April Fools Day 2004 and Stacy Peralta is down. He is down and outside, in the harsh sunlight of a hazy, hot Santa Monica spring afternoon, pacing nervously around the parking lot of Big Time Studios in Santa Monica, his second home for the last nine months during the production of Riding Giants. Stacy is on his cell phone, talking urgently to someone about something, polishing up detail #124,768,804 to bring his vision of a big-wave surfing documentary to the big screen.
It is April Fool’s Day and Riding Giants is freshly in the can. Two thousand years of surfing history, thousands of hours of surfing footage, hundreds of still photos and hours of interviews have been carefully whittled down to a 90 minute montage of sound and fury which gives a Three Act history of surfing as told through the escalating pursuit of big waves. Riding Giants is grounded in history but thoroughly modern, an ambitious, well-financed project made possible by the success of Dogtown and Z Boys.· And on April Fool’s Day 2004, Peralta was done, a zillion details all laid down and finalized into 95 minutes of what could be the best big-screen surfing project since The Endless Summer. And with all that, Peralta is not looking good. As he comes in from the parking lot and takes a seat in the lunch room, his eyes are veiled. He still has the “one yard stare” that all filmmakers wear after months of gazing into computer screens.
Peralta has a hit on his hands. He should be up, but he ‘s down.
What did the bartender say to the horse?
I don’t know. “Whoa! That’s enough, buddy?”
No. He said, “Why the long face?”
You seem down.
Depressed? You’re on top o’ the world, Ma! You rocked the Sundance Film Festival. Premiere movie! Standing O! You hob-nobbed with Robert Redford. Riding Giants is going to make bank. You’re going to get nominated for an Oscar. You da man. The King of All Action Sports X· Media.
An Oscar? You think?
You heard it here first. Nominated. You won’t win, because the Academy is too PC to give an Oscar to a surf movie. The statue for Best Documentary will go to something about war-torn Lebanon or microbiology. But aside from the subject matter, in terms of structure and story telling and technique and technology and impact, Riding Giants is Oscar quality. And the accent is on quality. With apologies to Dana Brown, no big-screen surfing project has been done this well.
Well that’s nice of you to say. I’ll hold you to that. And Dana Brown’s project was a completely different deal. More power to him. Anyone who can pull off a film…
And yet here you are, looking like your dog left you and your pickup truck died and your wife blew up. I sentence you to be hung by the neck until you cheer up.
Oh I always go through this after a project. Every time. Three years ago I was in the exact same place at the same time after Dogtown.
Post production depression?
Something like that
Well Reader’s Digest is right about one thing: Laughter is the best medicine. These two Jewish Hollywood executives are swimming in the surf in Honolulu. One of them gets caught in a rip and is sucked out to sea. He is struggling and the second Jewish Hollywood executive says, ‘Maurie! Can you float alone?’ The first one says: ‘Sid! Is this any time to talk business?
Wow you are depressed, that was my best stuff.
I need to go surfing.
You need to do a lot of surfing. You need to go to Kelly Slater’s celebrity surf contest in May.
I need that and more.
Did you entirely stop surfing during the making of Riding Giants? That’s not healthy.
No, I surfed when I could, but this has been the worst winter. I surfed a ton before Sundance and got some of the best waves since high school. I surfed Bay Street a lot, which is usually the world’s worst beachbreak, but this winter was great. But that was before Sundance. Since then…
You have been surfing Santa Monica since high school?
This is where I grew up. This is where I learned to surf.
Surfing first, or skateboarding?
Well I was a skateboarder first because I began skateboarding when I was five years old and I started surfing when I was 11 at a place called Toes. It’s just south of Marina del Rey, a wave that used to break up a little creek. The break was called Toes on the Nose and I got my first surfboard and said, “This is it.”
You grew up as a freckle-faced, long, blonde haired surfer and skateboarder during the Roaring 70s? Do you feel lucky, punk?
