Without A Net

Pop culture from Southern California and beyond.

Original Dogtown Z-Boy skateboarder Jay Adams dies at 53

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Influential Southern California skateboarder Jay Adams has died, his manager Susan Ferris tells KPCC. Adams, known as "The Original Seed" of skateboarding, was 53.

"I received a text very early this morning from Alan Sarlo who is in Mexico on a surf trip with Jay and some others," fellow skater Stacy Paralta wrote for Thrasher Magazine. "In the text Alan said Jay had died of a massive heart attack at 1am this morning. Alan was apparently holding Jay in his arms as he passed."

Adams didn't have a history of heart problems, according to Ferris.

Adams was an original member of the Z-Boys skateboarding team (formally the Zephyr Competition Team) in the late 1970s in a part of Santa Monica and Venice known as Dogtown. Among other accomplishments, they were known as the first to ride in empty swimming pools. He was seen in the 2001 documentary "Dogtown and Z-Boys" and represented in the film "Lords of Dogtown."

"Jay was one of the biggest innovators of skateboarding in his time," skateboarder Danny Way told the New York Times in a 2008 profile. "He brought a carefree personality to skateboarding, and skateboarding has always been a little rebellious."

This past January was the first time Adams had been out of jail and not on parole since 1999, according to a 2013 Westside People profile. He'd started speaking to kids at schools and skateboarding events about his own bad choices, according to Westside People.

Adams served time in jail in the 2000s for being part of a crystal meth operation, according to the Times. It wasn't his first run-in with the law — he'd gotten in a fight after taunting a gay couple in 1982 and the crowd stomped one of the men to death, leading to a felony assault conviction, the Times reports. He continued to be in and out of the prison system and battled drug addiction, according to the Times, until recently.

"Heart of gold, really truly," his manager Ferris tells KPCC. "He paid his debt to society and spent that last couple of years just being really amazing, and going out of his way to live the life that he wanted to live."

"With punk rock there was a lot of violence and being young, drinking alcohol and making bad choices. Now I want to encourage people not to go down the same road I went down," Adams told Westside People. He credited the support of his wife and his church in San Clemente.

See an older Adams skateboarding:

Jay Adams skateboarding

Watch Adams visit where he grew up and talking about his Dogtown history:

Jay Adams talks about growing up in Dogtown

There was an outpouring of support for Adams as news of his death got around, including from famed skateboarder Tony Hawk

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This story has been updated.

Correction: An earlier version of this story mistakenly referred to the health history of Paralta rather than Adams. KPCC regrets the error.

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