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Petaluma girl a world class skater


After nine years of training, six championship medals and copious firsts and “youngest” achievements, Petaluma skateboarding prodigy Minna Stess is now preparing to compete in the upcoming X Games, the Olympics of her sport. For the 11-year-old powerhouse, who has been skateboarding since before she was 2 years old, her extensive practice and experience have paid off.

Minna’s invitation to the X Games this year qualifies her as the youngest competitor to ever participate in the contest. She is the youngest in the world to be invited out of 20 other female skateboarders for the qualifier of the women’s skateboard park event, in which competitors are judged on the tricks they perform over a series of obstacles. The qualifying round takes place June 9-10 in Boise, Idaho. The finals will be July 13-16 in Minneapolis.

This incredible opportunity has brought excitement and pride to Minna’s entire family. Andrew Stess, Minna’s father, said he was impressed and pleased with his daughter’s success and efforts.

“She’s really earned it,” he said, of the upcoming X Games. “I’m just so proud. … To do something at such a high level so young is really hard at any age, and to do it young is that much more impressive.”

Minna herself keeps a cool head about the whole thing. When it comes down to it, she’s simply doing what she loves.

“I don’t really feel any pressure,” she said. “I just skate.”

No matter what the event is, no matter how big or dramatic, she said, “It’s all just skating.”

Minna’s vast array of championships and competition achievements have provided a jaw-dropping display of “first evers.”

Most recently, Minna won first place during the 2016 World Cup Skateboarding Bowl Series for the 15-and-under division. At 9 years old, Minna was the youngest ever to win the World Cup championship.

Also in 2016, Minna competed at the largest all-female bowl contest in the world: the Exposure Women’s Skateboarding Event. At 10, Minna was the youngest ever to win this bowl competition for the 15-and-under division. She also is the first girl to place in the top five for all three skateboarding events, including bowl, street and vert skateboarding.

In 2016, Minna was awarded for her accomplishments, such as first to win the ATV award at the King of the Groms National Championships for best all around in the 15-and-under division, as well as youngest to win the Tim Brauch 15-and-under Bowl contest, and the only girl ever to podium in both the Tim Brauch street and bowl contests.

In earlier years, Minna placed third in the World Cup of Skateboarding’s Vans Girls Combi Pool Classic, making her the youngest to ever podium at that competition at 8 years old. Minna is the first girl in the 35-year history of the California Amateur Skateboard League to win first place overall for the year in the street series for the 8-and-under division in Northern California.

At age 6, Minna was the youngest girl in the history of the King of the Groms contest series to make the finals in street skateboarding and qualify for the championships at 3rd Lair in Minnesota. She was the youngest girl, at age 7, to qualify in all three events — bowl, street and mini ramp.

Besides skateboarding, Minna is active on Facebook and Instagram, and represents her sponsors, including Independent Trucks, Santa Cruz Skateboards and local skateshop, Sonoma Old School. Other sponsors of Minna’s are Vans, 187 Killer Pads and Skateboard Hall of Fame member Cindy Whitehead’s brand, “Girl is Not a 4 Letter Word.”

Minna has recently been featured in one of her sponsor’s books, “It’s Not About Pretty,” as well as Kate Parker’s photography book “Strong is the New Pretty,” which was a sellout at Copperfield’s Books and a New York Times bestseller.

Minna’s mother, Moniz Franco, was excited, proud and somewhat amused by Minna’s appearances in these books.

“(Copperfield’s) had a whole empowerment section with a book by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and then (“Strong is the New Pretty”) was right next to it. … It just cracks me up,” she said. “It was kind of a wild moment there like, ‘Oh, there’s my child in a book next to Ruth Bader Ginsburg!’ ”

She also highlighted more of Minna’s recent endeavors, including work with Disney and Lifetime television. Despite the fact that Minna is a skateboarding genius, she still works hard in school. Moniz brought into context Minna’s young age by mentioning her latest assignments at McNear Elementary School.

“(Minna) just finished her state report for fifth grade, and her big book report,” she said. “I’m pretty sure she’s the only one that had to finish that before going to the X Games. … I don’t think anyone else had a book report due.”