Suicide outside San Francisco police station was Thrasher magazine co-founder 

The man who ended his life in front of the Mission Police Station on Monday was a skateboarding icon and co-founder of San Francisco-based Thrasher magazine.

Skaters worldwide are mourning the loss of Eric Swenson, 64, of Potrero Hill, whose local manufacturing and publishing ventures helped launch a massive and lasting subculture.

Swenson shot himself around 8:30 a.m. without going inside the police station or talking to any officers. Swenson may have chosen the police station to end his life in order to spare his loved ones from finding him, said Gwynn Vitello, Thrasher’s publisher and wife of Swenson’s late business partner.

Swenson leaves behind his wife, Linda, and sister Rebekah.

"Eric was not a person who wanted to burden anybody," Vitello said. "In my mind, this was the most unselfish way he could do what he had to do."

When he was about 20, Swenson severely injured his leg in a motorcycle accident that kept him at Laguna Honda Hospital for more than six months, Vitello said. Years of pain stemming from that injury might have become too overwhelming for Swenson, she said.

"Toward the end, walking was kind of a struggle for him," Vitello said.

Swenson co-founded High Speed Productions Inc., which includes magazines Thrasher, Juxtapoz and Slap. He also co-founded Independent Trucks in 1978, the manufacturer of skateboard trucks and other parts that helped launch the sport.

Eben Sterling, advertising director for Thrasher and Slap, said Wednesday that Thrasher magazine, started in 1981, helped establish skateboarding as a subculture.

"Before Thrasher, skateboarding was just another trend like yo-yos, rollerblades and Hula Hoops. But now it had its own music, dialect and its own fashion style," Sterling said.

Swenson’s partner in the skateboarding ventures was the more outgoing Fausto Vitello, the face of the company who passed away of a heart attack five years ago.

The pair manufactured skateboard trucks at a foundry in the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard. The foundry, operated under the name Ermico Enterprises Inc., has since moved to 17th Street in Potrero Hill.

The magazine side of the business was started as a way to advertise the skateboard products, Vitello said.

Swenson was "a doer from the old school," said former professional skateboarder and musician Tommy Guerrero, who knew and worked with Swenson for years. Though Swenson wasn’t a skater, "he was the guy who would pull out a wrench and fix it or make it. This was his whole approach to everything."

maldax@sfexaminer.com

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