Jay Adams 2001 interview

Jay Adams interview - 2001

This interview took place in Mid July, 2001
via the U.S. Postal Service while Jay was incarcerated in Hawaii.

What was skating like in Dogtown before the 1975 Del Mar Nationals?
For me, skateboarding started in 1965 so by the time the Dogtown era came around I'd already been skatin' for 10 years. When I started it was clay wheels and mostly home made decks. We were just trying to copy surfing. Everything about skateboarding had to do with surfing. It was all about fun and a way to surf when the waves were shitty.

Why was that contest so important?
The Del Mar contest was a turning point for skateboarding the same way short surfboards changed surfing. We introduced a different way to ride a skateboard.

Did anything change in Dogtown as a result of the newfound notoriety as a result of the contest and being featured in SkateBoarder Magazine?
Of course, people started getting paid and egos were starting to grow. All of a sudden it was Dogtown vs. the world.

How did the Zephyr team come together? Did most of you go to the same school?
None of us went to school together, but we all surfed the same area and grew up in the same neighborhood. Well I came from Venice and at that time Santa Monica and Venice were worlds apart but after I moved to Ocean Park I got on the Zephyr team.

Who were your influences, in skating, surfing, and life in general?
During my early surfing years Wayne Lynch, Jeff Hackman and Barry Kanaiaupuni had a major influence on my style. Later on it was Torger Johnson and most of the Hobie team guys. As far as life in general it was the surfers that I grew up around.

Where were you born?
I was born in L.A. in 1961 and moved to Venice Beach when I was one year old. I was conceived in a house on the beach right at the end of Ocean Park Blvd.

Was it just money or egos that broke up the Zephyr team?
Definitely a combo of the two, but most of us just wanted to skate and have fun. We just wanted good equipment to ride and if you could make a little bit of money while you were doing it, then why not.

When and why did you stop skating professionally?
Well that's kinda hard to say because I never really made any money off of skating anyway. But I've almost never had to pay for a skate or pay for the clothes I've worn over the years. Even now not much has changed. So I'd like to thank all the companies that have given me free shit over the years.

What was the most defining moment in your professional or contest part of your skating career?
For me it was fuck contests, fuck being a pro, but to be around for so long and see all the people come and go and still actually be able to go out and do it still. I say that's the most rewarding part of it for me. I do like seeing the new pro guys who do make money now rippin' in contests. It's about time skaters started getting paid what they deserve.

Any regrets in your life as a skater?
Maybe I could have been a little bit more serious about it (NAH)

When did you leave for Hawaii? And why?
I came to Hawaii when I was 12 years old. Then me and my mom moved back permanantely when I was in 8th grade. I traveled back and forth until I was about 18 then I stayed in L.A. until 1990 and I've been here ever since. Why? Because of surfing.

What do you think of how skating has progressed from the 70's till now?
Uphill all the way but freestyle seems to have made a comeback, they just call it street skating now, but everything to do with SK8N is going off right now.

Do you still read skateboard magazines?
Thrasher, Big Brother, and Transworld but my favorite mag now is Juice. All the other mags are selling out and starting to get to political just like lame ass SkateBoarder Mag did back then.

Any skaters you particularly like or liked to watch over the last 20 years?
Hosoi, Alva, Alba, Peters, Cab, Gonz, Hackett….that's some of the old ones, fuck it, I'll stop. List all the guys at the Old School Skate Jam. I like all skaters, skateboarding has a lot of different styles and types of things guys like to ride. I pretty much like and respect it all. I'd like to see slalom and Downhilling make a comeback

What was it like having your own pool (original Dogbowl) and what were the sessions like?
I went to the party at Dino's house and saw the pool before we drained it the next day. It was kinda like a dream skatepark cuz there weren't any rules. Only the boys got to ride.

Did any outsiders try to skate the pool? If so, were they shut down?
I'm sure some might have snuck a few sessions in but not when the boys were there. But whoever was brought there had a good time hanging with the DT boys.

