EZ Ryder Originalz (http://ezroriginalz.com/)
Every once in a while you get to meet a celebrity, and even less frequently you get to meet one of your idols, and even less frequently than that you get to have a lengthy conversation with a childhood idol. Over the course of two months, I got to rap with Jay Adams.
Jay Adams, and the rest of the Dogtown crew changed my life. Somewhere around 1977, or 1978, I picked up my first issue of Skateboarder magazine, and saw the lifestyle these guys lived. It was like that old cliché every girl wanted them, and every guy wanted to be them. Well, I wanted to be them. I rode a Sims Lonnie Toft with Tracker Trucks, and Kryptonic Wheels. All stuff I saw the pros ride in the pages of Skateboarder magazine. Jay rode at Skater Cross in Reseda, CA, I got a membership there. After getting to know Jay a bit over these few months, I have to admit I envy his lifestyle. Read on, and you’ll probably feel the same.
1. First I want to thank you for agreeing to do this interview. Hopefully, I won’t be asking you questions that you’ve already answered a hundred times before. What was skating like in Venice before the 1975 Del Mar Nationals?
Skating for me began before I can even remember my Mom used to tell me about the time I came running back into the house with blood on my face, and arms cuz I ate it somehow from pushing around on my knees she told me I wasn’t really crying too long, and went right back out side, and jumped back on.
You got to remember back then skateboarding was all about copying surfing. By the time I was 8 or 9 I lived on North Venice Blvd three houses away from the beach, or parking lot to the beach, but the beach side of Pacific St., Munies Liquor Store was on the corner of Pacific, and North Venice Blvd, and right behind it was an alley with three driveways; the first one was kind of steep so I named it Pipeline the second one was long, and you could start on Pacific St., and go through the apts, all the way to where the cars parked, and finally the alley itself I named that one Waimea Bay the next one down was a lil bit like the first one just not as steep so I named that one Sunset.
I had my three spots, and would spend hours pretending I was Jeff Hackman or Gerry Lopez, then Wayne Lynch; three of my childhood heroes from Surfer Magazine. I also liked Miki Dora, and copied his surf Nazi style, and put a swastika on my board. I didn’t know about all the suffering the Jewish people went through I just thought Miki Dora was cool, and the old man at the market on the boardwalk on Rost Street he had some funny looking numbers tattooed on his arm he got mad at me, and was yelling at what I had put on my board. I just thought it was funny because he was so mad I didn’t even know why he was mad but also remember I was a lil rascal who thought it was funny to sneak up behind the old Jewish men sleeping on the benches, and tipping their hats to the ground to wake them up to try to catch me or throwing rotten fruit at the trams as they went by.
My youngster days were all spent on the beach from POP Pier all the way back to Venice. The boardwalk was always filled with people and I rode my skateboard everywhere I went my step dad Kent Sherwood worked at Dave Sweet’s surf shop on 11th, and Olympic St., the surfer guys there had skateboards so I’d play on those also, this is the really old days I was probably 5 to 6 yrs old, but I think that’s where I first met Styeck I don’t remember him, but he was older, and remembers me because I was a lil kid so yeah all of my earliest memories are of me surfing, and skateboarding around Venice beach this was years before the Z Boy Zephyr Team thing that wasn’t till I was 13 or 14, and I’d have been skating all along since I was a lil kid my step dad Kent would take me to Paul Revere, or Uni High in Pacific Palisades two famous skating spots that the Hobie Team skated at in the 60′s, talking about the Hobie guys Torger Johnson was one of my early skate guys who I looked up to when the movie Skater Dater came out or when I first saw it . . . it was on I wanted to be a skater just like them, and I learned how to jump off curbs that was a trick for us back then. Actually the first trick I can remember seeing was from a guy named Kenny Ebee he could do a wheelie for like 3or 4 squares down the sidewalk and after I saw him do it I learned it but it was mostly copying surfing in the early days
2. Did anything change in Dogtown as a result of the newfound notoriety as a result of the contest, and being featured in Skateboarder Magazine?
