Skateboarders rise to prominence

    Skateboarders and their daredevil stunts are a common sight now, but a person flying over pavement on wheels still shocked onlookers not too long ago. Once considered a passing craze along with hula hoops and yo-yos, it wasn’t until the 1970s that the pastime became a highly technical and innovative craze.

    Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

    Stacy Peralta’s award-winning documentary, “”Dogtown and Z-boys,”” traces the emergence of skateboarding from its roots in Southern California to its commercial popularity.

    Dogtown, the local nickname for Venice, Ocean Park and southern Santa Monica, Calif., served as the birthplace for modern skating. While Dogtown was primarily a place for surfing, its younger generation found additional solace in the resurrected sport of the 1960s: skateboarding.

    In the early 1970s, Peralta, along with Jay Adams, Tony Alva, Wentzle Ruml and a diverse group of youngsters sought refuge in the Jeff Ho & Zephyr Surf Shop. As a result, the rag-tag team became the Z-boys who found themselves skating playgrounds, empty swimming pools during a drought and eventually winning skating competitions. “”Dogtown and Z-boys”” is a chronicle of their escapades.

    Peralta amasses a montage of images that captures not only the energy of the athletes but also the hard times that gave way to skateboarding as we know it. Most of the original Z-boys are also on hand to give witty, insightful comments on their creation.

    Initially, “”Dogtown”” comes on strong. The stuttering zooms into still shots and the rapid movement of the stills across the screen leads to a lack of focus. The style is vivid, disorienting and ultimately emphasizes the speed with which the Z-boys created their genre of sport.

    The enthusiasm of the Z-boys also surfaces through interviews.

    “”I was on summer vacation for about 20 years,”” Ruml says at one point. This exuberance is echoed by all the Z-boys, but Peralta also makes sure to represent the sudden rise to fame that most members of the group experienced in a truthful light.

    “”Dogtown and Z-boys”” is not your average documentary — not only in presentation, but also in content.

    Hardcore skaters will be impressed by the original mastery of dry swimming pool walls by the Z-boys, as well as the invention of the more difficult aerial moves. The history of Southern California, the skating culture, and even the emergence of such lingo as “”grind,”” “”carve”” and “”barrel”” will satisfy even an audience of non skaters. Regardless of your affiliation with a skateboard or lack thereof, “”Dogtown and Z-Boys”” will leave you stoked.

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