Skateboarding's extended family took over the 2500-seat Arlington Theatre on Thursday night to raise hell, laugh, shout, and cry for "Bones Brigade: An Autobiography" during its west coast premiere at the 27th Santa Barbara International Film Festival.
As you might expect, the sellout crowd was comprised of an inordinate number of casts, crutches, and backward ball caps. Fist bumps and bear hugs all around as the affluent beach town's crusty contingent of old-guard skateboarders filed in alongside a visiting who's who of the sport's godfathers, pioneers such as Tony Alva, Jay Adams, Steve Olson, Duane Peters, et al.
The lights dropped, and as the first minute of the feature-length documentary tightened its warm grip on the audience's common heart, a buzz of rapt attention quieted the crowd. This promised to be something more than an action-packed story about Powell-Peralta's seminal skateboard team, the Bones Brigade, it's elite half dozen none other than Tony Hawk, Steve Caballero, Lance Mountain, Mike McGill, Tommy Guerrero, and Rodney Mullen.
Their story is about being lost, scared, awkward and angry teenagers fortunate enough to find a voice, a purpose, and, as Guerrero puts it, "a sense of peace" in an activity that's not only very difficult to learn but painfully unforgiving along the way. Fortunately for them, they had a mentor.
When legendary Z-Boy Stacy Peralta (the film's director) left his professional skateboarding career in the late-1970s, he decided to build a team of the best emerging skateboarders he could find. It probably doesn't come as a surprise to any lifelong skater over 30 that the kids Peralta discovered had a range of adolescent issues.
Hawk was a gangly geek with nothing going for him except something to prove. (That determination would eventually instill in him a supreme confidence as he became one of world's the most innovative skateboarders.) Caballero, on the other hand, ditched by his dad, found out in short order that skateboarding was his favorite way to stay out of juvie. McGill's backstory details his disillusionment with team sports. Guerrero was getting shunned by his high school cliques.
Mullen's pain, voluminously evident throughout most of the movie, stems from a controlling father, while Mountain's true conflict seems to rest in his inescapable sense of low self-worth. Ironically enough, this made him the only member of the elite Brigade who could be called a skateboarder's skateboarder, somebody the everyday skater could relate to.
"Lance made pro skateboarding seem accessible," remembers pro skateboarder Mike Vallely, who's appearance in the movie may have come as a surprise to those who figured he'd get cut after his public rant against George Powell in December. But Vallely's story was too true to lose, portraying that universal theme about how skateboarding can cause a kid to have new visions of his or her lot in life. What was once a dead-end town is now a blank canvas for fun and self-expression. Just add skateboard.
To this day, Mountain says in the movie, skateboarding has been about "trying to stay as immature as possible for the rest of your life." Yet, strangely, that statement finds common ground with Peralta's sphere of nurturing influence, a very rare place in which a boy could ride a skateboard and still become a man.