Tony Alva Bio: The Godfather of Modern Skateboarding

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Pioneer and inventor of vertical skateboarding, Tony Alva is known as the godfather of modern skateboarding.

Tony Alva is the first skateboarder to successfully pull a frontside air and thus, inventing vertical skateboarding.

He is credited as the godfather of modern skating for his remarkable contribution in laying the groundwork for modern skateboarding.

Godfather of modern skateboarding, Tony Alva.
Godfather of modern skateboarding, Tony Alva.

Apart from skateboarding, Tony has also made remarkable contributions to music and movies.

In this article, we dive into the life of Tony Alva. But first, let us have a glance at his quick facts.

Quick Facts

Full name Tony Alva
Nickname Mad Dog, T.A.
Known as  Godfather of Modern Skateboarding
Date of birth September 2, 1957
Age 66 years old
Birthplace Santa Monica, California, U.S.
Nationality American
Ethnicity Dutch and Mexican-American
Parents name N/A
Siblings 2; Kathy Alva and Mark Alva
Zodiac sign Virgo
Height 5 feet 10 inches
Weight 160 lbs
Shoe size US 9.5
Hair color Brown
Eye color Grey
Marital Status Married
Spouse Katy Rodriguez
Children Zephaniah Levi and Avalon Victoria
Grandchildren Roman Francis and Zoe
High School Santa Monica High School
Educational Qualification High School
Profession Skateboarder, Entrepreneur, Actor
Debut year 1967
Skateboarding style Street skateboarding, Vertical Skateboarding
Affiliations Alva Skates
Net Worth $15 million
Social Media FacebookInstagramTwitter
Merch Skateboarding Accessories
Last Update May, 2024

Who is Tony Alva?

Tony Alva is a legendary skateboarder best known for inventing vertical skateboarding and laying the groundwork for modern skateboarding. Alva was also a member of the legendary Z-Boys club.

Alva is also the man behind Van’s off-the-wall label, which are the first skateboard shoes to be designed by the skateboarder. He is also the owner of Alva Skates.

Tony Alva | Early Life and Education

Born on September 2, 1957, in Santa Monica of California, Tony Alva was born to a Dutch and Mexican-American family. Alva has two siblings, a sister named Kathy Alva and a brother named Mark Alva. 

Unfortunately, his parents divorced when he was just ten years old. As a result, Alva stayed with his father, whereas his siblings stayed with his mother. 

Alva’s father was an alcoholic and workaholic. He gave little time to little Alva, and he used to feel lonely most of the time.

He used to spend his time mostly with his friends, who introduced him to skateboarding.

Tony Alva | Skateboarding Career

How did he start skateboarding?

Tony Alva initially started as a surfer. But, most of the time, he couldn’t surf due to the bad weather. During such times, Alva would skateboard on clay wheels.

Slowly, he shifted from surfing to skateboarding. He started skateboarding when he was just six years old. When other kids were playing, tony used to take his skateboards to skate across the streets.

He would usually skate on the road lines alone until he met Jay Adams, who shared the same passion and helped him make skateboarding passion as his career.

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Professional Skateboarding Career

Jay Adams introduced Alva to other young skating enthusiasts such as Stacy Peralta, David Hackett, Jim Muir, Allen Saro, etc.

The skating enthusiasts formed a surfing and skateboarding group named Zephyr Surf Team in 1972. Alva became a member of the team as well.

The members of the Zephyr team were very talented skateboarders. They had a passion, skill, and expertise in freestyle, slalom, and downhills. Tony was known in the group for his competitiveness and aggressiveness. 

In the early 1970s, Southern California suffered a severe drought that dried up the pools. The boys started skating over the pools, thus inventing pool skating.

The surfers started to experiment on their skateboarding. Alva, during this process, invented vertical skating. He was the first vertical skateboarder to catch air with the use of a polyurethane wheel.

The team participated in Del Mar National of 1975, where they amazed everyone with her skateboarding skills and stunts. Alva also showcased his vertical skating skills out there, which were captured by a photographer.

Tony Alva showcasing his vertical skateboarding skills.
Tony Alva showcasing his vertical skateboarding skills.

That photo made Tony Alva the skateboarding sensation. People also regard it as the birth of modern skateboarding.

Alva became an international sensation with wins, endorsements, partnerships in his pockets. He won the Men’s Overall World Professional Skateboard Championship in 1977.

Apart from this, He was also voted as ‘The Skateboarder of the Year’ and set the ‘World Record’ in Barrel Jump.

In 1999, Alva was honored with ‘X Games Lifetime Achievement Award. Also, his photo was installed at the Skateboarding Hall of Famers.

Collaboration With Vans 

In 1974, Alva partnered with a famous shoe brand, Vans, to create the official skateboarding version of the Vans authentic deck shoe.

