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Who was Joe Crimo, the aerial surfing pioneer, who died at 47?

The San Clemente surfer was performing various types of aerial manoeuvres in the 1990s, decades before they became commonplace on the waves.

Who was Joe Crimo, the aerial surfing pioneer, who died at 47?

Joe Crimo was a pioneer of aerial surfing. But out of the water he had a tough life. He grew up in East Los Angeles with his brothers, who were gang members and regulars inside a prison cell. "I started smoking crack when I was nine years old, that's what people did," Crimo explained in an interview in the surfing media.

Surf legend Crimo dies suddenly

After being shot, Crimo made the move to San Clemente, where he started surfing and put drugs behind him. But that didn't last. He regressed - this time on amphetamines - and found himself in prison several times for various offences. During this dark period he got into tattoos. He tattooed his whole body, including his face, admitting that sometimes he did it "without even looking in the mirror, playing at guessing where he had to tattoo".

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Although in his darkest days he might have found it funny, the truth is that when he got back on the right track he realised that a tattooed face was not the best letter of introduction to get back into society. So, around seven years ago, he started a fundraising campaign to help him get those tattoos removed. To no avail.

But let's return to surfing, because that's what Joe Crimo will really be remembered for and what will remain forever a part of the surfing world. In the mid-90s, this Californian was already performing aerial manoeuvres that hadn't been seen much and that came from skateboarding. His shuvits and varials, for example, really stood out.

Action sports journalist Chris Cote wrote:

“I was a huge fan and heavily influenced by Joe Crimo. 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.

His friends and family communicated the news of Crimo's death, which happened suddenly at the age of 47, on social networks, but no details of the cause were shared. RIP Joe.