I wouldn’t trade that for anything. You know, I feel really fortunate to have been a skateboarder at a time when, quote, it didn’t exist. When we did it simply for the pure joy of it. I’ve had some really great years in my life, I’ve accomplished a lot but maybe the purest moment in my life was when I was surfing between the 11th grade and the 12th grade, in the summer, when I was 17. I was surfing better than I ever had. I was getting to the point where I could pretty much do what I wanted to do on a surfboard. I could get up on a wave and position myself wherever I wanted to be.· And the life I was living at that time was probably the purest me I have ever been.
Hear hear. The rest of life kind of doesn’t compare, does it?
When you have an experience like that in your life it rings forever. There have been times in my life where I wanted to shed surfing out of my life because I couldn’t stand missing swells and this and that and I just got fed up with it and I said, “That’s it, I am stopping this. I can’t deal with this obsession.” The early 80s were one of those times, but right when I did that my next door neighbor-D. David Morin-returned from Australia and he said, “Hey, I just bought one of Simon Anderson’s boards and it’s this new board called a Thruster. This is his personal board and I don’t want it do you want it? I’ll sell it to you for a hundred and fifty bucks.” So I bought it and rode it and flipped out and I actually said to myself, “God this thing thrusts when it turns.”
Skateboarding’s the same way. You see an empty pool: this belongs to you. You use it as long as you can and then you leave. We never thought we were doing anything that was interesting, except to ourselves. It’s hard to think it’s going to turn into something else when everyone is telling you that what you’re doing is wrong — “This is wrong. Leave.” Our parents didn’t understand it because there was no context to understand it. They looked at us and thought, “You’ll outgrow this.” It had the respectability of a yo-yo. Or a hula-hoop. They didn’t realize that what we were doing was physically demanding, took a lot of pre-thought. And they didn’t see the beauty in it. It was developed very clandestinely.
– From an interview with Cynthia Fuchs on www.morphizm.com in 2002.
If you had to chose between the two…. No that is a stupid, Trans World question.
Surfing. The answer to the question you didn’t ask is surfing, if I had to choose between the two. There was a time when I was on my way to becoming a competitive surfer. Think of guys like Chris Barela and Mike Benavidez.· The Levy Brothers. Semi-professional surfers for the time.
That was my peer group and that is the direction I was going with Nathan Pratt, Tony Alva and Jay Adams, but we chased the opportunities in skateboarding instead.
Please excuse my ignorance. I was pretty involved in skateboarding way back when, but my knowledge of skateboarding ends around 1981 and starts up again a few years ago. In 10,000 words or less, where does Peralta fit into all that.
In the skateboarding world? You want that from me?
Well your honor, this line of questioning leads to the rumor that you were the first person to produce an action sports video. skateboard video, which I have heard was the first sports video of any kind.
(He sighs) The years from late 1979 to early 1983 were skateboarding’s dark ages.
It dipped. It cycled down. All the skateparks from the 70s closed. If you look at the 70s for skateboarding it’s analogous to the shortboard revolution of the 1960s. In three years there were all these design revolutions going on and no one really knew what a surfboard was going to become. And there were all these experiments done and a lot of really bad boards were made. Terrible boards.· The years from 1975 to 1979 were similar in skateboarding. Decks were changing dramatically all the time, every month they were getting bigger, wider and longer. Wheels, same thing. Ball bearings and trucks. There were a lot of casualties and a lot of people lost a lot of money, especially people who invested in skateboard parks. There were dead skateboard parks all over the country and all over the world because they were so poorly designed and no one really knew what a skateboard park should be. When skateboarding cycled down it hit pretty hard but we kept at it and kept at it and finally in 1983 my next door neighbor-the same guy who sold me the Simon Anderson Thruster said, “I’d like to make a skateboard video for your company and I will charge you $5000.” This was just when the VCR revolution was starting to come on. Now I had made a skateboard video two years prior to that offer. It was a teeny little thing called Skateboarding in the 80s. I think we sold 7 of them. But D. David had bigger ideas and it was going to cost us $5000, and I said okay.
This was D. David Morin?
Yes. He was a very successful TV commercial actor at the time and did videos as a side project.· The first day we were set to shoot, he couldn’t make it because he had a TV commercial to do. So he sent someone in his place to Lance Mountain’s ramp to shoot Lance, Caballero and McGill. I didn’t get along with the guys shooting the film and I fired them after the first day. So from that day forward I got a three-quarter inch camera and a recorder.
