One of our skate buddies, Jerry Malafa, died today. As the folks at Westside Skates said he was a “ripper, and Cleveland legend”. I was really shocked and saddened when I learned about it. In fact as I write this I don’t believe it. I guarrantee the next time I walk into Now That’s Class I’ll wonder when Jerry will appear.
I would say that even though Jerry and I were closer to being acquaintances than best friends we’ve known each other for a number of years. This is my attempt to pay homage to what I knew of Jerry with some pictures and words. (thanks in advance to all the people on Facebook that I grabbed pictures from as well as the Now That’s Class website)
This first story may need some confirmation from others that were there who have known Jerry longer. Back before I lived in Cleveland I resided in the cuts out east in Geauga County. It was New Years Eve and a party was going down at a house on Huntley Road. A couple of guys that lived there built a whole skate spot in the loft of the barn that was on the property. Apparently there was a huge session going on that was wrapping up right as my friends and I got there.
To get into the loft of the barn you pretty much had to pop up through the floor and as my girlfriend at the time and I stuck our heads up there was still plenty of action going on. A few people were ripping back and forth as one of the guys ladies shot bottle rockets at him while he skated. My girlfriend at the time was quite alarmed at everything that was going on but I thought it was awesome. Out in middle of nowhere and there’s this whole skate spot built up in the hay loft of an old barn. It doesn’t get much better than that! Some of the best sessions that I’ve had over the years have been in garages, barns, and pole barns all with home-built quarters, halfs, and bowls. These guys had the right idea.
When everyone got back up in the house they were having a good time and there were these wild guys there that were raging hard and getting crazy. I looked over and one guy was swallowing change and puking it up. Some chic slipped on a spilled drink going down to the basement and ate shit all the way down to the bottom. After that the dudes started slipping down the steps on purpose and ended up going one after the other into a pile of bodies at the bottom of the steps. My mind was blown by the level they were taking it to and it made an impression on me.
I’d say after that the Chenga 1 rentouts would have been the second chance I would get to run into Jerry and his crew. When my friend Misha first started to bring me out to the rentouts, that I think were on Tuesday nights, it really opened my eyes that there were tons of skaters out there that were my age and older. From the first memories that I have of Jerry, he was always shredding and taking it full bore but had a grace to his style as well. He would slam super hard but there were plenty of cases where he was able to bail out to save himself.
After a few years went on Tim from Ohio Surf & Skate built a private half pipe in a shop spot in Painseville. My group of friends would skate there a ton because we bought in for keys to the ramp. More often than not Jerry would be up at the ramp when we’d session with Larry from Lotus. At first I was like “Man, those guys are dicks!”. They kinda did their thing and had a way about them that was a little standoffish.
I think that people who are not afraid to do things their own way can put that vibe off without even knowing it. Or maybe it was because they were being dicks! Probably the latter. They rode at the OSS ramp often and even though I took tons of pictures at that spot I didn’t get any of Jerry or Larry. When Jerry skated he fucking ripped and the OSS ramp was one of the first times I got to be exposed to Jerry’s skating style. It was great because whenever those guys were there it always got things amped up more.
After awhile Jerry started to work at the print shop that I worked at. That was the point where I think I started to get to know him a bit better and after that we were more on the level. I understood what he was about and got used to the fact that this wasn’t the kind of guy to just fall in line because society said so. It was a refreshing to see compared to those who look to the masses for approval before making a decision in life.
I think after that people started to session at Steve’s bowl. It was a peanut bowl that was probably five foot in the shallow and nine in the deep with pool coping all the way around. The first time I went there I overcompensated because I was dropping into pool coping and fell straight forward into the flat of the shallow. That’s always nice to get that reality check to remind you of what you’re working with.
As we sessioned at Steve’s more I got the hang of the bowl but pretty much just goofed around. Nothing heavy. Just like the OSS ramp things always got amped when Jerry and the rest of the crew turned it up. I can still here the sound of people grinding on the coping and how amazing it was when airs were pulled in the deep. That spot is legendary to me and I always had a great time riding there.
Some years ago maybe around the time that the sessions were going on at Steve’s bowl I was down in Florida visiting family over the Christmas holiday. During this trip I was going to stay down through New Years. A crew of Cleveland’s finest were going to be down there hanging at Joey’s place while I would be in FL. They invited me to join them so I rented a car on New Years Eve and drove up to Jacksonville to meet up with the guys.
If I recall it was Jerry, Larry, Larry’s brother Jimmy, Genaro, Marcus, and Burkholder. Burks took off by the time I got there but the rest of the gang was still hanging. Joey was taking the guys around to some backyard pool spots and I met them at the Bathtub which was this super tight little pool. We skated there and went to the Veterans pool which was apparently owned by this Vietnam Vet who had a drained pool that would let people skate there if they brought him beer or something.
Jerry was pretty hung over so he actually was just chilling out while everyone skated. After we ran out of daylight we headed back to Joey’s to freshen up then headed to Kona which Joey ran at the time. Since it was the holiday the park was closed and he opened up the whole place just to us and couple of other guys.