This one’s for Ben

If you haven’t been following the news in skateboarding this week, you may have missed the tragic news that UK professional skateboarder Ben Raemers took his own life last weekend. It’s a devastating loss, especially on account of how many people knew him as a happy, laid back dude who absolutely ruled on a skateboard.

Ben is, unfortunately, the latest in a long line of prominent skateboarding figures to leave this mortal coil, and whilst the loss of people like Shane Cross, Van Wastell, Dylan Reider and Jake Phelps certainly hurts (these people are like family despite never meeting them, or talking to them, they are just family because they skate and know the good it brings to all of us), something about Ben Raemers’ death sticks out for those of us in the UK.

My introduction to skateboarding was through a heavy diet of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2, and a little TV show on channel 5 called Rad. Rad was presented by Christian Stevenson & Marc Churchill, and the amazing Andy Evans was involved with it behind the scenes, so it had a great sense of humour and felt authentic to skate culture. At some point the show makers, airing during the Saturday Morning kids slot, decided that a kids show should probably feature some kids – and so Rad became a road trip documentary about young, talented skateboarders travelling the globe. The likes of Mike Wright, Kirs Vile and Samantha Bruce were all featured, and this show is where I first saw Ben Raemers skate.

Even from watching that show, you could tell he was an amazing skateboarder. As a teenager learning to skate and figuring out what kind of skateboarder I wanted to be, I saw kids like Ben and thought he had the right idea about skateboarding. He skated anything as hard as he could and he pushed himself but always strived to keep skating fun. His part in Rad, and the impression the show had on me as a skateboarder, is something I will always remember, and I will always be thankful that people like him existed to help me figure out who I want to be.

Knowing that someone so talented, influential and respected could take their life made me reflect on our little hobby. We need to address the elephant in the room – skateboarding has been a massive boys club for a long time, and in general blokes are not great at talking about their feelings. It doesn’t surprise me that men who skateboard suffer from mental health issues (I firmly raise my hand at this point, and I encourage you to look inward and ask yourself if you suffer too – the key to healing is to acknowledge how you actually feel inside). What Ben’s death has taught me, and should teach everyone, is that we shouldn’t suffer in silence, and that a skateboard is not a silver bullet for all of life’s problems. We need to reach out to others, support each other, and ensure people like Ben know they can rely on each and every one of us to help them at their darkest point. If we do that, then I think it’d be a great way to honour Ben’s memory.

RIP Ben Raemers.

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