"The block of San Francisco’s 22nd Street between Vicksburg and Church is so steep that stairs augment both sides of its sidewalks. The feat of Pablo Ramirez has always stuck with me as one of the heaviest moves that I’ve ever seen in skateboarding - streetcar tracks and all." – Bryce Kanights
On April 23rd, Pablo Ramirez was hit by a truck while skateboarding in San Francisco's SoMa district. He died at the scene.
Few events have left the world of skateboarding in such a state of shock. Ramirez, through his sheer fearlessness on a skateboard, appeared to be invincible. His unrivalled ability to bomb through San Francisco's hairiest hills has been lauded as the stuff of legend within skateboarding circles worldwide. It's difficult to comprehend that somebody as talented as P-Spliff could actually be killed while skateboarding. Historically speaking, this type of thing just doesn't happen. It's an incredibly sad and difficult time for everyone in the wider skateboarding world, and particularly for the already bruised San Francisco community.
Already, and unfortunately without surprise, disrespectful comments about Pablo's no-fear approach to skateboarding have begun cycling through messageboards and social media. His skateboarding, and that of the GX1000 crew he skated alongside, has long been criticized by naysayers, bystanders, and the ill-informed for its dangerous nature. As skateboarders we understand that great danger is, in many ways, the entire point. Pablo knew it better than most, and to claim otherwise is nothing short of delusional.
If anyone truly understood the risks of skateboarding through San Francisco's wild streets, it was Pablo.
Indeed, Ramirez partook in one of the few types of skateboarding which genuinely deserved the 'death-defying' tag so often clamped to professional skateboarders. Ryan Garshell, the man behind the GX1000 lens, described his ability to avoid disaster as akin to magic. "Pablo will go straight through a red light and not even look at all", he told GQ in 2018. "Somehow he always makes it. It's magical".
It's an uneasy interview to read now. Sean Greene, who was Pablo's partner-in-crime and one of the most prolific members of the GX crew, recounted the 'frustrations' of almost dying on his skateboard. "I’ve had enough near-death experiences", he said. "It ages you". For better or worse, nobody can argue that these guys were putting their lives on the line for the sake of their own, and everyone else's, pure entertainment. And all to strikingly little personal fanfare.
In the Converse video, Purple, Sean Greene has three tricks. His name is never shown on screen.
Ramirez was perhaps even more invisible to the mainstream. Plenty knew him only by his Instagram name, P-Spliff. He must surely have been receiving free skateboards, but I couldn't tell you who was sending them. He made more appearances as a clothing model for HUF than as a representative of their skate team. He was hooked up by Supreme, but you won't find him in Blessed. Perhaps that's how he liked it. You could seldom name somebody as influential in skateboarding who was this unheralded on a personal level. To many, Pablo – along with Sean Greene – are simply 'those GX guys'. Pablo skated for fun above all.
And yet, when we look back on the current era of skateboarding in future decades, the GX1000 videos will be held in the highest regard. The hills have been there since the beginning, and they'll remain until the end. P-Spliff will be immortalized by every visitor to the hills he conquered, lured by the unbelievable stories that have, and will continue more now than ever, to reverberate through the avenues where he achieved the impossible, all in the name of fun. Pablo's skateboarding was as timeless as the hills themselves. He will forever live amongst them.