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Skate Movie Review: The Signal Hill Speed Run

By Andres Pachon

A. Pachon, a journalist and skateboard addict, is a full-time writer for SHIT® Magazine.

  • Release Date: 25 April 2013
  • Genres: Documentary, Action, Drama
  • Country: USA
  • Directors: Jon Carnoy (co-director), Mike Horelick (co-director)
  • Writer: Mike Horelick

There are very few documentary movies that are able to capture what this film was able to, from the early influences, to the big break of skateboarding nationwide and eventual world domination, this film will have you on the edge of your seat while you see history developing; Incredible footage of the historical speed runs held at Signal Hill, most likely one of the first skateboarding landmarks of California.

The first ever downhill skateboarding race was held in Oct 17 1975, skateboarding had already been around for a while with freestyle skateboarding championships being held all over California, however, no one had ever seen something like the first ever “speed run” held at the hill. It was not really a race, but 2 people who decided to attempt the stunt that got attention of plenty of people at the time. One of them ended up with a few broken bones and the other one, Guy Grundy, achieved a Guiness World Record by being the first person to reach speeds of 50/MPH on a skateboard.

This guy achieved what at that time was something considered impossible, little knowing that a whole new generation of skateboarders were going to find in his stunt a motivation to jump on a board and create a whole new movement that still stands to this date.


Signal Hill

The hill was no stranger to incredible historical events, Tongva Indians stranded here to create signal fires that could be seen throughout the surrounding area and most trough all of California, the discovery of oil back in the 1920’s and even uphill races held in new mechanical machines created by Henry Ford held speed runs here until 1979, an event that houses many records and accidents, some of them still standing to this date.

The film revolves around the mystique and craze created by the first run, that gathered more participants, speed, legends and innovations each year!

The Evolution Of a New Discipline

The achievement of the world record caused a media craze, Grundy became the poster child for a whole new manufacturing machine that started moving non stop and eventually took boards on wheels to all of the corners of the US, his stunt got him to participate in several TV shows and it is claimed that this was the reason that skateboarding was finally recognized a sport by the world federations. He is considered to be the father of downhill skateboarding to this date.





Yearly Massive Attendance

After the first world record was established, many people (including non skaters) started to show up for the competition, the second time being way more disputed than the first delivery of the run, with 23 participants including Sam Puccio who managed to shock all of the other skaters because he was not a skater and second, because of the vehicle he had built to go down the hill! This thing looked nothing like a skateboard and many people protested because he was not even standing on the board, Puccio won the race that year. Broke the first world record and started a whole different trend for the way that the race was going to be developed in the following years.


The Skatecar Craze

Skatecar?! Yeah, it was Puccio's contribution to the Speed run that kept growing in numbers since after many of the participants protested, the race was divided into 2 categories, standing, and modified vehicles.

It is incredible to see in the film, how this became an event that was awaited by people every year, spectators went from 100’s to the thousands, you can see how skateboarding culture was greatly impacted by these races, how new technologies started to be developed by this particular almost homemade vehicles standing in skateboarding wheels and modified trucks used with the goal to obtain the most speed and get to the finish line. People begun coming up with new ways of getting speed, taking science and engineering to the line, all of this to be able to break the world record, get $1.000 bucks and become the new king of Signal Hill.


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Over 50 people were Interviewed to cast in the film, who's tales will show you first hand all of the SHIT® that went down back in those crazy days, skaters, promoters of the event, skateboarder manufacturers, attendees of the yearly races and more will take you step by step to the most important episodes, records and accidents witnessed in those 4 crazy years the event was held.

The footage in the film is something to really appreciate, almost every single one of the historical aspects were caught on tape, not only the wins but also the fails and even near death experiences of some of the fearless runners that broke their bones and almost lost their lives in the process of making history in something that could have been a sport on its own if it was not for the lack of safety measures and government regulations.

Vast Amount Of Influence

One of the most interesting things about the documentary is the fact that you can see how skateboarding culture as a whole was embraced in the United States and how these particular “speed runs” were the base for not only contemporary downhill skateboarding but also how it helped create a whole new movement and perception about extreme sports practiced on a board that led to experimentation and the invention of snowboarding.

The rise of santacruz boards, the huge impact made by wheel manufacturers and the contributions of Independent trucks, are just a few of the “oh, that's why” you will be able to find in the film.


MPH Towards Danger

The climax of the film will be once they get to the 4th and final year of the speed run, you might wonder why? We don't want to spoil you, but it involves speed, fast vehicles and blood, lots of blood.

Why did the events stop being held after the 4th year of strong runs and even had California place a BAN and create a law for skateboarders making it ILLEGAL to skate over 10MPH on a skateboard? We will leave that for you to find out. One thing is for sure, you will only be able to take your eyes off the screen for a split second and think “how did these guys dare to do this crazy SHIT®?!!!

There you have it my dudes and dudettes, this is for sure a MUST watch to have on your book and if you have a couple hours spare today, what are you waiting for? You can check it out for free right here:



 Read also: Skate Movie Review: “Paranoid Park”

Read also:  Skate Movie Review: Thrashin' Skate or Die!


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