Josiah Kassahun Remembered

Josiah Kassahun Header 2000Photo: Brown

In 2021, the Illinois scene lost a bright spot in its humble scene. Josiah Kassahun was a widely revered and familiar figure to anyone who spent time at the Glenn Ellyn skatepark. After finishing his final video part, his friends reached out to see if we could support their video and share some messages of love from those who knew him. Of course we could. Read on to see the spark of positivity Josiah left with every late-night session, word of encouragement and friendly encounter with security.

Building the hype with each clip until that conclusive ender to remember, Josiah's final part is a treasure

Josiah Pullquotes living in the now 2000

Zack Fisher
Josiah Kassahun, awesome kid, really one of the best dudes ever. He was one of my best friends for three years before he passed. He kind of just came out of nowhere. He just started showing up to our local skatepark. I think everyone had the same reaction—it was like, Who the hell is this guy? He's so sick! Because he would just go for anything, fully committed. At the beginning, he wasn't good enough to do half the stuff he tried, but he would go for it anyway. It was so crazy to watch. Skating like that, he got so good, so quick. Six months after I started seeing him, we were hanging out every day. We’d go skate spots and he was jumping down big stuff, skating big handrails. It was just one of the coolest progressions to watch—not to mention how sick the dude’s personality was. He was on a different level of being charismatic. He could have a conversation about anything with anyone at any time. You would forget everything else that's going on. You’d just be so interested in whatever he was talking about. He had the personality that could pull you out of anything. If you were ever having a bad day, you could spend two seconds with this guy and you’d just forget all about whatever's going on. He's the definition of “living in the now,” just so much fun. So entertaining, such a nice guy all the time, he was a really positive person. A few other dudes and I had a pretty close group, because we were making a skate video for a couple years. We were going out with him almost every day for a long time. There was this one summer, for some reason, we were obsessed with the mall. As soon as anybody got a clip, we would just pack all our stuff up as quickly as we could and then haul ass to the mall. We’d just act like five year olds and eat Dippin’ Dots and pretzels. That kind of describes him perfectly. You could be doing the most boring or lamest thing and it's just so much fun because he brought out the best in everyone. He just turned you into the best version of yourself. I probably had more fun with him and all those dudes for those few summers than I had any time before that, or probably ever will again. I look at that time as one of the highlights of my life and I’m never going to forget that guy. I know he had the same impact on tons of other people.

1500 siah nosepickOff the beam and into the bank, nosepick     Photo: Brown

Will Stephan
Right when I had started Sapien, I had made ten or 15 boards. I made this squared-off shape, but hella big. I don't really know what I'm doing, just bringing them to the park. I just remember I was skating the halfpipe at the old GE park and Josiah was there. We got to chatting and he was so genuinely stoked on making decks. He's like, Dude, that shape is so sick! You gotta make an 8.25, ‘cause I’d get one. So I went right home and started remaking it into an 8.25, because he was just such a charismatic guy. He was such an amazing presence at the GE park. He was one of the guys there. It was big for me, doing something new, not really knowing what I was doing, and then having him come up and just be so genuinely excited about it, asking about making new shapes and different sizes. Having him be like, Oh, you gotta keep it up. You're killing it, was really special to me. I think that reflects the type of person he is—genuinely excited about other people’s endeavors, even when it’s nothing. I remember that vividly. Because I remember thinking, Holy shit, Josiah thought this was sick. That's awesome. There's so many people who hop directly on any type of bandwagon when something's firing. It’s like, Oh, this is so sick. Well, now it's sick because everybody thinks it is. But when you're just doing something out on a whim, you don't really know what you're doing. And then to have people be on board with it and be supportive of it, that means the world. That's a whole different level, because anybody can support something that everybody already supports. Everybody thinks it’s cool once it’s already been developed. So when you’re doing something new, having your close friends be supportive and be open to it, or be excited about it, you feel like, Oh yeah, maybe I gotta keep going. So many people hate on newer stuff. It’s so easy to. And about his skating, the tail drop at the underpass in Glen Ellyn is still one of the craziest clips. I’ve eyed that up for so long, knowing I could never do anything on it. One day, Josiah, out of nowhere, just shoots me a DM photo of him standing on top of it with his tail propped up. And I remember writing back like, Dude, no! There’s no way! Because when it kinks at the flat, it has exposed angle iron. If you fell on it, it would literally tear you open. I’m not kidding. After he sent me his clip of that, I told him I would go there and get something. So that's something that's still going to happen.

