They were so broke, they paid for their movie in footwear. Yet DOGTOWN AND Z-BOYS is one of the most electrifying documentaries ever. Words: Catherine Bromley
n the early 1970s. out of the debris of Dogtown. a seaside
slum in Southern Califomia. emerged a group of ragtail
teenage surf punks who would change the face of modem skateboarding. Wild kids from the wrong side of a tough town. the Z-Boys pissed on the wobbly handstands of the old-guard 60s skaters with their low-slung. surf-inﬂuenced style. The modern vertical or ‘vert‘ style of skateboarding that they pioneered in the pool-riding explosion would be their legacy to western street culture.
And the story of how the Z-Boys gave birth to an American pop phenomenon would be quite a tale to tell. Given its significance and its street cred. the story was one that Hollywood was hungry to get its hands on. Thankfully for film audiences. the story of Dogtown and Z—Boys has instead been rendered by the principal players themselves. not as fiction. but as one of the most electrifying documentary features ever to hit the silver screen.
‘We wanted to tell it from our perspective and do it the way we would want to see it be done.~ says Dogtown director. skate entrepreneur and original Z-Boy Stacy Peralta. when I meet him during the Edinburgh Film Festival. ‘That was certainly the goal and it was financed by a company — VANS — who are not a Hollywood company and as a result. they don’t know the mistakes of Hollywood and so they let the film grow organically.‘
Producer of canvas deck shoes since the 1960s. VANS was the first retail company to sponsor skateboarding. It was its
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shoes that the Zephyr Surf Shop skateboard team was wearing when it first exploded into the public eye at the 1975 Del Mar Nationals skate competition. Nearly 20 years later. it was its shoes that virtually the whole production team was wearing when filming the history of Dogtown. ‘We didn’t have a lot of money.‘ says Peralta. ‘So because we were financed by a shoe company, we gave people free shoes. All along the chain. we would pay people in shoes and you know what? I don’t care how rich a person is. if you give them something for free. they're a friend for life. It really worked.‘
Finance secured. he teamed up with fellow Dogtown homeboy. Craig Stecyk III. the photojournalist who played a pivotal role in fostering the influence of the Z-Boys on wild boys the world over with his legendary Dogtown articles published in Skateboarder magazine. Having sorted that out. Peralta began work on the second biggest challenge to the success of the project: getting the Z-Boys back together.
Stecyk was less than optimistic. He was the man who‘d described the exploits of these teenage tearaways as the ‘concrete warfare’ of ‘urban guerrillas‘ who ‘took the ruins of the 20th century and made art out of it‘. Surely no one could reunite them. ‘The team couldn't even stay together for six months. so how are you going to get them to do this'?’ he asked producer Agi Olsi.
But Peralta would not be dissuaded. He was detemiined to document all the factors and players that had come together in the mid-70s to make the Dogtown phenomena possible. ‘Craig