Christopher "CJ" Tambornino brought home his first skateboard around the age of 7 and grew into a larger-than-life figure in the Twin Cities skate scene, earning corporate sponsorships and entering national and international competitions.
His skills were "audacious" and his passion for the sport infectious, friends said.
"It was the love of his life," said his mother, Roxane, of Eagan.
Tambornino, 30, died suddenly on June 24. His father, John, found him unresponsive on the couch of the Minneapolis home they shared, and efforts to revive him were unsuccessful.
The cause of death is still pending, according to the Hennepin County medical examiner's office.
"CJ is nothing short of a legend in Minneapolis skateboarding — one of the few who can legitimately claim to be from the city," wrote Twin Cities journalist Mike Munzenrider, a friend and fellow skater.
Tambornino, an only child, was born in Minneapolis. "He was always running, running, running, jumping, bouncing off the walls," his mother said.
He found an outlet for that daredevil energy when a friend gave him a skateboard.
"At first, I was concerned he would bump his head or hurt his foot," Roxane Tambornino said. "He was getting into a lot of falls. He would make jumps in the front yard. His little buddies would come over, and they would skate. He skateboarded everywhere he went."
Tambornino started to venture out and learn from other skaters in his junior high school years.
"He was a skate rat," said Munzenrider, who met Tambornino while working at the 3rd Lair Skatepark & Skateshop in Golden Valley.
"He was endearingly annoying, the prototypical shop-lurking kid you had a hunch would end up ripping."
Tambornino was not afraid to take risks on the board. He suffered broken ribs, a broken arm, numerous concussions and a shoulder injury in pursuit of perfecting a trick.
Tambornino earned his GED, his mother said, and worked as a bartender's assistant at McCormick & Schmick's Seafood & Steaks in downtown Minneapolis for many years. The job allowed him to travel for competitions and pursue his passion for skateboarding.
He left that job when his corporate sponsorships increased.
"He could jump down stuff and do the brute-force skateboarding, but he was also really good at the finesse side of things," Munzenrider said.
Tambornino's skills were "electrifying" and he exuded a supreme confidence on the board, but he was kind and welcoming to youngsters entering the sport, friends said.
"I heard a lot from younger skaters who said he was ultra-supportive of them," Munzenrider said. "He was supportive of kids trying to figure it out. Skateboarding is not easy. He always provided them with encouragement and positive reinforcement.
"He literally told a lot of kids: Don't give up."
Besides his parents, Tambornino is survived by his grandmothers, Jane Tambornino and Doris Scarborough, both of Eagan; and many aunts, uncles and cousins.
The family raised $18,000 on Gofundme.com from more than 350 donors for Tambornino's memorial. A gathering is planned from 2 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the Familia HQ Indoor Skatepark, 835 E. Hennepin Av., Minneapolis.