Making the Grades
Skateboard parks have sprung up in urban centers around the world. But it wasn't always so. In the mid-60s, the popular teen fad of the 1950s had practically disappeared. Then a ragtag group of kids from the seaside slum of Venice Beach, CA. revolutionized the sport in the 70s with their extreme surfer-like moves and unruly attitudes.
For the kids from the Dogtown neighborhood, surfing is their passion and skateboarding is just something to do when the waves are bad. Coming from mostly poor or broken homes, they hang out at the local surf shop owned by Skip Engblom (Heath Ledger) and his partners. It is his idea to organize the Zephyr skateboarding team that later becomes known as the Z-Boys.
Rolling into the Del Mar Nationals in 1975, the boys and their one female teammate (Stephanie Lamb) spark controversy among judges, managers and the other contestants when they defy the entire criterion of the competition and introduce their own radical approach to the sport.
Lords of Dogtown chronicles the next few years as the Zephyr team, led by Jay Adams (Emile Hirsch), Tony Alva (Victor Rasuk) and Stacy Peralta (John Robinson), transforms boarding into a counterculture trend. Never satisfied with their accomplishments, they continue to push the limits, always looking for new challenges. When severe water bans are imposed during California's drought of 1976, the kids prowl the wealthy neighborhoods near their ghetto to find empty pools for boarding. Their antics anger the violated homeowners but win them increased notoriety and a feature story in a skateboarding magazine.
However, as their popularity increases so do egos and the lure of financial sponsorships. While the funding gives the Z-Boys a chance to earn some economic independence, it also threatens to rupture their friendships as various skateboarding companies draw them away.
Using current skaters to reenact the era, the movie includes cameo appearances by some of the original Z-Boys and their competitors, as well as having former Zephyr team member Stacy Peralta (now a filmmaker) write the script. These factors alone may draw in boarding enthusiasts, but the film does little to dispel the extreme attitude that often accompanies extreme sports.
There are a few other concerns family will want to be aware of too. The team's coach, Skip Engblom, appears to be perpetually stoned or drunk, even when driving the boys across the state to various competitions. The use of illegal drugs and alcohol is rampant among the teens. In addition, vandalism, shoplifting, graffiti and easy sex are commonplace for many of these youth whose home lives are as mean as the streets they board on. With plenty of profanities and violent outbreaks, these Lords of Dogtown reign on the roughest strip of asphalt on the California coast.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Lords of Dogtown.
What decisions does Stacy make that differ from many of the other team members? What effect do his choices have on his future?
What role do you think sponsors should play in the world of sport? Are there some companies that should not be allowed to support a team?
How were extreme skateboarders perceived in the early days of the sport? Has that attitude changed or not? How do board manufacturers promote the sport nowadays?
Home Video Viewing Alternatives
Here are some ideas for home video titles that are related to Lords of Dogtown.
Heath Ledger trades in his surfboard for a jousting pole when he plays a squire with aspirations to be a hero in A Knight’s Tale. Michael Angarano, who plays the rich kid tag-a-long in this film, portrays a young Red Pollard in Seabiscuit.