You have to live pretty hard to become the scariest member of a group of self-described surf pirates, but Jay Adams, thanks to his face tats and stints in prison (for a series of drug offenses, though he was also charged and acquitted of murder at one point) managed to do that. Adams, an original member of the Z-Boy crew profiled in Dogtown and the Z-Boys, who was played by Emile Hirsch in Lords of Dogtown (no reason to see the latter if you’ve seen the former) was the first member of the Zephyr skate team to enter the Bahne-Cadillac Del Mar Nationals in 1975, where he took third.
He died yesterday of a heart attack at the age of 53.
We’re told Adams with his wife and the two were on a long surfing holiday in Mexico. They had been there for 3 months.
Family sources tell us … the 53-year-old has been sober for months and had no history of heart problems.
This was the first time in 20 years Adams was allowed to leave the U.S. He had been in and out of jail since the ’80s on various felony drug charges. [TMZ]
Stacey Peralta, who directed Dogtown and is basically the chief mythologist of the Z-Boy crew, once said of Adams:
Jay Adams is probably not the greatest skater of all time, but I can say without fear of being wrong that he is clearly the archetype of modern-day skateboarding. Archetype defined means an original pattern or model, a prototype. Prototype defined means the first thing or being of its kind. He’s the real thing, an original seed, the original virus that infected all of us. He was beyond comparison. To this day I haven’t witnessed any skater more vital, more dynamic, more fun to watch, more unpredictable, and more spontaneous in his approach than Jay. There are not enough superlatives to describe him.
In contests, Jay was simply the most exciting skater to watch. He never skated the same run the same way twice. His routines were wickedly random yet exceedingly tight and beautiful to watch: he even invented tricks during his runs. I’ve never seen any skater destroy convention and expectation better. Watching him skate was something new every second: he was “skate and destroy” personified.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the creator of such a style was not the most stable personality. From a 2000 interview:
What does punk rock mean to you?
[laughing] Punk rock means f*ckin’ just tearin’ sh*t up, not following anybody’s rules and doing what you want to do. Now it’s a lot different then it used to be, I don’t have to go out and ruin someone’s night to have a good time myself. In the old days it used to be total violence to me, I had to come home with a black eye, bruised up or bleeding somehow to have a good night. But those were the early days and I did a lot of things that I shouldn’t have. Me and Mike Muir and a bunch of guys gave punk rock a bad name in L.A. during the f*ckin’ heaviest times. And punk rock to me was just an extension of hanging out with vatoes. Being a gangbanger-like-white boy hanging out with Mexicans trying to be like a lowrider. That’s how punk rock was then and it could get even crazier. Nowadays punk rock is softer than it used to be, but I like the music. The music is still good. I don’t think it’s all about violence. I don’t have to wake up and hate everybody all day and hate every other kind of music anymore like I used to. I was pretty brain washed by it in the early ‘80s. I was pretty pissed off at everything for no reason, just so I could go out and start fights with people and beat guys up and have my friends beat them up. I started a fight were a guy died and I went to jail for murder, but I got convicted of assault. It was after a show at the Starwood, we went to a place called the Okiedogs and two homosexual guys walked by and I started a fight. That’s just how every f*ckin’ night was for me back then. I used to go out and start sh*t with people, that was my job I was the instigator. We used to have a gang of about forty guys backin’ us up, all Suicidal Boys. So, punk rock to me used to be violence and f*ckin’ shit up, but now it’s something I put on to get amped out from the music.
53 seems pretty young to die a heart attack from where I’m sitting, but Adams clearly managed to make his mark on the world in that time. And to be fair, 53 has to be like 86 in punk rock dude years. 95 if you add in the face tats. RIP.