Josiah Pullquotes 2000 Winning 2
Josiah Kassahun 360fli 1500360 flip on the hip for his dogs    Photo: McCray

Pat McCray
The thing I miss most about Josiah is his energy and how stoked he was on hearing good news about his friends. He was just the biggest people person I've ever known. He was friends with everyone in the skateboarding community. You’d go to parks and people would know him—people that I didn't even know really knew him would have stories about him. He really loved pushing people and making them reach the potential that they had in them. He always pushed me to learn new tricks. It's really nice to have a friend that’s genuinely interested in things going on in your life. He was always one to keep tabs on his friends and show lots of interest and ask how they were doing. It's like, if you were winning, Josiah was winning. He'd be equally as happy if something was going good in your life, whether it's good news or learning a new trick or whatever. I miss him a lot. Our community really misses him. We all keep him in our hearts daily.

siah filmingJosiah Kassahun Thrasher Bringin' the smoke on both ends of the lens     Photo: Brown

Pete Svoboda
Most decent skateparks throughout the world have a community that supports each other and allows those who enter a chance to create lifelong friendships through basic association, regardless of skill or status. The skatepark where I met Josiah and became friends with him already had a decade-long history of friends who have achieved far greater things than I could imagine, as well as those we lost that I wish were still with us today. Despite those who have become an amazing part of my life at that skatepark, no one I've met has encapsulated the energy that makes skateboarding special as effortlessly as Josiah. His being was so contagious, it was nearly impossible to have a bad time or feel any sort of negativity around him. It made those we have lost or those that have since given up on skateboarding feel like they were right there with us. More so than passing a torch, he was lighting the entire community on fire and inviting us to join him in his ubiquitous spark that ultimately is the reason why skateboarding became my passion. I love you, Josiah, and I miss you.

IMG 8928 2Josiah Kassahun Thrasher A timeless slice with Juwan Garza and Austin DePiano   Photo: Brown

Max Williams
Josiah was really interesting because he had a very profound level of respect where he showed he was able to take the time to not only appreciate me for skating with him, but also for who I was and my own creative mind in a way. He showed that in a way of being with others directly to you, but also it felt like he wanted to be more invested in that when he was just with you. I think that was really cool because I don't think that's every single person. Josiah was one of these few people who always made it a point to call me, which is why we ended up skating so much the last six months he was around. We spent every Tuesday skating. He never put pressure on me to film, but anytime I was down, he was also down to express or try out new ideas I would present him. He wasn't really afraid to try something different than what everyone else wants. It made me feel creative as a person and didn't make me feel trapped in a creative sense. 

IMG 4010 2Josiah Kassahun Thrasher Rubble or a ramp? Josiah makes do and takes it to the bank    Photo: Brown

Hunter Brown
I think the coolest part about Josiah was that he had a really unique way of removing other people's self doubt and replacing it with his own passion for whatever it is that you’re doing. With me specifically, it didn't matter that I was just starting to get into skate photography. For him, being photographed was cool enough to be like, I love this. I love what you’re doing. It made everything fun. When you're in the moment, you kind of forget about the thoughts like, Oh, am I doing this right? He just sees the thing and no matter what the outcome was, it's always like,That's the sickest shit I've ever seen in my entire life. And then he'd go and tell other people, no prompting or anything! I remember Malt sent me screenshots of that one day when we went to a bump where I just had a film camera—no flashes or anything. I was just taking a picture and even though to me it wasn't like the craziest picture ever, He was like, So sick! I can't believe you did that with one frame! You really miss that when you're without him. That’s my favorite thing about him.

