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Thursday, September 1, 2011

Happy Birthday Tony Alva

Jay Adams and Tony Alva at the Fruit-Bowl. Photo Unknown
 General fucking principle: don’t mess with TA…

When Tony Bluetile’s obsession became too heavy for him, he grabbed his skateboard and wandered around Mar Vista. And in 1978, he was the most extraordinary thrasher on earth, but he got beaten in a contest by Leif Garrett.

However, the real Tony Bluetile (Tony Alva) never got beaten and even if that happened, history don’t recall that part… But after the movie went out, the ISA (International Skateboarding Association) Executive Director Sally Anne Miller referred to him as "everything that is vile in the sport". She was so right… WTF! As a general fucking principle, you don’t mess with T.A. (Tony Alva): awash in money and newfound friends, Tony Alva was now riding high in black limos looking out for
Tony Alva at Long Beach with a Cross and a Finger. Photo Jim Goodrich 1977
new kidney pools to shred around West Los Angeles; most notably Bellagio, Paul Revere, Mar Vista, Brentwood and Kenter; an area that was previously ruled by the Makaha and Hobie Vita Pak Team skaters (Fries, Johnson, Bearer, Woodward, Saens, Blank, et al..) before it was renamed Dogtown (by Jeff Ho/Skip Engblom) and became the home of the Z-BOYS after evicting the skater daters from their comfortable dens; all this while living the Hollywood high life. After all, Hollywood to Mar Vista is only 20mn by Santa Monica Boulevard, if you are lucky. The same kid that was once assembling makeshift boards for fun was now knee deep in endorsement deals and demos.
Tony Alva at the Fuit-Bowl. Photo Warren Bolster.
When he put his signature logo on his own Canadian maple board, he laughed out loud at the industry: by just giving a middle finger greeting in creative ads or showing his in-your-face full of tangled locks, he did more for the next 10 generations of skateboarding than anyone had ever imagined possible before. The first skateboarding punk star combined the hardcore elements of music and skate and channeled it into a powerful spirited activity that would come to be known in the future for its DIY heavy aggression and skate-rock approach.

I just skate and don’t talk bullshit (Tony Alva). SkateBoarder magazine interview. Photo Unknown
Growing up in the rough and tumble beach community of West L.A., Tony Alva and Jay Adams would often be put on "Rat Patrol" and they would arm themselves with rocks, bottles or whatever to get rid of anyone on the beach that wasn't a POP local. Once they earned their chance to surf with the older guys, they became fixtures of the scene and the Zephyr Surf Shop. Jeff Ho and Skip Engblom sponsored two surf teams, a division of young guys in their twenties and a younger kids' division. Alva, Adams, Shogo Kubo, Stacy Peralta and others made up the twelve-member team in the summer of 1975. But eventually, skateboarding grew bigger than surfing.

Around 1978, skateparks sprouted like mushrooms in SoCal but they were poorly designed so they got obsolete almost immediately after the opening.

"A lot of people think that Tony Hawk was the first one to change the face of skateboarding. Well, if that's what they
think then that just shows that they're young and they need to dig a little deeper and go back a little farther.
Skating is only about fifty years old and it's a young sport. A lot of us older school guys are only like forty or fifty
years old and its cool that we're still here doing our thing. People that know the roots and know where
skateboarding came from; those are the people that are aware of that
Tony Alva 2005. Picture from Jim Goodrich circa 1979
The only place to skate bowl and vert was backyard pools. And you had to be quick and daring to trespass into someone's backyard while they're away and jump into their drained pool for a session. Cops, neighbors, tenants, warrants and other forms of trouble could emerge at any given opportunity.

Dogtown was the place where punks first crafted an unnoticed attitude (except under the eyes of C.R. Stycek who documented the whole chaos in SkateBoarder –and later in a book) and aggression to the sport of bare-footed surfers and dysfunctional kids. “There’s more energy existing right now in isolated pockets of skateboarding than there is in surfing collectively” once said Skip Engblom. Almost instantly, that energy turned the handful of street punk skaters into overnight celebrities with
Tony Alva in Malibu. Photo Jim Goodrich circa 1979
Rock Star status. When the boys were together, you could never find a more aggressive, arrogant, rowdy, perhaps ignorant bunch of people than T.A. and his friends…

But in 2000, pool riding was dead. Jay Adams and Christian Hosoi were (momentarily) absent and the 10 year old kids jumping stairs did not give a damn about old skateboarders like Alva. Suddenly things changed. Knowing where you are coming from, the roots of the skateboard fury, is as important as knowing where you are going to, so Alva and Stacy just wanted to make sure that the originators get the credit they deserve.
GFP Flyer
Stacy was contracted by Sony to do a documentary following an article in Spin Magazine and a Hollywood movie resulted. The kids still didn’t budge from their flat terrain and gazillion stairs to go see "Dogtown and Z-Boys: A Film About the Birth of Now".

Ignorance is sometimes bliss, but an army of old school skaters rose from the dead and suddenly pool riding was cool again. Big bowls and replicas sprouted everywhere, even in strip malls at plush Orange where Vans organized a memorable Pool Party judged by T.A. himself. What a reversal of fortune!

Skateboarding was not Tony Alva only great passion. In 1980, he played with his first band "The Shroombops" that echoed the new English Punk sound of the time. He laughs looking back on his first band. "It was me and this guy Mike Ball, who used to play in Suicidal Tendencies and this guy Bobby Shroombop, so we just named the band after him. He was the drummer and I was the bass player and then we had this kid named Kerry that would just scream and throw himself on the ground and just do all kinds of crazy shit. He was like our so-called vocalist." And that passion is pushing him to give a concert with GFP for his 54th birthday in San Diego.

Happy Birthday Tony Alva…

Tony Alva at the Dog Bowl. Photo Glen E. Freidman.

Thanks a lot to Jim Goodrich for the pictures. Jim Goodrich pictures used with permission.


I skate therefore I am: skateboard pools, pipes, parks, bowls and vert, daily skateboarding news...
posted by Xavier Lannes @ Thursday, September 01, 2011 

Blogger Bevilacqua said...

Great post !
Same date, same idea ... and same quote !
and following :
Thx !

September 12, 2011 at 6:33 AM  

Skate Quote of the Day