These questions and others filled my mind, as I tried to learn the stories behind the story. Its strange. Life is like that, you know? What is known to be going on…isn’t really what is going on. Like ‘Sloppy Sam’ said, “99% of skateboarding, isn’t really about skateboarding.” I just wanted to know …why? By now, the world has had a taste of the ‘Lords of Dogtown’. Hollywood has bowed before skateboardings –collective– ‘pathfinders’…yet probably is doling out the financial windfalls of that groveling…in a ‘less than’ generous fashion. I am sure that TA, Jay, Shogo, Wes & others have seen very little hard coin in relation to personal injury, pain & bloodshed that they have persevered through over the years.
This is purely speculation on my part, mind you. I just call it like I’ve seen it. Regardless, The Z-boys documentary & the subsequent film, ‘Lords of Dogtown’, have pushed the ‘Dogbowl’ out into mythical limelight. It has become a place where anarchy & art collide. A place where people thrust their middle fingers at the sky & authority burns up in a smokey cloud over the shallow stairs. A place where barriers are crossed with huge fantastic leaps in red and blue ‘Vans’ skate shoes…a place we all want to be.
When I was young, I saw images of ‘Dogbowl’ in the magazines. I read CR Stecyks words. He made me want to be a writer & Glen Friedmans photographs, made me want to ride pools just like the Z-boys. In a way, I guess we all were there…at least in our minds. That is what makes these images great & the ‘Dogbowl’ so special. We were all there. Glen Friedman told me that, “I lived really close to the ‘Dogbowl’ by ‘Paul Revere’ & would ride my moped over there. I wasn’t old enough to drive a car yet. We would skate & I would take photographs daily. It was an oasis then. It was mostly, Jim Muir, Ray Flores, Shogo Kubo, TA, Steve Picciolo, Jay & others.” Glen quickly stated tersely ,” Others rode at ‘Dogbowl’, but nobody skated that pool or had lines like Tony Alva.” I have seen the old film footage. I believed him. TA ripped.
TA stated that, “The ‘Dogbowl’ sessions were basically, JayAdams, Bob Biniak, Paul Constintineau, Wes Humpston, Ray Flores, Jim Muir, Wentzl Ruml, Shogo Kubo, and myself. Baby Paul Cullen, Arthur Lake & Stacy Peralta rode there, as well as Steve Picciolo. We kept the sessions pretty tight.” He also stated that, “We had to behave there. It wasn’t like ”Teardrop’ pool, where we could hop the wall, skate & break stuff apart. Dino lived there, so we kept it pretty mellow & low key. Stecyk & Friedman documented most of the sessions.” It must be said, Stan & William Sharp of ‘Skateboard World’ magazine, photographed regularly with the Z-boys as well. They both have published great images from ‘The Dogbowl’.
Other stories abound, of the famous sessions there. In the summer of 1977, TA invented the frontside air. I remember him & others telling me the same story. TA was hitting the lip frontside and popping out. He grabbed his rail several times & thought, “Maybe…” He -then-started trying them in a more controlled manner & after awhile, landed a frontside air. Glen stated that Shogo Kubo tried frontside airs for awhile before making one a month or two after TA. According to Wes, Glenn & others, TA continued ‘ruling’ the ‘Dogbowl’ that summer. It would all be short-lived.
Glenn stated-unequivocally-that , “Tony Alva did the first frontside air in a backyard pool. He did it with style at the ‘Dogbowl’ in the summer of 1977. George Orton was heard to be doing them, grabbing between his legs, months later & at a skate park. Tony was the first. No doubt.” I remember seeing the images of TA at ‘Dogbowl’ pulling frontside airs. I was in disbelief. I went out to my plywood ramp, that had no flat-bottom, linoleum bathroom floor tiles glued under the cinder block coping, and started hurling myself out of the top. A frontside air was a long time coming for me. I must be honest; it took me years.
The story that I heard of the ‘Dogbowl’ & its discovery is mixed. A few of the facts haven’t changed though. I received this information from the people who were really there. Basically, Paul Constantineau & some other Z-boys, were at a party & knew that Dino was ill. They heard he had a huge pool at his house, so Dino asked his parents if they could drain it & ride. Dino was a dark-skinned young guy who was really ill at the time. He walked very slowly, looked weak & also wore hats all the time to protect him from the sun. His parents let him do -pretty much- whatever he wanted since he was going to pass away from his illness. Dinos ‘Dogbowl’ myth was assured. It received its moniker, ‘Dogbowl’, because there were always dogs running around the pools edge, sometimes chasing the skaters while they rode.
TA told me that the ‘Dogbowl’ was special for them. “There are four great pools that I recall being instrumental in developing pool skating. All four were very large pools. They are, ‘The Dogbowl’, ‘The Keyhole’ in Beverly Hills, ‘The Fruitbowl’ in Garden Grove, & ‘The Gonzales’ pool. These pools were where we learned ‘figure eights’, ‘forevers’, ‘airs’, ‘wheelers’ ‘hip riding’ & shallow end carves.” TA added that, “When the pools were done, they were done. If someone missed their chance, too bad.”
The ‘Dogbowl’ lasted a short time & when Dino passed away, TA & the others left it alone. “We let it go out of respect to Dino. It was a sacred place. After Mr. Gonzales died, we let that become a ’swimmer’ again as well. We do that out of respect to ‘Mr. G’. It was over.” Personally, I loved the ‘Gonzales’ pool, but I understood what TA was getting at. “Sure, there are people that barge & poach. Poachers beware.” TA smiled & added softly,”Poachers shouldn’t be there. They will get served up what John Lennon called, “Instant karma.”
When the ‘Dogbowl’ was being bulldozed in 2002, a few people found out & stealthed in at 6am. Someone told me that the last guy to ride it & grind it, slid out, slamming in the dawns half-light. Rumor has it that he broke his arm. Fini. The ‘Dogbowl’ is- forever -etched into skateboardings-collective- memory, as a place where vertical riding was forged in so many ways. Thanks to all the Z-boys for being who they are & going before us. This story is written out of my respect to all of you. Thank you to Glen Friedman for the interview & iconic images. Thank you to Tony Alva, Wes Humpston, Dave Hackett, and Jim Goodrich for their memories of ‘Dogbowl’. Skate & remember where we came from.-Ozzie