Dogtown and Z-boys is a 2001 documentary about the revolution of the Californian skateboard scene in the 70’s superbly narrated by Sean Penn. The movie won several awards in many film festivals and got widely distributed around the world. Dogtown and Z-boys is produced and directed by Stacy Peralta, among the major skateboard-video producers and most of all Peralta is one of the best known members of the Zephyr Team, whose achievements the movie is about. The documentary is a successful collage of noteworthy authentic vintage footage and interviews with ex Zephyr Team skaters. All is perfectly seasoned with a 70’s rock soundtrack. In the early 70’s Dogtown, between Santa Monica and Venice Beach, was living the sad end of the American Dream and a wave of rebellion was sprouting in lieu of the optimism of the previous decades. The pier of the abandoned Pacific Ocean Park was converted into an unlikely haven of misfits. As the waves crashed the ruins, a group of restless young locals surfed around the pier and kept out the “invaders” attracted by the good waves of Dogtown. On waveless days, those guys took to the streets with skateboards to practice. In the same period professor Frank Nasworthy began to use polyurethane to make skateboard wheels. This brand new material allowed to considerably increase speed and road holding. This was the turning point: hard core surfers began to translate the hot-dogging stunts of world-class wave riders onto their skateboards. Their tricks where radical, risky, fluid, aggressive but at the same time elegant. They were creating a new style. They were at the begging of a revolution. They all hang out at the Zephyr Production Surf Shop and with the help of the owner, Jeff Ho, twelve of the skaters (Jay Adams, Stacy Peralta, Tony Alva, Pekky Oky) organized themselves into a team to compete at local skateboard events. They first practiced along downhill roads, then they forced school gates to use paves playground but above all they took advantage of the sever drought that had hit Los Angeles in that period and began to ride empty swimming pools, surfing the concrete like the “locals-only” waves by the pier.
When they attended the 1975 Del Mar National Championship, the way the sport was conceived changed forever. Until then, skateboarding was seen as a fad of the 60’s, a kid’s game, like hula-hoop , expect for a handful of committed fans in California, standing in rigid maneuvers on their skateboards. When the turn of the Z-boys arrived it looked like a rugby team in a figure skating competition. The radical moves and scruffy-streetwise style of the Team upended the public and the jury. A new sport phenomenon was born. Soon translated into a cultural one: the celebration of the style. They soon became celebrities who blazed the trail for the extreme sport movement. The documentary continues inquiring the effects of fame and money to those young kids from poor neighborhood and often with uncomfortable families. Lucrative contracts, deals to manufacture their own boards, movie roles: their fame proved to be fleeting and while some of them are now settled down and found their role into society, others fell prey to drugs and crime. Whatever their personal life achievements, “with their bleached-blond hair, tanned bodies, tube socks and Vans, these young outsiders evoke the sometimes reckless but always exhilarating origins of skateboarding lifestyle and culture” as it is known nowadays.