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“Skate or Die” Jake Phelps

By Andres Pachon

A. Pachon, a journalist and skateboard addict, is a full-time writer for SHIT® Magazine.


Thrasher magazine was founded in 1981 by Fausto Vitello, Tony Vitello's late father, and operates out of a two-floor structure in the Bayview district of San Francisco. One of its earliest manifests was written by Phelps, saying: "Skateboarding vs. San Francisco is a war. There are 78 kilometers full of police, homeless people, cars at full speed, gang members and most humble of all; the hills ”.

Phelps started skateboarding at the age of 13 and moved from Massachusetts to San Francisco in the early 1980s. He started working for Thrasher while working at a skate shop, where the magazine founder asked him to write an article reviewing a couple of products. After working for years in Thrasher's shipping department, Phelps was promoted to editor where he remained for 26 years. “Thrasher lives at street level, and if the parents of young people don't complain about it, we are doing something wrong. This magazine is the kind of thing you hide under your bed at night and represents the imprudence of youth." Phelps said. He considered Thrasher as the bible of rebellion, the name of the magazine derived from the punk rock era.








Photo: Mikael Cho (Unsplash)

Phelps' philosophy was famous among those who knew him: Skate or die, the phrase was even printed on his business cards. He was known to speak with pride about his many dangerous accidents, including when he nearly lost his left leg in an intense collision with a bus. 



For Phelps, skateboarding was an “elegant” way of putting himself in danger, so for him, his ideal of what a skater should be implied being “ingenious, resistant, carefree, and also glorifying the physical and mental struggle related to skateboarding ”, beyond fashions or trends, because it was about living and bleeding on the streets. For him, the title of skateboarder was won on the concrete in a battle against urban daily life, and where sometimes, you had to sacrifice a bone or a tooth to win the fight.



He was always in a fight against making skateboarding something trendy or fashionable. When the magazine's merchandising became popular and celebrities around the world started wearing T-shirts and other items bearing the magazine's logo, Phelps felt insulted. "We don't send boxes to Justin Bieber or Rihanna or any of those clowns. The pavement is where the real shit is. Blood and scabs, does it become more real than that? Have any of them been through that? ”. 

Without a doubt this hero will always be remembered in the skateboarding culture legacy.



Read also: Angelo Caro: Skateboarding In Peru

Read also: Meet Rodney Mullen: A Skateboarding Legend



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