Chris Cahill dies at 54; skater with Dogtown Z-Boys


Chris Cahill, one of the original Dogtown Z-Boys who brought seismic changes to skateboarding with their style and attitude, has died. He was 54.

Cahill was found June 24 at his Los Angeles home, said Larry Dietz of the Los Angeles County coroner’s office. A cause of death has not been determined and tests are ongoing, Dietz said.

The Z-Boys came together in the 1970s at the Zephyr surf shop in Santa Monica. Dogtown referred to a coastal area of south Santa Monica and Venice.

“Skateboarding was always kind of about surfing,” said Keith Hamm, who wrote “Scarred for Life,” which he called a cultural history of skateboarding. “The Zephyr team skated like they surfed,” Hamm said, so as surfboards got shorter and more maneuverable the Z-Boys brought a “sharp-turning, faster, aggressive style” to skateboarding.

The Z-Boys, originally 11 boys and a girl, were the subject of the 2001 documentary “Dogtown and Z-Boys” and their story was fictionalized in the 2005 film “Lords of Dogtown.” The documentary, co-written and directed by Z-Boy Stacy Peralta, only briefly mentions Cahill, saying he had been last seen in Mexico.

Cahill was an accomplished kneeboarder and “at one point was the best in the world,” said Nathan Pratt, another original Z-Boy.

“Chris was kind of the super feisty guy on the team. He definitely had the most spit and vinegar,” said Pratt, who has curated exhibits about skateboarding and surfing including one opening this month at the California Heritage Museum in Santa Monica.

Cahill was born Dec. 5, 1956, according to the coroner’s office. In an interview with Juice magazine, Cahill said he had lived in Santa Monica since the third grade. He said he was airbrushing surfboards at the Zephyr shop in the 1970s and talked his way onto the skateboarding team.

He was with the Z-Boys at the Del Mar Nationals in 1975 where they first competed against conventional skateboarders. “The Z-Boys, they didn’t really go with trick-based contest runs. It was very hard for people, especially the judges, to figure it out,” Hamm said. “They definitely represented a shift in the way skateboarding was performed and the attitude that went along with it.”

Cahill told Juice that his “competitive nature wasn’t that strong in skating.” He later worked for Pratt at Horizons West surf shop in Santa Monica before starting his own store. Cahill also lived in Hawaii, Brazil and Mexico and “was an accomplished fine artist,” Pratt said.

Bob Biniak, another original Z-Boy, died last year.

A complete list of Cahill’s survivors was not available.