INTERVIEW BY HEIDI FITZGERALD
PHOTO COURTESY OF JAY ADAMS
If you know anything about skateboarding, then you know one name that’s withstood the test of time is Jay Adams. Raised by surfers on the Santa Monica Pier, Jay was one of the first Dogtown boys to pave the way with his distinctive surfing style of skateboarding. Jay’s style is legendary in surfing and skating, from his home town of Venice to his current casa on the North Shore. Skating with him at the Hickem Air Force Base Bowl left a lasting mark on my heart. It was one of the best sessions of my life. Jay’s style of skating was gnarlier than ever. I saw him do insane slides and grinds all over the bowl showing that, no matter what, it’s all about having fun. His views on life show his experience and wisdom, learning about addiction the hard way and remaining determined to prevail.“Punk rock means fuckin’ just tearin’ shit up, not following anybody’s rules and doing what you want to do.”
Where did you grow up and how did that influence your surfing and skating?
I grew up in Venice and when I was four years old, my step father owned a beach rental place. He rented surfboards and surf mats under Pacific Ocean Park. P.O.P. was like an amusement park right on the border of Venice and Santa Monica. All of the surfers used to hang out at the shop and they’re the ones who introduced me to skateboarding. My earliest skateboard influence, was fully surfing. I mean, I grew up surfing and skating at the same time and skating was always something to do when you weren’t surfing. Back then, you were a skater and you copied surfing. Skateboarding was just surfing on the land. It’s totally different from now. Now, it’s like skateboarding is skateboarding. And my other influences were the ‘60s guys like Torger Johnson and Danny Bearer and the L.A. Hobie Skateboard Team guys. But my main influence was surfer guys like Larry Bertlemann. In the early days, it was all about coping surfing.
Who did you skate with growing up?
I grew up with Tony Alva, Shogo Kubo, when he was around and well, there are guys way before that too. My earliest memories of life were riding a skateboard. When I was a little kid we would steal tricycles and turn them upside down and make little lowrider bikes out of them and pretend we were biker guys. We used to ride those and then skateboard during the summer. I had little seasons for things that I did. But that’s when I was a little kid, I’m talking seven, eight years old. And my step dad used to drive me around to the different schools. One of them was called Pali High School; it had a hill that just went down. And it was famous for The Hobie Skateboard Team and I used to go there. So this was like before I started hanging out with Tony Alva and skating all the banks like Paul Revere, Bellagio and Kenter. That’s where we did a lot of early bank skating.
When did you start skating?
When I was four years old. One of my earliest memories was my Mom telling me how I’d come home with a scraped up face or knee or something.
What was it like skating with T.A.?
He was like an older brother. He was somebody who I really looked up to in skating. In my opinion, he was the best, at one time, on the banks and in the early days in pools. At first, it was just kids having fun then it started getting popular and all of a sudden we were like famous. It was kind of weird to deal with.
What does skating mean to you?
Skating means life. It means that I’m doing something right in my life because I’m not too fucked up not to want to do it. It just makes me feel good. It’s a lot different than it used to be. It used to be a big deal to go and try to be the best guy or something and now it doesn’t have to be like that. It’s actually more satisfying and less stressful now, than it was as a kid. Like when you used to go to a skatepark and have four guys following you all day trying to out do you. Now, it’s all about having fun and just participating.
How do you define style?
There are different kinds of style. Style can be really casual and smooth or it can be radical and fuckin’ hectic. I like guys that can get radical and be smooth at the same time. To me, style is something that’s pleasurable to watch, it makes me stoked. Someone like Christian Hosoi, who I thought was an ultimate stylist in skateboarding was just really fluid and cool to watch. Style is like pool riding. That to me, is more stylish than ramp riding.
What inspired you to skate pools?
Well, pools were just the funnest thing that I ever did, riding vert and carving. It was more like surfing than skating down the road, but than it became skateboarding, its own trip. Pool riding was always my favorite type of skating. There’s a lot of fun different things to skate though.
What was it like the first time you skated a backyard pool?
[laughing] Kind of scary! Hell yeah, I was a little kid. The first time I skated a pool I was like thirteen years old. It was scary fuckin’ gnarly, just to be able to carve around the bowl was hard. And I have pictures of Tony at home that was even before going over the lights and shit. It was scary, exciting and just new, it was something really cool.