Of course things changed, and people started throwing deals at us. I didn’t get a photo in Skateboarder Magazine until I quit Zflex, and rode for Logan Earth Ski then they put me in there lame magazine it was so political and if you weren’t from San Diego you weren’t going to get in there mag. It wasn’t until Alva, and I joined team Logan, and then we were a bit ahead of most of the others not better just a lil different but we got lots of photos, and then I went back to Zflex, and was popular enough that they pretty much had to run photos of me even though I was on Z again. Styeck made Dogtown popular with his articles, but the Magazine made a Dogtown down south rivalry, but I didn’t really have any part of it. I had lots of friends from down south, and skated down there with them all the time Alva had a huge ego, and most people didn’t really like him because of it that’s one of the reasons why I never wanted to be like him. Plus I just wanted to be one of the boys back home in Venice back then Venice was Venice and Santa Monica was Dogtown. I lived in Venice my whole life except for about 3 years when I moved there from 6th grade to the end of 8th grade then I moved to Hawaii, and when I came back to Cali it was back to Venice but there was a big difference between the two, and Alva, Muir, and all the other Santa Monica Dogtown guys weren’t allowed to surf in Venice, Sarlo was the only other guy on the Zephyr team who was from Venice.
So yeah things changed but most of all people changed guys got famous and some of us let our egos get outta control, but for a kid its hard not to able to not believe all the hype they say about you in the magazines I see it today in some of the surfers they believe their bigger than life when in reality they’re no different from anyone else even if there the best new guy at pipeline or wherever else their famous for ego is poison, and something you should avoid because it looks ugly, and makes you lame.
3. How did the Zephyr team come together?
Not too sure how the Zephyr team got started, but it was a surf team at first, and then it became a skate team. Most of us younger guys who were on the jr surf team all skated so when Cadillac wheels came out, and we heard about the Bayne Cadillac contest at Del Mar we decided to make a skate team, and that’s how it began after the Zephyr team broke up half of us went with my step dad Kent Sherwood he made the Zephyr skateboards we broke away from Zephyr and started EZ RYDER which only lasted about 6 months until it became Z Flex Skateboards now Jef Hartsell, and I are relaunching EZ Ryder Originalz. Which you can see at www.ezroriginalz.com check it out.
4. What was the most defining moment in your professional or contest part of your skating career?
The most defining moment would have been the Del Mar Contest because we were so different from all the other skaters they were stuck on 1960′s style skateboarding, and we were all copying Larry Bertlemann so there really was a difference. Also when I won the 1975 Hang Ten World Contest I got first in freestyle, and first in cross-country. Or my 3rd place in the 1977 Skateboarder poll awards, but that’s all just contest stuff and there’s been way more things that meant more to me. There was a time when we’d come to a skate park and the whole park would just stop, and watch I always thought that was pretty cool. Seeing a woman play my Mother, and a kid acting as me was pretty cool. The whole Dogtown Video and Lords Of Dogtown movie was pretty cool to experience. But just still doing it after starting 45 yrs ago is the best, nowadays it’s all just fun, and there’s nothing to prove anymore like when your a kid, and out to show the world what your all about.
5. Here is a two-part question: What was the best skatepark you ever skated? And what was your favorite backyard pool?
Back in the day Cherry Hill in New Jersey was one of the best but for us Marina Del Rey was home that that was some of the best times we had just skating with friends. The best backyard pool was the Dogbowl because we had an open pass to skate it whenever we wanted to, and things were being done that had never been done before, plus it was just our whole crew there, and whoever we took there with us.
6. What was it like getting your name and photos in the skate magazines?
I didn’t really like all the fame that we had because of skateboarding. When I saw the effect that skating had on guys like Tony Alva, and the ego it gave him I wanted nothing to do with it. I was just one of the boys from Venice, and I also lived in Hawaii, and ego would get your ass kicked, so I took the humble approach, and still do till this day. I really have a problem with ego in people because God made us all the same no matter how good you surf skate or do whatever you do. I also judge a person after they open their mouth not by the color of their skin or what they do, were all the same. Some are just blessed to have a turn at being good at something but usually that turn doesn’t last long. I’ve been pretty lucky to be able to get a lil money my whole life because of skateboarding like this morning I went to my PO Box and there was a check for a 1,000 dollars because of my Z-Flex deal. So I’m just grateful that I can still make a lil money now, and then. But Ego is poison, and should be avoided at all cost.
