The Z-Boys were a group of skateboarders from Santa Monica in the 1970's who are credited with popularizing skateboarding and essentially creating the punk/skater subculture that now exists.
The Z-Boys grew up in what was known as Dogtown, an extemely run-down low-class area in Santa Monica. They initially devoted all of their energy to surfing at the local pier. Eventually the Z-Boys turned to skateboarding, which was a dead sport at the time, and brought over techniques they had learned from surfing, namely riding very low on the board and cutting hard turns.
They first gained national attention in 1975 at the Bahne-Cadillac Skateboard Championship. Their unique style of riding became an instant hit, and drastically shifted the world of skateboarding from a flatland freestyle, which resembled gymnastics, to the fast and aggressive form that it is today.
After the competition they started skating heavily in empty pools, which were plentiful due to the California drought that year. Here again they changed skateboarding when Tony Alva hit the first aerial maneuver, which quickly came to dominate the sport.
Eventually their own popularity and the promise of more riches started to break them apart. By the end of 1976 they had all gone their own ways to separate teams. Soon after, skateboarding started to wane and money started to dry up. The Z-Boys never reunited.
The new movie, "Lords of Dogtown" is based on the true story of the Z-Boys.