New Heights Gathering has been one of the tricking world's treasured events, characterised by family, close friendships, and inclusiveness over anything else. Held in Palm Springs, California, it's been running strong for the past five years and has been a staple (and a welcome escape from the cold!) on the gathering calendar since its inception.
There’s been a lot of talk about the gathering's future lately, with some of the community wondering why we haven’t heard anything about this year’s event, others hearing rumours that New Heights has come to a close, but not much widespread information as to the official story.
I sat down with New Heights Gathering founders Nick Hobson and Manny "Gyro" Guerra to get the full story, as well as learn some history about them, their tricking community, and to discuss the future.
For those who don’t know you, tell us a bit about yourselves, your personal tricking history, what you’ve done within the tricking community.
Well, I’m 27 years old. I have a wife and a son whom I love very much. My tricking journey started long ago. My first experience with tricking was in 2002 when a good friend of mine, stunt coordinator Donald Lee, started mentoring me. We knew each other from studying Shorin Ryu Shorin Kan at the same dojo. Through him, I learned how to do my first 540 kick and my first flash kick. During this period I spent time competing in sport karate. It was at Compete Nationals back in 2004 (?) that I met Hans from the Bay Area, Kjer from the Netherlands, and a handful of others. Hans taught me how to dleg at that tournament. In 2005 I went to my first Loopkicks Camp. It was at this camp that I made some lifelong friendships that I will never forget.
From then tricking was forever a part of me. Down to my core, tricking became engrained in my soul. I started to fade away from the tournament scene and began to focus just on the tricks aspect. It was the tricks that I fell in love with more than competition. I remember vividly the trick circles that took place in between competing at tournaments. Those times were my favorite. Friends gathering together to share their skills and give props to each other. Around 2008 I went on a tricking hiatus. I started focusing my time learning other acrobatic and flow arts. I became heavily involved in fire dancing. It was because of the circus arts that I found my love for tricking again. I started figuring out how to incorporate tricks into my fire dances. The literal fire sparked a new figurative flame for tricking once more.
I’m 27 years old, turning 28 this year. I’ve been coaching gymnastics for 12 years up through the highest level, allowing me to gain an incredible amount of knowledge in acrobatic movements of all types. I began parkour in 2005 alongside training in various martial arts, leading me to move to China for study in the Northern Shaolin style of Kung Fu in 2011. Shortly after arriving home I met Gyro at one of our open gym sessions; apparently, he had Internet-stalked me a bit before coming in and made sure I could see him tricking so we could meet haha, and the rest is history!
Why did you start New Heights? What were you doing before running the gathering that made you want to begin?
Honestly, it happened so fast you’d probably all be surprised! Gyro and I began integrating tricking into the ongoing parkour classes In April of 2012, planning to divide the 90 minute class between the two sports. Loopkicks Camp was approaching rapidly and Manny’s plan to visit his old friends inspired talks between the two of us about finding a way to introduce our students to the broader tricking community. Not 20 minutes into the conversation about camp and we had already come to the conclusion that most of our student’s families would have a hard time allowing them to travel the distances needed to participate in pre-existing camps and gatherings. It was a no-brainer, we would have to host something locally if we wanted majority participation. Loopkicks was eager to help in any way they could, agreeing to participate in the first New Heights Gathering, held 5 months later in December of 2012.
To sum it up, the sole reason New Heights exists is because of our students, now known in the tricking community as Team Tribox. Everything we ever did was to inspire them to be the best version of themselves they could be, whatever that meant for each of them as individuals. From here Nick and I set a five-year plan to run New Heights and re-evaluate our lives and the event at the end of those five years.
Tell us about the first New Heights Gathering.
The first New Heights was a humbling experience. We really had no idea what we were getting ourselves into and we had no idea what we were doing. We just went off of the advice we got from Team Loopkicks and that was; make a video, make a flyer, and ask people to come. We did just that.
What happened next I will remember my whole life... people actually came! The first New Heights was a small but wonderful gathering. We had somewhere between 20 and 30 people total. It was pretty much our students, Loopkicks, and Martial Club. I remember seeing the optimism in the faces of our students and it was then that I knew we had created something beautiful. We created a space where magic could happen. We were able to show our students that tricking was something bigger than each of us and we were a part of it. I wouldn't trade that feeling for the world.
Gyro and I had been secretly training during the months leading up to our gathering, he was determined to break his previous mental barriers and land a double back on floor. The night show rolled around and Manny absolutely smashed his double! We were hooked, our students were hyped, it was such an amazing experience.
Did you know the impact this first gathering would have?
We had hopes, and plans, but no real idea of what would become of it. I remember sitting together with our students at the time, who are now Tribox, trying to come up with the perfect name for our gathering. We wanted something that embodied what Gyro and I were trying to provide for our students, something that would inspire people and create a call to action. With the name chosen all we needed was a plan, we wrote down on our goal sheet “Become one of the top 5 gatherings in the world within 5 years” and we meant it. What started as a mission to inspire our own students and show them the huge family of trickers around the world became a mission to do the same for everyone else too.