One of those shoulder-mounted beasts?
One of those big ones, with a separate recorder that connected to the camera with a big pipe cable.
How far we have come.
I also got a little teeny 58/50 tape-to-tape editing system installed in my Hollywood apartment. I started shooting and shooting and I shot about a hundred hours of material. Eight months later we had our first hour-long skateboard video: The Bones Brigade Video Show, which I am told was the first Action Sports Video.
Well it was the first skateboard project not made to go into an auditorium. It was made for living rooms.
This was 1983?
I finished it in 1983 and it premiered in the spring of 1984 in the living room of Tony Hawk’s parents.
You shot the whole thing.
I shot the whole thing and edited the whole thing.
It took a while.
I didn’t know what I was doing. Now the difference between an Action Sports Video in my opinion and what was called a traditional surf movie, is traditional surf movies were usually made by film-makers, on film, to project in auditoriums and four-wall up and down the coast. I was not a filmmaker, I was shooting on three-quarter inch video and it wasn’t made for theaters it was made for home living rooms.
You think you’re the first one? Nothing before you?
Not that I’m aware of, but please find out. I’ve always been credited with it but right after me Don Hoffman made another one for Vision Skateboards. But basically George Powell and I owned that market until the late 80s when Santa Cruz started making their skateboard videos.
Did they make money?
Yes they did. Not a ton. We originally made them as a promotional item but we sold like 30,000 a pop. Our distributors worldwide were telling us that we were lifting the tide of skateboarding because one kid would buy one and a hundred kids would see it.
So you’re claiming to be the Godfather of all Action Sports Videos. The face that launched a thousand projects. In some ways that is cool and in other ways that is like claiming Reality TV.
Totally. I have to say this in a way that doesn’t make me look like I am blowing my own horn. And don’t quote me on this, but from what people tell me two of the 10 videos I’ve made-The Search for Animal Chin and Future Primitive-are on everybody’s Top 10 lists of all-time videos. Even Spike Jonez. There was a website that said Animal Chin was his favorite. But having said that don’t blame me for all the guys who followed who have put no context into their videos. I have tried to put some context.
So you were trying from the word go to….
…to show some of the subversive nature of skateboarding and put a little mind into it and not just show action all the time. Stecyk and I played with this a lot. He was involved in this as well and we wanted to have fun making these things.
So all through the 80s you were with Powell-Peralta and selling skate stuff and making videos. What were you doing in the 90s?
You sold your skateboard company?
I didn’t sell it, but it’s a long story. A long long story.
Another Action Sports Story. So you got out of Powell-Peralta and did what?
I started producing and directing television.
What did you do?
A mixed bag of stuff for all the networks, but I really did not like doing it. You’re just making product to hit a certain demographic. A certain audience. A certain number. And it’s not pleasing. It’s creatively unsatisfying. You are dealing with a management system that doesn’t reward creativity but rewards delivering eyeballs. It doesn’t matter if it’s good or bad but if it delivers eyeballs… So I found out about three years later that it wasn’t what I wanted to do and I had to figure out how to get out of doing it and figure out something else that I felt strong about.
Dogtown was it?
Well I wanted to learn how to write screenplays so I spent four years writing five of them in between jobs and I didn’t get any action on any of them. Dogtown was the first project I did that was made exactly the way I was hoping it would be made.
How did Dogtown come about?
I went into Dogtown at the lowest point of my life creatively and career-wise. I wouldn’t call it do or die, but if it wouldn’t have worked I don’t know where I would have been today. And I wasn’t going back to television.
Dogtown was huge and is huge. Everyone knows Dogtown. It got huge kudos at Sundance and it’s playing in bars and clubs around the world. It’s a phenomenon.
No kidding. It has sold over a million DVDs and more than 700,000 VHS.
Good lord. Did you know that would happen?
I had no idea. Dogtown was done on the cheap and when I was making it everyone though it was cool that I was memorializing that period. And then when it became such a success…
Money changes everything.
I didn’t make any money on Dogtown. Everyone thinks I did, but I didn’t.· I didn’t have any ownership in the Dogtown film. I was paid terribly. What Dogtown did is open doors for me to get Riding Giants made.
