Review by Simon Bell
A FRATERNAL cohort of stoners swap the white horse of Venice Beach for the
white tiles of empty backyard pools
and an urban extreme sports movement
that will go on to earn millions across the globe is born.
They call themselves the Z-Boys and hang around a marginal LA neighbourhood of Venice and South Santa Monica, nicknamed (affectionately) Dogtown because it's "the last great seaside slum where the debris meets the sea".
The thundering surf around the jutting piers of Pacific Ocean Park is the favoured playground of these washed-out youngsters. But by as early as 10am, Surf's Up is over, with the rest of the day spent hanging ten at Jeff Ho & Zephyr Production Surf Shop (the owners themselves part of the exclusive clique).
Bored with wasting the days at their makeshift clubhouse - and helped in no uncertain terms by the advent of smooth and resilient polyurethane wheels and a drought that dried up LA's wealth of swimming pools - the surfer kidz take to skateboarding with a voracious appetite and create a pivotal moment in its culturally significant history.
Co-writer and director Stacy Peralta, a former Z-Boy himself, uses mainly vintage footage to tell the tale of his compelling skate-umentary. Shot by Craig Stecyk and Glen E Friedman in the 70s, the Cinecam pictures serve as a Z-Boys home movies.
Narrated with consummate cool by a Sean Penn at his most insouciant - and spliced with present day interviews and a ton of never-seen-before photos - the story of how a pioneering style of skating reinvigorated and redefined the sport is vividly brought to life with an energy and enthusiasm that matches anything on screen.
Totally devoid of comment or conjecture from anyone of a non-Z-Boy persuasion - and profoundly self-congratulatory - this doc is perhaps not as historically adroit as it perhaps could be. But it's told with as much fluidity, style and originality as the revolutionary skate moves it depicts. And that's good.