What there is to know

  • Minna Stess, 15, became USA’s youngest national skateboarding champion after winning the 2021 women’s park competition in May
  • Minna lives in Petaluma, Calif., Where her parents allowed her and her brother to take over the entire backyard to build a concrete skate park where they play and train.
  • Skateboarding is a whole new addition to the Olympics, and Minna will be a replacement for Team USA this year as she trains to qualify for the 2024 Olympics in Paris.

Skateboarding has its own culture and language, and this summer Olympic spectators around the world will experience ollies and nollies, Smith Grinds and backside tunes.

But of all the words in the skateboarder’s lexicon, it only takes one to describe 15-year-old Minna Stess: “steezy”.

“It’s like making something look good without even trying,” she explained of the word, which is a mixture of “style” and “ease.”

Jonathan Bloom / NBC Bay Area

Skateboarding champion Minna Stess, 15, sits on a chair made from old skateboards in the backyard of the family home in Petaluma.

Minna gave us a crash course in skateboarding lingo as we stood in the middle of the glistening white concrete skate park that took over her family’s entire backyard. A basketball hoop and a single rose bush are among the few other things that are left.

“My kids love to skateboard – can you tell ?!” joked Moniz Franco, Minna’s mother.

Minna says it was her older brother who first introduced her to skateboarding, even before she was old enough to walk.

“I was kind of crawling on a plank,” she laughed.

Minna Stess gave us a tour of the skate park that occupies her entire family backyard. She and her brother helped design the park when they were in elementary school, long before Minna’s Olympic dreams took shape.

It was never designed to be a competitive business, she insists. It was purely a form of entertainment – until it became apparent that she was way better than everyone else.

“When I was younger I thought it was really fun,” she said. “I started competing, I started winning stuff, and I was like, ‘Well, yeah, man, maybe I’m pretty good.'”

Skateboarder demonstrating an ollie

Jonathan Bloom / NBC Bay Area

Minna demonstrates an ollie – a common way for skateboarders to jump in the air – on a small concrete hill in her skate park.

As a child, Minna was already attracting the attention of sponsors: first local skate shops, then equipment brands. But the Olympics weren’t something a young skateboarder could aspire to – until now.

“Definitely the 2024 Olympics,” she said when asked about her next big goal. “It’s so far away, but so close at the same time.”

Skateboarding is making its Olympic debut in Tokyo and is already approved for inclusion in the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris. Men and women compete separately in two events: park and street. Minna competes exclusively in the park.

“The street goes down things, like stairs – and I don’t like going down stairs,” she explained. “I just like to fly high and go fast, and that’s what the park is basically.”

skateboarder jumps in the air with trees and a setting sun behind her

Jonathan Bloom / NBC Bay Area

In competitive skateboarding, the park’s events take place in a concrete bowl-shaped arena. Here, Minna shows how skateboarders fly through the air and do tricks on the edges of the bowl.

Park events take place in a giant concrete bowl filled with obstacles, and skaters are expected to perform tricks on as many of them as possible, in a limited time, without falling. Points are awarded for elements such as the difficulty of the figures, the fluidity of the routine, the style and the originality.

“Learning the stuff that people don’t do is the most important thing,” Minna said.

Minna grabbed attention by doing just that in the 2021 Women’s National Park Finals: she kicked off an almost vertical wall, in a motion so gravity-defying she might as well have been skating on a court. dish.

“It was a full-fledged street kickflip!” one of the announcers on the USA Skateboarding webcast exclaimed when Minna pulled off the trick in her second run.

a skateboarder who has just finished a winning race makes a face at the camera while wearing his helmet

Courtesy of: USA Skateboarding

At age 15, Minna Stess became the youngest winner of an American skateboard championship. The helmet she wore during the competition has since been recovered by the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

Come to think of it a few weeks later, Minna was obviously nonchalant about the whole affair.

“It was kind of, I guess, like a ‘statement’ thing,” she said. “People thought I was doing my signing turn now.… It was just a kickflip, I wasn’t trying to do my signing turn, but now I am.”

As Minna demonstrated this iconic trick time and time again in her backyard, it became clear that she was starting to push past concrete ramps and obstacles that she and her brother had helped design when they were in elementary school. . Indeed, to train for Paris and beyond, Minna spends more and more time traveling in the elite skate parks of Southern California.

skateboarder in the air

Jonathan Bloom / NBC Bay Area

Minna said she loves flying through the air just for fun in her backyard skate park, but for some serious skill development, San Diego’s advanced training facilities are the place to be.

“A 500 mile drive to San Diego County,” thought Minna’s mother. “I think there are a lot of things that I consider normal as a parent of a skater that other parents would say, ‘This is not normal. “”

Minna has stated that she wants to make a living from skateboarding and hopes to add pro skate brands to her growing list of sponsors. She already proudly wears her Santa Cruz Skateboards gear at every competition and interview. And she knows what would look really good besides these stylish clothes: an Olympic medal.

Jonathan Bloom / NBC Bay Area

Minna Stess proudly wears equipment from sponsors, including Santa Cruz Skateboards, when competing and giving interviews. She admits that the clothes would look even better if paired with shiny Olympic gear.

“I remember watching the Olympics and thinking to myself, ‘Oh, that’s cool, I’m probably never going to be at the Olympics, because I don’t play Olympic sport,’” said Minna. “But now he is an Olympic sport, so it’s really weird. “

Because Olympic qualifiers are based on a full year of competition, Minna is a replacement for the United States team at Toyko, but she has already started to make her mark in American sports history. As the youngest person to win a U.S. National Skateboarding Championship, she was invited to submit the helmet she wore during the competition to the Sports Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. She did – and the manufacturer was more than happy to send her a shiny new replacement.

skateboarder demonstrating a switch blunt

Jonathan Bloom / NBC Bay Area

Minna Stess demonstrates a switch blunt in her backyard skate park.

Although she has been called a prodigy and rising star, Minna has reminded us that she is still human and that she has stage fright before competition like everyone else.

“I’m still nervous, like every time,” she said. “I’m just trying to tell myself it’s not that bad. I mean, it’s is it’s a big deal, but I’m trying to calm myself down by saying that. “

As for the Olympics, Minna tries not to overthink the scale of the biggest sporting event on the planet.

“There are always competitions,” she said. “It’s kind of a bigger competition now.”