He collaborated with Stacy Perala to come up with the design for the shoes. They both emphasized adding a collar padding and a heel cup, which created a classic Vans era style.

They officially launched the Vans off the wall label dedicated to skateboarders. It was the first shoe designed by skaters for skateboarding.

Starting Alva Skates

Alva started his own skateboarding company, Alva Skates, when he was just 19 years old.

The company soon became successful, and he became the first skateboarder to have a successful self-created brand.

The Alva skates used Canadian maple wood, which made them more distinct and durable.

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Tony Alva | Music Career

Tony Alva took a shift from skateboarding to pursuing a music career in 1981. He joined a hardcore punk band named Skoundrelz as a bass player. 

In 2009, he founded another band, GFP- General Fucking Principle. The band also had Tom Paul Davis as lead vocalist, Greg Hetson as a guitarist, and Amery Smith.

In 2013, Alva started playing with Los Angeles-based psych band; his eyes have fangs. The band consisted of Rachel Anne Rainwater on vocals, Vulcho Bonev on guitar, Matthew Rainwater on drums, and Tony Alva on bass. 

Tony Alva | Movies and Documentaries

Tony also had his hands on the acting field. In three movies, he made his appearances: Skateboard: The Movie in 1978, Thrashin in 1986, and then Lord of Dogtown in 2005.

In 2020, Vans released a documentary on Youtube based on his life titled The Tony Alva Story.

It showcased Alva’s beginning as a street skateboarder to become a skateboarding star, his fall due to drug addictions, and coming back on track.

The documentary is aimed to provide hope and aspiration for the upcoming skateboarders who look up to Tony Alva.

In the pipeline, Tony Alva appears in a movie, namely Skate God, released in 2022. The film is about a skateboarder in a dystopian future.

Tony Alva | Addiction and the downfall

Tony Alva started to drink and do drugs from an early age. He used to watch his father all night which inspired him to drink.

The hot-blooded teen then started drugs with his friends. He thought that taking drugs was connected to spiritual seeking. 

He says he was born in the hippie movement where everyone was doing drugs and smoking weed, calling it spiritual.

Things started to get worse when he started getting that fame and success he had never expected. Alva said that his popularity and success had added that toxicity to his ego.

He felt that he could do anything, and people would still support him. However, he got into several controversies, which negatively impacted his image and eventually led to his downfall.

Tony Alva | Getting back on track

Tony’s life had hit rock bottom. He had lost his image, fame, and relationships due to his toxic behaviors.

But, he found a life-changing therapist who brought him back on his track.

After coming out clean with no drug and alcohol use, Tony went on to fix all the problems he had created. He sincerely apologized and reconciled with his family and friends.

He has now been living a happy life without any controversies.

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Tony Alva | Personal life

The skateboarder was married to Victoria Alva, but unfortunately, their relationship did not work out, and they divorced.

Alva then briefly dated Michelle Gerber Bell, but this relationship couldn’t last as well.

But, in 1977, Tony Alva met the love of his life, Katy Rodriguez, a fashion designer. They started dating in 1997, tied their knots in 2002, and have been happily married since then.

Tony Alva with his wife, Katy Rodriguez
Tony Alva with his wife, Katy Rodriguez.

The couple is blessed with two children Zephaniah Levi and Avalon Victoria. His son, Zephaniah, has also chosen the path of his father to become a skateboarder. 

Alva also has two grandchildren: Roman Francis and Zoe.

Tony Alva | Net Worth

The professional skateboarder has made money fortunes, and his net worth is estimated to be $15 million.

He earned this net worth as a professional skateboarder, endorsements, business ventures, singing, and acting career.

Alva had signed an exclusive contract with Vans for the off-the-wall shoes which he designed. In addition, he earned plenty of money from partnerships and endorsements.

Apart from that, he owns a successful skateboarding company named Alva Skates. The Alva skateboards are very popular among professional skateboarders.

He has also earned a good fortune as a singer as well as an actor.

Thus, Alva has earned handsome money from his three careers and investments. As a result, He is one of the wealthiest skateboarders.

Tony Alva | Social Media

Facebook: 258k followers

 Instagram: 168k followers

 Twitter: 5k followers


Is Tony Alva alive?

Yes, Tony Alva is alive. He is and is fit and fine.

Is Tony Alva still skating?

Yes, Tony Alva is still skating. However, he has not entered professional skating championships as he used to. But, he still has a passion for skating and goes on for skates frequently.

Why is Tony Alva famous?

Tony Alva is famous for his vertical skateboarding skill as he is credited as the first skateboarder to do so and to lay the groundwork for modern skateboarding.

Alva is also famous as the founder of Alva Skateboards, the popular skateboarding company.

Shaddy is a passionate writer and overall wordsmith. She is committed to satisfying your appetite for the content. She is not only an avid celebrity style enthusiast but also a singer herself. She makes cover songs during her free times.

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