Stab Magazine | Thrasher Magazine Editor Jake Phelps Gone At 56
346 Views

Thrasher Magazine Editor Jake Phelps Gone At 56

Today we mourn a true icon. 

news // Mar 16, 2019
Words by stab
Reading Time: 2 minutes

News of the unexpected passing of Jake Phelps has rocked the skateboarding and publishing communities like a speed wobble at the bottom of a San Francisco hill. The editor of Thrasher Magazine, he was 56 years old. The cause of death has not been released.

In an era where skateboarding, much like surfing, is at risk of being watered down by corporate interests and Johnny-come-latelies, Phelps dedicated his life and his publication to remaining ardently independent. He gave a voice to the nuanced and gritty subculture of skateboarding. He preserved the cultural integrity of its roots. He was one of the few brave enough to use his platform and sound off when he saw fit. And he was unapologetic about it all, which was beautiful.

“Jake Phelps was 100% skateboarder,” reads the eulogy released by Thrasher. “But that label sells him way too short, because beyond his enormous influence in our world, he was truly an individual beyond this world. When loved ones pass we sometimes mythologize about their full lives rich in friendships and experiences. Sometimes we need to talk ourselves into believing it all. It makes us feel better, and helps us cope with the loss. Well, in the case of Jake, the task becomes wrapping your head around just how many lives one person could possibly live. He really did see it all, do it all, and that incredible brain of his could relish every last detail.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v-VEe-vb-es

Published monthly since 1981, Phelps got his start in the mailroom at Thrasher and quickly rose through the ranks because, as he described, he was the only one there that skated at the time.

In 2011, Thrasher co-founder Eric Swenson committed suicide, leaving Phelps to his best, and sometimes worst, instincts. 

“When I dropped out of school, they told me I could never do anything or go anywhere, and then when I got the keys to the mag, I was just like ‘Alright, watch this, motherfuckers!’ And I went everywhere,” Phelps said in a 2012 interview.

He took an unabashed approach to speaking truth power, insisting to the very end that Thrasher be an honest and accurate portrayal of what’s happening with skating on the ground. He had no qualms about calling somebody out if they deserved it. His voice and guidance helped keep skateboarding honest. For over 30 years the pages of his magazines were plastered on every skate grom’s bedroom walls. In the early days, Thrasher was printed on dirty, stinky, low-cost newsprint. It even smelled like skateboarding.

Phelps famously had the phrase, “skate or die” printed on his business card. He was the creator of the “King of the Road” contest series that was picked up by Vice Sports a few years ago. 

“Thrasher lives at street level,” Phelps told the San Francisco Chronicle in ’96. “If parents don’t complain about it, we’re doing something wrong. It’s the kind of thing you hide under your bed at night. It’s the recklessness of youth.”

The style and influence of Phelps is irreplaceable. His loss leaves a huge hole in the fabric of the board sports culture. 

Comments

Comments are a Stab Premium feature. Gotta join to talk shop.

Already a member? Sign In

Want to join? Sign Up

Advertisement

Most Recent

What Will Airs Look Like In 10 Years?

The final installment of our editorial exploration into the nuances of airborne surfing.

Dec 1, 2022

3:31

Can A South African Cavern Queen With No Pipeline Experience Do Well At The Vans Pipe Masters?

Sophie Bell will have a steep learning curve in Hawaii.

Nov 30, 2022

After Years Of Tragic Shark Attacks, Surf Competition Returns To Reunion Island — And A CT Event Could Follow

"We compete at J-Bay and Margarets where there's the same problem." -Johanne Defay

Nov 30, 2022

24:32

Sharing Tubes And Hummus In The Middle East’s Surfing Jewel: Israel

No Contest does Tel Aviv!

Nov 29, 2022

4:18

Joao Chianca Wants A Pipeline Rematch With JJF

And ain't afraid to ride more foam to do it in the Vans Pipe Masters.

Nov 29, 2022

An Unorthodox Marriage Of Science And Surf

Cliff Kapono and The Mega Lab are changing stereotypes on all fronts.

Nov 28, 2022

5:07

Harry Bryant Dumps Crutches, Visualizes Pipeline Pits After Snapping Leg

“For once in my life, I’m taking something a bit more serious."

Nov 27, 2022

What If You Bought This Sumatran Surf Camp For $690k?

Making a blue print out of surfing's most recurring day dream.

Nov 27, 2022

Sierra Kerr On Greasing Full Rotes, Making Dad Cry & Her Concussion @ VSHPBME 

'I haven’t got my license yet, but I'm thinking of buying a little truck.'

Nov 27, 2022

4:25

“There Definitely Needs To Be More Girls That Try Airs”

Caity Simmers' thoughts on her Vans Pipe Masters debut.

Nov 26, 2022

Preview: Who’s John John Florence Flushing Down The Haleiwa Toilet Bowl?

The final event of the CS schedule is almost upon us. Let's dissect.

Nov 25, 2022

25:17

Dane Reynolds Said These Clips Weren’t Good Enough

Could'a fooled us.

Nov 25, 2022

Watch Now: Kael Walsh, Rolo Montes, And Al Cleland Jr In ‘Saturn’

Quik’s new 20-minute surf film is so good you’ll want to burn a DVD of…

Nov 24, 2022

27:45

How A Magic Island Birthed One Of The Most Radical Surf And Skate Scenes In The World

Mateus Herdy, Pedro Barros and friends in Red Bull x Stab's No Contest, Brazil.

Nov 23, 2022

The Uber Driver Turned Crypto Millionaire Who Denounced His US Citizenship And Whips Into XXL Nazare

"I do what I want, I don't have a boss." -Toby Trouble

Nov 23, 2022

3:36

‘I Thought He Was Gonna Grab A Machete… Then He Picked Up A Rock’

2x SSOTY Jai Glindeman’s drama (& left-tube) filled Sumbawa trip.

Nov 23, 2022

3:34

“The Inside Of Pipeline Sounds Like The Center Of The Universe”

Tosh Tudor seeks solitude at the Vans Pipe Masters.

Nov 22, 2022

Is Rasta Rob Really Going To Ride His Beloved Stock Dims Rad Ripper At The Vans Pipe Masters?

An interview with the most rapidly ascended surfer in recent memory.

Nov 22, 2022
Advertisement