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 came into the world, but her mother says her punchy guitar, infectious tambourine dance beat and its cool philosophy embody the movement of the phenomenon of skateboarding in the park.

The 2021 USA Skateboarding Women’s Park National Champion skates so well that last summer she was selected as an alternate for the Tokyo Olympics at just 15 years old. So sweet, Stess’ mother, Moniz Franco, says it’s hard to detect the sound of the skateboard wheels scraping across the surface as she performs tricks on the halfpipes. The 2022 X Games judges will hear that trail from Blur when they see the skater compete in the women’s park competition on Saturday at the California Training Center in Vista. Stess placed fourth in the women’s park event last year.

“It’s like a big bowl or a big pool, basically,” Stess said. “And you have to figure out how to skate all of that in 40 seconds without falling and doing tricky tricks. It’s a lot.”

Still, no park compares to ours in Petaluma, a town 30 miles north of San Francisco. The Phoenix Theater has only a few ramps, but it’s where Stess attends hardcore shows like her mother did when she was young and where her older brother, Finnley, went before introducing his family to skateboarding.

His parents thought their children would be musicians.

In 1991, the same year the English band released “There’s No Other Way,” Stess’ father Andrew left the East Coast for Petaluma in search of the ’90s version of the San Francisco sound. There he met Stess’ mother, another music enthusiast and East Coaster.

Legendary rock band The Who played at this Petaluma venue in the 60s. Decades later, Stess would build his own legend in a sport that saw a surge in female participation. She’s the smiling, diaper-clad toddler on the skateboard in a clip featured in Candace Parker’s recent documentary Title IX. She took part in her first local competitions at the age of 5.

Three years later, the prospect of Paris 2024 began to take the podium in competitions, sometimes beating all the boys.

“Every park I’m at, there’s always a girl there, which is amazing,” Stess said. “And I think it’s becoming a standard now, which is good, because it should be a standard.”

Stess prefers skating in the Bay Area. Now that she’s older, her parents have started letting her take the ferry to town with her friends to skate through the air and experience that feeling of weightlessness that she loves so much.

However, Stess is still their baby girl.

Minna Stess attends 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 off that trick over and over again until she didn’t,” her dad said.

Stess’ parents know how dangerous skateboarding is. They’ve come to terms with their daughter getting screwed, but that doesn’t lessen the anxiety they feel watching her compete.

Even with her skater name, Stess isn’t necessarily fearless.

“I’m scared – a lot,” she said.

For protection, Stess wears knee pads, usually with a pair of Vans sneakers and denim shorts. His personal style already fit the skater mold – women’s clothing wasn’t his thing. Stess scratches her head at some of her past outfits, but she’s still a teenager. Always 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 she is an athlete. Stess uses her social media accounts to speak out and share what she believes in, but she said she’s only 16 and still developing a voice along those lines.

Her parents say they don’t have to keep Stess down 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 that Stess doesn’t tell it like it is. Her father jokes that the East Coast spirit has awakened in their West Coast child as she gets older. She’s sassy and steezy and shamelessly wrapped up 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 skates like a Blur song, but lyrically, Estelle’s “Do My Thing” – her message full of confidence – really captures her daughter’s energy as she pushes for an X Games title and a ticket to Paris in 2024.

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