It's the late 60's. Skateboarding has been around for a little while, but it's still pretty small. Clay wheels, loose bearings, and solid oak decks are the norm. Contests basically consist of people in their mid-twenties to thirties doing lots of gentle spins and manuals, then called "wheelies". It was a lot tamer than the sport we know today.
Enter the Zephyr Skate Shop, located in Dogtown, a run-down poorer section of Santa Monica and Venice Beach. At this local skate shop, neighborhood kids like Stacy Peralta and Tony Alva would meet and hang out. And skate. They were all surfers primarily, but when the surf wasn't up, they would ride skateboards.
Their style was vastly different from anybody else's. Where most other skaters might have been elegant and polite, these guys were trying to slash and spin with such reckless speed and power, it was unruly. Unfortunately, the clay wheels prevented much innovation. But, the neighborhood kids eventually gained enough local notoriety to be called "the Z-boys", despite having a girl among their ranks. The Z came from the name of the shop that they rode for, of course.
Then, one fateful day, the Zephyr team went to the Del Mar Skateboarding contest. They finally unveiled their new style, and progression in the field. "It was like bringing a hockey team to a figure skating competition," said Stacy Peralta. They were all lower class, long-haired, dirty surfers who didn't apologize when they ran into somebody and did surf-style moves on the flat ground. Skateboarding would never be the same. And they weren't done yet.
Later on, a company called Cadillac Wheels started making skateboard wheels out of urethane. This allowed a world of new tricks to be done, now that the smallest pebble wouldn't send you flying, and your wheels actually gripped the ground. In order to take advantage of this, the Z-boys started trying something else totally new: skating pools.
The Z-boys first started skating a pool about a year later. At first, just doing back to back carves was a feat, then getting tile was good. Eventually, they were grinding the coping with just the rear truck, with only one wheel on the wall. And, in a few weeks, Tony Alva did the first ever frontside air.
The Z-boys from Dogtown started a phenomenon that would eventually develop into what is now vert skating. But, more importantly than that, they brought the rebel outlook to skateboarding. The attitude that said, "I can do this, and I don't care who says I can't, I'll still do it." They detested intruders to their territory, and those who just wanted to make money off of it. In essence, they brought punk rock to skating. They made it accessible to everyone, even poor inner-city kids. That is what drives skating today, and probably always will.