The Rules of Skateboarding #2: Jake Phelps

Illustration by Emma Ulriksen

Illustration by Emma Ulriksen

To continue our series on the 'rules' that exist in skateboarding, Ian Browning asked Thrasher editor Jake Phelps about continually rising rents in San Fransisco and what that means for skaters.

I wanted to talk about the cost of living in San Francisco and what that’s doing to skateboarding. Has the rising rent affected the scene at all?

I mean, actually, judging by the traffic here in Brooklyn, it’s the same everywhere. People are in such a hurry to get nowhere. Hurry up and wait. That’s the fucking sadness of it all. My parents were like “You gotta be there. You get there when you get there. Take your time. It'll be there when you get there.”

And as far as like cost of living, ain't that a bitch man? There’s 7.4 billion people in the world. That’s a thousand million. It’s a scary concept, man. I’ve been to Delhi, I’ve been to Rio de ja Gnar Gnar. You ever been there?


Tell your friends. Rio de ja Gnarly. It’s the gnarliest shit ever. Ipanema. Leblon. Favela. Take a right turn at the Holiday Inn.


Frank Gerwer, krooked grind.  411  #57.

Frank Gerwer, krooked grind. 411 #57.

Have the skate houses gotten worse or better since prices have started to go up?

Well, I know where Frank (Gerwer) lives. Frank lived in Newell Street when he was a kid. Shit’s not like that no more. We’re like with different groups. We hang out together but smaller shit.

What’s the most people you’ve ever seen crammed into one house?

Six. But, like eight people if they’re sleeping on the floor and shit. Elissa (Steamer)—I seen Elissa do that shit. As a girl.

Remember Wallenberg one? Elissa was shitfaced and she was like “Which way to the top?” and I was like [points “that way.”] And then she went for it. She started off and all the dudes were like “I ain’t got that” and it’s like no, you ain’t got that. And then Marisa Del Santo, like 2009, baloney breath sauced, she was like “Hey.” I was like “up there.” [pointing again.] And she tried to melon grab the shit.

Elissa Steamer, ollie into bank from the  Six Newell  video.

Elissa Steamer, ollie into bank from the Six Newell video.

Jake tries to order a beer from a barista, which turns into a conversation about drinking and what age is appropriate to start.

When I first started drinking I was in third grade.

I think I was probably about 13 or 14.

I was drunk in school and they called my mom and were like “Jake is sick at school.” And I was like “I’m not sick, I’m drunk.” But that was like, little kid shit.

Simpler times.

No. Better times. I don’t like to harp on it, but all this hurry up and wait is fucking wrong. We’re of this. To scale. I think of it—you’re not 22 feet tall.

Jake gets his beer and sprinkles a 50 Cent quote in while talking with the bartender. They talk a about the Mike Burnett photo show at House of Vans the night before, where Bad Shit (the band Phelps plays in with Tony and Ashley Trujillo,) played a set.

Last night was epic. Seriously. Calamity.

Jake Phelps himself, backside ollie   as seen in  Amigos  by Forties.

Jake Phelps himself, backside ollie as seen in Amigos by Forties.

They know how to throw a pretty good party over there.

Free beer and everybody gets to skate? Throw money at the death star and you always win. But there’s no explosions in space because there’s no oxygen. You know that, right?

Yeah. Well, I would think. I’ve actually never been to space.

We ain’t been there. Deep Space Nine? Nah, I ain’t been there.

Do you ever think the raising cost of rent will choke out the scene in San Francisco?

Yeah, of course. San Francisco is dead, brother. Big time. I live in a fucking one bedroom jack shack. I ain't got my house. My mom told me when she left—she’s fifth generation old crust—she was like “Houses cost $35,000.” We should have bought ten.

I live in a one bedroom jack shack, but I'm always on the road so I don’t really care. I’m not there. People ask me “You have that same costume?” I’m like [gesturing at his trademark vest] "This is my sleeping bag.", If I have to sleep out there, I’m ready. The only thing that sucks about it is having glasses. It’s like you’re in a wheelchair. You’re handicapped.

How do you think skateboarders can adapt to rent hikes and still live the skate life there?

They have to. We’re utilitarian people. That’s what the fuck we do. We see the shit, we bomb it, we fuck it, we grind it. It’s the same old shit every day. That’s what we do. People of this time, they couldn't do it before but they’re doing it and making adaptability their main focus of living in the city. Of course.

Who is the best skateboarder to ever be priced out of San Francisco?

Tommy Guerrero lives in Alameda. That’s your boy. I remember Tommy when we were little kids we worked at the same skateshop together. He did 12-3 and I did 3-6 and I was like “Fucker, leave.” That was 30 years ago. Long ass time ago. Next question?

Tommy Guererro,  Ban This .

Tommy Guererro, Ban This.

That’s it man, I’m done. This is a quick one.

Are you left handed?

Are you trying to read my chicken scratch? No, I’m not. That’s why it looks so bad.

That’s what I’m saying. You’ve got to work on it.

They told me I should be a doctor all through grade school. Everybody was learning how to write and they were like "You’ve got doctor’s handwriting".

Thank you. I’ll start with brain surgery. The Hippocratic oath, you’ve got to say “I promise I’ll give them all they have.”

Not to harm.

Not to harm. Especially the Knights of Templar. You know the whole shit, right? They fucking gave him the cross. Do the math man, you don’t want to be a doctor. You’re better off as a barkeep.

Yeah, I don’t know. It’s probably that the grass is always greener.

Yeah the grass is always greener on the other side. I’m going to see my mother. I’m going to Boston.

Going to Boston.

Who is the best hockey player of all time?

I have my own opinion.

You gonna go Gretzky? You going to say some shit like that?

I’m going to say Gilbert Perreault. The French Connection.

Weak sauce. Number four, Bobby Orr. No one ever did it like him. Retired at 27, in the hall of fame at 35. How many knee surgeries? 10.

You know Jaromír Jágr?

He’s still playing. Any teeth left?

You know what his training regimen is? He drinks ten cups of coffee a day.

That’s it? I should chug vodka. Go Polish or go home. You gotta try. Give it all you got kids. Forever.

The RulesVillage Psychic