"He traded rock cocaine in for meth and went to jail many times. He learned to tattoo and tattooed his own face while looking in a mirror."
The San Clemente surfer Joe Crimo, whose skate tech on waves was roughly twenty-five years ahead of the curve, has died suddenly, aged forty seven.
“I was a huge fan and heavily influenced by Joe Crimo,” says the surfing commentator Chris Cote. “Joe was an early innovator of skate style tricks like pop shuvits and varials. He was way ahead of his time and took a lot of shit from mainstream surf media and surf fans who just liked “normal” surfing… Joe’s talents and helping him enlighten the world with his raw, wild styled attack and skate influenced surfing.”
Matt Biolos, his shaper for a time, describes Crimo as, “Soft spoken. Exceedingly polite. Saccharine Sweet. Girls liked him. Had a really good face, actually…attached to a diminutive almost frail, body… Obviously dexterous and skilled with his feet. More nimble emancipated street skater than a true surfer. Made him a lot of boards to assist his approach, but never anything really skateboard style or double ended.”
His surfing wasn’t pretty but it was rad as hell.
Crimo was a wildcat, of course, ain’t no doubt about that.
Back in 2015, Crimo tried to raise money for laser tattoo removal after covering his entire face with ink while high on meth.
“Tattoos on the face are not the best way to get a job,” he wrote.
As Chas Smith wrote at the time,
On land he lived fast and his fast living started very much earlier than yours or mine. He grew up in East Los Angeles and his brothers were in gangs and going to jail. “I started smoking lots of rock cocaine at age nine. It’s just what we did,” he says.
He got shot, at some point, and moved to the San Clemente, starting surfing and cleaned up. But the wheels fell off, eventually, and he traded rock cocaine in for meth and went to jail many times. He learned to tattoo, during the dark years, and tattooed his own face while looking in a mirror or sometimes not. “Sometimes I just did guess shots,” he says.
Earlier today, Biolos told me, “I have no idea what happened to him or what his life was like the last couple of years. But he was a friend for an important time in all our lives. He made a mark.”