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dogtown and z boys

Velvet flares and empty swimming pools. It must be the birth of skateboarding.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, a group of Californian slackers called the Z Boys invented modern skateboarding. It was an event seemingly unparalleled in cultural significance, according to a new documentary, Dogtown And Z Boys, directed by Stacy Peralta. "You only get that chance once, man," says the 45-year-old ex-Z Boy. "And if it goes by without you realising, you look at it and go, 'Oh my god, what did I miss?'"

Of course, people had been riding around on wheeled-up surrogate surfboards since the 60s, but back then, skateboarding was about as hip as Victorian Pre-Raphaelite painting. That is until, a decade later, the Z Boys took to the streets. "No one was skating back then," says Peralta, dressed like a teenager and delirious with nostalgia. "You couldn't even buy a skateboard in a store."

dogtown and z boys

Skateboarder turned film-maker Stacy Peralta.

Except, perhaps, at Jeff Ho's Zephyr Surf Shop in Dogtown, Santa Monica. Ho was looking to sponsor a young surf team to raise the profile of the shop. His "Zephyr Boys" used skateboards to practise their moves when the surf was down. But with help from one of the worst droughts in Californian history, it was skateboarding that took priority.

Pretty soon, the gang had skated just about every dried-out pool going. From the backyards of Brentwood, to the hills of Bel Air where fires had razed mansions to the ground, but left the pools intact. They'd even tracked down OJ Simpson's football-shaped pool in Pacific Palisades. "Some guys skated pools in the 60s," says Peralta proudly. "But they had clay wheels, and we were the first ones to go up and do a turn, then a kick-turn off the wall."

dogtown and z boys

Nothing compared to that moment when a manned skate board left the pool. Wow dude.

With the "concrete waves" conquered, and their notoriety spreading, there was only one place for them to go - Hollywood and corporate sponsorship. "Mad Dog" Tony Alva played skating thug Tony Bluetile in the film Skateboard, opposite pop sensation Leif Garrett. While the 17-year-old Peralta, already earning $5,000 a month from sponsors, starred in the skateboarding romance Freewheelin'. "I was so embarrassed at the premiere," he says now, "that I hid behind a curtain the whole time."

Even this new documentary is partly funded by Vans. Did Peralta make the film because he was offered sponsorship money? "No, a fiction film was being talked about. That's why we did it. Hollywood can just ruin things, so often." Fine, but he's written the script for a feature remake of the documentary, The Lords Of Dogtown, apparently due to go into production this summer. Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst is rumoured to be directing. Let's hope there are some curtains for him to hide behind at the premiere. JC 04 July 02

useful links
sonyclassics: dogtown
universalmotown: dogtownandzboys

review roundup
BBC Films:
...self-congratulatory in places and subjective pretty much all the way through...

Empire Magazine:
...quite possibly the best documentary about youth and sport since Hoop Dreams...

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