Stay On Board: The Leo Baker Story
Stay on Board: The Leo Baker Story. Leo Baker in Stay on Board: The Leo Baker Story. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022

Netflix’s Stay on Board: The Leo Baker Story follows pro-skateboarder Leo Baker on the ultimate journey of self-discovery: navigating how to come out as a trans man in the public eye after rising to fame in an industry that hinges on gender.

A decorated skateboarder once bound for the Tokyo Olympics, Baker has shed the mantle of competition in favor of becoming a beacon of hope for fellow trans athletes — and a success story in his own eyes.

Baker first agreed to make Stay on Board: The Leo Baker Story six years ago when co-directors Giovanni Reda, a well-known documentarian of the skateboarding community behind the 2016 short “Brian Anderson on Being a Gay Pro Skateboarder,” and Nicola Marsh, an accomplished cinematographer who worked on Vanderpump Rules, Chelsea Does, and Ugly Delicious, approached him about telling his story.

“I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into as far as time, and I don’t think any of us did,” Baker told MovieMaker the day after The Leo Baker Story screened at the 40th annual Outfest Los Angeles LGBTQ+ Film Festival ahead of its Aug. 11 release date on Netflix.

“Each person just showed up fully as themselves, and everybody obviously believed in the story of it, and everyone just pulled up 100% and committed to it without really knowing the outcome. And so I think that’s really where the magic came from, because everybody was just super committed, even during the hard times.”

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Baker’s coming out as trans in the skateboarding community offers other queer skateboarders a rare glimpse at representation in a role model who is just like them. The pressure of that is not lost on Baker, especially now that his story is about to hit Netflix, one of the largest platforms in the world.

“It’s definitely a huge responsibility, and, I mean, it’s an honor to be in the position that I’m in — and also, there’s a lot of pressure because there are people that are looking to what I’m doing as their path,” Baker said. “I just want people to be more inspired by the, like, I guess the theme of what the path is and how I got to it, versus following step by step without having their own sort of insights about who they are… Every day I just show up brand new, lately, and so I’m kind of like, I don’t know — it’s really surreal, honestly. It’s kind of hard to put into words at this time, because I’m still figuring my life out.”

Stay On Board: The Leo Baker Story

Leo Baker in Stay on Board: The Leo Baker Story. Courtesy of Netflix

When Marsh and Reda first started making the documentary back in 2016, they expected The Leo Baker Story to hinge on Baker competing in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, where he was set to make history as one of the first skateboarders ever to compete in the games. But that didn’t end up happening — not only because the Tokyo Olympics got postponed due to Covid, but because Baker would have had to compete on the U.S. women’s team under his dead name. He decided to withdraw from the games.

It was a good exercise in going with the flow for Reda and Marsh.

“Reda and I were like, ‘Oh, God, he’s not doing the Olympics. He’s not doing the Olympics. Oh fuck, man, that was like — we were going go to fucking Japan and it was going to be amazing,” Marsh said.

But pivoting the plot of the film halfway through led her and Reda to a realization: the heart of the documentary was the very fact that Baker had withdrawn from the Olympics, choosing to honor his true self instead of sacrificing his identity in order to compete.

“When you make documentaries, there’s just no fucking way you can be like, ‘I have a vision, and this is what this is going to be about,” Marsh said. “It’s not like a fiction feature that you’re doing, so you have to sort of listen to what’s happening. For me, the only vision that I had was, ‘Oh, this is going to be a really cool way to say something about gender in a non-didactic way.”

“That is the documentary, that you didn’t go to the Olympics,” she added, turning to Baker. “It took Reda and I a second to be water instead of iron.”

Stay On Board: The Leo Baker Story is executive produced by Alex Schmider and Ember Truesdell. Melissa Bueno-Woerner and Jennifer Goodridge serve as producers.

Stay on Board: The Leo Baker Story hits Netflix on Aug. 11. Watch the trailer above.