Competition was fierce as skaters from all across the world gathered at Wintrust Arena, with defending title holder Rayssa Leal taking home her fifth straight win Saturday.
The Street League Skateboarding (SLS) Championship Tour kicked off in Chicago on April 29 at Wintrust Arena. Olympians Rayssa Leal of Brazil and Gustavo Ribeiro of Portugal returned to defend their SLS Super Crown World Champion titles, but only Leal took home the weekend’s win.
On the Friday before the competition, competitors came to Wintrust Arena for practice. Almost every skater’s ears were filled with wireless headphones while they focused on getting tricks just right. Managers, coaches, friends and family stood at the sidelines for support before the event even began … and of course, there were a lot of great cargo pants.
The tour’s kickoff left two Brazilian skaters at the top. Kelvin Hoefler took home the men’s win leaving Super Crown Champ Ribeiro in sixth place. The competition was fierce with 26 competitors from all over the world, many of whom competed in the first-ever skateboarding Olympic games in Tokyo 2020. Attentive fans made their feelings known throughout with collective cheers and gasps, as the competition progressed.
In the men’s top three, Ryan Decenzo of Canada placed second just 0.6 points beneath Hoefler.
Nyjah Huston, the most decorated skater in SLS history, placed third after an almost year-long hiatus following an ACL tear.
Hoefler accrued 8.2 out of 10 points in his first run. According to Skate News Wire, Hoefler’s first run included a nollie nosegrind on the tall Hubba, a backside tailslide on the closeout rail, a kickflip backside lipslide on the flat rail, a kickflip frontside boardslide fakie down the rail, a switch frontside tailslide on the small Hubba and a half Cab crooked on the tall Hubba. His second run paled in comparison, scoring only 2.7 points.
However, Hoefler ended up garnering even bigger points from the single trick section scoring 8.8 in trick one, 9 in tricks two and five, and 8.9 in trick three.
Leal has been the top dog in women’s skateboarding lately, with five-straight SLS wins since July 2022. Momiji Nishiya of Japan beat Leal for gold in the 2020 Olympic games, but placed second place behind her this time, trailing by just 3.1 points. Fellow Olympian Roos Zwetsloot of the Netherlands placed in third with a total score of 25.8 points.
Leal’s first run accrued 7.6 points, and her second run scored 2.1 points, but her trick scores helped carry the win home. Despite scoring 0 for tricks three and four, Leal was still able to pick up her lead by trick 5, where she completed a frontside bluntslide down the tall Hubba and scored 8.4 points.
Notably, the women’s division boasts much younger competitors than their male counterparts, with the oldest competitor, Zwetsloot, being only 22 years old. The weekend’s youngest competitor, Chloe Covell of Australia, is only 13 years old but has an impressive history as the youngest person to ever win two X Games gold medals.
Covell’s SLS debut was at last year’s Las Vegas event, where she placed second with only participants watching on the sidelines. This year’s event was very different taking place in an arena with large crowds, and many fans.
At practice, Covell said, “I’m pretty excited to have a crowd. It’s great because when you land a trick, they’re just cheering you on.” This ended up being exactly the case for her, as the crowd went wild when she landed a 50-50 kickflip out over the ledge in her first run.
Covell dominated both runs, scoring higher than all of the other female competitors. In run one she scored 8.6 points and in run two she scored 8.1 points. While Covell did incredibly well in the runs, she didn’t have the same outcome in the single trick section of the competition, scoring 0 across the board. Despite her loss, she is still making big moves all around the world while competing in Olympic qualifiers from Rome to Sharjah, UAE.
The weekend of the SLS competition did not come without surprises. Luan Oliveira of Brazil had to drop out of the competition after facing a back injury, but SLS had the USA’s long-time skate legend Ryan Sheckler take his spot. While Sheckler did not place, he did put on a show the crowd loved, including a half-cab flip.
— Street League Skateboarding (@StreetLeague) May 5, 2023
The absence of Japan’s Yuto Horigome was easy to spot, as the first-ever Olympic skateboarding gold medalist. After catching the stomach flu, he was unable to skate the event. Fans shared their disappointment on Twitter:
Ainda desacreditada que o Yuto não participou da SLS, do nada mano 😓
— KITTY 👔 (@NannoSquad) April 29, 2023
Maaaan no Yuto?!?!?! That sucks! #SLS
— Green Dot A (@TheRealAGreen) April 29, 2023
Hey Yuto…so sad that I can’t see u skating in sls Chicago😱
— daihuku (@rerepi7) April 29, 2023
The next stop on the SLS Championship Tour is Tokyo, and the qualifiers will continue the competition on August 12. With three remaining tour locations in Tokyo, Sydney and a TBD Super Crown destination, fans will have to wait and see who will take home the 2023 SLS Super Crown World Champion title.
Bridget Killian and Anna Retzlaff contributed reporting to this piece.
Header Illustration by Julia Hester