Posted by: cedarsurf | March 11, 2010

Bob Biniak,51 R.I.P

Sad news today. Bob Biniak,51 radical skater and surfboarder broke on through to the other side. This is an obit from the New York Times. I am sure that when Biniak started out as a bad-ass skater in Dogtown (Venice Beach-Santa Monica) he never imagined he would be remembered by such an august publication. Biniak  and the Z-Boys had a revival in popularity due to the Sean Penn narrated and fellow Z-Boy Stacey Peralta directed Dogtown.

About Z-Boys

Dogtown is an area of West Los Angeles – the poorer, slum area on the south side of Santa Monica that covered Venice Beach and Ocean Park Beaches.

Throughout the 1970’s, the surfers in Dogtown were aggressive and antisocial. They fit into the stereotype of the time that surfers were poor dropouts. For a lot of these young people, surfing was all they had.

Surfing at The Cove Right between Venice beach and Santa Monica was an abandoned amusement park right on the water called the Pacific Ocean Park Pier. The locals called it the P-O-P. In the middle of the POP was an area where the huge wood pilings and rickety piers were built in a U shape, creating a kind of secret cove. And that’s what the locals called it – “The Cove”. It was an incredibly dangerous place to surf, with large tilted wood pilings jutting from the watter, and not enough room for all the surfers.

But the local surfers of Dogtown prized their secret surf spot, and defended it fiercely – often with force. Outsiders had to earn their way in.

This kind of lifestyle and mindset drove into these young people the need to prove themselves. They knew what performance was about, they knew that they had to prove themselves to be anyone.

Jeff Ho and Zephyr Surfboard Productions In 1972, Jeff Ho, Skip Engblom and Craig Stecyk started up a surf shop called Jeff Ho and Zephyr Surfboard Productions right in the middle of Dogtown. Jeff Ho hand crafted surfboards, and pushed the limits and ideas of surfboard design. He was unique, cutting edge, and a little crazy. Craig Stecyk was the artist who designed the surfboard’s graphics. Most surfboards at the time used soft, rainbow images or calm, pretty island scenes. Craig pulled his graphics from local graffiti, and made Zephyr surfboards reflect the area that they were made in.

The Jeff Ho and Zephyr Surfboard Productions shop also started up the Zephyr surf team. Dogtown was full of young surfers who had nowhere to go, and who were hungry to prove themselves and gain an identity. The Zephyr team provided just that. A lot of what went on in the shop was sketchy at best, but these kids came from broken and messed up families, and the Zephyr team provided a home.

Bob Biniak,51, a Member of Skateboarding’s Z-Boys

By Matt Higgins

New York Times  March 7th
Bob Biniak, a leading member of the Zephyr Skate Team, a California group whose aggressive, surfing-inspired approach to skateboarding during the 1970s reinvented the sport and was celebrated in two films, died Feb. 25 in Jacksonville Beach, Fla., where he was visiting friends. He was 51.

Biniak died at Baptist Medical Center Beaches four days after having a heart attack, said his wife, Charlene Capitolo.

Until moving to Benicia, in Northern California, two years ago, Biniak lived most of his life near the Santa Monica-Venice Beach neighborhood called Dogtown. Growing up there during the ’70s, he and other members of the Zephyr team — operating out of the Zephyr surf shop in Santa Monica and known as the Z-Boys — began by treating skateboarding as a cross-training activity for surfing.

“We all started skating at Bicknell hill, trying to get real low,” Biniak said in “Dogtown and Z-Boys,” a well-received 2001 documentary that had a wide theatrical release. “We would be like looking at the surf and riding this hill and dropping in and sliding like we were riding a wave.”

Biniak was known as Bullet for his fast, fearless approach to skating.

“The basis of his strength was to go as fast as you could, and do it with grace,” said Tony Alva, a Z-Boy and world champion in skateboarding.

But Biniak also cultivated a reputation as a tough customer.

“He wasn’t somebody you would want to come up against in any kind of competition,” Alva said. “He could be very intimidating.”

When the Z-Boys entered their first formal competition, the 1975 Del Mar Nationals, skateboarding was based on a 1960s model that was gymnastically oriented with a standup style. With their low-slung approach and ripped jeans, the Z-Boys caused an uproar among competitors.

“It was like a hockey team going to a figure skating contest,” Biniak said in “Dogtown and Z-Boys.”

A nationwide resurgence in skateboarding catapulted the Z-Boys into the spotlight. They popularized riding in empty swimming pools and invented many of the maneuvers that laid the foundation for modern vertical skateboarding, a discipline performed in pools and on ramps.

Biniak pioneered professionalism in the sport.

“He was the first skateboarder to demand compensation for his image,” said Skip Engblom, a co-owner of the Zephyr shop.

By 1980, skateboarding had plummeted in popularity, and Biniak drifted out of the scene and began golfing, playing in tournaments in Europe and South Africa, his wife said. He had worked as a salesman since the 1990s. When he turned 50, he tried to qualify for the United States Senior Open golf tournament.

Robert Edward Biniak was born June 2, 1958, in Chicago and moved to Santa Monica as a child with his mother and sisters. In addition to his wife of 12 years, Biniak is survived by a daughter, Brianna, 5; his mother, Dolores Levy; and his sisters, Mary Ellen Barnett and Kathy Higgs.

In the 2005 Hollywood film “Lords of Dogtown,” a fictional treatment of the Z-Boys, Biniak appeared as a restaurant manager. In the documentary, he played a more prominent role, recalling his teenage exploits.

“If you look at some of the still shots from back then, you’ll see that I’m on the wall, with nothing on,” he said about not wearing pads or a helmet. “If you fall then, you’re going to get hurt.

“We didn’t care,” Biniak said. “We just wanted to get radical.”

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