Aug 2019 Skate Park X Games – credit Bryce Kanights
At an age when most kids are decapitating Barbies or chewing on Legos, Minna Stess was already competing at local skate competitions near her hometown of Petaluma, California, north of San Francisco. This May, the 15-year-old took home first place at the USA National Championships. If there’s one thing for certain, it’s that Minna’s star has only begun to rise. We asked Minna a few questions about what keeps her motivated through tough competitions and how she sees her place within the growing world of women in skateboarding.
Let’s start from the beginning. You started skating while still in diapers. Who encouraged you to get on a board for the very first time?
My brother who’s almost three years older than me started skating when he was four. I wanted to do whatever he was doing, so my parents got me a board and I started rolling around with him. I don’t even remember learning how to drop in–I just remember knowing how to do it.
When did it become clear to you and everyone around you that this was where your passion and talent lied, and that you could pursue it as a full-time career?
When I was around 12 or 13, I could see a career in skating for me, especially seeing other female skaters like Lizzie Armanto and Nora Vasconcellos coming up.
You’ve won several prestigious awards. Walk us through what goes on in your mind as you’re competing. Do you think about the judges, or do you go to more of an internal place within yourself?
I don’t really think about the judges as much. I focus on wanting to land what I had planned and hopefully getting good results. If it doesn’t work out, I’ll be happy with myself knowing I did what I wanted to do.
To compete at your level must surely require a level of discipline. What’s your practice routine?
When I’m in Southern California with my coach, I’ll spend 2-3 hours every other day practicing. When I’m home in Petaluma, I mostly have fun with my friends on my board. In 2012, we built a skatepark in my family’s backyard. It’s all concrete and still in really good condition. That’s where most of my friends come–we just skate my backyard.
“I don’t think it should be as big of a deal as it is to be a woman in skating, but I do think it is important to be a part of the progression of women in skating.”
When you’re finding yourself hitting a wall, like perhaps trying out a new trick and finding it challenging or overwhelming, what do you tell yourself to push through?
I tell myself that if I commit, that will break the mental barrier. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t and I fall or bail.
It’s no secret that skateboarding is commonly thought of as a male-dominated world. What does it mean to you to be a young woman in skating?
I don’t think it should be as big of a deal as it is to be a woman in skating, but I do think it is important to be a part of the progression of women in skating. When I was younger, I would be the only girl at the park. Now, I see whole squads of girls at the park sometimes.
Are there any female skaters who came before you that you draw inspiration from?
Samarria Brevard is a really good street skater and she’s super nice. I admire Vanessa Torres. When I was younger and skating at KTR [Mesa in Mesa, Arizona,] Alana Smith was the only other girl skating. She was as good as the guys and I looked up to her then. I still do.
What would you tell other women and non-binary folks who want to get into skating but may feel intimidated by the lack of non-male representation?
Don’t worry about men. If they say anything to you, they’re just jealous, so it doesn’t matter anyway, right?