Elliot Sloan – Gold Medalist in The X Games
In July of 2017, pro skateboarder Elliot Sloan took the cannabis industry higher than it’s ever been. Climbing the ladder of a 75-foot mega ramp at the U.S. Bank Arena in Minneapolis in front of thousands of spectators and TV cameras, he looked down at the drop-in of a lifetime, his final run in the Big Air competition at the 2017 X Games. With all eyes on him, there could’ve been a thousand things swirling around in his mind as he throttled down the ramp over a 45-foot gap at 45 miles per hour to land an unprecedented Indy Tail Grab 900 that would win him the gold medal. Thankfully, he wasn’t thinking about a goddamn thing. “Honestly, I try not to think at all,” Sloan admits. “If you start thinking about every little thing, that usually backfires on you. Seconds before [competition] I’m just trying to stay pumped up, but I’m not really trying to think about too much.”
Before the big stunt, one thing he did think to do was throw on a shirt from his most recent sponsor, Weedmaps. As he flew towards the sun, so did the company’s logo—bright, bold and turquoise for all the word to see. When he spun through the air, landed the trick, spiked his skateboard and slid down the ramp on his knee pads with adrenaline surging through his veins, two things happened: one, the 29-year-old skateboarder captured the biggest moment in his career with a trick he’d never even landed before. Two, he showed the world that athletes who publicly endorse cannabis no longer fear the stigma of being associated with the industry.
“That’s why I’m so stoked to ride for them, I wanna be a part of changing the perception of it,” Sloan explains. “At X Games, there’s an alcohol sponsor, and right next to the vert ramp there’s a beer garden. That’s ok, but cannabis isn’t? It never made sense to me.”
Sloan’s win at the X Games was more than just a triumph for cannabis culture. It was the culmination of facing—and overcoming—a lifetime of obstacles. From the tragic death of his father to the struggle of watching his mother battle cancer as he trained for X Game gold, personal struggles gave Sloan the drive to complete his herculean training regimen. Through it all, skateboarding and music always helped him deal with life as it came speeding at him. But even the biggest professional moment of his life hasn’t changed this laid-back action sports junkie from Manhattan.
“I feel like I’m no different than the next person,” Sloan says. “I just had a dream, and that’s what fueled me to pursue this type of skating when I saw other people doing it. We all have the same chance—it’s just a matter of how bad you want it.”
Before winning X Games gold in 2017 and becoming skateboarding’s most high-profile cannabis advocate, Sloan grew up watching the X Games on TV. Inspired by Tony Hawk’s legendary 900, he became a fixture at local skate parks, where he honed his vert (half- pipe) skills that would one day lead to his professional career and getting signed to Hawk’s skateboard company, Birdhouse. He trained to the point of obsession. It was an outlet that gave him comfort in a way he never realized it could when his father, who worked on Wall Street, tragically passed away when Sloan was 16 after succumbing to an addiction to OxyContin.
“It was super hard to watch at a young age, not knowing what was really going on until after the fact,” Sloan remembers. “It’s an epidemic that’s turning people into heroin addicts—and the government lets it happen— and we’re still arguing over whether cannabis should be legal or not.”
After his father died, Sloan got a job to help support himself and his mother. Growing up fast sent him into a depression that didn’t really lift until he relocated to San Diego in 2006. It was in California, at the start of his pro career, where discovered the magic of the mega ramp while skating with vert legend Bob Burnquist, who has one of the only two mega ramps in the world right in his backyard.
“I was eyeing [the mega ramp] for a while. It took me a while to drop in and try it. It’s pretty intimidating,” Sloan confesses. In 2008, he started trying the ramp and was hooked the moment he sailed over its gap for the first time. Gradually, he built his reputation on big air tricks that left his peers slack-jawed. “It was like nothing I’d ever felt before,” Sloan says. “It was a whole different level of going fast, flying and charging shit.”
Despite the grandiose nature of this style of skating, there’s only one other mega ramp in the country for Sloan to train on besides the one in Burnquist’s backyard, the second being at a skate camp in Bakersfield. The number of competitions is equally slim.
“There’s only a few contests for us vert mega guys,” Sloan says. “It kinda puts a lot of pressure on you. Last year it got canceled, so I was sitting around all year thinking about it. I guess in that aspect, I won this time and I’ve got this confidence all year. That definitely helps. But when it’s the opposite, it’s kind of a bummer thinking about it all year.”
This time around, Sloan was skating for more than just fame and bragging rights. Prior to the X Games, his mother was in and out of the hospital battling cancer. “Literally a couple weeks before [the X Games], she was in the hospital and was on 10 days of treatment,” Sloan recalls. “It was a big reality check, and gave me perspective on a lot of things. Made me see the important things in life. Which sucks, that it takes something like that to open your eyes.”
Fortunately, his mother’s cancer went into remission, and seeing the way cannabis helped her recovery made Sloan an even bigger advocate. It almost seemed like fate when Eric Sorensen, action sports director of Weedmaps and longtime friend of Sloan’s, came to him with a sponsorship opportunity. “I’ve had an eye on what they’ve been doing,” Sloan says of Weedmaps, “and I think it’s awesome, and I wanted to be a part of it. I had the opportunity one time before, and Rockstar, my energy drink sponsor, wasn’t really cool with it at the time. The opportunity came back up again, and Eric came down to my house and I showed him this [mega ramp] that I’m building. I told him I wanted them to be a part of this, and [asked if Weedmaps would] help me finish [the ramp].” The two made a handshake deal on the spot, right before Sloan left for the X Games. The rest is high-flying history.
Since the dust has settled on Sloan’s historic X Games victory, his biggest prize has been the ability to attack life with the same veracity as skateboarding, taking trips around the world and focusing on another major passion of his: making music. As a longtime guitarist and a big-time metal head, Sloan’s always sought to combine his passions for shredding in both the music and skateboarding worlds. That includes a video he put out with the band Thrasher, his magnum opus, “Metal and Mayhem,” featuring split shots of Sloan skating ramps and playing in a band backed by legendary skater Steve Caballero on bass.
One thing he does think about—when he’s not defying death on a vert ramp, or rocking out—is what he’s going to do in the future once he decides to move on from professional skating. Though it would be almost too difficult to fathom for most, Sloan’s big dreams don’t stop at skating.
“I definitely don’t wanna be competing on mega ramps for the rest of my life,” Sloan says. “I could see something happen with music, doing festivals and shows. I’ve thought about doing some events at my house with the mega ramp, and just touring and playing music. Or hell, maybe I’ll create my own event, who knows.”
Whatever Sloan decides to do, at this point in his life, it’s pretty clear that the sky’s the limit.
Read more articles from October DOPE “Active Issue”….