COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Known for his panda hood and his rollerblading stunts, a TikTok-er famous for his aggressive skating plans to run for Mayor of Columbus.
Matt Lyon, 26, — Hood Panda on social media — began skating at 14. He’s able to flip, skate the tops and insides of pipes, pop up into the air and land cleanly.
In one video he safely slides off one roof to a second roof, over a third and onto the ground. In another video he hitches a ride on a Columbus police cruiser without being seen. And there are the videos of Lyon skating in nothing but his panda hood and his roller blades, with the essentials blurred out.
It’s taken a physical toll. Lyon says he’s broken both bones in his forearm, fractured his left pelvis, dislocated his right, and suffered a major concussion.
“I had a really bad concussion in 2017 and the recovery from that took me to a dark place and I had to realize what to do with my life,” said Lyon. “I got into yoga, got more enlightened, got a better head on my shoulders, and went forward from there. When I broke my arm… I came back 110% and I can tell you I’ll never fall that way again.”
Now he travels the country, including a recent stint in Hollywood with a friend where they did sketch comedy. “I skated as Naked Panda around Venice Beach, Hollywood, I even skated through Skid Row naked,” said Lyon. “When I was in Hollywood naked everybody knew who I was.”
The idea for the panda hood was to protect his identity and also used his nickname.
“My ethnicity’s mixed: I’m black and white like a panda,” Lyon explained. “I had that nickname, and then hood panda just became a thing, so I got a panda mask to go with it. It used to be for protection, but now it’s a dead giveaway!”
Lyon’s profile is about to raise again. He’s serious about running for Mayor of Columbus in 2023, to represent young people in the city where he was raised.
“It all started as a campaign as a joke to get more people out and voting, mostly the younger generation. [Columbus] is the number one city in Ohio for the most hate crimes,” Lyon said. “I would run for mayor and be the most transparent and accountable mayor that I can be. …It would take a lot of time from skating, yes, but it would put me on a platform where people will listen. I want the voice of the community to be more heard, and bring that statistic down to make Columbus a better place, make it the best place.”
His campaign team has been working to get him on the ballot in 2023. In the meantime, he has plans to travel internationally on his rollerblades, to Amsterdam and Einhoven. He got the gig by posting consistently good material to his social media accounts.
“They started approaching me when they see the consistency and the hard work I put into my videos, and also when it comes to giving back to rollerblading,” Lyons said. “Learning how to be a skate instructor so I can teach the next generation how to rollerblade properly, and so that they don’t take a fall that hurts them but rather teach them how to fall so they can get back up and continue this passion.”
He’s even got a pro wheel now, with MATT LYON on it.
In the meantime, he’s thrown down the gauntlet for the current mayor to spend some time on wheels. “Ginther can’t even skate backwards. That’s not someone we should have over the police.
“That’s all and that’s it,” Lyon said with a grin.