Interview by Ioulitta Triantafyllou
Photos by Kerr Melville
Portrait by Tom Hunter
Hi Leah! Good to have you with us; would like to say a few things about yourself?
Hi, excited to be here! So yeah, I’m a skateboarder and artist based in Glasgow. I moved here two years ago after I graduated from my Painting degree at the Edinburgh College of Art. Originally, I am from Orkney, which is a small group of islands north of the Scottish Mainland. Some more things about me are: I love listening to albums on repeat when I’m in the studio, I also love tomato ketchup, and I’m obsessed with my pet hamster (he's so cute).
Having grown up in Orkney, what were your first interactions with skateboarding, and what was the community like?
Growing up, I always wanted to skateboard, but in Orkney there wasn’t really a scene, which made it feel impossible to get into. It’s such a small community and I was too self-conscious to be different; I spent a lot of my early teens trying to fit in but never quite succeeding.
I moved to Edinburgh when I was 17 for uni and it was such a culture shock. I was drawn to everything that was the opposite of what Orkney had; the grime, the graffiti, and the skateboarding. After watching the skaters at Bristo Square, it was nearly the end of my first year before I had the courage to join them. My first interactions were mixed; I felt like everyone at the park/spot was watching me, and that I was in people’s way, so I would go early when nobody was there. There weren’t many non-male skaters when I started, so that made it more daunting.
Over time as I gained confidence, I began to see the community as more welcoming. I’ve met all of my closest friends through skateboarding; it has such a unifying culture - you immediately have something extremely passionate in common, which is really unique.
I know you have done incredible things for the redevelopment of the Kirkwall skatepark in Orkney with Orkney Wheeled Sport Club. Were there any moments that stood out for you coming to it as a skateboarder?
We have a bitmac surfaced park that was built by a group of BMXers in 2003, and hadn’t been touched until we made the improvements in 2023! I was at home over summer in 2019 and decided that I would advertise a meeting for a club to see if anyone would be interested in reviving the skate scene and upgrading the park. I put together a PowerPoint and everything, and thankfully a handful of people showed. That was a standout moment for me, because up until then, that was the first time I had met people who were into skateboarding in Orkney, and all of a sudden there was a group of us! Immediately we were in it together and would hang out all of the time at the park.
Unfortunately, COVID affected our ability to hold fundraising events, but I organised a series of Socially Distanced Skate Sessions over the various lockdowns, which were very popular. In the end, the council was on our side, and after seeing the boost in numbers at the park, decided to give us a small budget for improvement work. We prioritised resurfacing the worst areas of the park and added in some concrete features. Seeing the work complete was an amazing moment; it really felt like I had achieved something for the community.
Leah beanplants her way out of a tight Glaswegian fifty fifty. Photo: Kerr.
At this point you’re familiar with the flow of the skateboarding scene in Glasgow and Edinburgh, but I remember us starting together and feeling like a whole new world had opened up to us. Reflecting back on that time, what did skateboarding mean to you?
You're so right! I think skateboarding gives you a new sense of awareness, you notice your surroundings in a new way and it also makes you extremely focused on your body, your balance, movements, breathing - it felt like breathing space; it still does. It allows me to truly be myself and get lost in the moment.
Do you remember that gnarly bank we tried to boneless into a couple of years ago? Would you go back to land that trick, or do you have any other spots in Glasgow you want to master?
Oh yeah, that was one of the first times that we went filming clips with a crew around Glasgow! That was the gap to bank spot at Anderston, next to the motorway; I still get nervous every time I walk past it (laughs). I did go back kind of spur of the moment a week or so later, but had to walk away after I ripped a huge hole in the ass of my jeans… oops. I haven’t thought about skating that spot much since then, but would like the redemption for sure.
I’m actually filming a lot of street clips right now, all over Glasgow for an exciting new board company called Treatment who have asked me to ride for them! So I’ll add this to my list.
Your skateboarding style is very funky and inventive. As an artist and a skateboarder, do you believe your two identities interact with and influence one another, giving you a more imaginative approach to skateboarding?
(Laughs) Thanks for saying that. Yeah, I’ve realised that I enjoy skating so much because it makes me experience the same emotions as painting does. To me, painting is about progressing and attempting again and again until you get that eureka moment where whatever you’re doing suddenly just works and makes sense. There’s risk involved with painting, too. For example, “if I add this colour, will it ruin the whole piece?” I’m constantly shoving that doubt to the back of my mind and trusting my instincts. I’m also my own worst critic; I get frustrated if I think something isn’t good enough, or doesn’t work out how I envisioned it and make myself paint over and try again. I have the same attitude with my skating.
I think my imaginative approach as you put it does stem from being an artist. To stand out, you need to have a ‘signature style’, a unique take on things that makes your artwork recognizable; I definitely approach skateboarding in the same way.
Do you have a particular skater you’re looking up to in the local scene or in general, someone you relate to and draw inspiration from?
Locally, my friends inspire me every time we go out and skate together. Their support is invaluable, I don’t think I would be where I am today without it. I have too many names to list but you know who you are and thank you!
Generally, my favourite skater is Beatrice Domond. I just love her style; her technical ability and consistency are so inspiring.
Shove-it flip, landing on the less favourable half of Glasgow’s sheltered hip. Photo: Kerr.
You’ve been part of multiple skateboarding campaigns for Focus and Doyenne, and I’m sure there’s more to come. What have you observed in the skateboarding community’s defensive response towards presenting femininity or otherness through these experiences?
Both Focus and Doyenne have supported me since early on with my skating, which I am super grateful for - I always feel lucky to be involved in their projects!
Most recently I was part of the Doyenne x Nike SB campaign which received a mix of reactions, the positive outweigh the negative, which were mostly YouTube trolls misunderstanding the concept, but I also received hate even while filming. I was sitting on a bench having a break when a guy came up to me and said that he and his cousin skate, he then had the gall to pull up his cousin’s Instagram profile and said, “I bet he’s better than you”, while shoving his phone in my face. People judge my ability so harshly before I even step on my board because of my gender, and it never gets less hurtful. On the other hand, it does spur me on to skate even harder, and proves why representation in these campaigns is so important.
I know you have been part of an inclusive skateboarding collective in Edinburgh and have helped to organise and teach skateboarding events. Do you have any advice for anyone who is intimidated to pick up skateboarding?
Truly, I think the trick is to just accept ‘embarrassment’. You will fall in public, you will get stared at and you will get strangers heckling you. This took me a while to realise, but the reward for trying is so much greater than being put off by someone’s opinion of you.
Attending a beginner’s group session is a really good way to try out skating in a safe environment and meet new people without feeling intimidated, because everyone is in the same boat. The collective Skateboobs that I was part of regularly run sessions in Glasgow and Edinburgh.
I’ve heard you have a couple of skate trips scheduled. Do you have any particular spots or tricks in mind?
Yes, again with the yet-to-be-released board company Treatment! We’re going down to Newcastle this month and also on some trips abroad when the weather starts getting grim here. I’m super excited because I’ve only really skated in Edinburgh and Glasgow (and Orkney). I’ve been getting my switch flips more consistent recently and really want to take them down a stair set or gap so that’s going to be one of my goals!
Thank you for sharing your time with us Leah! Would you like to add any mentions before we go?
Thank you so much for interviewing me - I would just like to mention that I have a website - www.leahmoodie.com - if anyone is interested in checking out my paintings!
Follow Leah - @leah_moodie