Did having Marina Skatepark so close by change things in D.T.?
Well it took guys off the streets and helped save us some gas money. Everybody started getting a bit more professional I guess.

When did you last skate a ramp or a pool?
A few days before I got locked up. Don't even think I've ever quit. Maybe I took a few years here and there but I've never quit and I never will.

"Dogtown and Z-Boys"…..Have you seen it yet?
No, haven't seen it yet.

What did you think of the SPIN MAGAZINE "The Lords of Dogtown" article?
Kinda liked it when I saw it but I really can't remember what it said.

Was the article accurate?
Can't remember, but I remember not laughing too hard.

What comments do you have about the following people?

Tony Alva:
100% skateboarder 4 life. The first pool ruler and one of the most stylish skaters of all time.

Stacy Peralta:
Did more for the sport than anybody else, great skater and a really nice guy. Stacy was on the outside looking in.

Shogo Kubo:
One of my early best friends, a little bit shy but not in a pool. A true stylist all the way.

Wentzle Ruml IV:
Another early best friend. Stylish bank rider of the surf style. Was there in the early days.

Paul Constantineau (P.C.):
Another surf styler. Good in a pool during the early years.

Bob Biniak:
Power, SNAP BACK, speed, control. Older guy who I looked up to had the crib and the babes.

Wes Humpston:
Surf style bank rider… Early pool rider…meanest artist and the first body boarder before boogie boards.

Peggy Oki:
Early surf style bank rider…the only girl on the Zephyr team. (Hi Peggy)

Arthur Lake:
Had a pool in his back yard. Was a pretty good pool rider in the early days.

"Baby" Paul Cullen:
Like my little brother. Surf style all the way but kinda burnt out early… hung with the Chicanos instead.

Dennis "Polar Bear" Agnew:
2nd generation Z-Boy. The new Biniak. Power…control…gnarly…amazing surfer. Venice boy all the way.

Jimmy Plumer:
Florida Z-Boy and a damn freak.

Paul Hoffman:
Not quite a Z-Boy but a damn good freestyler.

Larry Bertleman:
Hero, surf God, Hawaiian, skater and later a friend.

Torger Johnson:
Skate God, styler, Hobie guy. 1st generation SK8R.

Nathan Pratt:
Surfer, part time skater. Better at the business side.

Alan Sarlo:
100% surfer. I've known and surfed with Sarlo longer than I've known anyone else on this list. Venice boy even though he tried to claim Malibu for a while. Keep it up homeboy and I'll see you out at Sunset and Back Door in 2003.

Chris Cahill:
Kneeboarder, part time skater. (Where are you bro?)

Jeff Ho:
Sensay or our Master. Fuck Al Merrick, we got Jeff Ho.

Skip Engblom:
Z-Boy coach. 100% surfer skater for life (Yeah, Skipper)

Craig Stecyk:
Thrasher owes him everything. SkateBoarder Magazine would have gone outta business without him. He created it all. Dogtown was his invention. We were just kids skatin', he's the master story teller and photo guy.

Glen E. Friedman:
Early Stecyk protégé. Been around and seen it all. Thanks for keeping it real brother SK8R photo guy Bel Air boy.

Marty Grimes:
One of my personal all time favorites…talk about stylish ripper. Marty was magic to watch early in the pools.

Christian Hosoi:
My all time favorite. Style, power, control, everything a skateboarder wanted to be. 100% skater 4 life.

Tom Inouye:
Almost a Z-Boy and he didn't even try to be one. Early pool ripper and surf skater on banks. Early all time great master pool rider also.

Any other guys from back in the day you think deserve some attention or a few words?
Ty Page, Bruce Logan, Bobby Piercy, Kevin Reed, I could go on and on. How about Steve Picolo or Jose Galan…2 low key Dogtown rippers.

