Lucky for the skateboarding world, this Vans-sponsored athlete chose the plank over a wooden bat.
In 2011, J-Lay, a.k.a. Johnny “Big Boy” Layton, became the first and only skater to ollie blast the double wall at Freedom Plaza, which is within spitting distance of the White House in Washington, D.C. “Yeah, I never planned on ollieing the double wall before trying it. I usually don’t plan any- thing out. It was just the right day. I was in D.C. and riding and feeling good on my board, so I went for it,” he says.
A pro skater since 2006, Layton has a list of sponsors that includes Vans, Toy Machine, Pig Wheels, and Bro Style, and has always been a talented athlete. “During high school, baseball scouts from colleges and the pros were talking to me, but I liked skating with my friends and things fell into place,” he says. “Honestly, I like being a fan of the national pastime rather than playing it, anyway.” And this badass SoCal skater is the fan of a badass team, naturally. “I grew up in SoCal, so it’s Dodger blue for me. I’ve always been a fan of the organization. With Magic Johnson involved, only good things can happen. It’s a championship team just waiting to take a title,” he says with religious fervor.
His enthusiasm for the team is matched by his love of tattooing, which he approaches with a Zen-like attitude as well. “I just get them at random when I feel the urge,” he says. “The first one I got was in a garage in [Lake] Elsinore when I was 16. It’s my mom’s name, Renee, on my wrist. I gave the guy a board for it.” He laughs and says the piece is one of his favorites, as is “a nice ass and a pair of legs diving into water, Sailor Jerry style, on my leg.”
As only a skater knows, there’s pain, and then there’s pain. “Sometimes the gun can get painful around the elbow or ankle. Every time I get a tat, I sweat like a motherfucker,” Johnny says. “I have a grim reaper from my wrist to my elbow. It’s detailed and in color. I sat for five or six hours, and I was fucking dripping. But I’ll take a tattoo in the most painful spot rather than sacking a rail with the family jewels.”
Like a rock star, a skater lives much of his life in motion, and Layton is no exception. “I usually get tattoos when I’m on the road, so I don’t really have a favorite artist. I’ve gotten work in Portland and Boulder, Aces in Reno, and 1st Amendment in Temecula.” He grins, then says, “Matter of fact, I need to stop being fucking lazy and get some more work done.”