All images: Chris Johnson (unless stated). Words: James Renhard. Additional reporting: Jono Coote & Tristan Kennedy
“Whenever I’m connected to that kind of shit, I’m heading back down that sheet that’s going to take me straight to hell”.
There’s no sense of theatre about Tony Alva, as he talks about his demons. There’s no drama, or performance designed to distort the truth. There is, however, the combination of a still calm, mixed with arrow-straight intensity that somehow feels familiar from the man credited as being one of – if not the – father of skateboarding as we recognise it today.
It’s not uncommon to see people try to find the right noun for Tony Alva. In his 60 years, he’s been called a surfer, a skater, a musician, a leader, a businessman, a criminal, a menace, a party animal, a villain, a hero, a legend, a Z-Boy…
“It’s hard to be aware of starting a new sport when you’re constantly running from police”
When you’ve lived the life that Tony Alva has – assuming anybody else would have the metal for it – you’re going to attract a few labels over the years. We meet in London’s House Of Vans, which is throwing a 60th birthday party for Alva (although he does let slip “my actual birthday was on September the 2nd, but we’re still going”).
Few 60 year olds find themselves celebrating their birthday halfway around the world surrounded by the great and the good of British skateboarding. This is no ordinary celebration, but Tony Alva is no ordinary man.