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Skateboarding's wild man, the oncomparable Jay Adams, dead at 53

Jay Adams, a man widely regarded as one of the godfathers of modern skateboarding, died late Thursday at the young age of 53. Sources indicate that Adams suffered a massive heart attack. Though his later years were marred with misfortune, Adams is remembered fondly for his pure skill and his commitment to the purity of skating.

Jay Adams is dead after suffering a heart attack while surfing in Mexico.
Wikimedia Commons

One of Adams long time friends, skating icon Stacy Peralta, broke the news on Instagram, saying, "I just received the terribly sad news that Jay Adams passed away last night due to a massive heart attack, send your love." And "send love" people have; some of the biggest names in skating, like Tony Hawk, have reached out to express their condolences.

Adams rose to fame in the 70's as a member of the Z-boys, a band of local teens who were known for sneaking into backyards to go vertical in emptied swimming pools. Even among the incredible skating talent in Venice in the 1970's Adams distinguished himself with his go-for-broke style and aggressive innovation. More than just his skill on a board (and he had plenty), his fun-loving attitude and hatred of skating's commercialism is still the archetype for all modern skaters. Stacy Peralta reportedly once said, "When god decided to create skateboarding he said, 'Let there be Jay Adams.'"

The next thirty years saw Adams fall from grace as he succumbed to a years long battle with addiction. A life of hardship (which didn't exactly get off to the most promising start) and a series of drug-related offenses saw the skater spend much of his life in and out of jail. Friends of Adams told reporters that Adams had been sober for months, and had no history of heart problems. He and his wife were visiting Mexico for a long surfing holiday. Because of Adams' history of conflict with law enforcement, he had been unable to leave the country for nearly two decades.

It's impossible to sum up exactly the incredible impact Adams had on modern skateboarding, though the man himself seemed to have avoided any kinds of accolades. He was always just a kid in search of a good wave or an empty pool. In 1982, Thrasher magazine asked Adams if he ever regretted not getting more out of his time in the spotlight. In typical form, Adams responded concisely, "I had fun, what else is there? I guess I could have been some nice boy like they wanted and got more money, but I couldn't and I didn't."