A little sidebar here. What month and year were you where you are now on Dogtown? When were you suffering Postproduction Depression after your first documentary?
Almost the exact same time in 2001. In fact it was the exact same time: Spring of 2001.
I sentence you to be hung by the neck until you cheer up. I think you are going to get nominated for an Oscar. I think forget about subject matter, the detail and craftsmanship and technology.
I don’t know if they’ll see that but I appreciate your saying that.
What’s next for Stacy Peralta? You’ve got a screenplay in production.
Lords of Dogtown. They start shooting in a week.
Brock Little is down in Imperial Beach, crashing into piers as we speak.
And beyond that, two projects. Radar Pictures is talking to me about adapting Captain Zero.
You like that book?
Yeah I love it. And Art Linson and Stu Linson who are producing Lords of Dogtown,· have asked me to write a coming of age 50s surf film. Kind of like a Greg Noll crew, California to Hawaii experience. So we are talking about that. Those are the things we are talking about.
All that, and you are depressed.
I need to go surfing.
What about going right now? It’s a lovely spring day and there is surf in the South Bay.
I can’t right now. Things to do.
In 1978, Skateboard Industry News published a series of Product Primer articles “aimed at giving the retailer a thumb-nail familiarity with skateboard engineering.” S.I.N covered decks in their April/May 1978 issue, then wheels in June/July and then in Aug/Sept they covered “the dreaded truck – and find they aren’t so difficult to understand at all.”
Rather than reprint the entire Product Primer, this Glossary of Truck Terms condenses all that knowledge.
Aluminum: A metal used in the hanger and other parts of the truck. “All of the quality, top of the line truck manufacturers use what is termed ‘356’ aluminum’ in most cases ‘heat treated to T6.”
Angle: The angle between the kingpin and the axle pivot point. If the kingpin intersects the vertical plane of the axle above the axle, it will tend to be less responsive – or squirrelly – whereas a truck with a lower angle will be more flexible.
Axle: A metal rod – usually steel – that runs through the hangar and provides a threaded mount for bearings and wheels. Most axles are made of steel.
Axle nut: A threaded nut that screws onto each end of the axle to hold the wheels in place.
Base plate: A usually metal plate that is fastened to the bottom of the deck with four or six holes. The baseplate has a pivot cup and a socket for the kingpin.
Bearing: Round metal balls that allow the wheels to turn on the end of the axle. Skateboards in the 50s, 60s and into the 70s used loose bearings. Sealed bearings were another innovation of the 1970s that followed closely after the introduction of urethane wheels.
Bushing: Doughnut-shaped pieces of rubber or urethane that surround the kingpin. Each truck has two bushings, one above where the hanger fits onto the kingpin and one below.
Cushion: Plastic bushings around the kingpin. Formerly known as “rubbers” from the roller skate days, these bushings were made of urethane and other plastics in the 1970s. In general, a rule of thumb: the softer the cushions, be they urethane or rubber, the more responsive the truck will be. Hard cushions will result in a more rigid, but stable, ride.
Die casting: One of two methods for molding trucks parts. Molten metal is poured into a machine where, under pressure, the metal then forms the part. The mold opens up, and the completed part drops out. According to Dave Dominy of Tracker: The gasses that build up during die casting are trapped inside, whereas with sand casting, the gasses are allowed to escape. This weakens a die-cast truck, and makes a sand-cast truck stronger.” But Stephen’s of ACS claimed, “We’ve developed a process that allows us to use 356 aluminum, which is aircraft quality. We are also able to heat treat our hangers with the die cast process, which no other die caster can do.”
Hanger: The piece that holds the axle and fasten to the base plate. Most hangers have a socket which allows the kingpin to pass through and be fastened/adjusted. The hanger also has a pivot point which is toward the center of the board. Hangers are usually made of aluminum alloys, with traces of other metals, such as magnesium. Some of the “price point” trucks had hangers made of zinc. Many truck manufacturers stamped their company name on the hanger – but alas, not all.
Heat treated: Die cast metals tend to be porous. Air bubbles inside the part come to the surface during the heat treatment process. Heat treated alloys have a greater strength and ductility (or ability to withstand flexing forces) than non heat-treated alloys.
