Rebel on a Roll : Outlaw Skateboard Pro Turns His Pavement Passion Into Art
Doug Boyce is a skateboard outlaw.
For years he has been skateboarding the streets of Long Beach. And for years the police have been chasing him to give him tickets for violating local anti-skateboarding ordinances.
It happens so often that it has become almost a game with him.
“I’m starting to get a kick out of it,” said Boyce, 19. “I like running from the cops to see if I can make it. I’m into rebel sports.”
Mounted on Canvas
He is not, however, a rebel without a cause. A classic California product with long blond hair and a deep tan, Boyce is a professional skater who makes a living demonstrating his skills throughout the world on skateboards and roller blades, those streamlined skates with four wheels mounted in a line. And recently he has been turning his skateboarding experience into an unusual art form featuring used boards mounted on brightly painted canvases. The work already has received some attention at a local gallery.
But his most passionate responses are evoked by discussions of skateboarding on the streets of his hometown, where he has been riding regularly since he was 7.
“If the city won’t let us skate on the sidewalk, then they need to find us another place to skate,” said Boyce, brushing the hair out of his eyes. “Skateboarding gives you the ultimate freedom feeling; you crave it. There can’t be a crime in skateboarding. They can’t keep banning us.”
Some of his recent art, in fact, explores the “outlaw” nature of his chosen sport. One piece, called “Across the Line,” features a skateboard rolling across what appears to be a highway center dividing line. “A skateboarder will never walk when he can roll,” Boyce said.
And a work-in-progress called “Caught Between the Boundaries” uses barbed wire to depict the dilemma facing local skateboarders who, according to Boyce, must often climb fences to skate in restricted areas such as flood control channels because few legal areas are available. “They don’t really read no-trespassing signs,” he said of his fellow skateboarders. “They think of skating before (they think of) getting busted.”
Long Beach police say the anti-skateboarding ordinances protect pedestrians, motorists and skateboarders from injuries resulting when boards go out of control. Although skateboarding is not outlawed on all city streets, said Charles Parks, Long Beach Police Department commander in charge of traffic enforcement, it is banned in many areas where residents have specifically requested such protection.
“We’ve had a lot of injuries,” Parks said, explaining that the push for neighborhood anti-skating ordinances began in the mid-1970s when skateboarding was at its height of popularity. Back then, he said, skateboarding “was a traffic hazard--it was quite a nuisance.” Although the ensuing years have seen a decline in the number of skateboarders, Parks said, he has noticed a recent resurgence of interest in the sport. “Skateboards appear to be surfacing again,” he said. “Lately I’ve seen a lot more in the street. They are very dangerous to young children and unskilled riders.”
Violation of posted skateboarding prohibitions, officials say, is a traffic infraction punishable by a fine of up to $235.
That has not discouraged Boyce from skateboarding. In fact, it has fueled the anti-Establishment art that he produces in an attic studio at the Naples home he shares with his parents. He works on the art objects between trips to Hawaii, Tahiti or Las Vegas, where manufacturers and commercial sponsors pay him to display his stunt-skating skills in demonstrations of their skate-related products.
May Return to College
Boyce says he would like to make his living someday as a professional artist on the order of Andy Warhol. If that does not work out, however, the young man--who graduated in 1987 from Laguna Beach High School--says he is prepared to return to Cypress College, where he has studied to work as a psychiatric technician.
That may not be necessary. A recent exhibition of his artwork at Original Gallery Designs in Belmont Heights drew an estimated 800 viewers and an offer of $2,300 for one piece. “Everyone was very pleased with his work,” said gallery owner Nancy E. Hayes. “The colors were so bright you could see them from the street.”
When not otherwise occupied, it is the street to which he returns, despite the opposition of local police. In recent years, Boyce says, he has been forced to pay five fines ranging from $25 to $50 for skateboarding illegally down 2nd Street, a crowded pedestrian walkway in nearby Belmont Shore. He would have been cited several more times, he said, had the police been able to catch him.
During the recent Long Beach Marathon, Boyce boasts, he skated nearly the entire course, passing up 12 frustrated policemen before one was finally able to stop him. And after being questioned during another recent skateboard outing, Boyce said, he gave a phony name.
Small Price to Pay
Parks said he had never heard of Boyce and was unaware of any major problems associated with enforcing anti-skateboarding ordinances. “Unless somebody complains,” he said, “we generally don’t really do much about it.”
Boyce says his run-ins with the law are a small price to pay for the simple thrill of the glide. “It’s a freedom sport,” he said. “Gliding on concrete, you feel like rolling thunder. It’s a very ultimate feeling.”
During a recent trip to the concrete expanses of the sidewalks near Belmont Plaza Pool, one of the city’s legal skating areas, the young athlete inspired a crowd of peers to put down their skateboards and watch wide-eyed as he went through his paces. Those paces included “G-turns” during which he rode on the front two wheels of his board; “grinders” featuring noisy brushes against convenient concrete obstructions; and “rail rides” involving riding crossways down a raised concrete divider leaving a long scratch caused by the friction of wood against cement.
Not everyone was impressed in the same way.
“That kid’s going to break his neck someday,” said one passer-by, who later identified himself as a retired schoolteacher. “It makes my blood run cold.”