By Valentina Diaz
V. Diaz, a journalist and passionate skateboarder is a full-time writer for SHIT®️ Magazine.
Keith Hufnagel is a pro skateboarder from New York, Keith was a huge 80s and 90s skateboarder and has been with brands like DC, DVS, Thunder Trucks, Spitfire Wheels, REAL, Girl Skateboards and more. If you take a look back in time you will see a guy who just fell in love with skateboarding, which then brought him to accomplish all his achievements.
Hufnagel was born in 1974, "I had a skateboard in my house since I was 4 years old and it was just a plastic skateboard. I remember skating around my neighborhood at like 9 and 10, we used to just kneeboard all around the place," he explained to VICE.
When he understood how it worked thanks to a friend in his neighborhood, "I just learned it falling but doing little ollies and from that day on I was 100% addicted, it was like every single day, that’s all I did.”
He never stopped skating, every day until late or super early on the streets and at places like Remsen Avenue banks. There weren't skateparks around, but they didn't need a skatepark because they had the streets.
“His madness for this, his obsession for it, translated to going on skating missions at like 3:00 in the morning, with just a backpack and a camera. Keith was that guy that it never shut off," Alex Valich, a childhood friend highlighted to VICE Magazine.
This contributed to his success, later on, it was his persistence, crew and people around him who were there accompanying him and who did the same that he wanted to do. "I think at fifteen or sixteen I really met the crew that was the future," Keith said about his youth and when everything began.
There were skaters like Coco Santiago, Chris Keefe, Sean Sheffey, Mike Kepper, Bruno Musso, Rodney Smith and so many others. They skated through Manhattan as a family and the proof is all the audiovisual material they made in the early 90s.
Once the camera became a daily thing for a skateboarder, Keith and his crew never stopped recording and looked for opportunities where his talent could be valued, so that's how they got to be sponsored for the first time.
Keith felt that he had a talent and that he was improving every day. When one of those videos got to be seen by Thunder and Spitfire, the CEO went to see all the crew and immediately thought that Keith was special, so those two brands gave him the support that Hufnagel was looking for.
His career was just starting, so he got to experience his first tours, a little bit of fame and getting to record everywhere. For him, nothing really mattered more than skate and that's probably why he got to be in those places with those people who were passionate skateboarders too.
However, Kieth wanted to be a pro and for that, he needed to work harder, so Ron Allen was the first guy to open that door and gave an idea and image to Hufnagel. He was part of Ron's company, but this was too small to cover what Huf was needing, so he decided to leave the company.
He was with brands like DC for five years where he shared incredible moments together with Colin, Danny, Dyrdek and others, but he always wanted to have his own pro shoe and this was something that DVS offered him to which he said yes and later changed brand.
With time passing, he found himself wanting a store. "I just wanted to bring a store that was like that limited-edition sneaker store at the beginning with a skateboard feel, I think the last thing I wanted to do was call it HUF,” he said and so it was.
While the brand was evolving, he was developing a way to achieve his dream that was to build a footwear brand where he could do it his way. Even if it was a hard time his team looked to him with much respect.
Huf was believing in their talent and they were following his guidance. “I guess I wanted an honest employer but also a friend, someone that could understand what it’s like to skate, what it’s like to film a part, someone like that in your ear is a little bit more comforting, I feel like there were just more opportunities," Austyn Gillette, pro skateboarder, said about Keith to VICE.
He was giving skateboarders the chance to live a dream in this world. “We always want to support skateboarding, it is the reason why it is here. I mean where did we deal with it, we always analyze where we’re going, where to push, where to pull back, and really make sure that the brand doesn’t lose its direction,” Keith said.
Keith was loved by everyone in the skateboarding world, what he achieved with his own work and team was so clean and admirable, his brand was known all around the world and he got to create a better place for a pro skateboarder at a time when there were no brands like HUF.
Rest in Peace
A few days ago, Keith passed away but everything he left is a huge legacy and memories of what skateboarding looked like in the 90s, but also that this sport was everything to him just like it is for many of us.
"Keith battled brain cancer for the past 2.5 years. And though he beat the odds and fought back much longer than his diagnosis permitted, he ultimately and unfortunately lost the fight," the brand said in a statement on its official site.
To his closest friends, the news were full of sorrow, here are some comments from brands and friends that are always going to remember him, as a mentor, a legend and an incredible person, REST IN PEACE:
We’re going to remember Keith Hufnagel as that kind of skater who didn’t give up on his dreams, that was kind and always was looking for opportunities. Keith was fighting cancer for more than 2 years and he is now in a better place. What he left in this world is hope and inspiration to keep working on our skateboarding dreams.
Read also: SHIT®️ PODCAST #10: Jordan Maxham
Read also: Documentary Review: The Tony Alva Story