VPA #6: Tragedy, History and Mystery


I’ve been writing this skate-column for three months now, and it’s alarming how many skateboarders have died in that time.

First, it was Thrasher editor-in-chief, Jake Phelps, then GX1000 hill-bomber Pablo Ramirez, then Hoddle Skateboards owner Keegan Walker. Sadly, this month skateboarding has lost another legend: Ben Raemers.

Ben tragically passed away by suicide. He was 28-years-old and from a small town in England called Walton-on-the-Naze. He went pro for Enjoi in 2014. As Louie Barletta put it via Thrasher, ‘Nobody is prepared to write things like this. Ben Raemers took his life over the weekend. Words can’t describe the pain and hurt in my heart right now thinking of his poor soul and the burden he must’ve carried deep within.’ Louie went on to describe Ben as a happy-go-lucky and often naïve dude, who had a great impact on his friends and those around him. Condolences for Ben have been flowing throughout the wider skateboarding community over the past week or so.

It’s difficult to know how to react to such losses, except to celebrate the lives of skateboarding’s diverse characters and to make a conscious effort to appreciate the times we have with our friends.

If you need to talk to someone, you can call Lifeline 24/7 on 13 11 14, or head to www.beyondblue.org.au

April Skateboards

On a much lighter note, Shane O’Neill’s new company, April Skateboards, has cut with the mystery and officially entered the public realm, beginning with a bold, eight-minute clip to introduce the team. Part of the boldness is that sexy saxophone classic, ‘Careless Whisper’ by George Michael opening up the clip, followed by Eve’s ‘Gangster Lovin’–music choices that stand out immediately. Then there’s the team, which includes Aussies Nathan Jackson, Noah Nayef and, obviously, Shane himself, as well as Yuto Horigome, Yosef Ratleff, Ronnie Kessner, Ish Cepeda, Kai Kishi, and Johnny Tang.

The standard is super high from the get-go, both in terms of technical street skating and production quality, which is probably a marketing no brainer when it comes to dropping the first clip to introduce a new company. Shane has always been ridiculously clean and technical on the board, but now he’s proving he’s got an eye for scouting up-and-coming talent too. Noah Nayef’s nollie backside flip into the kerb cut in Sydney was amazing, while Yuto’s backside and frontside threes made a steezy little two piece. Instagram also tells me that Yuto is the first to go pro for the company, copping a cake to the face and a well-deserved board surprise to boot. No doubt you’ll find it in local skate shops very soon.

DAEWON Doco

Last week, I told you about Daewon Song‘s new doco. It’s a TransWorld and adidas Skateboarding production that charts Daewon’s skate career from childhood, to SOTY, to the Hall of Fame. Directed by Joe Pease and narrated by Giovanni Reda, it’s a well-constructed narrative that includes interviews with Gonz, Marc Johnson, Daniel Castillo, Nora Vasconcellos, and a fairly emotional Rodney Mullen. There are plenty of interesting skate-history moments in there, including the history of the hardflip, Daewon’s reservations about his Skate More part, and the time Jake Phelps called him up to tell him he was 2006 Skater of the Year. Daewon was on the toilet when he got the call, and he asked Phelps if he was sure. ‘You want me to give it to Sheckler?’ Phelps answered. ‘No,’ said Daewon. But maybe the funniest line came from Daniel Castillo: ‘Dude, if Daewon wasn’t like, a skater, he’d definitely be a fuckin’ Asian gangster or some shit. Straight up.’

From Here To There with Chima and Brockel

Chima is undoubtedly the king of Sydney skateboarding, and this clip only solidifies that position. He skates classic Sydney spots like the Martin Place rail and the Harbour Bridge banks, and is somehow able to constantly up the game and get new tricks at spots he’s been skating his whole life. Australian skaters will no doubt enjoy the abundance of Sydney footy before Robbie Brockel takes it to California for big boy spots and full hugs. His chest high Smith grind is mind-blowing and the cameos from Ishod Wair, Kyle Walker and Busenitz were a nice touch.

The Letters: China

Over the last decade or so, China has really exploded as a destination of interest for skaters. With all the footage that has surfaced of international pros hitting perfect street spots in the mysterious Far East, it’s no wonder it has become a go-to for skaters who like to explore. But skateboarding in China goes back way further than many people know about, right back to 1989 when George Powell, owner of Powell Peralta, flew to Beijing and started trying to do some business. In this episode of The Letters, Grosso went over to China to ask some of the local guys about how the scene got going and how it has evolved. The result is a solid piece of historical documentary.

That’s a wrap for another instalment of Vandals, Posers Athletes. As my hero Jerry Springer used to say at the end of his television show, take care of yourselves and each other.

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