Jay Adams | Skateboarding rebel, 53
Mr. Adams' manager, Susan Ferris, said he died of a heart attack Thursday on a surf vacation in Mexico with his wife and friends.
With his flowing, sun-bleached hair, explosive skating style and ebullient personality, Mr. Adams became one of the sport's most iconic figures during the years it moved from empty backyard swimming pools to international competition.
"He was like the original viral spore that created skateboarding," fellow skateboarder and documentary filmmaker Stacy Peralta told the Associated Press on Friday. "He was it."
The member of the Skateboarding Hall of Fame, who had proudly been clean and sober for the last several years, blamed his troubles in part on the sport's early years, when seemingly any outrageous behavior was tolerated.
"We were wild and acting crazy and not being very positive role models," he told the New York Times shortly after being released from prison for the last time in 2008.
Mr. Adams had rocketed to fame while still a teenager as a founding member of the Zephyr Skate Team, a group of surfers-turned-skateboarders who came together in a rundown, dicey neighborhood known as Dogtown that straddles Los Angeles' Venice Beach and the city of Santa Monica.
Peralta, another member, would memorialize the group in his 2001 documentary "Dogtown and Z-Boys."
"Watching him when he was 14, 15, 16 was pure entertainment," the filmmaker recalled Friday. "It was like watching energy itself evolve. You never knew what he was going to do, and no matter how great he was at something, he never repeated it."
In addition to his wife, Tracy, Mr. Adams leaves two children. - AP