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Peralta's Dogtown and Z-Boys documentary is a barrage of indelible moments and images that communicate this energy. One of the raddest scenes is of Jay Adams debuting for the Zephyr team at Del Mar.
Entering the competition square, he gets lower and pumps harder than anyone outside of Dogtown had ever imagined. Just when it looks like he's going off the end of the raised platform, he slashes a Bert at the square edge of the skateboarding world. Then, as if to emphasize the point, he bunny-hops back across the platform in front of the judges, in absolute contempt of their rules and limitations. Before his two minutes are up, he skates off the platform and carves a violent turn, proving all over again that the world isn't flat. The other teams shake their heads and complain at this insurrection. The judges don't know what to do. The crowd goes crazy.
"The Dogtown guys came down to that competition and just terrorized everybody," remembers Warren Bolster, who would be the editor of Skateboarder when it re-launched a couple of months later. "These guys were so different and unique. They made quite an impression."
Two years later the world would hear Johnny Rotten proclaim himself an anarchist, but that was arguably the birth of punk.
AS WITH SKATEBOARDING ITSELF, interest in the Z-Boys and Dogtown never really went away. It just went underground or entered the mythology of the culture's inner circle. The current Z-Boy fever, though, can be traced back most directly to a story by Greg Beato, in the March 1999 issue of Spin, titled "The Lords of Dogtown." Beato, a freelance writer, had been given the assignment after an editor saw an advance of Michael Brooke's The Concrete Wave: The History of Skateboarding. The Dogtown sections of the book jumped out at him. Following Spin, Hollywood came knocking. Rights to the life stories of various Z-Boys were purchased, and the machine started its slow, usually futile grind.
At the same time, Stacy Peralta's life and career were at a crossroads. He had left Powell-Peralta, started in 1979 and at one time the most influential skateboarding company in the world, years before. His own foray into television as a director and producer had not been terribly fulfilling. Then there was an emotionally draining divorce. At some point in the middle of all this, he happened upon some old photographs of the Z-Boys in action. The pictures had the same effect on him as they seem to have on everybody.
Peralta went for a hike, thought about the prospects of WB network candy kids playing the roles of Alva and Adams and the rest, and called Craig Stecyk when he came back down. Work on the documentary, funded by Vans (the same company Jeff Ho tried to coerce into giving the kids shoes 30 years ago), began in earnest.
The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January. In skateboarding parlance, it killed. Most of the gang assembled for the premiere. Skip Engblom says it was obvious from the moment he touched down that the Z-Boys, most of whom hadn't seen each other in 25 years, were in full effect.
"I got off a plane. I got on this shuttle. I showed up at this house, and here are Wentzle [Ruml] and [Bob] Biniak sitting at a table. We looked at each other. Stacy walked in. We started laughing. We didn't say anything for the first five minutes. We just cracked up laughing," says Engblom. "We decided to walk into town to get some coffee and something to eat, right? We're walking, and this is a huge event and people don't know who we are or anything, but we're walking down the street and people are responding to us, and what they're responding to is that collectively we have this energy level that is so amazing. It's so intense that people, for whatever reason, they don't even understand it, but they get sucked into it. They get sucked into this black hole of Z-Boydom."
It didn't take long after Del Mar for Z-Boydom to suck the rest of the world in. Then, like a black hole does when the gravity becomes too much, it started collapsing in on itself.
It wasn't just the skateboarding that created this pull, although looking at the overall cultural impact of the Dogtown movement, it's sometimes easy to forget how good these guys were. Tony "Mad Dog" Alva was becoming the archetypal all-around skater in pools, on the banked playgrounds, or going for speed. He had a style and charisma that couldn't be matched. "Bullet" Bob Biniak was considered the fastest skater in the world, and the one many say had the biggest balls. He'd try anything and often be the first to do so. Shogo Kubo was known for strength and flair. Jim Muir was earning a reputation as one of the hottest pool riders around. Stacy Peralta was smooth, precise, able to beat the "down southers" at their own game while subverting it with the Dogtown style. And then there was Jay Adams. Peralta likens Adams to Mozart on wheels.