Dogtown and Z-Boys is a documentary about the Zephyr skateboard team, of how a group of teenaged slackers from South Santa Monica, Venice and Ocean Park revolutionized skateboarding. Stacy Peralta directs using a blend of archival footage and various interviews with the Z-Boys and the people influenced by them. The skating footage highlights the film, but the awesome soundtrack and having Sean Penn narrating makes it more entertaining.
Stacy Peralta was one of the Z-Boys and he provides the viewer with an extensive history of what it was like to grow up in Dogtown. The film doesn’t just jump into skateboards; it explains the social and economic situation of Dogtown in the ‘70s, the importance of the surfing culture, and a few of the key players who formed the team like Jeff Ho, Skip Engblom, and Craig Stecyk. Dogtown was a way of life, a ghetto by the sea, and it was their paradise.
There were twelve members of the Zephyr team. They each had their own style, but were always skating with each other, competing and pushing and driving themselves to always do more. It’s wasn’t enough to do something cool, you had to look cool doing it. The documentary talks about all the skaters, but there’s a definite focus on Stacy Peralta, Tony Alva, and Jay Adams. Stacy Peralta had style and grace. Tony Alva had style and a big ego that made him want to be the best. Jay Adams was a natural, they describe him as the spark that modernized skating.
The Zephyr team weren’t the first skateboarders. They were the ones who transitioned the sport from being a hobby to being a lifestyle. Before the Z-Boys, skateboard tricks were super lame. They involved handstands and twirls and flat ground. The Z-Boys turned skating into land surfing. They carved and went low to the ground, they used theirs hands to pivot, and they treated the pavement like it was waves. It also helps that skateboard wheels went from clay to polyurethane, allowing them to do things that old boards weren’t capable of.
The Zephyr team made use of an ongoing drought and empty swimming pools were turned into impromptu skate parks. They started doing new tricks that weren’t even conceivable on flat ground. They pushed themselves to go higher and higher, and eventually they were able to escape gravity and start doing aerial tricks, which leads us directly to modern skating.
This is one of the best documentaries I’ve ever experienced. It is required viewing if you are a skater. It is worth watching even if you aren’t. It might turn you into one.
Critically Rated at 15/17