Harwich Shop Owner Helped Revolutionize Skateboarding

By: William F. Galvin

Topics: Business , Sports , Recreation

Original Z-Boys skateboard team member Wentzle Ruml IV displays his Cape Cod board, lobster included, at his Cape Cod Skate Shop in West Harwich. There will be a gallery opening on Saturday evening displaying photography that captures the essence of his contribution to skateboarding over the past half century. WILLIAM F. GALVIN PHOTO

Former Z-Boy Wentlze Ruml Wants To Increase Opportunities On The Cape

HARWICH – The Zephyr skateboarding team revolutionized skateboarding in the 1970s. Now team member Wentlze Ruml IV, owner of Cape Cod Skate Shop in West Harwich, is looking to rejuvenate the sport locally.

The Z-Boys, as they were called back then, were a mix of surfers and skateboarders from the Venice and Ocean Park areas of Southern California who were connected to the Zephyr surf shop. Ruml was a surfer, but not a member of the shop’s surf team. And he had a love for skateboarding.

As the shop expanded its business and a skateboarding team was formed, Ruml and his water-borne buddies altered the landscape of skateboarding, introducing innovative surfing moves that shaped the foundation of modern skateboarding.

“Me and the crew are credited with being the pioneers of surf-skating and riding vertical terrain, i.e. empty swimming pools,” Ruml said in an interview.

The Z-boys are considered one of the most influential teams in skateboard history. The team rocked conventional skateboarding in the 1975 Del Mar Nationals competition in California. The crew skated low to the ground. dragging hands along the concrete as if riding a wave. The Del Mar competition marked the beginning of a national change in style.     

“The Del Mar competition was an explosion, bringing that style to the world. The judges were scratching their heads,” Ruml recalled.

Ruml and the Z-Boys’ early skateboard experiences are the subjects of documentaries  and a couple of feature films, including “Lords of Dogtown” and “Dogtown and Z-Boys.” A new documentary was released last week, “A Look Back At Dogtown And Z-Boys.”  The 26-minute film by artist/photographer Glen E. Friedman examines how the initial publicity and documentaries affected the remaining members of the Z-Boys today. The documentary can be viewed online.

There is also an opportunity to learn more about Ruml and the Z-Boys this weekend with  a gallery opening on Saturday, Oct. 9 from 6 to 9 p.m. at Cape Cod Skate Shop, 216 Route 28 in West Harwich. The event looks back at Ruml's 50-year skateboarding career through a curated body of original photography and ephemera from his personal archives that captures the essence of his contribution to the world of skateboarding. 

The team did not last long as members began taking sponsorship jobs and traveling. Ruml said he started skateboarding professionally in 1976 and did a lot of touring and demonstrations. Skateboard companies were aggressive and “we were making pretty good money for 18 and 19 year olds,” he said. Ruml said he was doing all the advertising for MaKaha  skateboards and spent a lot of time touring Europe.

Ruml continued performing for his sponsors for a while, but said he got tired of the bleachers and MC noise so he returned to school yards and backyard skating.

In the 1980s he left California without a single skateboard and came to Cape Cod “to rebuild his life.” He got into shellfishing in Wellfleet and started marketing seafood on the wholesale level.

Ruml started skating again in 2001 and was doing vertical terrain and giant slalom up until 2010 in the master’s division on the national and world level. He also reached another of his goals by competing professionally for one season after turning 60. In 2009 he was a slalom instructor at Woodward Skate Camp in Pennsylvania, a facility where many Olympic skateboard competitors now train.

Ruml wants to grow skateboarding opportunities on the Cape. While Harwich does not have a skateboard park any longer, there are several on the Cape, including In Chatham, Orleans, Wellfleet and a small one in Provincetown. He also said Sandwich has just built a new one with a pool.

“My goal is to provide a service for local skateboarders,” Ruml said. “We’ll be doing a lot of skate lessons, teaching and mentoring.”

Chatham had a great half-pipe, Ruml said, and he wants to work with the town to rebuild it. This past summer the Orleans park was used quite a bit, and the plan is to provide more lessons there next summer. 

There are also ongoing discussions about building a warehouse so kids will have a place to skate on a year-round basis, Ruml added. The project is at the beginning stages and some designs have been created.

Cape Cod Skate Shop has a small core team which, while not on the competition level, does get out and about throughout New England. Ruml recognized local skateboarders Joe Booth and Calvin Kwaak as local talents.

Ruml is also working to revitalize his Rootz program, a nonprofit aimed at providing skateboards to kids around the world who may not be able to afford one. That will take funding, he said.

“The goal is to steer them away from alcohol, drugs and violence. It’s about passing the torch and giving back,” Ruml said.

Ruml and his partner, Tommy Wrenn, opened the doors of the skateboard shop in July. The shop is currently open weekends after being open daily all summer, and was open all summer, has more than 30,000 products available through its website, CapeCodSkateshop.com. Wrenn is behind the digital technology, Ruml said.   With his connections in the industry, Ruml said, any product can be available to a customer in three days.

Skating remains a big part of his life, Ruml said.

“I’ll skate for fun, a free ride,” he said, “but I’m done with competition.”

Former Z-Boy Wentlze Ruml Wants To Increase Opportunities On The Cape