Joe Ledoux

The Magic of Skateboarding

January 2023

Can you tell us something about Boston no one knows?
The first UFO sighting in America was seen in Boston, and there was also a New England sea serpent that was seen by Boston sailors around the same time. A lot of the focus in Boston is on the sports culture, so in contrast to that, in 2013 I cast a spell over the city to conjure UFOs, Fairies, and Sea Serpents for the month of June. People were encouraged to go to my website and report what they saw! It was featured in a local newspaper (The Boston Metro), in the events section under the heading Supernatural. It was a conceptual piece of art, I was trying to rebirth these old legends that had been forgotten to re- enchant the city with mystery and mythology. It’s the largest magical illusion I have ever performed, and it kind of went underground, no one ever reported on what was seen, or what happened in the press afterwards, and things kind of got buried, until 6 years later when an article about it was covered in Vanish Magazine. It has kind of blossomed into this Esoteric Magic illusion with an aura of mystery around it.

You had your skateboard media breakthrough in Jenkem in Feb 2020. What has changed for you since then?
A lot, (laughs) My newest skate video called REKINDLED came out, I was so honored that Empire Empire gave me permission to use their music. This video shows a lot about where I’m heading with my skating. The idea that your skateboarding can progress with age fascinates me. I talked a lot about this in the Jenkem interview. When you are young it’s all about outdoing the number of stairs as the kid next to you, and skating can stay this way for people their whole lives, it’s definitely like this for people in competitions. And there is nothing wrong with that, meaning is a personal thing. But for me, if you look at my most recent skate vid, you will see that I’m skating in a style that uses the least effort, and that style might come from some of the sages I study magic with, it’s a very zen approach.

“I am interested in Art as a means of living a life, not as a means of making a living.”

Are you now able to make a living as a skateboard magician artist?
One of the things my magic teacher Jeff McBride taught me is that our shows interrupt our practice. The meaning of this is that magic and skateboarding are a way of life, and the show or demo which might help financially to pay bills is actually a shift away from your serious practice, rituals, and way of living. This implies making a living has nothing to do with finances, as it does with your philosophy. I’m not trying to dodge the question, yes, I have a day job to pay rent, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not spinning a pencil practicing my magic wand twirls in the office. Every second of my life is magical, I live and breathe magic. In regard to the original question, Yes, I’m closer than ever to taking that leap and going full time but it’s not my main concern. I’ll wrap this question up with a quote by Robert Henri that inspires me to keep my heart in the right place no matter what happens, which goes like this: “I am interested in Art as a means of living a life, not as a means of making a living.”

When I first reached out to you, you mentioned you are a reclusive skater. However here you are as a skateboard magician performing in front of live audiences, cameras etc. You really put yourself out there. How does that work for you?
I have gotten more reclusive over the years, now I only perform at my solo art openings in galleries, or my open studios. So, I paint for a few years and then do one show that is invite only. I’m just not doing gigs anymore. But in the past, I did put myself out there as an entertainment magician, currently I’m only concerned with performing my own personal material as an artist, vs being commercial and trying to please a specific audience. When it comes to skating, I usually always skate alone because I don’t want people to see how my skate magic effects work. So, I would spend a lot of time skating on some of the Boston bike paths – it was one of the few places where I could find solitude in the city. A bike will fly by, but then I have about a minute to practice a new magic skate trick with no one watching or people filming from their cars when they see me levitating on a skateboard. When my girlfriend Ashley Rine filmed my last skate video, a crowd formed and gave me an applause – the magic really drew attention and I’m just trying to hide. The only downside of the freedom of the bike path is the dogs (laughs). People walk them on a leash, and I always pick up my board and let them pass, dogs can turn vicious when they see someone riding a skateboard in seconds.

“He told me we’re all skateboarders and part of the community.’’

Photo of Joe Ledoux courtesy of Ciaran Crawley jpg

What magic tricks are you working on?
I’m working on a version of the Indian Rope Trick, which is really close to the original myth. I’m so excited about this piece of magic and how it is taking shape. When it comes to skateboard magic, I was going to keep this secret, but I’ll share it with your community: I’ve been looking at how David Copperfield does the dancing cane, and other magicians as well, like my mentor Jeff McBride, but I’m working on it with a skateboard! And there are no gimmicks, just me and the skateboard. I never use gimmicks in my magic. I love magic that is pure, that’s what drew me to skateboarding in the first place. It’s not like you super glue your feet to the board, and then have someone lift an invisible thread to spin you 360 degrees. You ask yourself ‘can I really do this,’ and it’s so fun for me to look at magic effects by the masters of magic that use secret devices, and then take them out of the picture. I approach the magic from a skater’s mentality, as a minimalist.

You also do your own Zines. What inspired you to do it?
I call myself a Magical Artist, because I blend my passions of skateboarding, magic, and art together. I think the way a magic wand moves and conjures something, is similar to brush moving and making an image appear. My first zine “The Magic of Skateboarding” was inspired by the idea that if there is something you would love to read that does not exist, then it’s your job to create it. So, I figured I would conjure the first book that shows the connections between Magic and Skateboarding. My other zine called “Skate Spots” was a chapbook of poetry where I revisited the skate spots of my childhood and photographed them. I drew my cartoon character, named Muhachi, skating over the actual photos. Muhachi is a character I started drawing as a kid, and in some of the photos I used crayons to “wax the ledges” on the curbs in the images.

Art by Joe Ledoux(2)

How would you describe the Boston skateboard scene and its community?
I’ve met a lot of Boston skateboarders at my magic shows. I was performing one night, and, at the end of the show, Colin Fiske introduced himself to me and we became friends. I sent my zine to him, and he gave it to Abe Dubin, who showed up at another magic show and became a good friend of mine. One day Abe introduced me to the Fancy Lad guys – I’d heard of their skate team, and it always seemed surreal. There were videos of them skating around like circus clowns, doing tricks on trampolines. They had a tour van they drove around in, and one day after lunch with Abe, they picked me up in the van – there was carpet on the ceiling, hanging down. I met Matt Tomasello and we had a really interesting conversation about magic and David Blaine. The whole day felt like a dream. Sometime later, I went to an art show at Orchard Skate Shop and met Bro Gumpright, who used to be affiliated with Orchard – he told me he wanted to interview me for Jenkem Magazine. I found the community to be extremely supportive and told Bro that I’m a skater magician who feels like a poser – he told me we’re all skateboarders and part of the community. When he said that, it really made me feel part of the community.

What are your plans?
I’m working on a new skate video – I don’t want to give too much away, but the whole thing takes place in my apartment, which is where I skate a lot now. That has nothing to do with the pandemic, I started skating in my apartment before it started. I think limitations really boost creativity, and the challenge of trying to skate quietly (to not irritate the people who live below me) forces me to create and discover new tricks.

Last question. If you could interview a person, who would it be and why?
Rodney Mullen, because I’ve never been able to. The thing that really impresses me about him is that, with all the contests he’s won and how he knows skating on an athletic level, he’s so artistic and philosophical, and pursues skating as an art. I think he has a level of knowledge and perspective that’s really unique, because he knows both sides of that coin.

‘I love magic that is pure, that’s what drew me to skateboarding in the first place.’

Still from Joe Ledoux_s skate vid called REKINDLED courtesy of Ashley Rine