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The Zephyr Competition Team (or Z-Boys) were a group of American skateboarders in the mid-1970s from Santa Monica and Venice, California. Originally consisting of 12 members, the Z-boys were originally sponsored by the Jeff Ho Surfboards and Zephyr Productions surf and skate shop. Their innovative surfing-based style and aerial moves formed the foundations of contemporary vert and transition skateboarding. The story of the Z-boys and the Zephyr shop have been popularized in feature films such as Lords of Dogtown and Dogtown and Z-Boys.
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The Z-boys began as a surf team for the Zephyr surfboard shop in Santa Monica. Jeff Ho, Skip Engblom, and Craig Stecyk opened the shop, titled Jeff Ho Surfboards and Zephyr Production Team, in 1973, and they soon begin recruiting young locals to represent them in surfing competitions. 14 year old Nathan Pratt was the first member of the team; he originally had worked in the shop as an apprentice surfboard shaper under Ho, Engblom, and Stecyk. In an interview with Juice Magazine, Pratt notes the following:
"Within our world, the surf team was primary and the skate team was secondary. Allen Sarlo, Tony Alva, Jay Adams, Stacy Peralta, Chris Cahill and myself were on the surf team before there was a skate team. We were junior members of the surf team along with John Baum, Jimmy and Ricky Tavarez and Brian Walker. Guys like Ronnie Jay, Wayne Inouye, Wayne Saunders, Pat Kaiser, Barry Amos, Jeff Sibley, Bill Urbany and Adrian Reif were the top dogs. The history, skill and accomplishments of all the team members was represented in those shirts. Then we added Bob Biniak, Wentzle Ruml, Paul Constantineau, Jim Muir, Shogo Kubo and Peggy Oki to the skate team so that a team shirt represented a decent number of people."
In 1974, Allen Sarlo, Jay Adams, Tony Alva, Chris Cahill, and Stacey Peralta joined the Zephyr team; these local youths exhibited street style and aggressive mannerisms both on and off the surfboard. The majority of the team lived in the "Dogtown" area of California; their primary surfing spot was the Cove at Pacific Ocean Park. However, thanks to the invention of urethane wheels, the Z-boys began to transition their surfing style to skateboarding.
Formation of the Zephyr Competition Team
In 1975, Cahill, Pratt, Adams, Sarlo, Peralta, and Alva became the first members of the official Zephyr skateboarding team. Soon after, the Zephyr shop gained the final members of their team, making the total number 12 in all. These additional members were: Bob Biniak, Paul Constantineau, Jim Muir, Peggy Oki, Shogo Kubo and Wentzle Ruml. The team began to practice in the backs of four schools in the surrounding area; it was at these asphalt banks that the Z-boys showcased their ability to transition surfing style to skateboarding. Taking inspiration from surfer Larry Bertleman, the Z-boys would skate low to the ground, dragging their hands against the concrete as if they were riding a wave.
The Del Mar Nationals
The Z-Boys' first appearance at a skateboard competition occurred at the 1975 Del Mar Nationals; the contest was the first major skateboarding competition since the mid 1960s. Their low, aggressive style in the freestyle section of the competition, though innovative, was critiqued by the older establishment of skateboarding. However, half of the finalists at the end of the competition were members of the Zephyr Competition Team (Freestyle: Jay Adams 3rd, Tony Alva 4th, Slalom: Dennis Harney 2nd, Nathan Pratt 4th, Womens Freestyle: Peggy Oki 1st). The performance of Z-Boys such as Jay Adams marked the beginning of a national change in the style of skateboarding.
Backyard pool skating
From 1976 to 1977, Southern California experienced a major drought that contributed to the 1st and 4th driest years in Californian history. In an effort to conserve water, neighborhood homes were draining their backyard swimming pools, leaving empty bowls of smooth concrete. The Z-boys took advantage of the sloping walls of the pools to push the boundary of innovation when it came to aerial skateboarding. Craig Stecyk's photographs of the Z-Boys' aerial maneuvers appeared in Skateboarder Magazine under a series titled "Dogtown Articles"; Stecyk's collections aided in the spike of skateboarding popularity in the late 20th century.
Following the success of the "Dogtown Articles", the Z-Boys witnessed an exponential rise in public popularity. Due to growing interest from rival companies, many Z-Boys left in favor of more lucrative sponsorships. By 1977, the Zephyr Competition Team had ceased to exist. While the existence of the Zephyr team was short-lived, the Z-Boys are still widely regarded as one of the most influential teams in skateboarding history.
- Jay Adams
- Tony Alva
- Bob Biniak
- Chris Cahill
- Paul Constantineau
- Shogo Kubo
- Jim Muir
- Peggy Oki
- Stacy Peralta
- Nathan Pratt
- Wentzle Ruml IV
- Allen Sarlo
- Paul Cullen
- Cris Dawson
- Jose Galan
- Dennis Harney
- Paul Hoffman
- Donnie Olham
- Tommy Waller
Representation in media
- Cave, Steve. "What Is the Origin of Dogtown and the Zephyr Skateboarding Team?". LiveAbout. Retrieved November 25, 2020.
- "The History of Dogtown and the Z-Boys". www.storeyourboard.com. Retrieved November 25, 2020.
- "The boys of Dogtown". National Museum of American History. September 22, 2011. Retrieved November 25, 2020.
- "DOGTOWN CHRONICLES: NATHAN PRATT". Juice Magazine. March 1, 2003. Retrieved November 25, 2020.
- Beato, G. (August 24, 2001). "When skateboarding shook the world". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved November 25, 2020.
- Stansbury, Mark. "How the 1970s California Drought Helped Invent Bowl Skating". The Inertia. Retrieved November 25, 2020.
- "Z-Boy Company Homepage". Retrieved March 7, 2010.
- 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
- Dogtown Skateboards Official Website and Online Store
- Juice (skateboarding magazine) DOGTOWN CHRONICLES