What Would Jesus Ride?

Music theory teaching fellow Lansing D. McLoskey is on a mission to combine his twin passions: skateboarding and religion. If he makes some money at the same time—well, he has the Lord to thank.

Three years ago, when his jobs as composer, performer and full-time Harvard music TF couldn’t pay the bills, McLoskey turned to skateboarding, an old passion. When he discovered eBay, his brainchild, Latter Day Skates, was born.

This Mormon skateboarding company specializes in longboarding, which according to McLoskey is “a whole different skating aesthetic” based on old-school style and surfing as opposed to conventional skateboarding’s tricks and gimmicks. But aesthetic isn’t all that’s unconventional about Latter Day Skates. Browsing the company website (www.latterdayskates.com), potential customers are enlightened with biblical-based advice, including such words of wisdom as “Don’t hide your style under a bushel; nay, let your light shine unto all that are in the house.”

McLoskey himself oozes style, looking unexpectedly natural towing a longboard through the corridors of the Paine Music Building. Still, says McLoskey, “I stick out like an anomaly in academics.” It’s certainly true that not too many Harvard faculty members are known to use the phrase “Ollie away, bro!” Perhaps this is why McLoskey limits his talk of skateboarding when he is around colleagues. In fact, many of his fellow academics don’t even know about his three-year business venture.

Through Latter Day Skates, one can buy “God-speed” ABEC 7 speed bearings or t-shirts emblazed with the Skater’s Creed: “Skate like it’s heaven on earth.” McLoskey’s longboards are designed with illustrations such as Liahona, Hagoth’s Dream and other elements found in the Book of Mormon.

Yet according to results from McLoskey’s online survey, 95 percent of Latter Day Skates customers aren’t Mormon and don’t understand the puns and references. McLoskey is undeterred by the lack of Mormon know-how among his clientele. In fact, he regards his inroads with the non-Mormon demographic as a “sign of success” for his company.

“They think that the logos are just pretty Hawaiian designs,” says McLoskey.

A few times a year, McLoskey receives nasty e-mails from Mormons who believe his puns and logos are blasphemous. “I have all sorts of great ideas that would cross the line, which I won’t do,” he explains. “But I’ll go right up to that line.”

McLoskey’s company has now grown to include many international customers, especially in Europe and Australia. And where is the demand domestically? To most people’s surprise, New Jersey tops the list.

Between answering e-mails, taking orders and personally packaging and shipping his products, McLoskey sometimes spends upwards of 70 hours a week on Latter Day Skates business. Company paraphernalia litters the McLoskey home in Quincy, Mass. Mrs. McLoskey doesn’t share her husband’s affinity for skateboarding, but the love seems to have been passed down to the next generation—their two sons started on skateboards at age two.

Even with a doctorate in music composition from Harvard, McLoskey has found professorship an almost unattainable goal. Still, music remains his first love, which means Mormon skateboarding will always be a distant second. In the meantime, McLoskey plans to continue longboarding for years to come, claiming that it is an art that can be enjoyed by people of all ages as long as they have the “dogtown and the Z-boys style” that McLoskey admires.

So which Biblical character would make the best skateboarder? “Definitely not Job or Isaiah or Abraham. Maybe David. He has a lot of spunk and that whole ‘No Fear’ thing going on.”