Downtown Garland, TX is just like many of Texas’ classic downtowns, two story brick buildings along a town square. Churches, coffee shops, book store, antiques, Mexican food, and a classic theater.
Today, it is serviced by DART’s Blue Line, has city government offices, the town square has a stage and a green for musical performances, picnics and town festivals. I met Elijah here because it is his hometown and home base, not to mention, the city of Garland is also working on getting their own skatepark built, just like Dallas.
When Elijah Moore Jr (@emjcreation on Instagram) was growing up in Garland, the town square had a fountain which would be turned off for the winter, turning it into a skate-able feature that attracted kids from all over the DFW Metroplex. From skating the downtown Garland fountain, Elijah launched himself to becoming a sponsored professional skater. SP4D caught up with Elijah to learn about his journey in life and skating.
Everyone dreams of traveling the world, and some of us likely harbored delusions of grandeur about competing in a high level in sports, but Elijah Moore Jr., made professional skateboarding his life for 10 years. Skateboarding let him travel the U.S. and the world, including Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Cayman Islands, Jamaica, Germany, Ukraine, and Rwanda. For a humble guy from Garland, seeing the world as a skateboarder was truly a dream come true. The journey that turned Elijah into a skateboarder is a tale of making most of the opportunities you do get, and the value of positive attitude that Elijah exhibits to this day. A theme of 'pay it forward' emanates from his story.
Now 38, Elijah is back home and spreading positivity to the next generation, as a skateboard instructor. He continues to be a passionate advocate for the skateboard community.
“We are put here to make an impact on the world around us with our gifts and talents," Elijah says. "I like people, learning, community and skateboarding, and they all go together. As I have gotten older, I’m focused on teaching youngsters.”
IN THE BEGINNING:
Elijah got his start in skateboarding at age 6 when his friend Damien turned him on to it. He got his first board from his grandfather, at 9 years old. Shortly after that, a neighbor was skating by Elijah’s apartment and did a kick flip in front of him. Elijah was wow’d and that neighbor was nice enough to stop and show him the move. Later that night, Elijah learned the kick flip in his apartment and a future pro skater was born.
More than being a skater, Elijah is naturally curious and multidimensional. Our conversation sent me on several Google search rabbit holes just to keep up with all of his references and experiences. As an example, Elijah stayed at the real Hotel Rwanda that was portrayed in the film of the same name. The movie was made about staff at the Hôtel des Mille Collines in Kigali, where 1,268 people took refuge during the genocide in 1994. Skateboarding in Rwanda must have been a mind blowing experience, it reminds me of the Skateistan project.
In person, Elijah reminds you of the host of a science show on Netflix, with poise and knowledge combined. That may be because Elijah’s mom was a singer, and she competed and won singing contests on TV. She was the first contest winner that he was exposed to. The competitive spirit and performer’s mindset that Elijah learned from his mom carried him into his teen years. The old Jeff Phillips skatepark on Harry Hines in Dallas used to hold regular contests, which Elijah began to enter and had a natural instinct for.
EISENBERG's & GOING PRO:
Eisenberg’s skatepark opened in Plano in 1997 and is legendary to skaters of a certain age. Arlo Eisenberg grew up in DFW, and is a skate and inline legend, having competed in the first ever X-Games and become a champion. With a championship skater calling DFW home, and building a skatepark for the community, the Eisenberg's cultivated high level skating that propelled Elijah. Vicki Eisenberg, Arlo’s mom, was like a second parent to Elijah and many of the kids who regularly skated their park, giving them a positive and healthy place to hang out during their formative teen years. Elijah was 17 when Eisenberg’s opened.
Between practice at Eisenberg's and the regular contests at Jeff Phillips' skatepark, Elijah got the reps to win the Dallas edition of the 2001 Vans Warped Tour at Fair Park, a high level amateur contest. That win is what convinced Elijah to turn pro and gave him the connections to get his first corporate sponsor at 19. He traveled the country as a sponsored skater for the next 10 years.
