David Boots is a ground breaking leader within Montreal skateboarding. He has been around since the early 90s and has revolutionized street art, skateboarding and social media throughout his years of experience. As you read this article, you will get his personal perspective on the amazing work he contributed to the skate scene. He has major influence on skateboarding due to his frequent updates on social platforms and presence in a number of significant events occurring in Montréal. David Boots is also the eminent preserver of the tightest skate spot, Peace Park. All our respects go out to him and his dedication to our city. Enjoy the read, and remember to check out his work through the links at the bottom of the page!
How old were you when you started skateboarding?
I first stepped on a board when I was 4 or 5. It was one of my neighbor’s boards and I was in love immediately. My parents didn’t want me to have a skateboard, so I was constantly borrowing them. I’d wake up super early and knock on this one kid’s door at like 8:30am literally every day asking to use his board. His board came from a hardware store so it wasn’t great but at least it was made of wood and had a tail. I kept that up until he and his family got fed up with me, which forced me to bug my other neighbors who only had plastic banana boards.
A few years later my dad told me that if I passed grade two with something better than a ‘C’, they’d buy me a board. Well, I tried my best, but I didn’t get it, being in a French school and all. I started to cry when my teacher handed me my report card. My teacher tried to console me and told me that I did do better than last semester but that I just didn’t do well enough to get a ‘B’. Fortunately, my dad had already bought my brother and I both a skateboard from Pascal’s, which was a hardware store that went out of business years ago. I skated both those boards to death. It took me almost 5 years to figure out that I should remove the plastic bubbles on the tails, haha.
Why is skateboarding important to you?
Since I was little it’s all I ever wanted to do. Even before I knew you could do tricks, I loved it and with time it became the most constant thing in my life. It’s also an outlet and escape that has always been there for me.
Unlike other sports that require a team, the independence of skating appealed to me. Like a lot of skaters it kept me out of trouble, even away from drugs. A lot of people assume I take drugs due to the environment I’m in, but I’ve never tried coke, and stopped blazing close to 3 years ago.
Skating is what pushes me forward with self-improvement, physically and spiritually.
Personally, I have a hard time skating when my life is out of balance. My mind needs to be clear when I skate, not filled with stress and troubles. To me, that means having a stable living environment, eating healthy, stretching, and not constantly being hung over.
Skateboarding is a reflection of my life, like a warning bell. If I’m not able to concentrate and get into a flow, I need to take a step back to figure out what’s hindering me and take care of it.
How did you get involved with MQC?
I started doing graffiti when I was thirteen, so in 1992. Then when I moved to Ottawa in 1994, I would write MTL beside my alias. I did this until 1999 when I switched it up to MQC (Montreal, Québec, Canada) to make it my own.
That same year, when I got back to Montreal, I was super motivated to show my love for my city and started rep’n MQC as best I could. Shortly after, in 2000, I met Patrick O’Connor, who had been documenting graffiti in Montreal since the winter of 95/96. At that point MQC became somewhat of a crew Montreal Quebec Crew/Montreal’s Quickest Criminal. Today MQC has become the branding behind the energy that goes into the events, films, and art forms that are geared to promote Montreal’s street culture.
How is MQC’s mission making a difference for the contemporary skateboarding society versus the corporate and industrial side of skating?
Pivot to fakie by Danny Stevenson
A pretty big distinction between MQC and the corporate side of skating is that up until the Peace Park movie premier, everything MQC did was illegal. I can also tell you how MQC is not only working hard to make a difference by fueling the industry with events and videos, and putting Montreal’s urban culture into a historical context, but it is also raising awareness about the social problems in the streets.
It’s hard for me not to promote empathy when I see how the less fortunate are shunned as they struggle to live in the streets when I’m skating. Granted some of the people living on the street choose to be there, but some of the people panhandling aren’t homeless and are just banking coin. Others might just be people without any motivation in life, but that’s not the case for all. Many of them simply might have lost their job, gotten injured or ill preventing them from working, or they could be battling with mental health issues. The world needs more tolerance and respect.
What does the Red Light District represent for Montreal?
It is important because it’s what gave Montreal its reputation as the original sin city.
The Red Light started to develop in the 20’s during the United States prohibition era.
While the U.S. had banned the sale of alcohol under the Volstead Act, Montreal was flourishing with illegal brothel and gambling dens and nightclubs were all over the neighbourhood. Our nightlife had it all; grime, crime, sex, booze, gambling, burlesque, and cabaret with legends like Lily St-Cyr, which makes a pretty significant part of our history.
The red light is right in the middle of Montreal. It’s on Saint-Laurent, which is the historical main, and crosses the entire island from South to North. The spot where Peace Park sits right now used to be a market place and was one of the first places new immigrants would settle after finding they were not welcome in the old walled city. Gentrification and various city planning projects dating back to the ‘50s have almost completely destroyed the heritage on the lower main; and even though the lower Main was recognized by Heritage Canada as a national historic site in 1996, it is not being protected from gentrification and city corruption.
What got you involved with this Save the Main ?
There are a few communities that exist around Peace Park. I started out just being part of the skate community. But, as I was spending more time there, I got to know the other communities, like the lifers and the neighbours, who also cared about the fate of the lower main. Back in 2009, I was working on the Peace Park film and a group of local artists, business owners and heritage activists called Save the Main invited me to participate in an awareness event at Café Cléopatra in June 2009. They asked me to give a short presentation and show some footage of the movie, and I gave the worst presentation ever, haha. I was only given two days notice so I didn’t have time to prepare and I completely bombed it; I was expecting a cane to yank me off the stage at any moment. Fortunately, I saved face with the video.
