Exhibit celebrates concrete surfin’
By Max Ehrenfreund
Published on July 1, 2011 in “Ticket” page 5
Nathan Pratt built the original Zephyr from an oak plank and a piece of hand-laminated fiberglass. Photographs of Pratt doing tricks in the air on the board were among the first to popularize aerial skateboarding.
Pratt and the rest of the Z-Boys hadn’t yet learned how to control their boards aloft, so Pratt added straps.
“It started kids thinking about what they could do on their skateboards,” Pratt said. It was “a precursor to what ended up becoming contemporary skateboarding.”
The Zephyr sat in a box under an avocado tree in his parents’ backyard for about 20 years. Pratt recovered it in time for an exhibit he had been asked to curate at the California Heritage Museum in Santa Monica in 2009 and 2010.
A version of that exhibit, which portrays the history of skateboarding since it began in the 1950s, will open Saturday at the California Museum in downtown Sacramento.
“It had to be here. It’s completely California,” said Amanda Meeker, curator of the California Museum, which features exhibits on the state’s history and culture.
The exhibit is “a comprehensive look at the influence of skateboarding and of the influence of culture on skateboarding,” said Pratt, 53.
He grew up in Los Angeles and helped found the Z-Boys, the legendary skateboarding team. Recently, he talked about how the boards on display illustrated skateboarding’s history.
The earliest skateboards were no more than small wooden planks, designed for children. Surfboard companies added shape and curve when they started making skateboards.
When Pratt and others started getting air in empty Los Angeles-area swimming pools, they designed much wider boards with bent ends for better control.
The boards from 1976 and 1977 reflect the revolution that occurred when many professional skateboarders started their own companies after disputes with their sponsors over board design. The world’s best skateboarders, Pratt said, “were not going to be held back by some jerk engineer who was 50 years old.”
The exhibit also features dramatic stills by Craig Stecyk, the photojournalist who popularized the Z-Boys and their style, and boards belonging to Sacramento skaters including John Cardiel, Omar Salazar, Stefan Janoski and Brandon Biebel.
Pratt’s collection was the best- attended exhibit the California Heritage Museum has ever shown, said its executive director, Tobi Smith.
“You have the ability for a father or mother to take their children to see the exhibition, and both generations could relate – as well as the grandparents,” she said.
Santa Monica is the Z-Boys’ hometown, which probably explains some of the exhibit’s popularity there.
Still, Pratt said, the exhibit will appeal to a range of ages.
“There will be one board, at least, where they’ll say, ‘Wow, that was me when I was 12 years old,’ ” he said.
RIDING CONCRETE: SKATEBOARDING IN CALIFORNIA
What: Legendary Z-Boy Nathan Pratt helped curate an exhibit on the history of skateboarding, showing how riding concrete evolved from a subculture of teenage defiance to a California phenomenon.
When: The museum is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admissions end at 4:30 p.m. The exhibit begins Saturday and continues through March 25.
Where: The California Museum, 1020 O St., Sacramento
Cost: adults, $8.50; seniors 65-plus and college students, $7; youths ages 6-13, $6; children 5 and under, free. (Museums On Us, sponsored by Bank of America, provides free admission on the first weekend of every month.)
Information: (916) 653-7524, www.californiamuseum.org