Dogtown and Z-Boys
This documentary explores the beginnings of today’s extreme skateboarding. Dogtown is the local name for the slums of Los Angeles’ southside near Venice Beach and Ocean Park. Noted surf board designer Jeff Ho opened the Zephyr surfboard shop and formed local teens into the Zephyr Surf team or Z-boys. In the ’60s, the ‘sidewalk surfboard’ became an alternative to surfing when the waves were low. Soon teens were looking for any sloped surface so they could emulate riding the curling ocean waves. The Z-Boys looked for better ways to do the same radical tricks on skateboards that they had seen professional surfers do in the water. “Style” became everything. Looking for better and less crowded places to skate, the ’70s drought presented the tempting playground of dried up swimming pools. The curved sides and sloping bottom of the empty pools were ideal for maintaining the momentum for skateboarding stunts. The Z-Boys went on to win fame, but fame also split the team up as different companies sought talent to endorse their products. Now, the Z-boys are largely forgotten as the innovators of extreme skateboarding. Although the film was produced and directed by a former Z-Boy, the subject matter limits the audience to those interested in the sport.
The film, directed by a former Z-Boy and interspersed with interviews of with former teammates, seems episodic and disjointed. Comments include a number of obscenities, including some that are bleeped or the sound cut, but their use is still obvious. Although one of the members is in prison on drug related charges, the team’s days are highlighteded with photos of smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol as part of their lifestyle. An interesting image is the name Dogtown written as a cross, with the ‘o’ shared, but little religious significance is attached to the image. Sadly, the idea of trespassing to access people’s dry pools and the subsequent damage to the pools by the skateboards is seen as a youthful challenge rather than a criminal act. Between the obscene comments and the presentation of law-breaking as acceptable behavior, DOGTOWN and Z-BOYS wipes out.