Student longboards to overcome physical challenges

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From left: Keoki Yuen, Taylor Lewis, and Jackson Harley talk at Lewis’s longboarding event in Provo Canyon. Lewis has a rare disease that causes frequent muscle fatigue so he uses his electric longboard as an alternative form of transportation. (Screenshot by Taylor Lewis)

Traditional forms of human-powered transportation don’t quite cut it for BYU film major Taylor Lewis.

“For me, the best thing I have found so far is my electric longboard,” Lewis said. “Wheelchairs are really limiting and make you feel socially awkward. When I’m longboarding, it is just like everybody else.”

Lewis was born with extremely tight connective tissues. This rare and unnamed disease prevents him from having full range of motion in any of his muscles. Lewis said this puts a lot of strain on his body, which causes him to become tired very quickly.

“I’ve never met anyone else that has the same disease as me,” Lewis said. “I have midrange motion, so I can still move and walk, but just not very far. I can’t really walk more than a mile before I’m completely exhausted.”

Tyler Lewis rides his motorized longboard in San Francisco while he was working on his documentary. Lewis said this longboard is a better mode of transportation for his lifestyle. (Jason Murray)

Lewis said he has tried many different forms of alternative transportation because of his disease. Although traditional methods of alternative transportation work for some people, Lewis said he wanted something more adventurous to help bridge the gap between wheelchairs and walking.

This thought led Lewis to find companies that develop motorized longboards. Lewis decided he wanted to purchase one and make a documentary about his experience.

Lewis was able to get in contact with Inboard Technology in Santa Cruz, California, after he tried contacting multiple companies. Inboard technology eventually sent Lewis a board for free.

“It looks just like a normal skateboard, and that’s something I like a lot. It doesn’t set me apart more than it needs to,” Lewis said.

The electric longboard, complete with remote control, has since helped Lewis become more mobile. He even went on vacation to San Francisco with the board, which Lewis said will be a part of his documentary.

Some other BYU students are helping to produce the documentary, including main camera man Jason Murray.

“Taylor contacted me back in July about this project asking me to help with some camera stuff and technicalities while he focused on directing. I flew out to California with him and followed him around filming his adventure,” Murray said.

Lewis and Murray said they have enjoyed working on the documentary together and hope it will make an impact on society.

“The whole plot of the documentary is to show how I can use the longboard to make my everyday life better, and how I can push my limits,” Lewis said. “When I have my longboard I’m just another kid on a skateboard. I’m part of a community.”

The team anticipates finishing the documentary by November, and Lewis hopes to have a viewing party with all those who helped make the film possible.

“Taylor has the most supportive family and friends that treat him as an equal and push him beyond his capabilities. He thrives on people pushing him,” Murray said.

Lewis’ friends said despite his limitations, they have never seen him refrain from participating in all the activities they do, including extreme sports.

“Taylor is rad,” said BYU junior and Lewis’ long-time friend Jackson Harley. “He does everything our friends do. We have gone snowboarding, skated the half pipe down the street, rode longboards, went cliff jumping and spent time boating.”

Lewis isn’t one to turn down a challenge, although it quickly makes him exhausted and sore. He said he would be unable to participate in such strenuous activities if it weren’t for some help from his friends. 

“When we go snowboarding, I am usually designated to strap down his bindings because it’s hard for Taylor to get down to his ankle,” Harley said.

Lewis recalls another time when one of his other friends put him on his back while canyoneering so Lewis would not have to do so much walking.

Harley said Lewis always remains immensely positive despite the pain.

“Most people look at Taylor and immediately put limitations on him, but he refuses to accept that,” Harley said. “Taylor has accepted who he is and lives life in a way that brings him happiness despite his challenges.”