Related Articles: Movies, All

Dogtown and Z-Boys

A trip back in time to the origins of modern skating

It's no surprise that Dogtown and Z-Boys, a documentary by skateboarding legend Stacy Peralta about the origins of modern skateboarding, was the winner of the 2001 Audience Award at Sundance. It's a fun documentary, and one that really traces the sport back to its early days. Like it or not, skating has become as mainstream as basketball or baseball, and the revolution of the sport in the 1970's can be credited to the people in this film.

Here's how it happened: In the 1970's, a crew of surfers from an area in Venice, California known as Dogtown began riding homemade skateboards made from clay roller skate wheels attached to slabs of wood. They began trying, on their skateboards, moves they saw their idols doing in surf movies, and they realized that their type of skating had never been done before. The local Zephyr surf shop sponsored a team, and the Z-Boys were born.

Then, as a boon to the world of skating (if not for the ecology of SoCal), California was thrown into one of the worst recorded droughts in their history. Translation: LOTS OF EMPTY SWIMMING POOLS. It's pretty amazing to see footage of ridiculously talented skaters entering an empty swimming pool for the first time. This segment of the documentary is the funniest, as the skaters talk about their escapades while poaching these huge empty pools in wealthy Santa Monica neighborhoods.

These are skaters that we grew up hearing legends about: Jay Adams, Tony Alva, Stacy Peralta. Big names. Kids who rescued the sport from its nearly ice-dancing origins (moves like front-wheelies and headstands on the board used to win skating contests) to the vertical-oriented version of skating that we see in the X-Games and in skate parks today.

Aside from the history lesson we receive, there is amazing video footage of these kids learning and dominating the sport of skateboarding. There's great surf footage as well. It's important to see how talented this group of kids was in the water. They were surfers, first and foremost, and how they translated those skills onto the pavement. And it's just as crucial to see how poor and destitute of an area these kids are from; Dogtown is a run down hellhole of a place, a stark contrast to the mansions and manicured lawns of Santa Monica and Malibu. The pop-culture phenomenon, not to mention the multi-million dollar industry of skateboarding, was born by these kids from broken homes who just happened to be hard-core enough to try skating empty pools with no pads or helmets, let alone an idea of how to do it.

This has got to be one of the more entertaining documentaries ever produced, largely due to the subject matter and the old-school skating footage. Even if you aren't into skating, viewing this film would be a good way to try and understand the phenomenon. And if you are, well, then you'll obviously want to check it out.


Dogtown & Z-Boys
Rated PG-13
1 hour 27 minutes

Peggy Oki
Shogo Kubo
Wentzle Ruml
Allen Sardo
Jeff Ho