Legendary Skateboarder Jay Adams Dies At 53

The skater and surfer was a member of Southern California's Z-Boys team, immortalized in the documentary Dogtown and Z-Boys. Adams died on Friday after surfing in Mexico.

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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

If you know anything about skateboarding, you know that skaters have lost an icon. Jay Adams is known for taking skateboarding from the streets of LA to the world of extreme sports. Adams died on Friday at the age of 53. NPR's Nathan Rott has this remembrance.

NATHAN ROTT, BYLINE: At skate parks like this one in Culver City, California, just saying the name Jay Adams...

(SOUNDBITE OF SKATING)

ROTT: Jay Adams is...

COOPER BRAZER: Oh, yeah. He's legend.

ROTT: ...And you hear something like that from skaters like Cooper Brazer. Legendary because Adams is a big reason these skate parks even exist. His aggressive vertical style helped spark a revolution in the 70s.

JEFF HO: A revolution that led to what we know as modern-day skateboarding.

ROTT: Jeff Ho is the founder of Zephyr Productions, a surfboard producer. Ho says Adams was just a kid when they met, surfing in a dangerous Venice spot where you had to earn your place.

HO: You can tell people who are really comfortable with their boards, and Jay was a natural. He was - it just - you know, it was in his soul.

ROTT: Adams became part of Ho's team, the Z-Boys, a skateboarding group immortalized in the documentary "Dogtown and Z-Boys."

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "DOGTOWN AND Z-BOYS")

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: We were all punk kids, man. We were tough kids. And we wanted to be something.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: It turned into, like, a rockstar thing, you know?

ROTT: They surfed southern California sidewalks and skateboarded in empty pools - predecessors to the bowls, half-pipes and ramps that you see in the X-Games today. But it wasn't all great for Adams. He spent time in prison and battled with addiction. Those closest to him said he'd recently turned his life around, though, and was clean and was beginning to mentor kids. This is Adams in an interview with skateboarder Dennis Martinez last year.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JAY ADAMS: We made a lot of mistakes, and hopefully we can help some kids not make those mistakes that we made and travel down the same road we did.

ROTT: Adams was 53 years old. He died after a day of surfing in Mexico. Nathan Rott, NPR News.

MCEVERS: This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Kelly McEvers.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And I'm David Greene.

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