Fuck you, Jake Phelps.
In 1989 Thrasher Magazine came to New York City to do an article on us local skaters. Bryce Kanights, Bill Thomas, and Charlie Samuels took pictures of our small NYC crew. Bruno Musso, Rodney Smith, Sean Sheffey, Harold Hunter, Jim Moore, the OG SHUT Posse, and the kingpin of our NYC skate scene, Jeremy Henderson.
This was a miracle. Somehow, out of nowhere, Thrasher Magazine was actually taking pictures of us. It was unheard of. Everyone skated as hard as they could — trying to impress not just Thrasher but the entire skateboarding world, who would undoubtedly read this issue. I came up on one good trick, I thought. A wall ride snatch off a tree in Central Park.
A few weeks later, Jeremy Henderson and I were skating the Brooklyn Bridge Banks and he took me aside in a fatherly manner. I knew I was in trouble. Jeremy went into detail about the Thrasher Issue. He told me that he personally got the opportunity to lay out the article with the guys from Thrasher and that the picture of me doing the wall ride on the tree came out amazing. Jeremy picked it for the cover.
The moment that I heard that come out of Jeremy’s mouth I shit myself. What skater wouldn’t? But Jeremy went on to say that back in San Fransisco, after the guys at Thrasher looked at what he’d put together, they instantly killed my Central Park tree ride for the cover.
“A tree in a park on the cover of the NYC issue? No fucking way.”
Jake Phelps made that call. The cover showed Jeremy doing a gnarly wall ride at the Brooklyn Bridge Banks — the same spot where Jeremy had explained the whole cover saga to me.
Fuck you, Jake Phelps. Fuck you because you were right to make that call.
Jake Phelps was always right because Jake Phelps was the embodiment of everything good about skateboarding. And when I say “good” I do not simply mean good. I mean true. That’s why he was the editor of Thrasher Magazine for 26 years. He was our sport’s guiding light. Our North Star. Our mission statement.
When my company, Zoo York, started to do well in the 1990s. Phelps gave us a lot of push back. He wasn’t buying into our East Coast, Hip Hop, New School vibes. He would always give us shit for not being punk enough, or core enough, or gnarly enough. But he also gave us our first ads in Thrasher. For free. And took us out for dinner and drinks (on the boss’s dime).
Jake made me realize that hate was not the opposite of love. Hate is caring. Phelps made me realize that the true opposite of love is indifference. Phelps not giving a fuck about you was the coldest black hole of nonexistence achievable by any skater alive. I would rather get punched in the face by Phelps than have him walk by me in the street without an ounce of recognition. Period.
That very detail — that passion and authenticity — is why every social media model on earth so desperately wants to wear Thrasher tee shirts. They know in the deepest of their materialistic guts that, regardless of all their money, and all their fame, and all their likes, and all their followers, Phelps would walk right past them on the street and not so much as even glance at them.
Because Phelps was a man that no one could ever own. There was no selling out. Not for anyone. And for people who have made a living out of selling their souls, that’s the one thing you can never buy back.
Fuck you, Jake Phelps. We are all better because of you.
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