How “Lords of Dogtown” Celebrates the Early Days of Skateboarding Culture in California

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Lords of Dogtown is a 2005 drama film directed by Catherine Hardwicke, the director of the critically acclaimed teen drama “Thirteen,” and written by skateboarding legend Stacy Peralta, starring Heath Ledger, Emile Hirsch,John Robinson and Victor Rasuk.

The movie takes place in Santa Monica in California in the 70s. The name takes inspiration from how local skaters and surfers nicknamed the surrounding areas of Santa Monica and Venice Beach, “Dogtown.” The plot explores the start of the skateboarding subculture in the area and how success impacted the lives of the young skateboarders that grew the movement and is the fictionalized adaptation of the 2001 documentary “Dogtown and Z-Boys”.

This documentary, which is the base of the movie, was directed by Stacy Peralta, who wrote “Lords of Dogtown”, and presented a mix of original footage of the original Z-Boys from the 70s together with contemporary interviews, making the movie, even if a fictionalized, a quite accurate depiction of the event.

Basically, what the movie presents is the evolution and the relationship between surfing and skateboarding, something that in 2022, is not so known. In fact, at first it is considered that skateboarding actually originated from surfers that decided to skate when the weather wasn’t good for waves, what the movie present is actually after this, and how a group of skaters from a crew, Z-Boys (from the name of the store who sponsored them, the Zephyr Surf Shop), revolutionized completely this world.

What happened is that one day, Skip Engblom, a local board designer, received polyurethane wheels for its shop, the Zephyr Surf Shop, this completely changed how skaters could skate, allowing them to make curves on the streets as they curved on waves with their surfboards.

A part from this it’s also a testimony a very peculiar californian aspects of skateboarding, the empty pools, basically during a period of hot weather a drought is officially declared, making illegal to fill swimming pools with water. Since the area was full of private swimming pools, they just started sneaking into backyard pools and started to skating into them, creating a new environment where people could skate. This created the idea of a bowl to skate in, which is now a basic of almost all skate parks, which shape skaters found perfect to develop new tricks and skills.

While this era of skateboarding is not so well known, it’s is one of the most relevant, which not only put the basis of many staple of the skating world now, such as the bowls, but also created the environment for the growth of skateboarding in the following years. The 12 members of the Z-Boys became some of the most relevant names in skateboarding history, with some of them creating companies that went on to bring this activity from a national interest to a global phenomenon, such as Stacy Peralta, who founded the companyPowell Peralta, which signed a 14-year-old Tony Hawk as part of its team.

The influence of this group of kids cannot be underestimated and it’s amazing how both “Lord of Dogtown” and thedocumentary “Dogtown and Z-Boys” are able to present this era and its influence to contemporary generations of skaters.

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