I’m not in the front line of the movement, but I support what they are doing and I am willing to help them in anyway I can because if we lose our grittiness, Montreal will become boring like every other conservative city. People want to come to Montreal because of its vice and sin and experience living on the edge.
What is it about Peace Park that you love so much?
Growing up skating in the early ‘90s, I used to skate City Hall like everyone else. I really loved the vibe, but didn’t really realize how lucky we were in Montreal to have such a skate scene until I left it.
In 1995, a year after I left Montreal for Ottawa, I watched the movie Kids directed by Larry Clark and it had had a big effect on me. Besides the disturbing actions of some of the film’s characters, the movie portrayed a similar lifestyle to the one I was living back in Montreal: skating, shoplifting beer, going to clubs, pool jumping at night, hanging out in parks—basically, big city living in the summer. The movie made me really home sick because in Ottawa there was none of that, so when I returned to Montreal, I wanted to live that lifestyle to its fullest. By the time I returned to Montreal, the crew I used to skate with had pretty much stopped skating and City Hall was a bust, so I started hanging out and skating at Peace Park.
In many ways it’s better than City Hall. It’s more centralized and close to home, it has more trees, it’s got manuals pads,the ledges are higher and longer, and there is a community in and around the park. I like the energy in the park too, being in Montreal’s historical red light there’s never a dull moment.
Do you remember the first local at Peace Park that you formed a relationship with? What was that like for you?
Yeah, for sure, her name was Harriett. I don’t remember how we started talking, but she was cool. She was the first person I filmed in the park, she flashed me her pussy. I didn’t even have my own video camera at the time so I had borrowed Eric Lebeau’s.
Shortly after we had met, she moved to Vancouver and I never saw or heard about her again.
Why did it take you 13 years to film and produce The Peace Park Documentary?
It took so long because it was a project that just kept evolving into something bigger and bigger. It officially started when I was 21 and got hit by a taxi. My ankle was busted up pretty bad and needed surgery. I was shook, worried I’d never be able to skate again, so I swore to do whatever it took not to let the accident get in the way of my skateboarding dreams. I thought the best way to do that was to put together a demo video, but I didn’t have a video camera. Six months after the accident, I managed to steal a video camera. I knew it was wrong, but whatever. I was ‘next-level’ determined at the time. It felt like a life or death situation to me. I did, however, tell myself I’d never steal from someone again and I haven’t.
Over the next four years, I spent almost everyday in the park skating as much as my ankle could handle, but when I couldn’t skate I started filming everything that was going on around me. It wasn’t long before I was capturing more gnarly street footage than skating, which prompted me to make a Peace Park skate video. I figured if I collected all the skate footage ever filmed at Peace and edited it with the street life I captured in the park I could make something dope. Some of the skate footage took years to get a hold of, and by the time I was done I had filtered through approximately 900 hours of my friend’s tapes.
Switch backside tail by Jason Neil
In 2004, while I was obsessively looking for footage, the Society of Arts and Technology (SAT) asked me to help them put together a plan to legalize skateboarding in the park. The research I did for the SAT made me realize that there was potential to make more than a just a skate video—I could make a movie about the park as a skate spot similar to the one ON VIDEO put out about Love Park in the winter 2004 issue.
Collecting all the skate footage took so long that I could no longer sustain my living on social services, which I had been living off of so I could skate everyday and work on the movie. Instead of getting a job, I opted to take a paid technical course as an electro-mechanic that was a year and a half long starting in May 2006 and ending in October 2007. Going to school full-time slowed the movie production to a snail’s pace.
By May 2008, I had collected so much footage and done so much research that I was inspired to change the direction of the film from a skate spot video to a full-on documentary about the park and apply for grants. Just preparing the grants took 4 months, and then I had to wait 4 more months to find out it if I was accepted. That’s almost a whole year right there! Fortunately, I was approved and received grants from the CCA and the CALQ. By the beginning of 2010, I had almost everything in order, the interviews and what not, but I was overwhelmed with information and needed help writing the story. I called out to the universe and then a week or so after, I met Jessica at the 30th anniversary party of Café Cléopatre, which is a show bar and stripe club across the street from the park.
My friend Brooke Walsh introduced us as we crossed the street towards the park. After, we discussed the project over a beer and Jessica decided she would help me write the movie. She really gave up her whole life to help me write the movie. It took us a year and a half, working really hard, non-stop, 12 hour days. I am super grateful, she’s da best. The thing is, after it was shown as a work in progress during the Festival du Nouveau Cinema’s 40th anniversary, it took ‘till April 2013 to finish it due to complications and waiting for studio time.
Anyway, it’s done now and I’m working on getting it out to the world. Good things take time.
What are some mediums you express yourself by other than skateboarding?
I’m into graffiti, playing vinyl, and capturing life with pictures and videos.
But, I feel everything I do is an expression of who I am even if it’s not actually considered an art form. I don’t do things half-assed, whether it’s keeping a clean house, writing a paper, or doing a job. I take pride in what I do, the smallest details count, because everything I do and how I do it is a reflection of me.
Facebook: David Boots
Watch the Peace Park Trailer!