Skating has the coolest perk of all pro-athletes, the signature skateboard. Skaters design the graphics and a work with artists to create boards that reflect their personality. Below is an example of Elijah's 2nd pro-model board, which featured hot new tech of its day, the Apple iPod. The board came in a range of colorways and sold extremely well.
Elijah toured as a competitive and demo skater, with different sponsors and organizations over the years, and was featured in a New York Times profile in 2005. Blessed with talent and a will to compete, Elijah didn't just compete for himself. He used his prominence in the skate scene, and became a significant public skatepark advocate in DFW. Elijah was a featured skater at the opening of Dallas' only skatepark, St. Francis in June, 2007. Now more than 11 years later, that park is the inspiration for SkateparksforDallas.org itself.
The City of Garland is on their own journey to build a skatepark. A bond election funded the skatepark in 2004. In the newspaper clip below, Elijah is seen advocating for the park in February, 2007. In 2018, the Garland park remains in the planning stages. (Garland skatepark update here). Skateparks for Dallas and your support are working to make sure that timeline doesn't happen in Dallas, after we had $4M approved in the 2017 Parks bond election.
Teaching skating has been a focus for Elijah for a long time. Skaters learn from each other, and Elijah's story highlights that theme, where he was learning from others at age 6, 9, as a teen and then he became the teacher, from 2005 and beyond. In 2010, he was featured on Nantucket Island, MA, giving skating instructions at the request of the local parks department.
AFTER PROFESSIONAL COMPETITION:
Competing in sports at a high level for a long time is hard on athlete's bodies, as we see in former NFL, NBA and MLB players. High level skateboarding is no different, but with less of a support system. In 2009, Elijah was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease that requires dialysis 3 days per week and continued to try to tour as a skateboarder for a while, despite his illness. The kidney transplant list is over 93,000 people today. Despite the health challenges, Elijah teaches skate lessons with friend and DFW pro-skater Josh Hurley all around the DFW Metroplex, and looks forward to the day when his health challenges are behind him.
Elijah's latest pro-model skateboard features his faithful pup, Monty, and depicts his kidney treatment and regular doctor's visits. Operation EMJ board is available on Now Skateboards.
Asked what he hopes to see after the Dallas and Garland skateparks get built, Elijah would love to see more skate competitions in the area, like when he grew up. He notes that skateparks play the same role as baseball fields and basketball courts, they give kids places to gather and make friends. Skateboarding costs a small amount to get into, so it is very accessible to youth, particularly lower income kids. Skateparks are a fun, safe place for a kid to grow up.
Skate contests bring people together, not just skaters, but also people who want to watch the contests. Contests are the networking for skateboarders, and where skaters learn from each other. For those skaters who take it seriously, contests give people a chance to test themselves and show progression. Competition gives people a better sense for what are their strengths and weaknesses so they can improve. Elijah was tested by competition and sees the opportunity for skateboard competition to grow in DFW.
In the future, Skateparks for Dallas will initiate a fundraising campaign, and one of the targets of our campaign will be to fund a programming position at the Dallas skatepark so there can be a regular suite of lessons and contests. Skate contests are easy to run, and there are many formats:
- Classic format: 1 minute performing as many tricks as you can
- Jam style format: where a group of skaters go for 5 or 10 minutes trying to put together the best lines with tricks
- Games of S.K.A.T.E. (like H.O.R.S.E. in basketball), is an easy game to play on any terrain
Thank you to Elijah for taking the time to tell us his story. The full lifecycle of progression from young child learning (to skate), improving his (skate) skills through his teenage years, making a living and seeing the world on his (skate) talents as an adult, and then returning home to support a new generation (of skaters) is a classic tale, and shows the importance of human connection in our development as a city and as individuals. Elijah's story is one of a high level skateboarder, but his journey is universal.