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The Zephyr Competition Team (or Z-Boys) were 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. Their story inspired the feature film Lords of Dogtown and the documentary Dogtown and Z-Boys.
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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 (Dogtown and Z-Boys, Sony Pictures Classics 2001). 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 (Dogtown and Z-Boys, Sony Pictures Classics 2001) According to Pratt:
"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 Stacy Peralta, joined the surf team. The place that the team spent most of their time surfing was the Cove at Pacific Ocean Park. Once a thriving amusement park atop a pier, POP was now abandoned, run down and nicknamed "Dogtown" by the locals. With large tilted, wood pilings jutting from the water, and not enough room for everyone who wanted to surf there, the Cove was an incredibly dangerous place to surf (Dogtown and Z-Boys, Sony Pictures Classics 2001). The Z-Boys surfed it anyway, the hazardous conditions only driving them on. They would surf in the mornings, when the waves were the highest. When the pier waves died down after the early morning, 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 straight 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 low, riding the concrete like they were riding a wave and drag their hands on the pavement like Larry Bertlemann, a professional surfer who would touch the wave when surfing, dragging his fingers across it. To the Zephyr team, style was everything and they pulled all their inspiration from surfing. There were also four grade schools in the Dogtown area that the team picked for skating 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 (Dogtown and Z-Boys, Sony Pictures Classics 2001).
In response to skateboarding's resurgence, the first big skateboarding competition since the 1960s, the famous Del Mar Nationals, was held in California in March 1975. This is where the Z-Boys made their debut and reached California cult status. Their low, aggressive style 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 the nation, then the world (Dogtown and Z-Boys, Sony Pictures Classics 2001).
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 (Dogtown and Z-Boys, Sony Pictures Classics 2001). 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 (Dogtown and Z-Boys, Sony Pictures Classics 2001).
While surfing is what brought the Zephyr team together, skateboarding is what pulled them apart. As the members of the Z-Boys became more and more famous, it was hard to keep them together. Major companies were offering sponsorships and financial incentives that Jeff Ho Surfboards and Zephyr Productions were unable to match. 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 (Dogtown and Z-Boys, Sony Pictures Classics 2001).
Though the Z-Boys skaters had been friends for years before and after, they existed as an organized team for only about nine months.
- Tony Alva
- 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 (older brother of Suicidal Tendencies' Mike Muir)
- Nathan Pratt
- Paul Constantineau
- Peggy Oki
- Shogo Kubo (September 19, 1959 - June 24, 2014)
- Stacy Peralta
- Wentzle Ruml IV
- Allen Sarlo
- 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/