By now most people will know all about Dogtown and Z Boys but when this documentary first arrived in 2001 the curious title meant little to the majority of the world. Using a mixture of archive footage from the 1970s and up to date interviews with those involved it charts the creation of the Zephyr skateboard team and chronicles the way they changed the skateboarding landscape.
Back in the 1950s and 60s, skateboarding was a far cry from what it is today – a more elegant sport, it involved upright tricks that ended with cartwheel dismounts and the like. In Santa Monica, California however, a revolution was starting from the Zephyr surfboard shop via a group of young surfers who were gradually skating more and surfing less.
Incorporating elements of surfing into their moves the group were performing low, carving tricks never before seen on a skateboard and swiftly took over competitive skateboarding in California wowing crowds and judges and revolutionising the scene.
As skateboarding grew larger in the nation’s consciousness, the Zephyr team skaters kept pushing their progression forwards and then somewhat by chance stumbled upon a new way of skating that would shape the world of skateboarding into what we see today.
The summer of 1976 created a major drought in California causing water restrictions which lead to wealthy swimming pool owners draining their outdoor pools. Swimming pools in the 1970s were generally built not with vertical sides but with smooth sloping sides that fed into the bottom of the pool. Once the pools were empty the Zephyr skaters realised that if they could just get access to them they could probably skate them.
Throughout the hot summer the team scoured neighbourhoods for empty pools in the yards of vacant houses, even using equipment to finish draining any part empty pools so that they could be ridden. As the summer progressed so did the skating with riders eventually taking their boards as far as the top coping of the pool or even lipping out a wheel. Eventually, with a trick credited to skating legend Tony Alva, a skateboard finally left the pool entirely and thus was born the basis for ramp skating seen worldwide today with aerial tricks performed outside of the confines of the ramp bed.
The director, Stacey Peralta (himself an original Zephyr member) clearly has a great eye for making a documentary engaging. Whilst modern skateboarding is an impressive spectator sport even to the uninitiated, 1970s skateboarding is, by comparison, rather lacklustre. However, this is no matter as it is the importance of the sport that is so well conveyed via the interviews and archive footage which show how incredibly revolutionary this small band of players were. Few sports have ever progressed as quickly in such a short space of time and for modern day skating to still look largely like where the Zephyr team took it 40 years earlier is testament to the heights to which they pushed.
A truly excellent documentary, Dogtown and Z Boys is the ultimate sports showcase.