The history of skateboarding from Del Mar in the 1980s through the current day X-Games is 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). The key players – Tony Hawk for Bones Brigade and Danny Way for Waiting for Lightning – might ride the same piece of wood up and down the same half-pipes, but the stories of how they got there are unique.
It all looks so simple in the video game – gravity is a vague notion and falling off a rooftop doesn’t hurt – but nothing came that easy for either Hawk or Way. Hawk’s is a classic story of needing to prove himself to the older guys who looked down on him at the skate park. Way dove headfirst into skating to block out the sorrow that death – of his father, of his stepfather and of his father figure in the skate world, Mike Ternasky – instilled in his life. Way turned a career of simple skate tricks into something resembling that of a stuntman – he was infamous for jumping into a half-pipe from a hovering helicopter and jumping over the Great Wall of China. He turned Big Air into an art form, almost dying many times in the process.
While Waiting for Lightning is a more straightforward documentary that focuses specifically on Way, Bones Brigade: An Autobiography has a wider reach that covers the whole Bones Brigade skate team, which brought a new dimension to skating by making 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 heads and asking, “How?” Bones Brigade is told in a similar style to Dogtown and Z-Boys (which Peralta also directed). It focuses on a newer crop of skaters than his other documentaries, and the cast of characters includes 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,