Plus read an exclusive excerpt of Glen E. Friedman’s essay from the book.
Today, Rizzoli is releasing a collection of early childhood images of the late skate legend Jay Adams shot by his stepfather Kent Sherwood. The grainy black-and-white photographs are accompanied by intimate notes written by Adams himself (while he was incarcerated in 2008) as well as three personal essays: an introduction by C.R. Stecyk (another street legend), a forward by skater/musician Tony Alva, and a personal essay by Glen E. Friedman, a skater/photographer and author of several photo books including My Rules (Rizzoli). In all, Jay Boy: The Early years of Jay Adams (Universe / Rizzoli), feels sort of like a family photo album, sort of like an historical document—yet another in the litany of Adams-related content (the documentary Dogtown and Z-Boys is about Adams, and as is the drama Lords of Dogtown) for the insatiable skaters who worship him. The sheer number of images of the (very adorable) white-blond boy contained in the book suggest that Sherwood had a feeling that Adams was going to be something: that his skating would revolutionize the sport, that he would be immortalized over and over on film, that his laid-back personal style—Vans, camp shirts, hats, and, later in life, face tats—would launch a fashion movement. The collection has an almost magically prescient feel.
Below, take a look at an exclusive selection of images by Sherwood plus Friedman’s touching, nostalgic essay excerpted from the book.
This is a book of photographs of the legend as a boy, taken by his stepfather Kent Sherwood. Kent was my first and only hourly wage employer when I worked at the Z-Flex shack in Venice one summer as a teenager. These images are some rare, early moments of Jay, his friends, family, and his lifestyle, most taken before anyone like Craig Stecyk or myself made pictures of him.
Jay and I go back, way the fuck back. My first published photo was a full-page subscription ad for SkateBoarder magazine; Jay was the subject, and it was radical in more ways than one. I took the photo when I was fourteen and Jay, the belligerent “Radical Little Rat,” was fifteen. Jay often remembered it as his first published photo, too—it actually wasn’t, but he remembered it that way, which is very flattering. We were kids and we thought we knew everything, like most kids do. I found out about this pool near my local spot, the Kenter Canyon School yard, borrowed a 35mm camera, invited Jay and Paul Constantineau to come, and that’s where the documented history of Jay and I started.
Over the years we would travel around the southern California basin to different skate spots, parties, and punk gigs. I’ve witnessed
some pretty incredible shit around him, both positive and negative, he was a spirited one, that’s for sure. Jay was no slouch; he often surprised me, and others, with his brilliance on and off his board. Even though he was one of the most out of control mother-fuckers, he would do something only an insane person would do, and then hit you with some “science” that would have you asking yourself, “Where the fuck did that come from?” Although he didn’t always act like it, Jay was smart. He was no doubt one of my all-time favorite subjects to make photos with because of his aggressive style, his unpredictability, his vision.
He was the seed for so many—one of the originators and great revolutionaries—and he didn’t do any of it on purpose. He was as spontaneous as they come. He was an inspiration to me and countless others of his generation, and generations to follow. Jay Boy’s legacy will forever be unparalleled in the art/activity of skateboarding.
Jay was the personification of all the DogTown stories that Stecyk wrote, and all the DogTown photos that I took: all we were trying to do was capture Jay Adams’s essence. He was the life-long wild child, and he was incredibly great at the same time. Kent’s pictures of Jay are an advance peek, the test pressing— or the “demo” version—of the man Jay would become.
He was a living legend . . . and a crazy friend . . . and now that he’s gone, we only have the memories. And for you all who didn’t know him personally I am happy that we have the photographs to share. I suspect his legend will live on gloriously.
Jay Boy: The Early years of Jay Adams is available wherever books are sold and on the Rizzoli website.