Kingpin: Paraphrasing Steve Cave at about.com: “The name ‘kingpin’ gets used a lot for a lot of things, but usually carries the same meaning – a piece that holds the whole thing together. For skateboard trucks, the kingpin is the threaded bolt that runs through the center of skateboard trucks, and holds the trucks together. The kingpin runs through the hangar and two bushings, and then directly into the baseplate. Most kingpins are a fat hex-headed bolt, but there are many kinds of kingpins out there.
You can loosen your kingpin to loosen up your trucks, or tighten your kingpin to stiffen up the trucks. I recommend starting out with tight trucks when you are a new skater, and loosening them us as you get more comfortable skating.”
Kingpin nut: A nut on the top of the hanger, which keeps the hanger and bushings in place and can be adjusted to make trucks more stable, or looser, as you wish.
Pivot cup: A plastic-lined socket on the baseplate of a truck which supports the hanger at the pivot point and allows a truck to be turned right or left.
Profile: Also known as “geometry,” the concept refers to the design relationship between the various components. The profile is the shape of the truck. In general, a narrower, taller truck will be more responsive in maneuvering – desirable for a freestyle rider. A low profile truck will be more rigid and stable for bowl or slalom.
Sand cast: One method of molding truck parts. The molten metal is poured into a sand cavity, allowed to cool and then the sand falls away. Richard List of Lazer sand casts his hangers and base plates: “The problem with die casting is that the higher grades of aluminum that we use don’t work with die casting.” Sand casting is also slower than die casting.
T6: ‘Heat treated to T6’ simply refers to the fact that heat is applies to the casted part, enough to the point where the part has a tensile strength equal to a standard unit of measurement, in this case known as T6.
In the beginning, there was Sure Grip and Chicago and Roller Derby and other trucks made for roller skating, that skateboarders adapted in the 1960s. As steel wheels became clay wheels, the trucks also improved, but those trucks were still made for roller skating.
In the 1960s, there were attempts to customize trucks for skateboarding. According to Old Was Out and New Was In – It Was Time to Turn from Independent Trucks book Built to Grind, C.R. Stecyk III freely admits “Certainly there were trucks before Independent.”
Petitbled patented the first inline roller skate in 1819. James Plimpton brought out the quad roller skate in 1863. Chicago and Sure Grip shoe skates were fixtures in the market from the 1930s on. Sidewalk surfers used to find those clunkers, cut them down, and separate the trucks. Mark Richards was a skater from North Hollywood, California who had the hubris to call up the Chicago Roller Skate Company and suggest that they sell him separate trucks on mounting plates. It took the Midwestern roller rink businessmen months to understand what he was getting at, but they finally relented, and the first designated skateboard truck came to the bazaar. This brilliantly simple move in 1963 helped permanently establish Richards’ fledgling Val Surf as an industry leader.
Along with Mark Richards and Val Surf, there were other attempts to make custom trucks for skateboarding during the clay wheels era – see Leesure Line – but the foundries of industry didn’t really get bubbling until the urethane revolution of the 1970s demanded more!As 70s skateboarders pushed urethane wheels higher, faster, steeper, deeper and more vertical, they demanded more from their trucks. And we all know what necessity inspires.
An ad for Leesure Line from Quarterly Skateboarder in the 1960s breaks down the basic components of a skateboard truck. Leesure Line did not make it to the urethane revolution of the 1970s. But many other companies reputable and fly-by-night rushed in to fill the void. Image courtesy Surfer Publishing Group.
Craig Stecyk synopsized the truck evolution in Built to Grind
By the 1970s, trucks were beginning to be made with other specific skateboard-centric design attributes. Mr. Bennett sold trucks out of his Rolls Royce. The Bahne brothers made a truck. Dave Dominy created a wider truck for slalom called Tracker. Gull Wing die-cast their lot and used cooling fins that were highly reminiscent of 1930s Elgin bicycle hubs. These were the leading brands in a rapidly growing market. Others include Lazer, Excalibur, California Slalom and ACS. The circus of skateboarding was well populated by a thousand other fly-by-night jokers, toy makers and opportunists.
