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LAist Movie Review: Deathbowl to Downtown

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Deathbowl To Downtown. Photo courtesy of ncpfilms.

Los Angeles, as a culture, lives by it's own standards and plays by as many (or as few) rules as money can buy. But with that is the tacit understanding that, on many occasions, it will also die by it's own shortcomings. As a result, Southern California is and will be the birthplace of many things, but those things will often leave their home to experience greater and more profound success elsewhere.

The new documentary film Deathbowl to Downtown - The Evolution of Skateboarding in New York City deeply concerns such a transition. In the early 1970's, surfboards began to emerge from the waters of the great left coast and sprout wheels and grip tape. In order to survive their new surroundings - empty swimming pools and strolling avenues - boards got smaller and added bolts, bushings, and bearings. Darwin would be proud.

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However, by the middle of decade, a core group of specimens had left the petrie dish of Southern California and begun to infect the growing youth movements of a disenfranchised New York. And this is where Deathbowl begins, and the the story of skateboarding in Los Angeles starts to end. Without empty pools or an abundance of boardwalks, inner-city New Yorkers began cutting smaller, faster, and more agile boards for every day (and everywhere) use. After taking root with a loose conglomerate of artists calling themselves Zoo York, street skating's gestation period would not last long. Within years, students began adapting pure street moves with the cruising skate mentality of those blonde-haired thrashers from the other coast. Add in the ollie (the pop-your-board-off-the-ground basis for most contemporary skate tricks) for a new, vertical dimension of possibilities, and suddenly street skating in New York City was not only a nuisance to the elderly, it was an absolute cash cow for those smart enough, and young enough, to do it well.