Over the past few decades, skateboarding’s trick progression has seen a generational surge as evidenced by its Olympic debut being dominated by some of its youngest pros. While the level of skateboarding has usurped that of the ‘80s and ‘90s, culturally it can feel stuck in the social trappings and prejudices of 30-plus years ago.
Myles de Courcy understands that landscape intensely. Growing up in Orange County, California as a Queer Black skateboarder, the lack of acceptance and support led them to abandon their passion for it entirely. But as Myles was pursuing music, a sea change in skateboarding was occurring, best evidenced by the Bay Area collective, Unity Skateboarding, who not only champion Queer skateboarding but also create a network to push the culture and diversity forward.
At the beginning of Covid-19 lockdowns, Myles rekindled their love of skateboarding and through longtime friend Chandler Burton, became inspired by the positive changes in the community. They started working on an independent video together, and eventually landed a spot on There Skateboards.
More than tricks, style is everything in skateboarding. Myles not only stands out on this front, but challenges the tropes and norms. They can pull off baby blue Celine runway boots in one look, and a sheer organza skirt in the next. An oversized cotton military vest from Celine's Cruiser collection is tossed over a glitzy silver sequin turtleneck, and the brand's nylon Trekking backpack is worn with a black maxi dress.
With a deep bag of tricks and a unique lens, Myles' sense of crust punk speaks to the change, diversity, and creative renaissance skateboarding needed for years. Captured on the streets of New York by Daniel Weiss, that mix is on display on and off-board.
What was your introduction to skateboarding?
I started skating when I was 10 years old. It was around the time we were living in Georgia, and we had just moved back to California. My aunts took me and my little brother on a shopping spree because we didn’t have a lot when we moved back, like toys and shit. We went to Walmart and bought some Walmart skateboards. We knew a couple of people who skated—it just seemed cool. Then my cousin got a skateboard and we were all super into it. It’s been the only thing in my life that’s pretty much been consistent, you know what I mean?
I’m always curious about younger skaters and when they started filming because in the ‘80s and ‘90s, people barely had cameras, so so much went undocumented.
I didn't start filming right away. I’d get some stuff for Instagram throughout high school but I didn’t film videos until we started working on the first Bottom Feeder video in 2020. I had actually stopped skating for about three years. I live in Orange County, California, and the scene out here is a little rough, in terms of, it's a bunch of conservative, white people. It was not a welcoming environment for a Queer Black person. So I just quit and focused on playing music and doing a bunch of other shit. My boyfriend at the time was bummed that I wasn’t skating anymore because I was so into it when we met. This was right around the beginning of the pandemic. He was like, “You should hit up your friend Chandler (Burton) to skate.” He’s the person I make the Bottom Feeder videos with now. So I hit him up one day and we hung out and he mentioned he was starting to work on a video and that I should have some clips in it. It's funny because I started filming a video part having been super rusty, just two years ago, and here I am now.
What was happening in Orange County that soured you so much that you quit skating?
It's just weird out here, dude. I was a young kid into punk rock and I had friends who were full-on Nazis and would take me to Nazi punk shows. Obviously, I wasn’t into that scene, but the skate scene is just super hesher—pool skater, Antihero, Thrasher Hell Ride type skaters… very traditional skate punk types. I was a little punk kid, but once I started to grow into my own person, it was difficult being around that stuff—being around people that were shitty.
Part of that is the double-edged sword of having all these public skate parks now. Sure, having more places to skate is amazing but they also are these unregulated spaces that can be super toxic.
For real. I totally agree with you. The weirdest experiences I've had with skateboarders have been at skate parks. Not all the time and not in every place, but in a lot of places they become a really toxic environment. I feel like I stopped skating because I would only skate parks—I didn't have friends who skated street. I had to stop going to my local park because it got too crazy with people throwing slurs around and saying a bunch of other crazy things or when girls would be at the park, actively going out of their way to snake them and not let them get a run.
I’m kind of late to the scene—I missed all the meet-ups and whatnot because I wasn’t skating then. I didn’t even know about Unity until I started hanging out and skating with Chandler again, but they had been doing Unity for a couple of years. It blew my mind that there were people who were creating safe spaces for people to skate to have fun and meet other skaters. It’s a really cool thing but it also sucks that we’ve been driven to create those spaces out of necessity. But now we have those spaces and the scene is just growing bigger and bigger, and going international at this point. It’s awesome to see people from all backgrounds coming through and finding a space where they can have fun.
It must be cool to go from quitting to finding out there’s this big push to create those safe spaces.
Yeah, it's sick. It’s awesome and I'm so blessed to be able to go on that ride and help create that space. That's all I want to do now other than filming parts. My biggest priority is creating an environment where people feel safe to skate, you know?
People talk about wanting to be an advocate and wanting to support those spaces. What can people outside that community do to help out?
