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Minna Stess pushes for X Games win on road to 2024 Olympics

She skates like the sound of a smooth Britpop song.

Blur’s “There’s No Other Way” was released 15 years before 16-year-old Minna Stess was born, but her mother says the punchy guitar, infectious tambourine dance beat, and cool ethos kept the skateboarding phenom moving in the park embody.

The 2021 US Skateboarding National Champion in women’s park skating is so lithe that she was chosen as a substitute for the Tokyo Olympics last summer when she was just 15 years old. Stess’ mom, Moniz Franco, says it’s so smooth it’s hard to hear the skateboard wheels scratching the surface as she performs tricks on the half-pipes. X Games 2022 judges will hear this blur track as they witness the skater compete in Saturday’s women’s park competition at the California Training Facility in Vista. Stess placed fourth in last year’s Women’s Park event.

“It’s basically like a big bowl or a big pool,” Stess said. “And you have to figure out how to skate all of that in a 40-second streak without falling and doing hard tricks. That is much.”

Still, no park compares to the one at home in Petaluma, a city 30 miles north of San Francisco. The Phoenix Theater only has a few ramps, but Stess attended hardcore shows there like her mother did when she was young and her older brother Finnley went there before introducing his family to skateboarding.

Her parents thought their children would be musicians.

In 1991, the same year the English band released There’s No Other Way, Stess’ father Andrew moved from the East Coast to Petaluma in search of the ’90s version of the San Francisco sound. There he met Stess’s mother, a fellow music nerd and East Coaster.

Legendary rock band The Who played at this Petaluma venue in the 1960’s. Decades later, Stess built her own legend in a sport that is seeing an increase in female competitors. She is the smiling, diaper-clad toddler on the skateboard in a clip featured in Candace Parker’s new Title IX documentary. At the age of 5 she entered her first local competitions.

Three years later, the Paris 2024 candidate began to climb the podium at competitions, sometimes beating all the guys.

“Every park I go to there’s always a girl, it’s amazing,” Stess said. “And I think it’s becoming the norm now, which is good because it should be a norm.”

Stess prefers to skate in the Bay Area. Now that she’s older, her parents have started letting her take the ferry into town with her friends to skate into the skies and capture that feeling of zero gravity she loves so much.

However, Stess is still her little girl.

Minna Stess attending a Dew Tour event in Des Moines, Iowa in May 2021.

Minna Stess attending a Dew Tour event in Des Moines, Iowa in May 2021.

(Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

Her father remembers the piercing screams. In 2018, Stess broke and dislocated her elbow – the worst injury of her career.

“I watched her pull that trick over and over again until she couldn’t do it anymore,” her father said.

Stess’ parents know how dangerous skateboarding is. They’ve accepted their daughter being spanked, but that doesn’t lessen the anxiety they feel watching her compete.

Despite her apt skater name, Stess isn’t exactly fearless.

“I’m scared – a lot,” she said.

For her protection, Stess wears knee pads, usually with a pair of Vans trainers and jean shorts. Her personal style already fitted the skater mold—girly clothes just weren’t her thing. Stess scratches her head over some of her previous outfits, but she’s still a teenager. Still evolving.

Her father says the best is yet to come in her prolific skating career, but he thinks she’s an even better person than an athlete. Stess uses her social media accounts to express herself and share what she believes in, but she said she’s only 16 and is still developing a voice in that sense.

Her parents say they don’t have to keep Stess on the ground because she does it herself.

“She doesn’t go to a skate park and say, ‘Look at me,'” her father said. “She just wants to be out there skating.”

That’s not to say Stess doesn’t tell it like it is. Her father jokes that the East Coast spirit awakened in their West Coast child as she grew older. It is cheeky and steely and uncompromisingly packed in one.

That’s what makes skateboarding special for her.

“It’s something you can do in your own way,” Stess said.

Her mother says Stess runs like a blur song, but lyrically, Estelle’s “Do My Thing” — its message that exudes confidence — really captures the energy of her daughter, who is hoping for an X Games title and a ticket to Paris im Year 2024 is pressing.

https://www.latimes.com/sports/olympics/story/2022-07-22/minna-stess-x-games-skateboarding-champion-olympics Minna Stess pushes for X Games win on road to 2024 Olympics

Emma Bowman

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