Skateboarding has crossed over into the mainstream population due in large part to the humble beginnings of a group of eight teenagers in an area of Santa Monica called Dogtown. It was there that this mismatched gang of kids from broken homes formed a group known as the Zephyr Team aka Z-Boys. They rode surfboards in the morning and skateboards in the afternoon, creating a style all their own. Desperate to ride, they used guerrilla tactics such as illegally skating abandoned swimming pools in upscale Los Angeles neighborhoods. But by the mid-70s, the skateboard phenomenon had caught on, and a few of the Z-Boys were scooped up by corporate sponsors and offered large sums of money to skate on their behalf. This elevated them from freewheeling street punks to celebrity skaters; they traveled the world, showing off their cutting-edge moves. Director Stacy Peralta, one of the original Z-Boys, reunites the original crew 25 years later to hear in their own words what it was like.
This thrillingly kinetic insider's history of the 1970's Southern California skateboarding culture was made by several of the hands who helped create that culture. Narrated by Sean Penn, who describes how it evolved out of a cult of bad-boy surfers in the Venice area, the movie is a dizzy, fast-paced montage with a period rock soundtrack. Especially fascinating is the story of how a major drought emptied many of the area's swimming pools, which became testing laboratories for new skateboarding moves. We also see the stars of that culture, including Jay Adams and Tony Alva then (in home movies and photographs) and now. — Stephen Holden
2002-04-26 | Stephen Holden | Read the New York Times Review of Dogtown and Z-Boys