Dan Levy Behind The Image: Tony Alva at J-Boy Memorial

Photo and Words by Dan Levy

It is said that symbolism lends itself to the deeper meaning behind a moment and directly illuminates its sincerity without explanation or cognitive reproach. Skateboarding is full of symbolism and this photo is an example of that definitive.

In August 2014, the stage was set as our beloved community gathered on the edges of the sacred grounds of the Venice skatepark in Venice Beach, California, to acknowledge the passing of our beloved friend and infamous cultural lionheart, Jay Adams.

Tony Alva who sits at the table of greatness, along with Jay, was beginning to engage our community with words spoken directly from his heart that gave all who were present inspiration, as if a choir was singing directly in your ear, leaving you in a state of time in slow motion.

What was supposed to be present was an amplified PA system for the few close friends to speak words of remembrance. Instead, it was the volume of the human voice, without assistance, that floated up and into the sky.

Above the crowd, a few distracting drones flew low enough to make sounds similar to the noise of thousands of buzzing bees, drowning out the voices below professing consolations for those in earshot to embrace.

In that moment, Tony looked up and the whole crowd symbolically raised a middle finger to the sky to stave off the intrusive and unwelcome eyes above.

At that exact second, I switched from film to photo mode on my camera and took this one photo. It was just a millisecond of time, however it captured the perfect Jay Adams moment as the sun rays lazered through the clouds to light us all up.

It was as if Jay was throwing his middle finger power right back at us as if to say, “I am going to be ok and thank you”. And just for a moment, as a community, we were all one.

R.I.P. Jay Adams…

Tony Alva speaks at Jay Adams Memorial Skate Session in August 2014. Photo by Dan Levy
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