This piece has been in the works for quite some time. I discovered things I hadn’t yet learned about skate culture by diving deep into the archives of the Z-Boys and skate legend Peggy Oki. While writing this article, I focused on finding accurate information about members of the group, the movements they were a part of, and how they impacted our world for the better. Oki was, and still is, a core piece in the puzzle of our society. It was a wonderful experience learning about Oki's life. I appreciated working on something I had a very small basis of knowledge on, and I hope my article encourages girl skaters to get out there and have fun. ~Kylie Tatarsky, 2022
Transforming the feeling you get when you initially set your rail and trim on the clean face of a wave into a similar feeling on land is not easy. In fact, it's almost impossible. But the Z-Boys were able to tend to it. The Zephyr Competition Team, better known as the Z-Boys, was a group of kids originating from the back parking lots and drained pools of Dogtown in Santa Monica, California. The first official Z-Boy was Nathan Pratt. Starting as an employee working in the Jeff Ho and Zephyr Surfboard Productions surf shop, he had a vision with his friends to create something unlike anything else that already existed in the skate world. Thus, the Z-Boys were born. They competed in skate competitions in the 70s when the sport's popularity was only beginning to ramp up.
What started off as a surf team for the Jeff Ho and Zephyr Surfboard Productions surf shop quickly transitioned into a competitive skate team. The Z-Boys brought their own style to the table. They intertwined aggressive, asphalt-tearing skate style with a flow-y surf mannerism. Skateboarding as a sport took an evolutionary leap at this moment, birthing a new generation and the next phase in its culture. When there was no surf, the Z-Boys would approximate their surfing feats by using skateboards. When the empty pools started drying up in neighborhood backyards during the summer, these skaters would take to the rounded concrete walls to express themselves differently. The Z-Boys’ transformative style allowed other skaters, such as Tony Hawk, to take notes and make the style their own. For example, “Vert” skating: this term was used in short for vertical skating. The ultimate goal was to carve anything where one could reach new heights and get air. Half pipes and ramps were usually where you'd find skaters who focused on this style.
The drive to create commercial skateboards originated from the DIY versions you’d often find stored in family garages in the early 50s. These “crude homemade versions” of skateboards, often consisting of nothing more than old roller-skate wheels attached to a board, were first built after the turn of the 20th century. The first commercial skateboard appeared in 1959.
The Z-Boys consisted of 12 members. 11 of those twelve were boys, and the 12th was a girl named Peggy Oki. The members were: Jay Adams, Tony Alva, Bob Biniak, Chris Cahill, Paul Constantineau, Shogo Kubo, Jim Muir, Peggy Oki, Stacy Peralta, Nathan Pratt, Wentzle Ruml IV, Allen Sarlo, and Mike Morris. Skating, at the time, was often influenced by a male-dominated narrative, but Peggy Oki set out to show that women could skate just as well as the guys–if not better. Her individuality and nonchalant character demonstrated how little she cared about what people thought of her.
Oki’s personality and what she brought to the skate scene stemmed from her come-up. Growing up on the shores of Santa Monica around her brother and his friends, Oki was able to witness firsthand what the sport of skating had in store for its participants. Every day, she would watch older boys skate “the big hill”–the one nearest to where she lived–and eventually agreed to try it. Following, the Z-Boys asked her to join the team, and soon enough, the Z-Boys had gained a female member. Little did she know, her choice to become a part of the Z-Boys was monumental. Oki helped to diminish a stereotypical “skater image” in people’s minds. She showed society that it didn't have to be a male-only sport.
What distinguished Oki from the other skaters was her drive: she set high goals and achieved them. But that wasn't all - her style, both on land and in the water when she surfed, was what truly separated her from the rest. Aggressively powerful yet calm and collected, Oki's style allowed her to shine in the judge’s eyes. Judges in competitions would tell Oki she skated better than the guys. Oki eventually went on to win first place in Women's Freestyle at the 1975 Del Mar Nationals.
When talking to POPSUGAR at the 2019 Vans Black Rainbows exhibition in LA, Oki mentioned, "I was doing something that I really loved doing. I didn't really think about, 'gee, I'm the only girl on the team, where are my girlfriends,' or anything like that. I was just doing it."
Oki has a whole other passion outside of skateboarding. She has an Associate Arts Degree in Biology, a Fine Arts degree (with Honors) in painting, a degree in Commercial Rendering & Illustration, Advertising Design, Advanced Computer Graphics, Architectural Drafting, and Interior Design Drafting. With these degrees from various colleges on the southern California coast, Oki has curated a new narrative for herself over the past fifteen years. She’s spent a large part of her time working as a freelance artist in graphic design, illustration, and landscape architecture presentations. She has worked diligently following her educational years in the protection of porpoises, whales, and other marine species. Her background in art has also led her on the path to painting marine animals as a hobby. No wonder she brought such an expressive style to the skateboarding scene–she has the brain of an artist!
Peggy Oki is one of the most renowned women in the skate, surf, art, and marine conservation world. She will always be one of the most influential and inspiring women in our society.
Kylie is a high school student living in California. She spends her summers on Long Island, where she is originally from. You can find her making jewelry, surfing, writing poetry, or spending time with her loved ones in her free time.
The research and production of this article couldn’t have been done without the support of Withitgirl, and all of the online resources, including assistance from Natalie in Canada from the Women's SK8 History Instagram account. We had some trouble finding the correct photo credits; please reach out to us with any source leas so we can update the article.
Peggy Oki Website
Peggy Oki in The Z-Boys Website
Women's Skate History Instagram
Skateboarding History Britannica Website
Vert Skateboarding Style Website
Z-Boys History Website
Dogtown History Website
Skateboarding Hall of Fame and Museum Website
A Look Back Documentary
Skate Girl (2005) Part 5 Documentary