7. Now that eight years have passed, what impact did Dogtown and Z-Boys have on your life?
Well 8 yrs later huh? Some people weren’t happy about the first doc that Vans made, and didn’t pay any of us for. Vans is a big co, and we shoulda made them pay us, but I didn’t complain about it I just used it to my advantage. I ended up getting a shoe sponsor Osiris, and that helped out for a few years I didn’t make a whole lot of money, but it paid some bills. The whole Doc opened up a lot of people’s eyes, and influenced a lot of older guys to pick up their skates, and ride again. Lots of these older guys kind of related to us, and started buying our skates again cuz we have old school style boards that they could ride around the parks on, and basically jut surf skate the bowls and not have to try to get all new school when they skate. It also opened up the movie deal, which we did get paid for, and that brought even more recognition and that brought board sales up, and opened up other doors that hadn’t been open for a while. Its weird now because people come up to me all the time telling me how their kids are into the movie, and watch it a couple of times a week. So the guys we grew up skating with are the parents now, and their kids are skating, and got to see us because of the movie, and can relate to us because of it. I guess were lucky cuz old school is kind of cool to lots of the kids, or so I’m told basically you need to take advantage of what God puts into your life, and the whole movie, and Doc was good to me because I’ve been able to use it to my advantage. Instead of complaining about what I didn’t get I’ve just been grateful of what I’ve been able to get. But the best thing is that lots of kids can relate to us, and will listen to what I have to say about staying away from drugs, and other problems their going through. I have parents write to me all the time asking me to write to their kids who are dealing with problems their going through. I’ve made lots of mistakes in my life and still do but some kids do listen to what I have to say about not making the mistakes that I made, and that feels good to know that I can help them out. Money is cool and we all need to pay bills but it’s not what life is all about and never will be for me. I still have a hard time saving money because I figure when ya got it spend it on something fun like traveling or something and worry about making more later. I told my friend a few days ago I’m saving it for a rainy day, and it started raining again so what should I buy today? Hahaha whatever I’m getting off track so that’s enough for this question.
8. What impact did punk rock have on your life? What was your first exposure to punk rock
Punk rock affected my life 100%, the first show I went to was at Baises Hall there was a famous riot that night. I can’t remember who was playing, but I think it was Black Flag, Circle Jerks, And Fear, or X, or some bands like that. Up until then I really didn’t know what real punk rock was all about I think I might have seen a show the weekend before that at Marina Del Ray Skate Park but the Basises Hall show was really the first one that I went to I didn’t know about Black Flag, and real violent bands like that. I thought it was new wave crap like Devo or Talking Heads, and when I saw the real thing I was instantly hooked. When I got to the show they had closed the doors, and weren’t going to let anyone else in. Someone broke out a window, and we had to get lifted up, and through it. When I landed on the floor, and looked around at a few hundred kids going completely crazy slamming in a huge pit, I’d never seen anything like it before. People were getting their asses kicked, and it was crazy. I was in a Venice gang called the Venice Hoodlums we were a mixed up bunch of White Boys, and Mexicans and we dressed up like vatos, Dickie pants, white shirts, and Pendletons, and bandanas. But after I saw that show I completely got into punk rock it was perfect because I was troublemaker, and thought it was cool to have people fear me. When I walked into a room I wanted people to say damn these guys are crazy you better watch out or they’ll fuck you up. Punk rock shows were perfect for that because it was all about violence, I started hanging out with Mike Muir he had just started Suicidal Tendencies band he used to wear a leather jacket with safety pins in his ear and we all wore boots with bandanas tied around them. I was still wearing Dickies, and vato clothes with my blue bandana because Venice was a blue-color town. So Mike started dressing in Pendletons, and Dickies as well, and Ric Clayton started drawing hand-drawn Suicidal shirts before every show we went to. We’d all meet at Mar Vista Park before every show, and pretty soon we had 30 to 50 guys showing up to go to the shows. We all started wearing the same kind of clothes, and it started looking like a gang, but we had to because the other punks from Orange County were beating everyone else up from LA so we put a stop to it by protecting each other.
