A cloud of dust follows Zarosh Eggleston, who is a blur as he careens by on his skateboard. He’s sliding down part of a three-block-long dirt road deep in Carmel Valley, barely holding on.
Halfway down the course, he cruises up a dirt berm, attempting to flip his board over a jump, but crashes and then slides down the hill. He gets up, seemingly unfazed, then runs back up the hill with a goofy grin, ready to attempt another trick.
Chuy Gomez, a young skateboarder from Salinas, flies by shortly after Eggleston. His board slides out under him in a mass of dirt, and he rolls a few times on the ground, the dirt painting his tan overalls a darker brown. He is helped up by a half-dozen hands and cheers, encouraging him to land the trick on the next run.
Eggleston and Gomez are two of dozens of skateboarders riding the course on Easter Sunday during the sixth annual Cachagua Land Dirtboard Race. The boards are the same as those used for skateboarding on paved streets or skateparks, but use large, rubber wheels with treads for better grip on the dirt.
Better grip does not equate to easy riding on this difficult terrain, however: “It doesn’t work from zero to 5,” Eggleston says. “You have to go all out. You learn to ride it when you jump on and are going 25 miles per hour. The byproduct is you eat shit. When people slam, they get so stoked on it and bounce back up, literally invigorated.”
The wheels were first made in the late 1980s by XT Wheels. When Eggleston and his cousin Forrest found them at a Santa Cruz skate shop during the summer of 1996, they were hooked.
“Once we got them, it was like, ‘Where can we use these things?’” Eggleston says.
The natural answer was the dirt roads of Cachagua.
“There’s more stuff to not skate than there is to skate,” he says. “Then everything we saw was skateable. It turned into, ‘We’ve got to get people to try this.’”
Eggleston now helps manufacture, distribute and market the wheels through his company Platipus Skateboards, which produces screenprints of wacky, colorful designs on skateboards. After 20 years of trying to get other people to ride the dirt, Eggleston may have found a market: He ships the wheels from his home in Monterey to locations all over the world, from Japan to Europe.
In 2001, Eggleston was working as a screenprinter at Arcade Skateboards in San Diego. One of their customers was working with Rick Wilson who founded XT, but the company was phasing out production around 2004, because of competition from cheaper imitation brands made overseas. Years later, Wilson heard about Eggleston’s Cachagua Land Dirtboard race and reached out to him about the wheels.
“After Rick and I met, he wasn’t ready to bring the brand back, so he let me take it over, because of my connections in the skate industry,” Eggleston says. “We’ve just been working really hard to get people to try them and he is super stoked to see where I’ve taken it.”
Wilson came to his first Cachagua Land event on Easter of 2019. “To see them having so much fun, with big air tricks – it was wild,” Wilson says. “Zarosh has taken it not only to another sport level, but to a larger vision. What we thought about as a fantasy, he’s seeing a reality. He’s more for real than I ever was with [dirt wheels].”
Standard skateboard wheels run between 50-60mm. The dirt wheels are about twice as wide, about 120mm, or 4 inches in diameter. A kit with four wheels, a pair of one-inch risers and bolts from Platipus run $120. The wheels are currently made at a car tire company in Southern California.
“Zarosh is bringing them back and it seems like there’s a resurgence,” says Bill Ackerman, who owns Bill’s Wheels Skateshop in Santa Cruz. “For a lot of people, it’s appealing because it’s a brand-new thing.” (Bill’s Wheels is where Eggleston bought his first set of dirt wheels.)
Ackerman also attended the Cachagua Land Dirtboard race this year, where he was impressed by the combination of speed and control.
“The wheels are a little out of control, but you’re still hauling ass,” he says. “They’re made to accommodate the dirt.”
The race started because Eggleston simply wanted to have a place to skate with his friends.
“When we started, we got people going down in groups – two at a time, or six at a time,” he says. “I’m trying to get people past that hesitation point, because it’s possible that this is the best time they’ll ever have skateboarding.”