Josiah Pullquotes Noseblunt 2000

Brad Niska
The story I always think of was the first summer that I started hanging out with Josiah. Me and my other buddy had just found him skating outside his parents' house when we were in middle school. He had this box that we would all try to learn the basic tricks on, 50-50s and whatever. He was right along there with us, but instead of spending his time just getting better at the basics, he would go as fast as he could and try to noseblunt the whole box for an entire year. I don't even know if he ever did it and it doesn't really matter. Just being a kid and seeing someone have such a different approach to skating—and to life—was pretty inspiring. I'm not really the type to just go for crazy tricks out of nowhere and seeing that type of energy and that approach was kind of contagious and just made you want to go for it. it's definitely how he lived the rest of his life, I would say. He was very inspirational, just kind of going for it and having fun. He was the best, man.

siah wigJosiah Kassahun Thrasher Photo: Brown

Ariana Spencer
My all-time favorite memory of Josiah is when I first met him when I moved to Illinois. I started going to the skatepark closest to me, which was his local. I just remember pulling up there super nervous because I was skating the skatepark by myself. He instantly started talking to me like he knew me and he was just making me feel super comfortable. He was just skating with me and we were vibing super hard. I ended up buying a 12 pack and heading to the city the same day. We skated around The Loop ‘til three in the morning, killin’ the 12 pack and having a good time. That's one of those moments with Josiah I wish I could relive it.

siah atgeJosiah Kassahun Thrasher Photo: Brown

Grant Katula
Josiah lived down the street from me when we were kids. Even my mom knew him from riding down the street with his skateboard and his dog Chief—going faster than anyone had ever seen on a skateboard in that whole town. He started to skateboard more after high school. He went to high school with me, but he didn't skate much then. I started seeing him at GE a lot and he got good pretty quick. I feel like all of a sudden, he was all infiltrated into this little group because he was a really likable guy. One of the things I really liked about Josiah was that I could bring him around any group of people, any type of person, a skateboarder, a jock or a girl, and he had the personality where that person would feel totally engaged and they would just hit it off. I'd bring him to those bonfires with my school friends and they would just love him. He had a great smile, a beautiful smile. One of my favorite stories about Josiah skateboarding is in Arizona. There was a double set. He had this broken collarbone; it was all fucked up, and he tried to tré flip this double set. The guy who was filming it, Tommy, he's always down to just get the clip. Like, No matter what, we're getting this clip. The only time I've ever seen Tommy say, “I can't film this. I'm done,” is when Josiah was trying that. He stuck it and he was getting close. But he had this broken collarbone, hucking himself down this fucking set. The spot was lit up. It was late at night. Tommy was like, I can’t encourage this anymore. If Tommy didn’t stop him, Josiah would have tried it until he either landed or something really bad happened. Another skate story is at that Wheaton College hubba with the kink on it. No one’s ever grinded that. He tried it, though, and it was awesome to watch. I tattooed him a couple of times in my mom's back garage when I first started tattooing. We would drink beers and he would just be so nice. The tattoos probably weren't the best, but he loved them so much. That made me feel good and gave me confidence to be like, Oh, maybe that wasn't half bad. He really made me feel good about what I was doing.

Josiah Pullquotes Security 2000

siah hubba5050Josiah Kassahun Thrasher Not quitting until the job is done, Josiah puts down an Ivy-League 50-50    Photo: Brown

Austin De Piano
Thinking of only one story about Josiah feels kind of impossible, just because of how inseparable we were and the hundreds of memories I have with him. But the one that usually sticks out to me is the story of his ender in my video. I don't exactly remember how this hubba came about, but what I knew is that it was made skateable by some local bikers. It had a ton of security at it, so it was kinda high risk. Over time, Josiah became obsessed with the idea of getting a 50-50 on it. We went at least ten times where we would have the whole squad with us to support him. He would try until he basically ended up limping away or it would rain or his board would break. We went so often that he ended up actually befriending the security guards there and they were super cool with us going as long as they saw it was just me and Josiah. And that's just the type of character Josiah was—he would just befriend anyone because he had a super-welcoming personality and could talk to anyone, which was really rad. On the last day, it was just Josiah and myself and he was trying for what was probably a couple of hours, and that's when my viewfinder on my VX just went completely black. Having a gut feeling that he was gonna get it that day and out of frustration, I just looked up and smacked my camera, as hard as I could. The viewfinder came back just for that trick. That was actually the end of that VX for me. It never worked after that day. But as you can see in his part, he did get the 50-50. Funny enough, there's actually a wrecking ball next to the hubba that day, because they were just about to tear it down along with the rest of that abandoned college. I guess that's just the kind of like magical stuff that happened when you were around Josiah.

siah buffetsignJosiah Kassahun Thrasher Josiah's energy is still out there, on every bank, with every friend on every session    Photo: Brown
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