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Young wizard on four wheels

8-year-old girl takes national skating scene by storm|

Minna Stess doesn’t want participation ribbons. She doesn’t compete in national skateboarding competitions because she wants to change the all-male stereotype for the sport. She doesn’t even compete because she wants to beat her competitors.

Minna Stess skateboards because she loves to skateboard.

“I feel happy (on a skateboard),” said the Petaluma 8-year-old.

A year ago, when Minna skated down the MegaRamp, a 27-foot tall quarter pipe at Woodward West in Tehachapi, she was the youngest girl to do so.

“It’s a funny feeling going down the MegaRamp,” she said. “When I was riding down it, I felt like I was floating in the air.”

While Minna tackled the MegaRamp with full gusto, she was too afraid to go down a 14-foot tall quarter pipe the same year, said her mother, Moniz Stess.

“It’s really funny when you think about that,” she said. “It’s all in her head. She didn’t want to go down the small pipe, but she’ll do the MegaRamp. That kind of logic reminds us that she’s still a kid.”

Petaluma residents Moniz and Andrew Stess, Minna’s father, are completely supportive of their daughter’s passion for skateboarding. But like most family activities, Minna didn’t get her start at skateboarding without the influence of her older brother, Finnley Stess. Only two years older than Minna, Finnley also competes at the national level, and is every bit as prodigious as his little sister.

Finnley knew he wanted to skateboard ever since he was a toddler, Moniz said.

“When he was a baby, he’d watch FuelTV and look at all the skating shows,” she said. “He once found an old corrugated cat scratch box, the kind where it’s just a flat piece of corrugated cardboard, and he’d bring that around everywhere he went. He’d come into the dinner table with that piece of cardboard.”

Once, Finnley found an old, discarded skateboard on the street that was missing its trucks and wheels. He took to carrying it around, until he received his first new skateboard.

“It was around his fourth birthday, and his grandma got him a scooter. He rode that scooter out and saw a 16-year-old girl riding around with a skateboard,” Moniz said. “It was instantaneous. He threw that scooter away and ran up to the girl, asking her if he could use her skateboard. That was when we knew we had to buy him a skateboard.”

Once Finnley started skating at local parks, tiny Minna wanted to do everything her brother did, Andrew, the father, said.

“We never really thought about letting her compete at that time,” he said. “We got her the pads and one of Finnley’s old skateboards, and she was so proud of her helmet, every time she put it on, she’d tap it and say ‘helmet!’ She was 18 months old.”

Because Finnley knew how to skate intuitively, he needed no direction. Minna, however, did need help. Andrew would hold Minna’s hand while she balanced and learned how to move the board and stay on.

“The most important thing about learning how to skateboard is how to fall down correctly,” Andrew said. “Most skateboarding injuries occur when the person doesn’t know how to fall.”

When Finnley was 5, he participated in the California Amateur Skateboard League in Sacramento. Minna was 3, and because this was the Stess family’s first exposure to competitions, they didn’t think to bring Minna’s skateboard.

“I spent an hour and a half outside the building, holding a screaming, crying, extremely angry little girl,” Moniz said.

From there on out, wherever one Stess brought a board, the other would be sure to carry one as well.

“You know, it blows my mind to think that when she turned 7, she was already a veteran contest skater,” Andrew said.

In six years, Minna became the first girl to become a finalist in three categories - street, bowl and mini ramp - at King of the Groms, a Minneapolis event. During King of the Groms 2014, she won the mini ramp event and received an ATV award for all-terrain vehicle/best all around. In 2013 she placed first in the California Amateur Skateboard League and the NorCal competition for street skateboarding.

She is currently ranked third in the world for girls 14-and-under after placing third in the World Cup of Skateboarding.

Follow Minna on Twitter and Instagram @Minnaks8. Follow Finnley @finnley_stess and @skaterfinn. Follow both @StokedToSkate.

Stoked to Skate

Andrew and Moniz Stess are working on opening a nonprofit modern indoor skate park in Santa Rosa called Stoked to Skate. “I went to Minna’s school once and asked the kids if they owned a skateboard,” Andrew said. “Nearly every one of them raised their hands.” They initially tried to open Stoked to Skate in Petaluma by transforming an unused pool at the Boys and Girls club, but plans for the building came to a stall when the club decided a skate park was not the direction for their building. Stoked to Skate’s mission is to provide the instruction, practice, training and enjoyment of skateboarding with an all-weather safe and supervised environment for Sonoma County youth. The foundation has partnered with Petaluma’s Mentor Me, an organization dedicated to pairing adult mentors with students.

(Contact William Rohrs at argus@arguscourier.com)

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