Dogtown and Z-Boys Movie Poster

Before Tony Hawk, before the X-Games and before skate shops in the mall, there were the Z Boys -  eleven guys and a girl(!) - members of the 1975 Zephyr Skate Team, an evolutionary offshoot of the same named surf team that had started just a couple of years prior and represented Jeff Ho Surfboards and Zephyr Productions in local contests and exhibitions.  They surfed Pacific Ocean Park, which was the site of an abandoned and decaying amusement park, dropping debris off the pier into the water, creating a dangerous environment for both swimmers and surfers.

The team members started skateboarding as a hobby, when they weren't surfing but it quickly grew into an obsession and an art form as they practiced tirelessly on the hilly street that ran in front of the shop as well at local schools with unique sloped and curved concrete features and empty  swimming pools in sometimes not so near neighborhoods.  The Ocean Park neighborhood of Santa Monica where most of them lived was called "Dogtown".   They adopted and adapted moves from their favorite surfers on the water to their skateboards on the concrete.  Without them and their revolutionary concept of skating like you were surfing, there would be no skateboarding as we know it today.  The Z Boys were the pioneers, the inventors, the innovators and the forefathers.

Dogtown and Z-Boys Movie Poster

The 2001 documentary Dogtown and Z Boys was directed by one of the Z Boys and has stunning contributions from photojournalists who were there to document the scene. All surviving Z Boys that could be located were interviewed as well as others on the scene who were there.  Sean Penn, while not a Z Boy had lived and skated in Dogtown, narrates the documentary which pieces together the modern interviews with archival footage of the Z Boys in action.  HERC highly recommends the film - it is awesome.  Their story is a fascinating portrait of a group of kids, young teens really, who lived the dream, did what they loved, achieved fame and were tempted and eventually broken up by the trappings offered by a corporate world who tried to buy their way into the scene.  (FULL DISCLOSURE: The film was financed almost entirely by Vans, Inc. so it comes off as kind of a feature-length commercial but the Z Boys did wear navy blue Vans as part of their uniform so if nothing else it is authentic.)

With over 40 songs featured in the film, the officially released soundtrack CD is laughably lacking with a paltry 10 tracks.  Fortunately, most of the music  heard in the movie can be found on Spotify.

After the critical and award-winning success of the documentary, director and Z Boy Stacy Peralta turned his life as a Z Boy into a screenplay and a major Hollywood picture: Lords Of Dogtown.  Featuring cameos from several original Z Boys, the 2005 movie deviates from the story told in the documentary, focusing instead on three main characters (Stacy Peralta, Jay Adams and Tony Alva), their personal lives and their relationship with Skip, the driving force behind the team, played by Heath Ledger in one of his lesser-known yet outstanding performances.  Another character was created for the film reportedly based based on several real people and it is this character who watches as the Z Boys form, then go their own ways and serves as the catalyst for their reunion at the film's end.

There are several actors in smaller roles throughout the movie that you may recognize - HERC's favorite "finds" are Sofia Vergara, Jeremy Renner, Joel McHale and Mitch Hedberg.   The movie was a commercial failure at the box office but has since become a minor cult film.  HERC liked all the performances in the film, especially those of Ledger as Skip and Emille Hirsch as Jay Adams.  The soundtrack is so good that HERC has been known to let the movie play with the TV screen off so just the dialogue and music can be heard.

The soundtrack CD features 16 of the 40 songs heard in the movie including two cover versions.  With Spotify's help, HERC put together a playlist of 37 tracks from the film for your listening pleasure.

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