Thursday, May 21, 2009

Rebellious Conformity | The Z-boys Influence

After reading in h(y)r collective about "Made in U.S.A." Vans' Authentics I couldn't help but go back into my archive of all things Dogtown and think about the fact that I found an L.A.-based post again. I have been a long time longboarder and have ridden my fair share of 1970's skateboards, including one similar to my mother's from when she grew up during and around the Z-boys culture. She was born just three months after Jay Adams in the San Fernando Valley less than 100 feet from where she lives now and hung around people of that age. She had known Stacy Peralta for the fact that they were Stacy and Stacey (the former being Peralta and the latter being my Mother) and had seen the action first hand.

The Z-boys have had a large influence on my style in both their rebellion and conformity. They went against the grain to do something most thought them to be out of their minds for doing but created a culture that lives on in skateboarding today. Being innovative is not just being ahead of your time but being true to what you want to do. The following video is a short look at the Z-boys and dogtown culture with a good background remix of Good Vibrations by boemtjak.

Check out some pictures that have made my style the way it is today and look back and enjoy a time where breaking into people's backyards to skate in their pools was both fun and safe, at least safer than it is today. And hit me up if your down to skate.

Since my first experience with the whole Dogtown scene, I was in Venice Beach/Mar Vista area (the original Dogtown) trying to purchase my first longboard and noticed this weird cross that had the words "town dog" or "dog town" written in it on a brick wall in some strange alley. Not knowing what this was and having just been on Venice Beach looking at tags I went home and did a ton of research on this crude rendering of a tag. Anyway, since my first experience with the whole Dogtown scene I felt like I was born in the wrong era. I had the bleach blonde/reddish shaggy hair, ripped jeans and torn navy vans. When you are young you tend to believe that style is generational and you must dress like your peers. My view on that has changed but my love for skating and the Z-boys mindset has been cemented.

I love to go longboarding and push myself to the limit, whether that be speed, carving or finding the newest place (No place is new anymore but I mean new to me) to skate. And this is what Jay, Stacy and Tony wanted to do. They pushed themselves to break barriers, break records, and break the perspective of previous and current skaters. They did this with the help of Jeff Cho, renowned surf board builder, and Skip Engblom who with Jeff Cho opened and owned Zephyr Skate shop and team. They funded and formed the skate team that would change skating forever.

Jay, Stacy and Tony joined the Z-boys in 1974 as a way of escaping the streets and being able to hang out at a surf shop. Being from the "wrong side of track", figuratively because there are no tracks, they surfed all morning, skated all afternoon and hung out at Jeff Cho Surfboards and Zephyr Productions the rest of the time. They were the kings of the waves at the recently burned down Pacific Ocean Park waves surfing in between the supports of the dilapidated pier which once supported it.

Their style was derived from their much acquired time on the beach and at the shop. With cut-off shorts, worn in Vans (not necessarily but most likely Vans and deck shoes of some sort), t-shirts or polo shirts and tube socks. The Vans shoe was an easy alternative to any other shoe since they were cheap and customizable. Vans shoes started off in Anaheim, CA as a shoe company that would create shoes using fabric that the customer would bring in. They would take the fabric and make a shoe using as little fabric as possible. The deck shoe was their choice. Each were made by hand, a luxury that is still done to this day but very rare and hard to find (check out h(y)r collective's article on Handmade in U.S.A. Vans Authentics)

So with the deck shoe as the Z-boys shoe of choice, the waves under the destroyed and dilapidated Pacific Ocean Park as their surf spot, and Jeff Cho surfboards and Zephyr Production as their hang out spot it was only time when they would take their style to the street. So, through the shop they created a skate team, the Zephyr skate team. The blue Zephyr shirt, cut off shorts or jeans, and Vans replaced the anything else they would possibly think of wearing except maybe a flannel on cold days. To them it was not about style, it was about purpose. The less clothing the quicker they could go and the more ability they have to move. And when it came to the pools they needed at little clothing as possible, not just for purpose but because of the heat.

Speaking of pools, Los Angeles went through a terrible drought and left many swimming pools empty and unused. This was seen as an opportunity for the Z-boys. They took their surfing style to the pool and hopped onto the tops of each others cars and drove around looking for empty pools or got calls from friends about them. One pool specifically, a friends pool, was dubbed the dogpool after much use and was the place of origin of vertical skating when Tony Alva took his board a little too far off the coping and got some air, twisted around and landed back into the pool. This to their amazement was beyond anything they have seen. A complete accident and the creation was born. And the rest is in the books, a history filled with stardom and strife.

With books and movies produced about the boys, there is no way to not acknowledge their influence on the counter culture that is skating. Since, their heyday the boys and girl (Oki) have moved on to live somewhat normal lives. Their super-stardom died down and now they own their own companies or continue to professionally surf or skate. So, get out there and do something you would never have done before. Grab a board, catch a wave, ride a motorcycle, fly a plane...just do something. You never know where it might leave. (Disclaimer: Do not do any of these without proper training or experience first!)