This year's Legend Award goes to Jay Adams—easily one of the most influential, if not the most influential skateboarder ever—who passed away this past August at the age of 53 while on a surf trip to Mexico. In the simplest sense, Jay Adams took what had up until the early '70s been a clean-cut Jan and Dean–hyped beach hobby performed in sweater vests, and turned skateboarding into a full-blown counterculture dressed in Vans and blue jeans. He was the original bad-boy seed who ultimately transformed the skateboard from a toy on par with the Hula-Hoop into a weapon of self-expression on par with the electric guitar.
Jay changed the primary source of inspiration from gymnastics-based pirouettes and headstands to low-to-the-ground, quick cutting turns and the hands-on-the-ground, aggressive surf style of Larry Bertlemann. Along with Tony Alva and the Z-Boys, as chronicled in Stacy Peralta's acclaimed 2001 documentary, Dogtown and the Z-Boys, Jay Adams would also be among the first to bring skateboarding to vertical terrains in the backyard pools of Venice, West LA, and Santa Monica; one of the first to catch air above the lip; and—long before Bobby Valdez officially invented the invert in the late '70s—the first person to attempt handplants in pools with his "fly-away."
In the words of Stacy Peralta, "He was literally skateboarding incarnate, and the genius of it was he wasn't the best at anything, he just was it. I've said before that he was the original virus that got so many people hooked on skateboarding. Now the original spore is gone, but that virus lives on in so many others. Jay's passing reminds all of us and reaffirms that we're connected. We're all rolling down the sidewalk together.”
More than anything, Jay Adams all but invented the "100% Skateboarder" attitude—style, spontaneity, and aggression. He made skateboarding something worth fighting for. He was the original middle finger to mainstream society, and we have basically all been living out his mold in the now 40 years since. Part troublemaker, part saint, and part prophet—Jay continued his love affair with surfing and skateboarding up until his very last day. Gone but never to be forgotten, Jay Adams will forever be synonymous with skateboarding, but more importantly, he will forever be responsible for creating skateboarders. RIP Jay.—Mackenzie Eisenhour