R.I.P. Jerry Malafa

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.

On the way to Kona Jimmy’s van was having some problems and started to stall out when we were almost to the park.  With all of us screaming to just keep going Jimmy decided to drive back to Joey’s since the van felt like it was going to fail.  We made it back and grabbed other cars and rolled back to Kona.  After the fact I learned that there actually was a wire shorting out near a fuel line and that we potentially could have all been blown up.  But, that didn’t happen and we made it to the park…
It was the best time to have the run of such an epic park.  Bombing the snake runs and hanging out having a couple of brews.  Super laid back.  I will not soon forget that feeling of riding there that night.  After that we headed back to Joey’s, walked down to the beach, and then rode our boards to a local bar to grab some drinks.
After getting a little loaded Jerry and I agreed that it would be a great idea to ride our skateboards to the local gentlemen’s club which was only like 10 miles away.  I think we sweated off most of our buzz by the time we got there.  I don’t remember the name of the place but it was full of very nice ladies… actually it was pretty horrible.  We all had a laugh and a couple beers and rolled back to the homestead.
All in all it was a great day of skating and a fun night of debauchery.  I broke off in the morning and headed out before the others woke up.  That was one of the most fun New Years Eve’s that I’ve had in my whole life.
After things got rolling at Now That’s Class Jerry became a regular at the bar.  If I needed to find him for something I would usually swing up and he’d be there.  Sitting at the end of the bar in the VIP section drinking a Natural Light tall boy with his hat brim bent up.  As we started doing the Monday skate nights up at That’s Class Jerry was always down to help build ramps there.  It was great because more often than not he would end up making something that was a little fucked up and always a bit of a challenge to ride.
It really was the best way to do things in that setting.  It had to slid around to be moved for shows but it was still fun enough to keep everyone occupied session after session.  I mean the one ramp was pretty ratty looking and had some nuances that were sure to mess you up but it made for a good time.  And of course adding pool coping is never a bad thing which Jerry understood.  The icing on the cake was that Jerry would help tear shit down when we had to make it go away too.  That’s the part that everyone fucking bails on.  Not Jerry.
I always got a kick listening to Jerry talk about music.  Always weird shit like saying how if you see the drummer from GISM at a bar in Japan that there will be a buffer of empty space around him in a large radius because he’s Yakuza.  The stuff that Jerry was into was above me.  Then there was a time that he was hanging at the bar listening to a cassette tape on his Walkman.  Again, above me.
Like I noted in the beginning, I didn’t know Jerry as much as most of his other friends but I definitely have some pretty cool memories with him.  Being a motorcycle rider too, part of me is bummed that Jerry never got to finish his bike.  The last few times I saw him he’s show me pictures on his phone of the progress he made.  I looked forward to riding with him.
I have to say that I’m really glad I got to know Jerry a bit over the years.  He was a nice guy who was into some pretty cool shit and a true ripper. Well, I’ve said my piece.  Next time you stop into Now That’s Class for a brew or drop into a gnarly ramp remember the ones who were there before you.  The ones like Jerry.
If anyone would like copies of these pictures of Jerry just email me and I’ll send them to you full size.
-Dan B.

55 Replies to “R.I.P. Jerry Malafa”

  1. UnHoly Hell…..I know we weren’t close anymore but this news really F-ng sucks…He was a really good guy ..RIP Jerry

  2. As I’m painfully aware of how late I am to this party of sadness, I must pay my condolences to the Malafa family. Jeremy truly was a sweet and genuine guy. I will never forget the times we shared during the short time we were neighbors in our early teens. He and Mike turned me on to some great bands which I still enjoy today.

  3. 7 years to the day we lost a true legend! Jeremy Malafa will always be missed and can NEVER
    be replaced!!

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