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Vista resident Elliot Sloan raises his arms in celebration after a run on the mega ramp. The run would earn Sloan an X-Games gold medal in the big air competition earlier this year in Los Angeles. Photo by Michael Barbuti
Vista resident Elliot Sloan raises his arms in celebration after a run on the mega ramp. The run would earn Sloan an X-Games gold medal in the big air competition earlier this year in Los Angeles. Photo by Michael Barbuti
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Elliot Sloan’s long journey leads to gold

VISTA — Growing up in New York was a great experience for professional skateboarder Elliot Sloan, he said. 

But he’d soon trade the concrete streets for the wood and masonite of the vert ramp; the Big Apple for the Golden State, ultimately settling in Vista to fully commit to becoming one of the action sport industry’s rising talents.

Sloan, 25, found his way onto a skateboard just about the time the X-Games were gaining in popularity.

“There was that big rush of action sports and also, believe it or not, Tony Hawk’s first (video) game came out,” he said. “And I’m an avid videogame player and I was hooked on that game for a real long time. I think that was another part of it,” he added.

While he did have some interest in traditional team sports, it was the attitudes of skateboarding — not needing to win all of the time, and not as competitive a nature — that drew him closer to it.

Sloan couldn’t explain what it was that would bring him to the vert ramp other than there was something really appealing to him about it.

But watching Hawk complete the 900 was definitely a pivotal moment for Sloan, who would also be one of those few to attempt and land the 900.

Landing his first, and to this point only, 900 two years ago — a testament to how difficult it is to rotate two-and-a-half times in the air before landing back on the face of the ramp and ride away.

Not only did Hawk serve as inspiration to Sloan’s transition from street to ramp, but also from watching fellow Vista resident Bob Burnquist and a lot of the other vert skaters that he now competes against and skates with today.

“It’s still amazing,” he said. “I can’t believe that I am where I’m at. I’ve got to pinch myself all the time when I’m up there with those guys.”

But that doesn’t mean he isn’t already looking over his shoulder at the younger generation of skaters coming up behind him.

Having turned pro a few years ago, Sloan won an X-Games gold medal this year in Los Angeles in the big air competition by completing a smooth tail grab 720 over the gap and finishing it off with a tail grab 540, more than 25 feet in the air to beat out Burnquist and others.

But he knows that the younger skaters competing, some as young as 16 years old, are slowly creeping up with their talents.

While admitting he’s still a vert skater at heart, Sloan made the move to the mega ramp, which he described as whole new feeling.

Completing a run on the gigantic ramp that sends skaters flying through the air is probably one of the best feelings he ever, he said.

“It’s just crazy; you’re going way faster than you ever have on pretty much anything, and way bigger…definitely, it’s one of those things. You really notice it when you come back to a vert ramp, how big the mega ramp is. That’s one of the coolest feelings, too, is you really have time, when you’re in the air, to contemplate tricks; whereas like on vert you’re just (making) quick decisions.”

His first big break came at a vert contest in San Diego.

He said it was one of the first contests where he placed well. “And it was the greatest feeling, because I had a taste of what it was like to do good in a contest and finally, I was like, ‘OK, I can do this.’ (And) just kept pursuing it, and little by little, it’s just been a really long journey of doing these contests and going through all of that experience.”

Nerves, anxieties, emotions — all of those would come up as Sloan made his way from busing tables and working construction jobs to trying to compete in contests at the same time.

But life as a professional now allows him the freedom to focus on skateboarding and continue to improve all the while not having to worry about making ends meet.

Life on the road when traveling to competitions isn’t as lonely as it may sound.

For Sloan, he has a tight-knit group of friends, who, when the contests begin are also his competitor.

But as far as competing, he said, “Yeah, it is lonely. You can’t depend on anyone else.”

Still, there is bond that forms between Sloan and the other skaters out there. “At the end of the day, it’s pretty dangerous what we’re doing. We’re all competitive and want to do good, but at the end of the day, we always want to see each other do great and walk away safe.”

Sloan has come to the realization that if you try anything hard enough and long enough, anything’s possible. How did he come to know that?

Because he’s done it.