It got outta hand, and eventually we were basically a gang following around the band, but Suicidal Boys were not going to get our asses kicked in LA. So punk rock was everything to me, and I was completely brainwashed by the whole deal, I wouldn’t listen to anything else, but punk rock, and when I went surfing guys would try to make fun about me because I was a punk I thought all surfers were fags with their ling blond hair, and day-glo cloths; I always said I surf, but I’m not a surfer fag. Surfers didn’t like me, and I didn’t like them, but I was surfing every day and was getting in the California magazines every month. Breakout Magazine put me on the cover, and basically every month I was getting photos in it. But surfers at the time were so fuckin gay it made me laugh it wasn’t until 10 yrs after punk was done that surfers started trying to look punk, and accept it like they do now, but they were still clueless to what real punk rock was all about. Nowadays everyone is either a wanna be gangster rapper of faking it by thinking they’re punk rock, it still makes me laugh cuz I remember when I was one of the only punk rockers who still surfed anyway enough of this question.
9. Rather than complain about the current state of punk rock, my question to you is: do you find it strange or maybe amusing how incredibly accepted punk is now?
It’s funny how people have accepted what they think is punk rock, but in reality it’s just watered down bubble gum rock. Some of the bands that claim to be punk really make me laugh cuz there’s nothing punk about them, not even their fake-ass Mohawks, or tattoos. For me, punk rock was the attitude we had at the time, we were all pissed off teenagers who didn’t want anything to do with what all the older people were telling us what to do. I’m not too sure why we hated hippies, but I think for me it was just hating all the longhaired heavy metals fags that hated us. Being a punk back in the early ‘80′s was dangerous; people would chase you down the street if they caught you alone. That was OK with us cuz we’d catch some of them alone, and they’d gat a beating. I’ll just sum it up, and say punk rock for us west-coasters was all about violence causing riots, and beating the shit outta people for fun. It’s just part of being young drunk, and pissed off at the world.
10. How active were you in the making of Lords of Dogtown? Did you offer any skate instruction for Emile Hirsch?
Yeah, well I was stuck in Hawaii when they were making the movie so I wasn’t as involved as I could have been. I got to meet Emile when he came over to study me, or whatever he was doing, but we met, and he was a cool kid who I feel really lucky to have had portray me in the film. When I was first approached by John Linsom about the film I was locked up in OOC prison, or actually it’s our county jail here in Hawaii. I had some lawyer guy call me down from my cell, and he offered me $8,000.00 to sign a contract for the film. I was like you’ll give me 8 grand right now to sign up for this movie about us, and if it doesn’t get made then I don’t have to pay you back. And they said they’d give me another 70 grand if they made it so of course I said yes. My bail was $2,000.00, and then I paid this lame ass lawyer $5,000.00 grand to represent me in the case I was fighting. So I only ended up with $1,000.00 in my hand, which went to my back rent. I also had a heroin habit at the time so I really didn’t care too much about anything else than getting outta jail. So I signed it, and Tony Alva wasn’t into it, and the producer guy John told me “fuck him well make it about you.” I refused that, and said that I thought it should be about the whole Z Boy Team. Anyway later on Tony jumped on board, and so did Stacy, and the rest of the guys, and they basically just took over. Stacy ended up writing the story, and Tony was totally involved in anything he could be. I’m not sure what everyone else got for it, but I got what they promised so they kept their word with me. But I’m sure Stacy, and Tony weren’t worried about me like I was about them in the beginning. It’s just funny to me to see all the ego come back in some people like it had when we were kids, and it just made me glad I am how I am, and not like how other people are. So, I really didn’t get to be involved as much as I’d of liked to have been, but they did a good job on it, and I’m not embarrassed how it turned out.
LAST ONE TO DIE is out. For the complete Jay Adams interview order at: https://www.createspace.com/3669330