Z-BOY®…Goods Direct from the Source™
The Z-BOY Story
In 1971 a fourteen year old Nathan Pratt got a job as the clean up boy at the Zephyr surf shop in Santa Monica under the tutelage of shop co-founder Skip Engblom. He would go to the shop after school every day and over the next six years became an apprentice surfboard maker and the founding member of the junior surf team which would become the Z-BOYS. Other top young surfers, including Jay Adams, Chris Cahill and Allen Sarlo joined the team. They were a rough and tumble group of teenagers from the "wrong side of the tracks" who made the surf shop their home away from home.
Far from the multi billion dollar industry that of today, surfing in the '70's was a renegade sport that was frowned upon by mainstream society. Considered drop-outs and losers, the surf community became a sub-culture all its own with distinct rules and pecking orders. Pratt, Adams, Sarlo and the other young surfers also were avid skateboarders.
IN 1972 top Hawaiian designer Ben Aipa came to California for the World Championships and brought with him a revolutionary young surfer named Larry Bertlemann. Bertlemann had a low slung style that was completely innovative and phenomenally radical, especially his cutback, the Bertlemann cutback.
The Z-Boys were immediately taken with this radical style and began copying it in both surfing and most uniquely, skateboarding. They would ride the streets and school banks of West Los Angeles imitating their favorite surfers and inventing moves of their own on banked walls of asphalt. They developed a driving low slung style that was completely different from the common standup style of trick skateboarding. As they skated with each other, every day would become a contest to see who could do the most radical move. This was a pack of alpha teenage boys who did not take kindly to being second best.
In 1975, Adams, Cahill, Pratt, Sarlo and crew went to Engblom and asked to set up a skate team separate from the surf team. Engblom agreed and soon the skate team grew with all the top local skaters including Bob Biniak, Paul Constantineau, Jim Muir, Peggy Oki, Shogo Kubo and Wentzle Ruml. Engblom would coach them and insisted on high performance and good style. You had to go big and do it with style.
The Z-BOYS debuted at the Del Mar Nationals in March 1975. The first major skateboard contest since the original skateboard haydays of the mid 1960's. The first Z-BOY to compete was also the youngest and most naturally gifted, Jay Adams. In the span of his three minute freestyle routine, young Adams shattered the preexisting norms of the skateboarding world with radical moves and an aggressive style that had never been seen before. The judges did not even have a reference for creating a score and the contest was thrown into an uproar. Adams was backed up by eleven more Z-BOY performances that left the existing standards of the skateboard establishment in a trash heap. The revolution had begun and as Nathan Pratt put it "Skateboarding would never be the same again".
At the end of the day, half of all the finalists were members of the Z-BOY crew. In the girls division, Peggy Oki, devastated the competition and the other girls complained to the judges. The judges' response was that she was better than most of the boys too.
From Del Mar the Z-BOYS went on to expand their moves on the banks of the many schools in the hills of West Los Angeles area most notably Bellagio, Revere, Mar Vista, Brentwood and Kenter. There was a terrible drought and many swimming pools were drained. The Z-BOY crew took their surf style of skating to the pools and started hitting the coping. One day at a pool in Santa Monica they started hitting the coping so hard that they were flying out of the pool, getting air and then landing back in the pool. Aerial skateboarding had been invented.
After the stunning Z-BOY success at Del Mar the media started following the every move of the Z-BOYS. They snuck into backyards to ride empty pools and partied with rock stars. They pushed the limits and invented new moves everyday. Most involved was local photo journalist Craig Stecyk who wrote and photographed a series of want became known as the Dogtown articles for Skateboarder Magazine that immortalized the Z-BOY lifestyle. The body of photography by C.R. Stecyk III still stands as skateboarding's finest.
Fame and fortune followed with three of the top four places on the Skateboard Readers Poll being occupied by a Z-BOY. However, as all of the Z-BOYS developed into superstars it was hard to keep the team together. Big money was being thrown at the teenagers and team members starting splitting off. At the end Allen Sarlo and Nathan Pratt were the last Z-BOYs left. Sarlo went off to follow his dream of being on the pro surf tour. Pratt took over the Zephyr space, opened his own surf/skate shop and starting shaping Horizons West surfboards in 1977.
Like a comet, the Z-BOY era was a time that burned so bright and so hot that it had to explode. But in doing so, the Z-BOYS spread their influence even wider creating the modern extreme sports movement. Twelve teenagers who hung out in the Santa Monica/Venice neighborhood of Ocean Park who just wanted to surf and skate, they had no idea that they would start a revolution. Considered the most influential skateboard team in history, the Z-BOY movement continues to this day as an expression of performance, innovation and style.
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Z-BOY®…Goods Direct from the Source™