excited about the notion [of creating a rink], but I’m very happy promoting the use of urban centers as the rink.  I feel like I’m adding something to the city at night — something that didn’t exist before. I watched it happen. It was like rollout outs all that shit. You know, that’s all brand new. The concept isn’t new. The culture isn’t new. It was just a group thing but now, it’s brand new again due to the pandemic.