Time will answer our questions about what happened to Lewis Marnell, but it's going to take a little longer to figure out what exactly the skate world lost when this Swedish-Aussie Rastafari died suddenly last week at age 30.
No friends or family have spoken to press and the cause of death is still unofficial, though since a short ESPN post claimed that Marnell died of "reported complications related to diabetes," many others have gone with the story.
Early this week an email from the Marnell family was forwarded to RedBullUSA.com explaining that the cause of death was "a massive hypoglycemic reaction which did not respond to ingested glucose." Our deepest condolences go out to Lewis' family and close friends.
Type 1 diabetes was at the center of discussion on skate sites and Facebook, as Marnell was diagnosed when he was 10 and needed insulin shots and gummy sour watermelon candies at the ready every day of his life.
No matter what happened, a light has gone out in skateboarding. Marnell's talent was the rare type that's immediately evident in a few seconds of video or even a photograph. A naturalism developed only through thousands of hours practice and countless falls over hard, uneven, paved ground -- Marnell's best surface.
Watch Marnell's body in flight, or even the shadow the flash sometimes leaves on a wall behind him. Like Brian Herman, or Almost brethren Sheckler or Daewon, Marnell had full control over his body, his board, and when and where the two would come back together so he could land with the rare and perfect "chock" sound of all four rolling wheels touching down at once.
And it's one thing to land 360 flips or switch heels like this, but it's a whole other thing to land them down big drops at high, Tom Knox-type speeds, and it's a whole OTHER thing to land them over sets of stairs or broken aprons of concrete in a gravelly parking lot. Marnell made it look not just easy, but natural.
He wore big pants tucked into the tongues of loose Nikes and dreads that nearly reached his waist, but his skating was hard, fast, and clean in the rare Willowish way that makes you either want to skate or to quit skating.
Marnell was born in Melbourne in 1982 and grew up in both Australia and Sweden. By age 12 he was ditching school to go skate, eventually dropping out of his Swedish high school to pursue skating in Australia full time. His dreadlocks appeared about a decade ago. He was sponsored by Menace Skateboards (later City Stars) and Axion Footwear before signing with Nike SB, Volcom, and Almost.
"You are a true inspiration and you will be missed," tweeted teammate Daewon Song. "Thank you for showing the world your amazing gifts, and thank you for being such a positive, kind, and giving friend to all."
Cole Louison is the author of "The Impossible: Rodney Mullen, Ryan Sheckler and the Fantastic History of Skateboarding."
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