The Z-Boys were a group of skateboarders from Los Angeles in the 1970s who are credited with popularizing skateboarding and essentially creating the punk/skater subculture that now exists. Their name is derived from the Zephyr Competition Team.
In 1973 Jeff Ho, Skip Engblom and Craig Stecyk opened the shop, "Jeff Ho Surfboards and Zephyr Productions", on Main Street in Dog Town Venice Beach. The first Z-Boy was a fourteen year old named Nathan Pratt. He was hired by Skip Engblom to work at the shop after school every day and over the next six years became an apprentice surfboard maker under Jeff Ho and the founding member of the team which would become the Z-BOYS. Allen Sarlo, Jay Adams, Tony Alva, Chris Cahill and Stacy Peralta joined the surf team in 1974. 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. The Z-Boy crew surfed at Bay Street in Santa Monica and were notorious for dominating the surf at the dilapidated Pacific Ocean Park amusement park, an area nicknamed by locals as "Dogtown".
Far from the multi-billion dollar industry that it is today, surfing in the 1970s 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. They would ride the streets and school banks of West Los Angeles imitating their favorite surfers and inventing moves of their own on banks of concrete. They developed a driving low slung style that was completely different from the common upright style of trick skateboarding. As they skated with each other, they pushed each other to excel and create new tricks.
In 1975 the young surf team members asked Ho and Engblom to start a skate team separate from the surf team. Cahill, Pratt, Adams, Sarlo, Peralta and Alva were the founding members. Soon after, the team grew with the addition of local skaters 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. Bicknell Hill at Santa Monica beach was the main practice area for the team.
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. On the first morning of the contest they noticed an impressive local skater named Dennis Harney and added him to the team on the spot. The first Z-BOY to compete was also the youngest, Jay Adams. Adams was backed up by eleven more Z-BOY performances. At the end of the competition, half of the finalists were members of the Z-BOY crew. The results were: Women's Oki 1st, Jr Freestyle Adams 3rd, Alva 4th, Jr. Slalom Harney 2nd, Pratt 4th. The older skateboard establishment was not ready for the aggressive surf style and free spirited approach that the Z-Boys exhibited and could not comprehend that they had just witnessed a revolution. About the Z-BOYS' 1975 debut, Russ Howell said, "As a competitor at that event, I didn't give much attention to them because they were young and didn't offer much at the time.. Little did Howell know that within twelve months the 1960s style that he was the master of would be gone from the public eye. The popularity of the Z-Boy style with vertical and airborne moves would sweep around the world.
From Del Mar the Z-BOYS went on to expand their moves on the banks of the many schools in the hills of the West Los Angeles area, most notably Bellagio, Paul Revere, Mar Vista, Brentwood and Kenter -- an area was previously ruled by the Hobie Team skaters before it was named Dogtown and became the home of the Z-BOYS. The 1970s drought in the Los Angeles area left many swimming pools drained. The Z-BOY crew took their surf style of skating to the empty pools, skating the sides to the pool's coping. One day during a skating session in a pool nicknamed "the Dogbowl" in Santa Monica, Tony Alva took his board airborne, sailing above the coping itself, and then twisted to land back in the pool. Aerial skateboarding had been invented.
The Z-BOYS trespassed into backyards to ride empty pools and partied with rock stars. They pushed limits and invented new moves every day. Prominent among them was local photo journalist Craig Stecyk, who wrote and photographed a series of innovative articles for Skateboarder Magazine that became known as the Dogtown articles which immortalized the Z-BOY lifestyle. The body of photography by Craig Stecyk is still frequently referenced.
Fame and fortune followed with three of the top four places on the Skateboard Magazine Readers' Poll occupied by a Z-BOY. Jay Adams, Nathan Pratt, Tony Alva, Stacy Peralta and Bob Biniak had feature interviews in Skateboarder Magazine. Allen Sarlo, Nathan Pratt and Jay Adams also became top ranked surfers. However, as members 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 started splitting off to other companies. Tony Alva, Jay Adams and Bob Biniak left to skate for Logan Earth Ski, Stacy Peralta and Paul Constantineau joined G&S, Wentzle Ruml went to Rector, Jim Muir started Dogtown Skates, Peggy Oki went to college at UCSB. Jeff Ho tried to put together a sponsorship deal that would keep the rest of the team together under the Zephyr name, but could not get a deal done. He and Skip Engblom ended their partnership in early 1976 when Engblom moved to Hawaii, and by the end of 1976 the Zephyr shop had closed. Nathan Pratt took over the Zephyr space, opened his own surf/skate company Horizons West in 1977 and attended UCLA. Chris Cahill went to work shaping kneeboards for Horizons West and Allen Sarlo went on the pro surf tour.
Original members in alphabetical order: