Saturday, July 30, 2011

Chris Cahill dies at 54

Chris was a good dude who had some problems, bummer he's gone. I really wanted to get him on film for a "where are they now documentary on the Z-Boys", with Cahill and the "Bullet" gone I can hardly imagine moving forward. He needed to speak more than anyone since he was left out of the first film. Sad shame.

from the July 4th Los Angeles Times:

He joined up with the trailblazing skateboarding group at the Zephyr surf shop in Santa Monica in the 1970s.

By Keith Thursby, Los Angeles Times

July 4, 2011

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.


  1. Chris was a good friend and was one of the most gracious. He always had my back and I always had his. He was also very talented. He had that wonderful deep voice and always knew it was him on the other end of the line when he called. No matter what trials he was going through he always asked how I was doing, first. We kept in touch to almost the end, still calling each other to hear the latest news or thoughts. I was thinking about him a lot at the time when he passed, like I always seem to do when it comes to my friends and family members. Our friend Dina was with in when he passed early that morning and she said he his eyes looked liked they were focused on the sky and the stars and he went peacefully closing his eyes. I'm glad he is feeling no pain anymore but I will miss him dearly. Love, your friend Debbe♥

  2. In surf class at Samo, he was always the quietest, but intense. His mind was fast, just like he was in the water! Early morning Cove before the older guys were even awake. I liked him.

    Greg Evans

  3. Met him once, about a decade ago. Knew of him, on a more personal level from his friends (Chica Z). It's always sad, when anyone passes on... R.I.P. Chris...

  4. Recalling the movie, "Big Wednesday", it is significant that any true surfer wants to be eulogized, in the end, as having a great cutback, or the best bottom turn around. Forget the lifetime achievements, that's how he would want to be remembered. Well, Chris was a very competent surfer and akateboarder, but he was best remembered as a world-class kneeboarder. People have recalled days at Pipeline where he would take over the place, dropping in later and farther behind the peak than anyone else. Always waiting for "the bomb" in the set, easily identifying the sickest gnarliest wave and taking off on it. There's no doubt Chris had cast iron balls. That was a given amongst those who knew him.

    But I will digress and say that he was very intelligent and well-read. He stood head and shoulders above the surfing community in that regard. And you would have to engage him in philosophical discussions to discover that. Never pedantic or opinionated, but always asking, "Well, what if..."

    His art was uncanny: how he got the myriad of textures into his pieces to portray a huge pitching wave or a brooding ominous sky was indicative of his creative genius. And that word, "genius", has been said many times about Chris.

    Cahill was kind. He was never resentful or cruel, always choosing to rise above the spitefulness of others, even when that venom was directed unfairly at him. He liked the innocent inquisitiveness of children and always lent an ear and gave a sincere smile to them.
    If Chris had any reputation as a "hard-guy", it never came across when he interacted with kids. He would have, and I told him this, been a great father.

    He and I had many exchanges in the last few years regarding "substances". He got to the point where he chose not to discuss it. He didn't want to lie, so I tried not to nag. But I knew he had many other friends-- good friends who I respect immensely for this-- that tried to give him help. And ultimately they were unsuccessful.

    Tony Alva gave a moving and eloquent speech at Chris'es memorial service on the beach. He addressed the sad shame that we lost a friend to a brutal animal called "addiction". We all nodded in agreement. We all wished Chris would have been able to age with us into elderly has-been surfers.

    If there is a benevolent God, he would know that Chris was a good man, a conscientious man. And he would reward Chris in the afterlife with a massive A-frame ledgy third-reef peak with warm water and gentle offshore winds. And Chris would respond by taking off on the biggest wave of the set, making sure to paddle deep behind the peak. And just as the swell would jack-up on that outer reef, Chris would free-fall down the face in total control, the confidence showing on his face as a beautiful gleaming smile.