Salt Lake City, UT (August 29, 2021) — On a brand-new skatepark that was inaugurated Friday by Tony Hawk and Vans, the world’s top street skateboarders competed in the first stop of the Street League Skateboarding (SLS) Championship Tour in Salt Lake City this weekend.
The first of three Championship Tour stops this season—with the next two slated for Miami and Jacksonville—SLS celebrated the return of fans to the stands, with many of its skaters fresh off the Tokyo Olympics, where there were no spectators in attendance.
The Salt Lake City event, put on by the Utah Sports Commission and held at the Utah State Fairpark, was a free, first-come, first-served event.
This season marked the return of SLS’ limited roster size, with a pre-season invitational tour qualifier at Paul “P-Rod” Rodriguez’s Primitive Skatepark.
Following prelims on Friday, the eight men’s and women’s finalists took to the new Vans street course to battle it out for podium position. For the first time ever, the SLS final also featured a new format. Each rider, men’s and women’s, had one 45-second run in section one, or the “line” section, followed by four best trick attempts in section two.
But in a new wrinkle this year, after taking the three best of those five scores (dropping the lowest and the highest), the top four riders moved on to a “super final” in which each had two additional best trick attempts to replace their lowest recorded scores, for a total possible score of 30.
Any score beginning with the number nine is rare to see in SLS competition, but the judges were clearly impressed by what they saw on Saturday, with some male riders earning multiple nines.
The highest score among the women was Rayssa Leal’s 8.5, which she earned on her last trick attempt in the super final—her walk-off kickflip frontside boardslide that sealed her win with a final score of 21.0. She narrowly edged Japan’s Funa Nakayama (20.7), who was the only rider in the women’s field to earn two sevens. Roos Zwetsloot of the Netherlands rounded out the podium in third place.
“It changed everything,” Leal said, with Brazilian street legend Leticia Bufoni translating, about the addition of the “super final. The 13-year-old’s mom helped her with the strategy.
The new format was different and harder, said Leal—who won women’s street skateboarding silver at the Tokyo Olympics—because “you kind of have to win twice.”
“We were all helping her decide which tricks to save,” Bufoni said. “It was definitely harder than the other formats.”
Nakayama, with Japanese street skater Aori Nishimura translating, also confessed to spending a lot of time deciding which tricks to throw down during the first four attempts and which to save for a potential super final that was not guaranteed.
Neither Leal nor Bufoni expected so many Brazilians in the crowd at Salt Lake City—and there were many. More than a dozen Brazil flags waved in the wind as the crowd cheered on its skaters in the finals—Pamela Rosa joined Leal among the women, while Kelvin Hoefler, Felipe Gustavo and Filipe Mota represented the country among the men.
Leal, who rides for Nike SB, said it felt like she was home.
Brazil, however, failed to crack the podium in the men’s final. Portugal’s Gustavo Ribeiro, with a monster score of 27.6, edged out Americans Nyjah Huston (27.2) and Alex Midler (25.4) to take first place. Ribeiro earned the highest score of the day with a 360 flip noseblunt that commanded a 9.4, joining his 9.0 on his first trick and his 9.2 on his third trick.
Huston earned two nines, an even 9.o on his second trick and the second-highest score of the day with a 9.3 on his fourth trick. His fifth trick (and final make of the day), a Cab flip back lipslide, earned an 8.9, and later, on social media, Huston publicly shared his confusion. But the 0.4 points Ribeiro had on Huston earned him his first SLS first-place finish.
Like Leal and Nakayama, Ribeiro also thought the super final was “different and harder,” putting more pressure on riders. But ultimately, the Cariuma rider thought it was a good idea—and it was clearly good to him.
Ribeiro suffered an injury just ahead of the Tokyo Olympics, where he placed eighth in the men’s street final, and acknowledged his skating “was not his best” at the Games. The same is patently untrue about his performance in Salt Lake City.
“I’ve been training a lot and having fun with my homies, and when you train a lot, good things come,” Ribeiro, 20, said. “I think today was my day, and I’m so stoked.”
The street park that hosted the SLS Salt Lake City stop, donated by Vans, will join the nearby bowl Vans built as another legacy skatepark remaining with the Greater Salt Lake City community. Funded in a private-public model, more than 750 local residents offered their feedback on the design of the course, which is designed with mirrored features to provide equal advantage to regular- and goofy-footed riders.
The SLS Championship Tour will also be the first live event for the SkateBird Miami skatepark, a forthcoming SLS-certified street plaza. The 2021 men’s and women’s SLS champions will be crowned in Jacksonville on Sunday, November 14, at the Super Crown World Championship.