Mr. Bennett was the first in the 70s to make trucks for skateboards and the new performance demands of urethane. Board courtesy Santa Cruz or Terry Campion or Bill’s Wheels.
Ask just about any question in the skateboard industry about “Who was on it first” and it will start arguments/fist fights/lawsuits But there is almost no debate that Mr. Ron Bennett was first to make a skateboard truck designed specifically for 70s skateboarding.
According to an interview with Mr. Bennett in Concrete Wave Magazine in the Fall of 2006, the story went like this: Mr. Bennett’s son Brian got a skateboard for Christmas, 1974. He didn’t like the way it turned. Mr. Bennett found the problem was “simply a short wheelbase steering system on a long wheelbase vehicle.” He wondered why no one had made a truck specifically for skateboards.
With a background in architectural engineering and an interest in machining, he researched steel alloys, rubber compounds, thermoplastics, aluminum alloys and foundry casting – pulling information and talent from the ailing, early-70s aerospace industry.
He called his product “truks” as opposed to “trucks” to be different and save keystrokes. His goal was to make a “truk” that was lightweight and heavy duty, and also “unbreakable.” The base plates broke, but he replaced them every time.
Mr. Bennett named a long list of famous skateboarders who rode his truks: “Tony Alva and that crowd, Stacy, Jay Adams… Steve Cathay, Ellen O’Neil, Tom Sims, the Logans, Skoldberg, Hutson, Hester, Guy Grundy,· Russ Howell… and Chris Chaput who won the ’76 World’s Championships on Bennetts. It sounds funny today, but nearly ever single Pro was riding
Bennetts, so I never formally sponsored any skaters—although I tried to make sure the Team captains flowed the stuff to their guys.”
NHS distributed Bennett truks at first, and Mr. Bennett suggested that the Stage I Independent was a sort of tribute to Bennett’s products: “I felt betrayed at the time, but I am not bitter.”
Mr. Bennett also began producing Alligator and Super Alligator urethane wheels. Bennett got out of the skateboard industry in the 1980s, when the Hobie licensee – one of his biggest accounts – filed for bankruptcy and NHS began distributing only Independent trucks.
In the book Concrete Wave, Michael Brooke described the first product made for skateboarding
In 1975 Bennett produced the Bennett Hijacker. It was truly different from traditional trucks. The kingpin was placed well below the axle. This meant that skaters would not have to worry about the kingpin dragging on the ground. The parts were of high quality: Bennett used aircraft-quality locknuts and a special compound for his “rubbers” (the part that fits between the kingpin and the axle). The only area where Bennett’s trucks seemed to have a problem were the baseplates – they tended to break. Fortunately, the baseplates came with a guarantee – you could mail them back to Mr. Bennett and he would replace them for free.
Zephyr, Z Boys, Dogtown. You could write a book. Make a documentary! In 1994, Craig Stecyk III wrote the intro to F%@#% You Heroes, a collection of Glen Friedman’s rap, punk and skate photos from 1976 – 1991.
That book included a lot of photos of Jay Adams, Tony Alva, Bob Biniak, Paul Constantineau, Shogo Kubo, Stacy Peralta and a lot of other 70s, LA-area skaters, along with Darby Crash, Ted Nugent, Jello Biafra, Henry Rollins, and other skaters, punks and rappers from the LA scene.
F%@#% You Heroes gave a taste of another Friedman/Stecyk collaboration, Dogtown – The Legend of the Z-Boys published in 2000 which Amazon describes like this:
In the early 1970s, the sport of skateboarding had so waned from its popularity in the 1960s that it was virtually non-existent. In the Dogtown area of west Los Angeles, a group of young surfers known as the Zephyr Team (Z-Boys) was experimenting with new and radical moves and styles in the water which they translated to the street. When competition skateboarding returned in 1975, the Z-Boys turned the skating world on its head. . Dogtown The Legend of the Z-Boys is a truly fascinating case study of just how an underground sport ascended on the world. These are the stories and images of a time that not only inspired a generation but changed the face of sport forever. The Legend of the Z-Boys has been described as “The Dogtown text book” and an insightful companion piece to the movie: “DogTown and Z-Boys”. . Spanning 1975 – 1985, the first section of the 240 page book includes the best of the “DogTown” articles written by C.R. Stecyk III as they originally appeared in SkateBoarder Magazine. The second half compiles 100’s of never before seen skate images from the archive of Glen E. Friedman – many of which appear in the movie.
