More Than A Board

Both sophomore Laszlo Shaw and junior Elijah Mckenzie agree that skating is much more than just a way to get around. It’s an outlet for creativity, an escape from troubles, an accepting community and a feeling of freedom and empowerment. In many ways, skating is more than a form of self-expression — it’s an art.

Jessica Weiss and Neive Wellington

Laszlo Shaw began skating when he moved to California five years ago. “My first board? Someone left it behind in the house when I moved,” he said, recalling the beginning of what would grow to become a core part of his life. Shaw’s current board is heavily scuffed, evidence of the wear and tear that comes with street-style skating. He orders new decks, the flat part of the board, online often, as he goes through boards every few months.

Over time he becomes attached to each one, as they all have their own individual style and story. “I love all my boards, especially when they’re new,” Shaw says, “[At first] you don’t wanna ride it through dirt or whatever. Once they start to get more broken in, you throw them around.”

Shaw’s skating style is inspired by music. “If I’m listening to one kind of music it’ll make my skating completely different. If I’m listening to something fast, I’ll be skating really fast or if it’s a love song I’ll be flowy.” Shaw cites skating as an ideal form of self expression, and he isn’t alone. Many others also skate as a way of channeling their creative energy. “All the skaters I know play music or paint or something. There’s not a lot of people that just skate.”

For Elijah Mckenzie, skating is a creative escape. “You can express yourself through skateboarding” he says. Mckenzie hopped on his board at just five years old and estimates that he’s gone through about 50 boards since then. “[When] I was in middle school, I got bullied a lot so after school I would just go skate,” he said. “It would be a way to help me cope with a lot of the stuff I was going through. I could actually be myself when I skate.”

Mckenzie also has a wide range of other artistic interests, including painting, drawing, photography and piano. Although he only started painting recently and has never taken formal classes, Mckenzie’s art displays advanced technical skill. Combining ink and watercolor, his pieces feature elements that bleed past their drawn lines. “Painting always seemed hard to me,” he said. “But I like to take things into my own hands so I bought a color palette and I was like, ok, I want to paint something and I did.”

Mckenzie’s board is evidence of his artistic personality; he likes to modify it with stickers and apply his own grip tape. To create the unique pattern of grip tape on his current board, he bought three sheets of it and cut out abstract shapes. Mckenzie has customized his grip tape for the past couple years, a tradition inspired by a fellow skater whose board stood out to him at a skatepark. “I can’t really go with a straight black grip tape and not do something to it since then,” he said.

While some people might view his interests as disparate, Mckenzie believes they are truly interconnected. “Skateboarding could help me understand why I feel certain feelings and art can also help me express those feelings physically,” he said. “They’re both creative outlets.”