Jake Phelps, Skateboarding’s Heart, Dies at 56

Jake Phelps Word was Gospel

By: James Belew

I really can’t believe Jake Phelps is dead. He is immortal to many of us. By us, I mean skateboarders. My friend Jak subscribed to Thrasher in 1995 or 1994. His parents paid for it for only one year. However, lack of payment didn’t matter. In spite of this, Thrasher arrived monthly. This continued for a decade. We liked to think that the editor and chief himself was responsible.


If nothing else, Jake edited the magazine and helped form the bible of skateboarding. He is one of skateboarding’s profits. The magic magazine delivery was a miracle that spread the gospel to the faraway cornfields where we grew up.

Jake loved skateboarding. In fact, he loved it so much, he made us fall in love with skateboarding. We are not alone. So many lives were touched by Jake. He remained simply himself. Jake knew the score. He called out kooks. If you had a bad experience when you met him, it was because you were a kook. His opinions are law. His feelings weren’t a secret. Phelps’ expelled immediate poetry, ripping into the heart of anything about skateboarding. That being said, he called out greatness with the same ravenous enthusiasm. It all came straight from the heart. Jake was intense, and his love for skateboarding stoked the fire of that intensity.

Editor and chief

Jake edited Thrasher. Editing the magazine was his life’s work. Skateboarding was his life. Transworld and Skateboarding magazines were just a bunch of photographs, and Big Brother was more Jackass than skateboarding. From the letters to the editor, all the way to photo graffiti, Thrasher magazine was and is 100% skateboarding. Thrasher represents the authentic spirit. It was and is a weekly manifesto. Thrasher tattooed the hearts of every skateboarder in the world. At the helm of the needle, Jake drew as he pleased, only leaving the design in the hands of other profits.

As a result, the only contributors were trusted disciples. One of these trusted apostles, Mark Gonzales, contributed his unique style and perspective monthly. The “poser of the month” section was amazing. Because of these aspects, we knew skaters made this magazine. Jake captained the ship. Carefully selecting the crew, Thrasher epitomized our culture. It captures skateboarding’s essence. That’s why it is still in print, while the aforementioned are websites at best.

Now our captain is dead. In spite of this, the show must go on. We must preserve his spirit. This won’t be hard, because Phelps is a part of all skateboarders. My friend Gary Collins stated a lot of our sentiments: “Honestly, people’s response to Phelps passing says a lot more than you’d think. Real skaters loved his #hellride spirit. Barney’s hated his influence. All I know is he always showed me a ton of respect, and l always remember when Andrew Hutchison and I went to his office and he had a print of me hanging on his desk. This was before I was ever in Thrasher. He liked our road dogging, new terrain searching. That spirit was everything to us then. Means even more now. I’ll pull up the photo soon, once it all sets in. RIP Jake.”

RIP JAKE: Your light will shine on because your spirit is in all of us.

“Thrasher lives at street level,” Phelps told The SF Chronicle in 1996. “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.”

Check out his official epitaph article on Thrasher by clicking the link here.

Click here for the last #hellride video.

Since he ceased to age, Jake went for broke well into his 50’s, and wasn’t scared to get broken off.

He lived a life we all wish we could. Because of this, his fire will burn forever. Phelps is eternal.

87 thoughts on “Jake Phelps, Skateboarding’s Heart, Dies at 56

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