There have been books, but there also have been documentaries on the impact of these young LA-area skateboarders in the 1970s. Most famously, Stacy Peralta’s Dogtown and Z=Boys in 2001 was the darling of the Sundance Film Festival and might have been partially responsible – along with Michael Moore – for launching the tsunami of documentaries that have come sense. In 2008, Peralta admitted to Steve Olson in Juice Magazine that Dogtown had sold over one million DVD and over 700,000 VHS.
Those kind of numbers attract Hollywood and that lead to the movie version of the documentary, Legends of Dogtown, which was released in Dogtown did well enough to inspire the feature film Lords of Dogtown, written by Stacy Peralta, and featuring Emile Hirsch, Heath Ledger and Rebecca de Mornay. Roger Ebert loved the doco but the movie, not so much:
Now we have “Lords of Dogtown,” a fiction film based on the very same material and indeed written by Peralta. Not only is there no need for this movie, but its weaknesses underline the strength of the doc. How and why Peralta found so much old footage of skateboarding in 1975 is a mystery, but he was able to give us a good sense of those kids at that time. Although Catherine Hardwicke, the director of “Lords of Dogtown,” has a good sense for the period and does what she can with her actors, we’ve seen the originals, and these aren’t the originals. Nobody in the fiction film pulls off stunts as spectacular as those we see for real in the documentary.
Several books, a very successful documentary and a movie that Roger Ebert didn’t like so much because the skateboarding wasn’t so great, but still featured Heath Ledger doing a scary-good impersonation of Skip Engblom.
Much has been written, re-written, filmed and re-filmed about the time in the 1970s, when the Zephyr Surf Shop in Santa Monica sponsored a surf and skate team who came to be known as the Z Boys.
It all began with these three chaps, Craig Stecyk, Skip Engblom and Jeff Ho and the short version goes like this: In 1971, Ho, Stecyk and Engblom opened Jeff Ho Surfboards and Zephyr Productions in the Venice Beach area of Santa Monica. These guys were all surfers who were skateboarding out of the 1960s but at first it was all about surfing. Ho and Engblom formed the Zephyr Surf Team, made up of local surfers who had established themselves at the defunct Pacific Ocean Park. As the urethane revolution hit, the Zephyr Skate Team evolved and they became known as the Z-Boys. The original members were Jay Adams, Tony Alva, Bob Biniak, Chris Cahill, Paul Constantineau, Shogo Kubo, Peggy Oki, Stacy Peralta, Nathan Pratt, Wentzle Ruml IV and Allen Sarlo.
Later members included Paul Cullen, Cris Dawson, Jose Galan, Dennis Harney, Paul Hoffman, Donnie Ohem and Tommy Waller.
The team practiced around Jeff Ho’s surf shop and on the streets of Santa Monica and Venice, including the banked walls at Paul Revere and Kenter schools in the Santa Monica mountains and Bicknell Hill, which ran down to the ocean. Moving away from the nose wheelies and 360s and other freestyle moves of the 1960s, the Z-Boys found that urethane wheels and improved equipment allowed them to replicate the “anything is possible” surfing of Hawaiian surfers Larry Bertlemann and Buttons Kaluhiokalani.
The Z-Boys skated the banks at Paul Revere, Kenter and the geography-blessed schools of the Santa Monica mountains, they raided swimming pools all over Los Angeles during the drought years of the mid-1970s, and they ran wild in the streets of Venice and Santa Monica – an area dubbed Dogtown by Craig Stecyk.
They were just having fun and not trying to cause a big sensation, but the photography and journalism of Craig Stecyk, combined with their first public appearance at the 1975 Bahne-Cadillac National Championships at Del Mar – launched the Z-Boys into legend.
From: The Skateboard, The Good The Rad And The Gnarly
Written by Ben Marcus Photos by Lucia Griggi