I did not initially know the impact New Heights would have on others. What I did realize was that, because of New Heights, the people I care about now had access to creating friendships that they will carry with them forever. To me that was the most important thing. I wanted our students to know that there was a whole world of opportunities just waiting for them to discover.
What made you host a second?
This one is easy! Love man, plain and simple. Love for tricking, love for our students, love for the family we were creating.
For me, the answer goes back to our students, now known as Team Tribox. After seeing them learn and grow from the experience, I knew I definitely wanted to keep to our five-year plan and host the event again.
Tell us about the subsequent gatherings - how has it grown, and what impact has it had on the local and broader community?
Throughout the following events, it became apparent that the most important part for me was not actually the tricking itself. Now, this may seem silly since it was a tricking event, but nevertheless, it's true. For me, New Heights was never about tricking. It was about the family-oriented atmosphere that manifested through the event happening. For me, New Heights was about the memories and the friendships created. I felt tricking was just the platform to make that happen.
Actually, it was the year both Scotty and James came to Palm Springs that the phrase “HAPPY NEW HEIGHTS!” was born. I wanted nothing more than for people to look forward to New Heights, not because of the tricks, but because of the sense of reuniting with good friends that New Heights provided. My hope is that New Heights will always be remembered as a place where we celebrated each other's accomplishments, a place where we could enjoy knowing one another.
I wanted New Heights to be a holiday of sorts. This certainly began to happen more and more as each event passed. The numbers grew and the event became bigger than I could have even imagined. I like to think this was possible, not because of the tricks, but because of the good vibes that came along with being at New Heights. Happy New Heights!
Numbers wise the growth was insane. The first gathering had about 22 total attendees, the second up to 80, the third we had about 120 trickers and 120 spectators. The fourth we had over 300 people crammed into our gym, it was crazy!
Gyro and I were standing together at the night show 2014 and I remember saying “how did this happen” in utter disbelief at what we had done. Nick Vail, standing nearby simply turned with a smile and responded: “It’s your guys’ fault”. I had never felt so blessed or proud as I was that moment standing next to one of my closest friends.
Alright, let’s talk about the future. Where are we at now, and what will be happening moving forward?
I’m sure many readers out there have already caught wind of some rumours about the future of New Heights. In 2012 a five-year timeline was written in which we would hopefully be able to hand the event off to our local trickers, Tribox Tricking. There was no naivety on our part when creating the gathering, knowing from the beginning our lives would evolve and change in the years to come.
December, following NH5, was a month of contemplation and decision-making for our local Triboxians as they decided whether or not to carry on the mantle many of you have come to love. As of January 2017 the group respectfully declined ownership and thus the opportunity for this interview arose.
Choosing to retire from New Heights truly has been one of the most heartbreaking decisions either of us has had to face. Honestly, I’ll have to admit to how difficult this whole interview has been. I’ve written, read, deleted, and re-written my responses dozens of times taking days to pour out everything coherently. Being able to see the fire set ablaze in people’s hearts by something we helped create was truly awe-inspiring each and every time it happened has truly been a blessing.
As for myself moving forward, I will be making some pretty significant, positive life changes including stepping away from the gymnastics world, a career I’ve developed for the past 12 years. I plan to move closer to the coast, probably just south of Los Angeles, in order to start a new business by the name “Real Life Games”. I can’t give too many details yet but I’m sure you can make some guesses as to our purpose based on the name! Be sure to follow our social media if you want to see how it progresses. www.rlgexperience.com @rlgexperience and Real Life Games on Facebook.
At this point, I honestly feel like we have completed what we set out to do in the beginning. We wanted to create inspiration for our students and I believe we have done just that. Team Tribox has now grown into a team of young adults moving on to bigger and better things. I hope that in our goal to inspire our very own, we were able to inspire others in the community as well. I want all people to know that when striving to Reach New Heights, you can do anything you set out to accomplish.
I feel like New Heights is no longer needed at this point in time. We have reminded our community that family and friendships hold the same value as the tricks themselves. That was always the point of New Heights. Perhaps in the future, we will do another event that will actually be a real family reunion. For now, Nick and I feel like we have reached the end of this chapter and we must say goodbye with dignity.
I am now at a different point in my life with a family to look after at home. I have "The New Heights Baby" to raise and teach right from wrong. Maybe one day, when the time is right, we can bring back New Heights, so he can see for himself the movement he was a part of creating. My one hope is that Team Tribox goes on to be successful in anything they set out to do in their lives. Hopefully, they will always remember that New Heights was a part of their life journey. We love you Tribox. It was all for you. Everything else that happened takes second place to our love for you.