What was the best skatepark you ever skated?
I kinda liked Cherry Hill back in the day.

What was your favorite backyard pool?
Dogbowl cuz everything was good and the Fruit Bowl was similar.

What was it like getting your name and photos in the skate mags?
Sometimes it was good and sometimes it was bad. People expected you to live up to what they saw in the magazines. And after a while it got a little bit outta control. I was a little bit embarrassed about the whole deal.

Did Dogtowners ALWAYS get respect at skate spots?
If you give respect you get respect. Some of the guys made it hard on some of us. I mean some of the DT boys made it hard on the rest of us.

Did you ever feel exploited by your sponsors? Or was it a pretty fair deal for all?
Most of the people involved in skateboarding in the 70's were in it just for the money. I guess I got exploited but I had a lot of fun so I guess I won in the long run.

Did you save any of the money you made as a pro skater?
Guess again, this must be a joke question…right?

Have you kept in touch with any of the original Dogtown crew or skaters in general?
Some I have, some disappeared but this Dogtown Movie brought a few back together again.

What were the best and worst things about being a pro skater in the 70's?
The best things were being a young kid getting to travel around the world doing something I liked doing. And meeting a lot of different people. The worst was people getting to ego'd out and being too professional to the point of being stupid.

Why did you leave skateboarding?
Leave where? I didn't leave anywhere. Skateboarding's popularity might have left for a while but I never did.

Do you hope to keep in touch with your old skate friends now that you're "re-united" with some of them so to speak as a result of the documentary and the other Dogtown film being made?
A little bit.

Did you have a "mentor" or someone you looked up to during your pro skating career?
Sure, all my friends and surfer guys I guess.

Did you ever have a chance to meet and/or skate with Larry Bertleman? If so, where and what was it like?
A few times here and there but I don't think he really skated that much.

Do you still get recognized as "Jay Adams" the infamous D.T. Z-boy?
Sometimes. One time I was drinking in a bar in Santa Cruz and this kid and I were talking about skateboarding. Then he told me his favorite skaters were old school guys like Tony Alva and Jay Adams. I thought that was kinda cute cuz he didn't know who I was.

How do people react when they realize who you are?
Mostly good I guess.

What was your first reaction when you heard about the Dogtown documentary being made?
"Yeah Stacy" I hope it turns out all right.

Were you stoked to do your interview for it?
Yeah, but I was going through some pretty heavy times when I did that interview and if the film turns out like I'm the guy who threw it all away to drugs then I guess they got it wrong. Stacy used the information that I provided and during that time I was at the end of some pretty crazy times. I've heard it portrays me different than how it actually should. I mean out of all the Z-Boys, only Alva and I still skate mostly every day. Sarlo still surfs almost as much as me but I've been surfing and skating NON-STOP the whole time.

Did a lot of memories come back to you pretty easily?
Some do some don't. Sometimes people tell me "Hey do you remember doing this or that" and I say "Not even." But I have a whole lot of good memories left.

How was it hanging out at the Zephyr shop on Main Street? Any good stories?
It was cool cuz all the boys used to hang out in front of the store on Main Street. So we'd be yelling at anybody who drove by or harass any girls who happened to wander up.

Any good stories about showing up at a pool outside of Dogtown and dealing with the locals there?
Too many. I don't have enough ink in this pen.

Was the Down South (San Diego) VS. Dogtown a reality or just magazine hype?
To me it was a big joke. But I'm sure some of the other DT boys and Southers took it a bit more seriously than I did. But it was a reality for a while; I just refused to play a part.

Were you a P.O.P. surf local? Or were you too young to surf the cove?
I was a P.O.P. local from birth. The ORIGINAL MASCOT. My dad rented surfboards under the Northside of the pier. All the guards at the park used to let me in for free. FUCK Disneyland, I had P.O.P., surf and all. I surfed the cove with Mickey Dora before leashes were invented.

