‘Jake Phelps was abrasive, just like skateboarding’

‘Jake Phelps was abrasive, just like skateboarding’

Ed Templeton pays tribute — Thrasher’s Editor-in-Chief Jake Phelps, who died last week aged 56, was one of skateboarding’s most influential characters. Under his stewardship, the magazine and the brand it spawned became the summation of skateboarding’s commercially canny, fuck-you essence. Ed Templeton mourns and remembers.

Jake Phelps was abrasive, just like skateboarding. Through Thrasher Magazine, where for 26 years he was editor in chief, he helped promote a quintessential punk style and attitude to the skate masses that made skateboarding what it is today.

With Jake, you had to take the rough with the smooth, and at any given moment you never knew what you might get from him. He kept you on your toes. He played guitar in a punk band with Tony Trujillo called Bad Shit. He battled with drugs and alcohol, and he was so committed that skateboarding battered his body. I honestly don’t know how he did it for so long the hard way he did it.

The first time I met Jake Phelps was in 1990 when I was sent to Europe to compete in a bunch of skateboard contests. It was my first time to Europe and I realised once I landed in Germany that I had no idea where to go or how to get there. I wandered the airport hoping to see some other skaters going to the contests so I could ask them where to go. But Jake found me first. He yelled out from across the airport, “Ed Templeton!” – we had never met before. “Come with us.” It was as if he could sense I needed some help, and let me tag along with his crew on the way to the hotel where all the skaters were staying.

I never forgot that moment, and neither did he. It turned out to be typical of the kind of person he was. He may have been difficult to deal with, but he had your back and cared deeply about the way skateboarding was perceived. He had a nearly photographic memory and an encyclopaedic knowledge of skateboarding. He would recall some amazingly obscure details about your life when he saw you, anything that had ever been published in a magazine or in a video was seemingly logged into his head.

Jake’s spirit will live on. And his mark on skateboarding is undeniable.

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