The history of skateboarding from Del Mar in the 1980s through the current day X-Games are examined in two new documentaries, Bones Brigade: An Autobiography by Stacy Peralta (now streaming on Netflix) and Waiting For Lightning by Jacob Rosenberg (also streaming on Netflix). Their key players – Tony Hawk for Bones Brigade and Danny Way for Waiting for Lightning – might ride the same piece of wood up and down (and over) the same half pipes for the same fans, but how and why they got there is another story, a compelling work of comparative storytelling when viewed side-by-side.
It all looks so simple in the video game, where gravity is a vague notion and falling off a rooftop doesn’t hurt, but for Hawk and Way nothing came easy. Hawk’s is a classic story of needing to prove himself to the older guys, like Duane Peters, who looked down on him at the skatepark. Way dove headfirst into skating to block out the pain of death – of his father, of his stepfather and of his father figure in skate world, Mike Ternasky – that has pervaded his life. Harder, faster and, ultimately, higher, Way turned a career of simple skate tricks into something closer to the career of a stuntman with tricks like jumping into a half pipe from a hovering helicopter, jumping over the Great Wall of China and, maybe most impressively, turning Big Air into an art form1, almost dying many times in the process2.
While Waiting for Lightning is a more straight forward documentary that focuses specifically on Way, Bones Brigade: An Autobiography has a wider reach that covers the whole Brones Brigade skate team, who brought a new dimension to skating with their diary-style home videos in the 80s. What used to be still life became motion picture with those videos, and had even more kids around the country shaking their head and asking, “how?” Bones Brigade is told in a similar in style to Dogtown and Z-Boys3, only about 10 years on with a new crop of skaters, like Hawk, Rodney Mullen and Steve Caballero, who were even better than the Z-Boys’ Peralta, Tony Alva and Jay Adams. I’m not sure where Peralta goes next, having covered everything about the skate and surf scene he lived through, but if he can find another niche to document, I’m in.