What was your favorite skateboard contest? And why?
Maybe Del Mar because now that I look back it had a lot behind it. Before skating became professional, my mom and step dad used to drive us Z-Boys up and down the coast every weekend to different contests.

Did you ever skate the Arizona pipes?
I skated them and our car ended up breaking down so we had to hitch hike back to Santa Monica. I remember this guy picked us up in an RV and gave us a ride all the way to my house.

Did you ever skate the Mt. Baldy pipe?
No, never went there because Upland was open by then.

What was it like skating against your old zephyr teammates in contests after the guys were skating for other teams?
Never did skate too many contests in the later years.

Did z-boys keep in touch during those times and still skate together?
All the boys still mostly lived in Santa Monica or Venice so we still hung out together and skated together as the Dogtowners.

What was your first tattoo and how old were you?
My first tat was a small Thrasher that I got with Jesse Martinez. I was about 19 or so.

What are your favorite photos of yourself skateboarding?
Maybe the one from Skateboard World at the Dogbowl.

Around what age did your skateboarding abilities peak?

Does a surfer get better with age?
Most guys turn a little softer and start riding a little bit longer board but here in Hawaii you don't really notice it much cuz the waves are so gnarly.

Have your surfing abilities peaked?
I refuse to believe so.

Do you think you could still skate at a level that was comparable to your 70's level?
Yeah, because we weren't doing anything that gnarly. So compared to nowadays we skated like beginners.

What did you think of the "hand-standers" in skating in the 70's?
I think they skated upside down.

Were there a lot of drugs and/or drinking Prevalent when you were a pro skater?
There's a big difference between the kids of my generation and the kids nowadays. If you weren't doing drugs when I was young you were a weirdo. Kid's nowadays know a lot more about how drugs will fuck you up in the long run and don't seem to be as involved as we were.

Did you ever consider starting your own skate company as did Alva, Muir, and Stacy?
I might have thought about it before I went to sleep a few times.

What's the biggest wave you ever took off on?
Let's just say I've been scared before. That's kind of like asking what's the biggest pool you've ever dropped into. Or the fattest chick you've ever fucked. I'll just say I was scared. (kinda)

Any tattoos that you regret getting?
Yeah, the one that says "FUCK YOU FOR ASKING."

Tell us about the pool-riding book that Dave Hackett is doing with you and Tom Inouye.
It's called "DEATH BOX", hopefully it will be out pretty soon. It's about early pool skaters.

What was it like growing up in your house?
Front door, back door, but I mostly climbed through my bedroom window after my parents went to sleep.

Take us back to the first time you heard the term "DOGTOWN". What did it mean to you then? And what does it mean to you now?
I thought it was called "SKATETOWN" first but Dogtown must have sounded better. It means more to me now than it did when I was a kid.

Do you feel "Dogtown" was a place and time that can be duplicated in a movie?
Well Dogtown during the 70's has an interesting skateboard story to tell. Hopefully they can keep it real and not portray it in a way that it wasn't. If they keep it real, I won't have to be embarrassed about it. But most movies are pretty stupid. Thank God they didn't try to make it during the 80's cuz I wouldn't want to be any part of it if they had.

Tell us about any part of your present day life you'd like to share with all of us.
Well currently I'm locked up for making some bad decisions. I'm glad I had to come to prison cuz I wasn't living my life correctly. I didn't give a shit about life or anything else for that matter. Coming here has helped me realize that there is a lot more to life than getting loaded everyday. I'm lucky cuz God has given me another chance to live properly again. I should be back on the streets sometime later this year. I'm looking forward to being a father to my son again and just being able to enjoy life again. No matter how far gone you've let drugs take you it's never too late to stop and change your life around for the better. I know cuz I'm a living example. Surfing and skateboarding are just a small part of our lives. Drugs take you down so watch out if they get their claws into you. Stay strong. Surf and Sk8 4 ever.