The Zephyr Competition Team (or Z-Boys) was a group of skateboarders in the mid-1970s from Santa Monica and Venice, California. The aerial and sliding skate moves that the Z-Boys invented were the basis for aerial skateboarding today.
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The crew, who began as a surf team, derived their name from the Zephyr surfboard shop in Santa Monica. Jeff Ho, Skip Engblom and Craig Stecyk opened the Santa Monica shop as Jeff Ho Surfboards and Zephyr Productions in 1971. The Z-Boys represented the shop in surf competitions, with the first member being fourteen-year-old Nathan Pratt. Pratt also worked at the shop and became an apprentice surfboard maker under Ho, Engblom and Stecyk.
In 1974, Allen Sarlo, Jay Adams, Tony Alva, Chris Cahill and Stacy Peralta, joined the surf team. The place that the team spent most of their time surfing was at Pacific Ocean Park, a once thriving amusement park atop a pier. Now abandoned and run down and nicknamed by the locals as "Dogtown". With large tilted, wood pilings jutting from the water, and not enough room for all of the surfers, Pacific Ocean Park Pier was an incredibly dangerous place to surf. Despite these dangers, the Z-Boys surfed it anyway. They would surf in the mornings, when the waves were the highest. When the pier waves died down after the early-morning hours, they would hang out at the Zephyr shop, running errands, doing homework, skating and flirting with passing girls. At that time, the Z-Boys saw skating as a hobby, something to do after surfing, but it quickly grew from a hobby into a new way to express themselves.
In 1975, Cahill, Pratt, Adams, Sarlo, Peralta and Alva asked Jeff Ho and Skip Engblom to start a skate team separate from the surf team. Soon after, local skaters Bob Biniak, Paul Constantineau, Jim Muir, Peggy Oki, Shogo Kubo and Wentzle Ruml would join the Zephyr skate team, growing to 12 members in all. The team would practice a lot of the times at Bicknell Hill. Bicknell Hill ran down from the Jeff Ho and Zephyr Surfboard Productions shop. There, the Z-Boys would set up cones and practice all day. They would skate real low, riding the concrete like they were riding a wave. They would drag their hands on the pavement like Larry Bertlemann, a professional surfer who would touch the wave when surfing, dragging his fingers across it. Style, to the Zephyr team, was everything and they pulled all their inspiration from surfing. There were also four grade schools in the Dogtown area that the team would skate quite often. The Z-boys loved to skate these schools because they all had sloping asphalt banks in their playgrounds. Soon, the Z-Boys were carving real waves in the morning and asphalt the rest of the day.
That year, skateboarding had risen back in popularity enough that the first big skateboarding competition since the 1960s was held. That competition was the famous Del Mar Nationals, held in California in March 1975. This is where the Z-Boys made their debut and reached California cult status. With their low, aggressive style, it was like nothing anyone had ever seen before. It was a far cry from the upright, freestyle skating that was popular in the 1960s. The older skateboard establishment was not ready for the aggressive surf style and free spirited approach that the Z-Boys exhibited, but the crowd loved them. At the end of the Del Mar competition, half of the finalists were members of the Zephyr team, including Peggy Oki, Jay Adams, Tony Alva, and Nathan Pratt . Many of the older skaters could not comprehend that they had just witnessed a revolution in skateboarding. Within twelve months of the Del Mar Nationals, the 1960s upright, freestyle type of skating vanished from the public eye, and Z-Boy style would sweep around the world.
The mid-1970s brought a major drought to Southern California that parched Los Angeles. This drought brought on severe water restrictions, forcing many pool owners in the well-to-do neighborhoods to leave their swimming pools drained. The Z-Boys took their surf style of skating to the empty pools. This was the birth of vertical skating, and it became the basis for skateboarding and many of the extreme sports seen today. One day during a skating session in the fall of 1977 in a pool nicknamed "the Dogbowl" in Santa Monica, the "eureka" moment arrived. Tony Alva pushed more and more on the coping until his board completely cleared the edge of the pool and landed back in the pool, completing the very first aerial. This revolutionized skateboarding and many extreme sports. Many of the tricks performed on skateboards, and later snowboards, wakeboards, rollerblades and BMX bikes, would be performed in midair from that point on. The Z-Boys and their "Dogtown" style revived skateboarding, which had been on a major down-hill slump since the mid-1960s.
While surfing is what pulled the Zephyr team together, skateboarding is what pulled them apart. As the members of the Z-Boys got more and more famous, it was hard to keep them together, as big money was being thrown at them from companies bigger than Jeff Ho Surfboards and Zephyr Productions. Jeff Ho tried to keep the team together but couldn't compete with the money his team members were being offered, and in early 1976, he and Skip Engblom ended their partnership. Engblom ended up moving to Hawaii, and by the end of that year, the Zephyr shop closed. Z-Boy Nathan Pratt took over the shop and reopened it under his Horizons West label in 1977.
- Allen Sarlo
- Bob Biniak (June 2, 1958 - February 25, 2010)
- Chris Cahill (December 5, 1956 - June 24, 2011)
- Jay Adams (February 3, 1961 - August 15, 2014)
- Jim Muir
- Nathan Pratt
- Paul Constantineau
- Peggy Oki
- Shogo Kubo (September 19, 1959 - June 24, 2014)
- Stacy Peralta
- Tony Alva
- Wentzle Ruml IV
- Cris Dawson
- Dennis Harney
- Donnie Olham
- Jose Galan
- Paul Cullen (died July 23, 2009)
- Paul Hoffman
- Tommy Waller
- "Z-Boy Company Homepage". Retrieved 7 March 2010.
- "Chris Cahill, 54, of Skateboarding’s Z-Boys, Dies". Retrieved 11 February 2015.
- Craft, Terri. "Zephyr – Jeff Ho Interview". Juice (skateboarding magazine). Retrieved March 1, 2003.
- Ruibal, Sal "Far out! Cutting-edge sports have roots in '70s"
- Official website
- Zephyr Team on KCET Departures Venice Interviews of Jeff Ho, Allen Sarlo & Matt Smith
- Juice (skateboarding magazine) http://juicemagazine.com/home/category/interviews/dogtown-chronicles/