Tony Alva started skating during the Vietnam war–the early part of it. Born in Santa Monica, California in 1957, the ten-year-old So Cal boy grew up to earn the reputation of skateboarding’s rebel. His involvement with teams like Z-Flex and later Alva skateboards put him in the spotlight for over a decade.
But his contributions to the act of skateboarding dwarf those he made to its image, including pioneering the kickturn and aerial on vert and in pools. The value of his presence is unquantifiable, except for simply stating that skateboarding would not be the same without him.
Now 42, Tony is still a long way from giving up on the sport he helped create.
What was your favorite year in skating?
Seventy-three. It was my first year of high school, and it was a rapidly changing time for skateboarding; there was a new style of skateboarding that came from the roots of surfing. I think it was around the beginning of that era–the 70s–that the face of skateboarding began to change.
Who’s been your biggest inspiration?
Both of them are dead–the two guys I can think of. I have to say is this guy named Bunker Spreckels. He’s a surfer, he was Clark Gable’s stepson, and he was heir to the Spreckels Sugar fortune. He was a surfer, and a hunter, and a skater–he had a lot of different talents. He was just a beach-bum surfer kid in the 60s, then in the 70s he inherited a lot of money. He had the nickname The Player. They did a thing about him in Surfers Journal about ten years ago.
Who influenced your skateboarding–were there peers?
The guys who influenced my skating the most were Torger Johnson–an old 60s skateboarder–who I had the opportunity of skating on the same team Logan Earth Ski with for five years, and Larry Bertleman–an old surfer–because he had the style that Jay Adams and I kinda emulated.
What’s the stupidest trend you’ve seen skateboarding go through?
Little wheels … or baggy pants. I mean, I wear loose pants, but they got insanely stupid there for a while. Probably the small wheels, because they didn’t have anything functional about them, it was all stupidity. Little wheels don’t give you an advantage, especially street skating these days. The really hot street skaters ride close to a 60 millimeter wheel.
What do you think your biggest contribution to skateboarding has been?
Just being able to aggressively ride vertical–vert was where we came onto the scene and started breaking ground. And even the basic roots–like doing kickturns on vert–because vert wasn’t around when I was a kid, so we had to explore all of that. I’d say aerials, as well. We were probably the first ones to pop off and do airs.
How would you describe the current state of skateboarding?
I think it’s very progressive, and guys are skating things that were never skateable before. I think that with the millennium kicking in the equipment is good enough to back up the talent, and there’re no limits right now.
Do you have any predictions for skateboarding’s future?
I would think the most crucial thing that will happen–which is already happening–is that skateparks will keep getting bigger and better. We’re finally going to have places to ride without hassles. The terrain is going to get better. There’re a lot of things my generation skated that are being emulated in skateparks now–that’s the future. When the terrain gets better, the skating just rises with it.