The Ocean Park Pier in Venice, Calif., was the site of a cultural revolution in the 1970s: A surfing and skateboarding renaissance that was captured in Stacy Peralta's 2001 documentary 'Dogtown and Z-Boys.' At the heart of the scene was skate icon Skip Engblom, who with his business partner Craig Stecyk launched a surfboard company called Zephyr. Engblom's eponymous shop soon became a hub of activity for local kids who lived to skate and surf (aka the Z-Boys). But forget the millennial-style money, sponsorships and prestige that surf rats often pursue today: At the time, surfing "wasn't the thing you did to build your self-esteem in society," Peralta explained.

Not only was surfing a fringe activity, but the pier and its surrounding area was a veritable ghetto of crime, junkies and working-class families. Once a major attraction (it was called the Coney Island of the West n the early 1900s), by the early 1970s Venice's heyday as a thriving tourist destination had seemingly come to an end. Starting a decade prior, the local piers had begun to shut down and fall into disrepair. Little by little, the swath of beach-side turf between Santa Monica and Venice, known as Dogtown, became a no-man's land of urban detritus, run-down buildings and, at the water's edge, the broken-down Ocean Park Pier. As Engblom explains, "[Dogtown] was the last great seaside slum. ... It was dirty, it was filthy. It was paradise."
categories On the Scene