The Dog Bowl Pool

Back in the 1970’s a skating revolution took place. The Zephyr skating team were taking their radically different skate styles to the street. Skating on the street was by modern standards tame, conventional and developing slowly with most skaters adopting an upright style common to the previous decade. Zephyr skaters were drawing influence from elsewhere, particularly form surf techniques they saw in the coastal area where they hung out – riding low and aggressive, using the fluid lines of the currents below. Making the most of the opportunity to experiment with radically different skating techniques, they improvised frequently in an empty swimming pool in an area of Santa Monica known to locals as “Dogtown” – this was the dog bowl pool. In this space the first aerial was pulled, the board rising above the lip, leaving contact with the riding surface. This one moment helped to unlock what has become decades of evolving ‘extreme’ sports.

By the time the Zephyr team reached competition stage, they were gaining the attention of others, but for all the wrong reasons. Older skaters were witnessing a revolution in skating, and it wasn’t something they either expected, nor were they comfortable with it. This wasn’t skating! Skating was about holding some positions and being ‘graceful’. It didn’t involve raw, edgy and often un-polished moves that weren’t perhaps so great to look at, but delivered a new dimension in excitement to the sport. Nevertheless, the Zephyr style rapidly dominated as the raw and edgy approach drew in new skaters looking for excitement. It was the dog bowl pool, the empty pool in which the experimentation took place that set the movement on fire. A bunch of kids ready to experiment when the opportunity came about.

The inspiration to experiment was drawn from elsewhere – the surfers nearby. Zephyr had unwittingly exposed themselves to the activities of others, discovering a different approach. In doing this, a seeding of ideas had occurred, enabling a separate creative process to begin.

The dog bowl is an essential space. Without the dog bowl, where does the creativity start and the experimentation begin? Exam boards will explain ‘it has to be this way’, verifiers will make similar comment. Staff bound to the curriculum will comment that specific applications are necessary, whether explicitly mentioned in the course specification or not. Staff supporting the curriculum will testify that specific applications and processes are essential, often because that’s the way its always been, thereby maintaining the status quo. Meanwhile, students will be finding their own dog bowl pool; a place where they can be creative, away from the restrictive influence of others. Their ideas, their creative approaches to problem solving, and their improvised solutions have been seeded from elsewhere – and a few smart staff will be paying close attention to those new trends.

To find out more about the Zephyr team read The True Story of Dogtown, and watch the documentary, Dogtown and Z-Boys.

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