Tony Alva

Tony Alva (born September 2, 1957) is an American skateboarder, entrepreneur, and musician. He was a pioneer of vertical skateboarding and one of the original members of the Zephyr Competition Skateboarding Team, also known as the Z-Boys.[1] The Transworld Skateboarding Magazine ranked him eighth in its list of the "30 Most Influential skateboarders" of all time.[2]

Tony Alva
Tony Alva in 2012
Born (1957-09-02) September 2, 1957 (age 63)
OccupationSkateboarder, entrepreneur, musician
Partner(s)Katy Rodriguez 2002-current

Early lifeEdit

Tony Alva was born September 2, 1957 in Santa Monica, California to Dutch and Mexican-American parents. Alva first began surfing and skateboarding in 1968, at the age of 10.


Influenced by the new, aggressive surfing style happening on the Hawaiian Islands, Alva brought a radical new and powerful free form surf style to skateboarding. Alva's style was revolutionary and stood in stark contrast with the contrived traditional style of the era, which was still based around tricks formulated in the 1960s. His skill, style and charismatic nature led him to become a professionally sponsored skateboarder.[3]

In 1972, he joined the Zephyr Skateboard team along with Jay Adams and Stacy Peralta. Alva and the other Z-Boys (also all surfers), were among the first to bring the dangerous art of skating empty swimming pools into the mainstream. Alva is considered an originator of vertical skating and is credited as one of the first skateboarders to successfully pull a Frontside Air. That moment, captured on film by photographer Glen E. Friedman, is considered by many to be the birth of modern skateboarding.

Alongside professional skaters Arto Saari, Brandon Biebel, and Stevie Williams, Alva completed a photo and video shoot for Playboy Magazine, that was shot by Irish photographer Tony Kelly.[4] The shoot is entitled "Playboy Poolside" and features the four subjects skateboarding in and around an empty swimming pool.[5]

Business venturesEdit

Alva started his long relationship working with Vans in 1974, helping to design the off-the-wall skateboard shoe, the original skate shoe. Alva's father had been buying Vans shoes for his kids since they were young. Vans was established in 1966 and was the shoe of choice for the Santa Monica youth culture.[6]

In 1977, at the age of 19, Alva shunned the major skate companies to form his own company, entitled Alva Skates. It was the first company run and owned by a skateboarder, as well as being one of the first to use layered Canadian maple plywood in skateboard decks. In December 2005, Alva opened two retail stores in Southern California located in Oceanside, near San Diego, and on Fairfax Avenue in Los Angeles.[6]

In December 2006, he celebrated the first anniversary of the stores with a party at the Los Angeles shop, which was attended by some of the old Z-Boys, current Alva Team members, MySpace friends, skate fans, and other minor celebrities. Alva signed autographs and served as the DJ for the catered event. The "bad boy" image of the Z-Boy was reiterated in the postcard invitation for the event, which featured a profane drawing.

Alva pioneered the first Rip Grip product, a material that could stick onto the underside of a skateboarder's deck, making it easier to maintain grip.


In the early eighties, Alva played bass guitar for the "Skoundrelz", a Venice, California punk band. Three songs appeared on BCT's First Strike compilation released in 1983.[7] In 2007 Alva formed the band G.F.P. (General Fucking Principle) with Dead Fucking Last vocalist Tom Paul Davis (Crazy Tom), guitarist Greg Hetson (Circle Jerks, Bad Religion) and former Suicidal Tendencies drummer Amery Smith.[8][9] In 2013, Alva began playing with Los Angeles rock band, His Eyes Have Fangs.[10]

Media appearancesEdit

Alva is featured in the documentary on Santa Monica and Venice Beach skate culture Dogtown and Z-Boys which was fictionalized into the 2005 feature film Lords of Dogtown. Thrashin' -The 1986 Action / Adventure movie. He also played the role of Tony Bluetile in the 1978 film, Skateboard: The Movie. Alva signed a three-year deal with Vans shoes and his pro model high-top was released in 2006. Alva was featured in the video game, Tony Hawk's American Wasteland. In 2012 he appeared on an episode of the A&E reality series Storage Wars to appraise a skateboard. He is seen on the cover of the album The Action is Go by Orange County-based stoner rock band Fu Manchu. Alva makes an appearance in the 2012 documentary Bones Brigade: An Autobiography directed by Stacy Peralta.


1975 USSA World Invitational Skateboard Champion. Alva was voted "Skateboarder of the Year" in Skateboarder Magazine's readers poll and he set the Guinness World Record for barrel jumping.[11]


  • Friedman, Glen E.; Stecyk, C.R. (2000). Dog Town – The Legend of The Z-Boys. New York City: Burning Flags Press. ISBN 0-9641916-4-4.
  • Friedman, Glen E. (1994). Fuck You Heroes (Photographs 1976–1991). New York City: Burning Flags Press. ISBN 0-9641916-0-1.
  • Brooke, Michael (1999). "Appendix C: Skateboard Competitions (1963–1993)". The Concrete Wave. Toronto: Warwick Publishing. ISBN 1-894020-54-5.


  1. ^ Juice (June 1, 2002). "Tony Alva interview by Jay Adams" (Journal). Jay Adams. Juice. Retrieved June 1, 2002.
  2. ^ "The 30 Most Influential Skaters of All Time". Transworld SKATEboarding. December 20, 2011. Retrieved May 1, 2020.
  3. ^ Dogtown and Z-Boys. Written by Stacy Peralta and Craig Stecyk. Dir. Stacy Peralta. Perf. Sean Penn, Jay Adams, Tony Alva. Columbia Tristar Home Entertainment, 2003. DVD.
  4. ^ "Biography". Tony Kelly Photography. Tony Kelly Photography. 2013. Retrieved June 9, 2013.
  5. ^ Tony Kelly (June 5, 2013). "Playboy Poolside by Tony Kelly" (Video upload). YouTube. Google, Inc. Retrieved June 9, 2013.
  6. ^ a b Tony Alva
  7. ^ Emmanuel Perrin-Houdon (November 29, 2016). Skateboard - 50 fragments de la planche à roulettes. Mango. pp. 82–. ISBN 978-2-317-01514-4.
  8. ^
  9. ^ "G.F.P. General Fucking Principle / Bio". Reverb Nation. eMinor, Inc. 2013. Retrieved December 9, 2013.
  10. ^
  11. ^ James O'Mahoney (April 29, 2012). "1975 USSA World Invitational Skateboard Championships". Juice Magazine. Juice Enterprises, Inc. Retrieved December 9, 2013.

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