Ben Raemers has been described as one of the greatest British skateboarders ever. Last month he killed himself. His death has caused the soon-to-be Olympic sport to ask some difficult questions about mental health.
Ben Raemers was 10 when he first jumped on a skateboard, while living in his mum’s flat in Walton-on-the-Naze, Essex.
Like a lot of boys his age, he fell in love with the sport straightaway.
He bought his first skateboard at Argos, and within a few years, was regarded as one of the best skateboarders in the world.
“He saw these people skateboarding and he was like, ‘Oh wow, that looks really fun,'” his sister Lucy says.
“Then he came home and asked mum for a skateboard.”
It quickly became obvious that Ben had a special talent.
He impressed friends and family with the ease with which he was able to do complicated tricks.
His interest in supporting his local skateboarding community soon got him noticed too.
“He got a petition started to get a skate park built at home. From then on, he was obsessed,” Lucy says.
Lee Blackwell was friends with Ben for 18 years.
He was one of the first people to help Ben develop his skateboarding, taking him to some of the UK’s biggest competitions when he was just 14.
“People really noticed Ben, you could not ignore him. He was just that good,” says Lee.
Ben was 18 when he started to garner attention in America, competing and getting support from big brands, including shoe company Converse and skateboarding firm Enjoi.
“It is not common for British names to gain commercial success with huge American brands,” says James Threlfall, a professional skateboarder.
“He is one of the most successful British skaters to ever cross over to America.”
Ben was one of the few British skaters to be featured on the front cover of the most influential skateboarder magazine, Thrasher.