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Dogtown and Z­Boys

Stacy Peralta’s documentary on his formative time among a clique of straggly teen drop-outs who turned skateboarding on its head makes a compelling case that, where riding four-wheeled planks of wood is concerned, the guys were the birth of the cool. Just as When We Were Kings vitalised boxing for newcomers, this vividly conveys the bottom line: these guys had style.
Maybe it’s an outdoor thing? Plenty of leeway for that in L.A.; indeed, the film proposes that the city’s water-sports culture was a crucial determinant of the out-of-the-box attitudes these guys brought to land. Back in the ’70s, Dogtown was a rundown ocean-front district where hardened surfers honed their skills amid the detritus of the Pacific Ocean Park pier, hung out at Jeff Ho’s customise-happy Zephyr Surf Shop, and skated when they couldn’t surf, emulating their wave-wending moves on any available tarmac slope. When a drought emptied the swimming pools, the gang jumped on the exposed testing grounds, gyrating higher up pool walls until they learned to flip over the lip and pivot in mid-air. The 1975 Del Mar national skateboarding competition saw the Z-Boys first dazzling the wider world with their freestylingsowhile around them the straights were still pulling wheelies.
Narrated with suitable casualness by Sean Penn, it’s an enthralling story laden with archive footage and insider testimony, displayed with a fast-cutting, full-on swagger the material quickly justifies.
U.S.A., 2001. Colour. Dolby stereo SR. 90 mins.

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