Much More Than A Skateboarding Movie
A Quick Film Review
Even at just over an hour of watching, "Stay on Board: The Leo Baker Story" packs a punch. Timely and emotion-provoking, Nicola Marsh's and Giovanni Reda's documentary gives us a quick introduction to Leo Baker, a professional skateboarder who stepped away from the U.S. Olympic team in order to live openly.
Stay on Board starts right at the height of Baker's career, in 2019, at a point when "skateboarding has given (Baker) everything (he's) ever experienced in (his) life". Traveling the world for competition, video shoots, sponsor and marketing responsibilities, and on the fast track to make Team USA's first-ever skateboarding team bound for Tokyo 2020.
But all is not well. Baker struggles to be happy - uncomfortable with presenting as female in order to compete, but doing so in order to do just that - compete in the sport he loves, and which has been a source of needed income for his family. Baker's initial, big step in publicly acknowledging himself - after arriving to "a space where he has to "have a conversation about it with the world" - announcing on social media his preferred pronouns proves an important step in the journey. It is testing the waters for reaction, in a way, but also allows for a moment of confidence and bravado when reeling from a life so often in the shadows.
But the internal pressure ramps up. And, faced with the prospect of delaying further transition in order to compete in Tokyo, Baker reaches a breaking point. He steps aside from the national team in order to live fully, relinquishing an Olympic spot. I certainly am someone passionately in favor of athletes striving for and honoring the opportunity of Summer Games' competition. But, through Stay on Board, it's hard to argue against Baker's decision. I know what it is like to have a weight lifted off one's shoulders when more publicly at peace with oneself. And, the empathetic lens from Marsh and Reda acknowledges this personal choice by Baker.
As transgender rights are increasingly challenged, it's incredibly needed to glean a personal perspective to remind us all of the individual human element. To paraphrase Baker, simply to exist openly and honestly can be power enough. For Baker, it took a would-be Olympic berth to do it.