Gina [Esparza?] Esperanza appeared to be a prodigy skateboarder in the late 1970s, based out of San Diego with her home skatepark being “Skateboard Heaven” in Spring Valley. She was a competitor in both Freestyle and Pool and would pick up a sponsorship from Hobie. Skateboard Heaven had a variety of bowls, snake run, clover leaf section, and was a real mecca for skaters with Steve Cathey from G&S as the resident in-house pro.
In November 1977, Di Dootson of the National Skateboard Review hosted a contest at Skateboard Heaven in Spring Valley, CA for G&S to scout for new riders. The contest attracted a small field of skaters with judging by Jim Goodrich, Gunnar Haugo and Steve Cathey.
Gina showed up as the only female rider and essentially won her category, but her performance in Freestyle was considered a highlight of the contest. Dootson wrote in her January 1978 issue that, “Starting the show both days was GINA ESPARZA [sic] in the 7-9 Novice division. She was delightful. Her skating is outrageous for a nine year old who is so little. Her routine was fully planned. She used a good opening trick. She used the pool and the walls. And she made no mistakes.”
The next year, Gina entered the Hang-Ten Skateboard Olympics in April 1978 at Magic Mountain with judges including Dootson and Ellen Oneal. At age 9 she placed 2nd in the Girls 9-12 category behind Canon “Bunny” Price and ahead of Patti Hoffman, as the youngest in her field. A photo of her taken was by Glenn Miyoda for the May 1978 issue of the National Skateboard Review. The caption reads “GINA ESPARZA [sic], stole the show at the Spring Valley Contest and now rides for Hobie. She picked up a 2nd Place here at Magic Mt.”
The following spring, on March 3, 1979 Gina placed first in the Girls 10 & Under 3A Freestyle contest at Skatopia as listed in the June 1979 issue of Skateboarder. In the August 1979 Skateboarder, the results for the “360 / Oasis Amateur Contest” at Oasis Skatepark in San Diego show that Gina Esperanza was up against the boys in the 11 & Under Pool Riding contest and Freestyle and came first, taking out Pete King and Ky Lambert.
Her biggest accomplishment was the Oceanside Freestyle Nationals hosted on July 21 & 22, 1979 with over 10,000 spectators. Gina placed second in the Sponsored Girls 9-10 contest, behind Bonnie Votaw and ahead of Sunshine Lee. The results were featured in the November 1979 issue of Skateboarder.
Sadly, skateparks like Skateboard Heaven and Oasis closed down in the 1980s, and Gina as a young kid would likely have had to turn to other sporting outlets.
- Dootson, Di. “NSR R Contest at Spring Valley, Calif.” National Skateboard Review. January 1978.