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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, April 19, 2002

Skateboarding film charts rise of Z-Boys

By Wayne Harada
Advertiser Entertainment Editor

Radical Z-Boys skateboarders are on the brink of national stardom, thanks to the skateboarding/surfing film "Dogtown & Z-Boys," screening Sunday as part of the HIFF Spring Film Festival.

Two who live on O'ahu — Shogo Kubo, 42, and Jay Adams, 41 — will appear at the screening; a third who had been living here, Jeff Ho, 52, moved to Los Angeles on Wednesday.

The storied past and the innovative style of the Z-Boys, which included one woman, is the subject of Stacy Peralta's remarkable documentary about skateboarding. The documentary has been acquired by Sony Picture Classics for release in Los Angeles and New York on April 26.

"Dogtown" refers to a grungy area in Santa Monica, where the Z-Boys (who originally called themselves the Zephyr Team) were rogues and radicals because of their unconventional surfing and skateboarding manner, maneuvers and equipment.

"It brought tears in my eyes, watching the film, since it's been 25 years since I saw the guys I grew up with," said Kubo. "We were aggressive and confident and we stood out because we were so different. Like beach bums."

The original Z-Boys also included Tony Alva, Bob Biniak, Paul Constantineau, Jim Muir, Peggy Oki, Nathan Pratt, Wentzle Rumi and filmmaker Peralta.

"There certainly has been a resurgence in skateboarding, at a new level," said Kubo, a Japan-born, L.A.-bred skateboarder who still hops on one periodically.

"It's still a good thing for the kids today," said Kubo. "But they shouldn't do stuff we did, like trespass and skate in the pools."

It was the Z-Boys' daring "invention" — skating vertically in L.A. pools without water during a mid-'70s drought — that brought skateboarding to new heights.

"Safety is a factor, but we never wore helmets or knee and elbow pads," said Ho, who designs custom surfboards by trade. "For those skateboarding now, the safety gear is recommended. I think skateboarding will get bigger as more skate parks open up, not only in Hawai'i but in other cities. The 'fad' has crossed the generations, with kids whose parents skateboarded in their youth."

Skateboarding styles have come a long way, led by advances in the equipment. Early wheels were made of clay or metal; polyurethane versions enable the boards to "hug" the ground, with more traction.

Ho said Craig Stecyk, a photographer-journalist who wrote extensively about the original phenomenon and himself a skateboarder, was instrumental in giving Peralta's film its scope and shape. Stecyk and Peralta collaborated on the screenplay. "Stecyk had a sense of color and vision. He's an abstract person, hard to get into his mind. But all of us who were into skateboarding and surfing are grateful to him for his documentation," said Ho.

Adams, one of the best, got on a board — on land and in water — at age 4.

"I wouldn't say I got rich, but skateboarding paid some bills," said Adams. "I got rich in so many other ways."