Tony Alva was born September 2, 1957 in Santa Monica, California to Mexican-American parents. Alva first began surfing and skateboarding in 1968, at the age of 10.
Influenced by the new, aggressive surfing style happening on the Hawaiian Islands, Alva brought a radical new and powerful free form surf style to skateboarding. Alva's style was revolutionary and stood in stark contrast with the contrived traditional style of the era, which was still based around tricks formulated in the 1960s. His skill, style and charismatic nature led him to become a professionally sponsored skateboarder and a very famous athlete from his early teens.
In 1972, he joined the Zephyr Skateboard team along with Jay Adams and Stacy Peralta. Alva and the other Z-Boys (also all surfers), were among the first to bring the dangerous art of skating empty swimming pools into the mainstream. Alva is considered an originator of vertical skating and is credited as one of the first skateboarders to successfully pull a Fronstside Air. That moment, captured on film by photographer Glen E. Friedman, is considered by many to be the birth of modern skateboarding.
Alongside professional skaters Arto Saari, Brandon Biebel, and Stevie Williams, Alva completed a photo and video shoot for Playboy Magazine, that was shot by Irish photographer Tony Kelly. The shoot is entitled "Playboy Poolside" and features the four subjects skateboarding in and around an empty swimming pool.
Alva started his long relationship working with Vans in 1974, helping to design the off-the-wall skateboard shoe, the original skate shoe. Alva's father had been buying Vans shoes for his kids since they were young. Vans was established in 1966 and was the shoe of choice for the Santa Monica youth culture.
In 1977, at the age of 19, Alva shunned the major skate companies to form his own company, entitled Alva Skates. It was the first company run and owned by a skateboarder, as well as being one of the first to use layered Canadian maple plywood in skateboard decks. In December 2005, Alva opened two retail stores in Southern Californian located in Oceanside, near San Diego, and on Fairfax Avenue in Los Angeles.
In December 2006, he celebrated the first anniversary of the stores with a party at the Los Angeles shop, which was attended by some of the old Z-Boys, current Alva Team members, MySpace friends, skate fans, and other minor celebrities. Alva signed autographs and served as the DJ for the catered event. The "bad boy" image of the Z-Boy was reiterated in the postcard invitation for the event, which featured a profane drawing.
Alva also pioneered the first Rip Grip product, a material that could stick onto the underside of a skateboarder's deck, making it easier to maintain grip.
In the early eighties, Alva played bass guitar for the "Skoundrelz", a Venice, California punk band with "Rico" Reid Rolan on drums, Michael Ball and Michael Dunnigan on guitars and Dave "Hurricane" Mitchell on vocals. In 2007 Alva formed the band G.F.P. (General Fucking Principle) with DFL vocalist Tom Paul Davis (Crazy Tom), guitarist Greg Hetson (Circle Jerks, Bad Religion) and former Suicidal Tendencies drummer Amery Smith. Amery later left the band for personal reasons and was replaced by Joey Castillo (Danzig, QOTSA, B'last).
In 2014, Alva began playing with Los Angeles rock band, His Eyes Have Fangs.
Alva is featured in the documentary on Santa Monica and Venice Beach skate culture Dogtown and Z-Boys which was fictionalized into the 2005 feature film Lords of Dogtown. Thrashin' -The 1986 Action / Adventure movie. He also played the role of Tony Bluetile in the 1978 film, Skateboard: The Movie. Alva signed a three-year deal with Vans shoes and his pro model high-top was released in 2006. Alva was featured in the video game, Tony Hawk's American Wasteland. In 2012 he appeared on an episode of the A&E reality series Storage Wars to appraise a skateboard. He is seen on the cover of the album The Action is Go by Orange County-based stoner rock band Fu Manchu. Alva makes an appearance in the 2012 documentary Bones Brigade: An Autobiography directed by Stacy Peralta.
1975 USSA World Invitational Skateboard Champion. Alva was voted "Skateboarder of the Year" in Skateboarder Magazine's readers poll and he set the Guinness World Record for barrel jumping.