Looking down from the top of the 75-foot-high Mega Ramp inside the new U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, professional skateboarder Elliot Sloan checks his helmet, steps onto the front of his board and drops in. Reaching speeds of 45 MPH, he blasts a beautifully rotated Indy 720 over the gap and then an Indy Tail Grab 900 off the 27-foot-high quarter pipe – a trick that’s never been done before, earning Sloan the X Games gold medal in Big Air.
“I tried it in in practice and during my third run and missed,” Sloan tells Rolling Stone. “Then I went for it on my fourth run and made it.”
In pure gladiator fashion, Sloan victoriously raises his hands toward a cheering arena and spikes his skateboard onto the Mega Ramp. “I’ve never done that before,” says the fearless flyer, adrenaline still speeding through his hands. “No one has done that before.” This gold medal represents Sloan’s ninth career X Games podium.
“I knew I needed to do a 900 and no one had ever done it with a tail grab,” says Sloan of his strategy to move up from third place. “It’s a super-long wait at the top. So, to finally have that pressure relieved and also be completely stoked on landing my trick – it’s an incredible feeling. Nothing comes close to that in all the shit that I do.”
Sloan’s first social media words after winning gold were, “We did it, Mom,” referencing his mother’s recent victory over cancer as he approached contest season. “I was trying to calm my nerves at the top of the Mega Ramp,” says Sloan. “I was just telling myself to do it for my mom. I knew it would lift her spirit and the whole thing with cancer is about staying positive and that’s so hard to do when you’re the one dealing with it. It’s heavy.”
Sloan’s father died when he was 16 and still living in New York. He was forced to drop out of school and get a job to help support himself and his mother. Already a talented skateboarder, work life began to send Sloan into depression and threaten his dreams of skating professionally. Ultimately, Sloan packed up his car and drove out to San Diego, the hub of vert skating. Soon after, his mother followed and the two reassembled their lives in California in search of Sloan’s future in skateboarding.
Tony Hawk landed the first-ever 900 in a competition at X Games in 1999. “It was something that I had been trying to do for 10 years,” Hawk tells RS. “Congratulations to Elliot on winning X Games Big Air and making Indy 900s look easy along the way.” Seeing Hawk’s first 900 on television inspired Sloan to take up vert skating and ultimately the seek out the Mega Ramp. The two skateboarders are now teammates – Sloan rides for Hawk’s company Birdhouse Skateboards.
Last year, Thrasher released Sloan’s magnum opus to date, ” Metal and Mayhem” – a skateboarding film that features Sloan skating his backyard vert ramp and Bob Burnquist’s Mega Ramp, as well as performing the sinister soundtrack for the film. The video also features cameos by Bones Brigaders Steve Caballero and Tony Hawk. As Thrasher comments: “From the moment you see him [Sloan] 360 the Mega Ramp while holding a guitar, you’ll know Sloan is on some different shit.”
So what motivates someone to aspire to be a maniacal Mega Ramp rider? “In skateboarding, it’s the closest you can get to actually flying,” says Sloan. “That sensation of going super fast and blasting airs – it’s gnarly.” Indeed it is gnarly. In 2015, Sloan missed an attempt at a 900 and nearly broke his neck. Despite the shooting pain from two compressed discs, Sloan pressed through the competition and scored three medals at X Games Austin 2015, including a gold in Vert Best Trick.
As this year’s competition came to a close, Rolling Stone asked Sloan how he celebrated his victory. “Well shit, it was crazy,” says Sloan. “First, I did like 10 different interviews, took my pads off and let it all sink in. Then I shot-gunned a few beers and it was party time.”