There’s a lot you can do and the biggest thing from square one is knowing how to utilize the privileges that you have that other people don’t. A lot of times, people that aren't part of a minority or one that is discriminated against have better access to resources, whether it's money or connections or… I hate the word, power, but essentially that. People listen to straight white men way more than anyone else. For anyone that wants to be an ally and show up for those spaces and the people who don’t have the same access and privilege, you can do it because the biggest thing you can give back is by putting your money where your mouth is. I see so many people that call themselves allies but don’t do anything to advocate past things that will make them look good. The big issue is that people want to look the part but not play the part. Think about how you act in your circles. How you talk about things and what you can call out in those circles—hard conversations. I think a lot of people forget it starts at a conversation first before anything. Have those conversations with people that look like you. Continually try to learn and educate yourself, as much as you want to educate others too.
For the Bottom Feeder videos you’re making with Chandler, how did you choose the name?
We come from grindcore—crusty kids from Orange County—so we thought of ourselves as bottom feeders, like in the ocean or whatever. Not clean-cut, coming from a very DIY aesthetic. And you know, it's also a Queer term. We want to represent that side of Queer culture with Bottom Feeder and There. I feel like a lot of Queer culture that’s represented in the media or in skate videos is really clean-cut and not completely what Queer people are like. Our biggest thing was to show that we get down like everyone else. Just because we're Queer doesn’t mean we only like Lady Gaga or shiny, pretty things, and obsessed with makeup. That’s definitely stuff we are into, but we also get down and dirty, just like everyone else.
Were there any skate videos that inspired the Bottom Feeder videos or is it simply that lack of representation that shapes the aesthetic?
I think a little bit of both. Matt King helped us make the first video and he was definitely a big inspiration—he edited the whole thing. That's why the two videos we have out are so different, because Matt was a big part of the first one. The second video was mostly me, Chandler, and his boyfriend, Mike. We make what we want to make. We want it to look sick. If we have an idea, we just try as hard as we can to make it happen, you know? We're trying to represent ourselves and our experience, not just through the actual skateboarding.
How do you feel skate shops play into progression?
Shops can be intimidating, especially to minorities, and I think it’s something that’s going to take a long time to change the culture. But on the other hand, I’ve had a lot of experiences recently where it's been chill. Every time I go to the Bay I try to visit Break Free skate shop—Raney Beres owns it. Everyone that works there is sick. There are not a lot of skate shops in Black neighborhoods and there are not a lot of shops that Black people work at. I went there and it was cool to see people that looked like me working there. The same thing for Pharmacy in Long Beach, California. Boo Johnson owns that location and he’s really sweet, and again, all the people who work there are really cool. There’s also Neighbors Skate Shop in Leimert Park, Los Angeles which is Black-owned. There's a lot of change happening in skate shop culture, but I definitely think it's gonna take some time. Slowly but surely it’s getting there.
For almost every part of skateboarding and skate culture in general, skateboarding is almost an analogy for what’s outside of it. To that point, what are some of the best and worst parts of skateboarding in your opinion?
Skateboarding is amazing. It makes me so stoked to see the level of representation and recognition in Women's skateboarding and the same thing with Queer skating. I feel like it's really growing. We have Glue, we have There, and it’s sick to have two Queer-owned companies having their boards on the wall at shops. But on the flip side, there’s still only two. As much as it’s great to see the level that women are being represented and standing out, it's not enough. There’s not enough representation of anyone, other than white men.
I see it with so many companies where they have a token Black person or token woman on their team. Then you see their video and that tokenized person only has a few clips. You can tell they're not prioritizing them—getting them on trips, getting them a full part. I’ve seen plenty of times where companies put people on flow just to have them there and be like, "Hey! Look at us, we’re inclusive!" but they aren’t putting the same energy into them as they have these people who have had the spotlight forever. There’s also this attitude that some skaters have that’s like, "She's just popular because she's a girl or because they’re Queer," or whatever. We haven’t had these platforms historically.
Fashion has also had a long-standing issue with diversity and inclusion. And you have people who say that skating shouldn’t mix with that world. Since you’re dipped in both of them, what’s your take?
That’s funny. I feel pretty weird about it, to be honest. I was stoked to work with Celine because I’m a bit of a fashion nerd and love high fashion, runway, couture, and stuff like that. It was really sick to have that opportunity because it's a brand that I really like. When they said they wanted me to actually skate, I thought it was even better. There’s room for fashion and skate to collide and work, but brands should be mindful in trying to capitalize off of a very small, tight-knit culture. It needs to be done right if these companies are going to profit off skateboarding. It needs to be done with actual skateboarders and not what some casting director thinks a skateboarder is. Real skaters within the culture, representing the culture through the brand.
And to your earlier point, when people are underrepresented and you have the opportunity to go as big as you can if the situation is right. Go for it!
Exactly. 100%. That's why I said yes to Celine. They really valued my opinion. During fittings, they were talking to me the same way we’re talking now. It seemed super genuine and that they wanted my perspective. They even mentioned stuff they’ve seen that they thought was corny and how they wanted this to be real. After that, I started thinking, "Fuck, there’s room for things to be done right."
What else do you have coming up?
The There video drops at the end of the month. We’re working on another Bottom Feeder video. I’m working on another solo part too, so just filming for all of that which is kind of crazy. Just keeping myself busy.
I'm just thankful for this opportunity and for everyone that's been along for the ride, you know? I'm thankful to be able to skate and do me right now.