Jake Phelps, Skateboarding Legend and Longtime Editor of Thrasher Magazine, Dies at 56

Phelps led the skateboarding magazine for more than 25 years

Last Updated: March 14, 2019 @ 9:51 PM

Jake Phelps, the longtime editor of the skateboarding magazine Thrasher, died Thursday, his uncle, Clark Phelps, announced on Facebook. He was 56.

“My illustrious nephew Jake, famed editor of Thrasher Magazine died suddenly and easy today – If you knew him you knew a character. He’s got more space on Google than anybody I know. We loved each other, and if he was anywhere near Salt Lake City he would crash for a night or two. I have dozens of stories and will tell a few in the next few days,” Clark Phelps wrote.”

He added: “I am still somewhat stunned at the unexpected news.”

No cause of death was released.

Born in California, Phelps began skateboarding at age 13. He moved to San Francisco in the early 1980s, where he eventually found work boxing merchandise and writing reviews for Thrasher. He was appointed editor of the magazine in 1993 and remained in the job until his death.

Thrasher opened a clothing store in late December, which displays a manifesto Phelps wrote near the entrance: “Skateboarding vs. San Francisco is war. It’s 49 miles chock full of cops, vagrants, speeding cars, gang bangers and, the most humbling of all, the hills.”

“Jake Phelps was 100% skateboarder, but that label sells him way too short, because beyond his enormous influence in our world, he was truly an individual beyond this world,” Tony Vitello, son of Thrasher co-founder Fausto Vitello, said in a statement published by the magazine. “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.”

“But most of you reading this now identified primarily with Jake Phelps the skateboarder, and editor of our magazine, so I will leave you with this truth – I never met anybody who loves anything more than Jake worshipped skateboarding. Just as we need food and water to survive, Jake needed skateboarding to keep his blood pumping. It was more than a hobby or form of transportation or way of life – it was his oxygen,” the statement continued. “Here’s another thing. Jake never bailed. Jake f—ing slammed. And there is a big difference. He only knew commitment. He was going to go for it without hesitation, and there were only two outcomes. Either you’d see his triumphant fist pumping in the air or it’d be an earth-shaking collision with the concrete. I remember him telling me once that he never fell backwards, he always fell forward. Leaning back meant there was hesitation, and Jake was all the way IN.”

“There was no myth. The man was the myth. We love you, Jake.”