Z-Boys.com archive: The Death of Dogtown "Original Dogtown Article"


SkateBoarder Magazine
Vol 5, No. 7
February, 1979
By John Smythe

The "Death of Dogtown". . .even the concept of such a thing made me shudder; surely it had to be a wrong number. I played the machine answer phone tape again and it was there, all the key elements. . ."a story, D.T., death, call associate editor Mary Horwitz at SKATEBOARDER Mag," and that ever enticing phrase, "will pay top dollar on completion of assignment." But perhaps I should backtrack a bit. . .Iíd just come home from three months of fishing off the Baja coast and the catch had been less than anticipated. I walked through the door and pressed the playback button on the phone answering device to discover exactly what "important" messages Iíd missed during my sojourn. Most of the calls were from lawyers seeking to contact me concerning the three borrowed cars Iíd been unfortunate enough to total during a bad month last year. (It was enlightening to note the changes in the barristerís tones and attitudes as the tape went on. The first month they were friendly and cajoling, the second found them matter of fact and to the pont and by the end of the third they had become absolutely annoying.) Enough of such psychological pursuits. The basis of the matter proved to be that they all knew I was good for it; the question was when was I going to pay. The answer being, "As soon as I could." I turned over my fishing revenues and eased the Belchfire I (recently rescued from oblivion on Warner Bros. Back lot), onto Highway 101 and floored it. I knew the answers to all my problems lay in that curious burg to the south known as Santa Monica to the masses and as Dogtown to the initiated.

As I motorized past Malibu Point, a six foot swell was running Ė but not even such physical phenomena could erase the nagging phrase from my mind. The "Death of D.T." It sounded like a press agentís nightmare and a journalistís dream. Perhaps it was only alarmism. . .but no, Mary was usually up on things. After all, she was the first to tell me that Linda Rondstadt was going to get styled hair, start wearing red, white and blue satin and generally go middle American in order to make herself a suitable First Lady for Presidential hopeful, California Governor Jerry Brown. Since that turned out to be true, Iíd believe anything now.

Consequently, I turned left onto the municipal pier (which is about as close as you can get to the heart of Dogtown). As I looked about I began to comprehend what the editoress meant. In some misguided gesture of civic pride, they had bulldozed a massive portion of the architecturally classic downtown district and were erecting one of those concrete, chrome-and-smoked-plexiglass-mansard-roofed-mission-style-disco-beat shopping centers. On the pier, Universal was shooting a low-riding epic (starring blue-eyed Robbie Benson) called "Gang." At the movie setís perimeter the local 18th street Vatos Locos were vibing their Venice and C.C. counterparts. Seeing all of these "Los Chingaderos de Controlla" types together at once and in a movie to boot proved something really rare was afoot. Coincidentally, further investigation revealed it to be opening day at Marina Del Rey Skatepark.

My arrival there confirmed my suspicions: S.M. wasnít dead; it had just mutated into some new evolutinary form. It looked like Donnie and Marie in D.T.. Running the park were Ray Allen & Dennis Ogden. Imagine a gent who once won a Woody Allen look-alike contest now in a supervisory position. Think of all the tourists whoíll consider him to be just another comic and not realize what an important person he is! Present and accounted for were many of the sportís finest aficionados as well as most of the legendary Zephyr team. Yes, for the first time in years the true Z-Boys were united and the proximity of a park to their home stomping grounds proved an apt catalyst. The sessioneering was as intense as youíd find anywhere, although the S.M. style remains unique in its esoteric iconoclasm. The Santa Monica approach has always been that "Essence equals integrity." Their superfluous movements and obnoxious embellishments have always been regarded with disdain. The guiding dictate undoubtedly is that simplicity is the ultimate complexity. Basically phrased: itís not what you do, itís how you do it. True progression results not only from where you go, but from how you get there. A gram of push is always worth a ton of holding back.

An opening day countdown found the original Zephyr boys to be engaged in typically interesting pursuits. Jay Adams skates with his customary abandon and innovation. Tony Alva continues to refine and expand upon his patented approach. Jim Muir is into exploring the wide board approach. Bob Biniak is as good as he wants to be. Shogo Kubo rides with an authority and aggression that generally blows minds. Stacy Peralta continues to be the highly polished consummate technician. Paul Constantineau is stylish in his attacks. Wentzle Ruml is back on the track after food poisoning (induced by some bad cheddar cheese). Nathan Pratt created skate and surf crafts under his Horizons West label. Paul Cullen anxiously awaits the freedom of his 18th birthday. Chris Cahill is into surf vehicle shaping and airbrush applications and Allen Sarlo stopped by to work some Ďcrete on his way to the pro surfing contest circuit in Hawaii.

Can people involved with such a variety of activities be considered dead? Energy equaling life, I think not. What has happened is that Dogtown as we knew it has given way to the next phase. For instance, the name Dogtown is now "trademarked." The skaters, instead of walking, now drive imported cars. Some now carve for currency. Once unknown names are now famous ones. Dogtown has gone uptown; or, more precisely, Uptown has gone Dogtown.

The region spawned the sport itself as an outgrowth of the Malibu surfing culture. Subsequent generations, like the original teams Makaha, Hobie and Zephyr, laid down the basis for banked and vertical riding as we know it today. In the mid 70's the underground D.T. movement went public-that began the change. At the '74 Del Mar Nationals, the approach of the
Z-boys was like nothing In sight. Five years later, most of these once underground riders are now considered among the sport's vanguard. The one-time variant style has been adopted by the masses. The S.M. boys have turned a lot of people on to an abundance of things over the years, and logic dictates that they will again do so. Also, masses of new-area talent are beginning to make their marks. If anything has changed, it is that the media circus has moved on, looking for new clowns. The important question is not, "Who's dead," it's, Who's liver than you'll ever be?" Good skating is the name of the game and quality is wherever you find it. If you're into it, you can take it and do whatever you want with it.






The need for greed has put a lot of people in a bad place. What was once fun for all has become dreary work for more than a few. It seems that their total embracement of commercial consumerism has obscured the very reasons they became involved with skating in the first place (n.b. to hang out, get loose and have a good time). The doomsayers are calling it curtains for the sport because sales are down and a recession is coming.

Some fanatics are endeavoring to make the act of riding a skateboard illegal. Pro skaters are finding themselves in a shrinking market as the once "free rides" of the glory days suddenly dry up. Overnight sensations become today's tragedies. A few manufacturers have been forced to economically swallow products that would best have not been made at all. Many who sought the easy buck are out of luck. People are finding out that there are few free lunches in life; and when you get one, you generally have to eat it by yourself. While some shouldn't have taken more than they gave, others shouldn't have given more then they got.

But don't despair; live and learn, the thrill isn't gone forever, it was just sold up the river for a while. The sport isn't gonna die because of momentary economic set-backs. Sure, a few of the fly-by-nighters may bite the bullet, but manufacturers who offer decent products which the public desires will survive and prosper. The basic factor that will keep everything going is the need to skate. Individuals who have got to ride are going to continue to do so, no matter what. That's the very nature of hard core. Those who figure they can legislate out of existence a clean, creative and fun personal transportation source are in for a few surprises.

Skating itself was born out of the power structure's inadvertent creation of abundant concrete playgrounds that offered youth recreational potentials too obvious to be ignored. To get rid of skating you'd have to do away with concrete-in all its various forms. Even though, beings hooked on the skating thrill would find some way to harness the new surfaces. Additionally, in unity there is strength, and there are a lot of skaters around who think alike. So get down and have fun; the best may be yet to come.

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