Iconic Skateboarder Tony Alva On Vans, Music & Leaving A Legacy

An original Dogtown Z-Boys member, Alva is still going strong at 58. The pioneering skateboarder is involved in more than landing tricks on four wheels as of late; the SoCal native is an active surfer and a bassist in two bands, His Eyes Have Fangs and GFP. But Alva clearly knows his impact on skate culture and what it meant to trespass on military property.

Why is Vans so important to skate culture?
Because it’s authentic. They don’t just take and take and take; they’re always giving back. There is always something going on in surfing, skating, music and the whole creative part of youth culture that’s connected to Vans. They stay in touch with the grassroots part of the passion that kids have for being creative. And they don’t just do it because they want to make money; they do it because they enjoy what they do.

Do today’s skaters know about your legacy?
Most of them know because of the documentary that won Sundance [Film Festival], “Dogtown and Z-Boys.” Even the feature film that came out after the documentary, [“Lords of Dogtown”], a lot of young kids really enjoy that film. They know the stories through not only books and magazines but through these movies. To them it’s influential because they realize this was a time where skateboarding was changing [and] was progressive, and there’s still an element of that in modern skateboarding.

Tony Alva Skateboard
CREDIT: Courtesy Image.

What’s one of your craziest skate stories?
We used to trespass a lot to skateboard. We used to sneak onto the Marine base, Camp Pendleton in Southern California. We’d skate these pipes they were using to cool nuclear reactors. We used to tell the guys at the gate that we were going to visit our brother, that he was in boot camp getting ready to get shipped out overseas, and we’d go in there and skateboard. They’d give us a visitor’s pass to go visit our so-called brother, but we’d be skateboarding all day, hiding out in these giant 25-foot concrete drainage pipes.

How involved are you currently with music?
I do stuff with GFP occasionally, mainly because of Greg Hetson from the Circle Jerks [who] plays guitar; I enjoy playing music with him. I have another band called His Eyes Have Fangs; we’ve been recording another record and we play a lot of live shows involving the surf industry.

Tony Alva Skateboarder
Tony Alva.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Vans.

Is skating still prominent in your life?
It’s still very prominent, but I pace myself quite a bit more than I did when I was younger. I don’t go out and wreck myself like I did when I was younger, and I cross-train a lot with surfing, which is easier on the body. Every day I’m out there do- ing this, I’m blazing that trail one more day, one more increment farther than anybody else has as a professional skateboarder. I do it because I love it but also because it’s something I feel is important to the history of skateboarding. I’m going to keep going as long as I’m physically able to ride.

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