Kelvin Hoefler shocked the world when he won the 2015 Super Crown World Championship during his first year in SLS. But he was taken out by a fall at the 2016 Tamp Pro that literally snapped his leg in half. In true champion spirit, Kelvin battled back this season and is set to compete in the 2017 Super Crown later this week. We caught up with Kelvin to find out exactly how a kid that grew up poor in Brazil was able to make it to the United States and become an SLS Super Crown World Champion.
You were out last season with an injury that you sustained at Tampa Pro. What happened and what was the process coming back from that?
As usual, I was very excited to skate Tampa Pro. I went to skate the concrete bowl with a couple of friends for fun. Unfortunately, I was doing a 50-50 and my back truck slipped out. I fell and broke my tibia and fibula in half. I went to the hospital and watched the finals on Sunday just after the surgery. It was a very bad injury. It was very hard for me to not be able to skate because I love skating everyday. So the process to come back was very slow and painful but at the same time very motivating. Every new trick that I was able to do again was a huge reward. I’m very blessed to be able to skate again. I can’t imagine what my life would be like without skateboarding.
How has it been skating this season after the injury that took you out for most of 2016?
At first, I was very scared and shy. I lost a year of progression in my skating. I had to go back and relearn a lot of tricks that I used to have. I started skating again at the 2017 Tampa Pro. All I wanted was to land my tricks. I was so happy about landing my kickflip frontside blunt. That meant a lot to me. After that, I skated all the other stops. It was a great time to see everybody and travel to Munich and Barcelona. I love going to Europe. Chicago was a great contest as well.
You surprised a lot of people when you won the 2015 SLS Super Crown World Championship in your first year in SLS. Did you expect to do as well as you did, and how did it feel to win?
I didn’t expect to win the Super Crown. I wanted to land good tricks in the contest. I wasn’t landing my tricks during practice. So I was like, “oh well, I’m going for it. It’s the Super Crown. I need to come up with some good tricks.” I would say that I’m very blessed to be a part of SLS and I’m very blessed that I won the Super Crown in 2015. I got hurt after that. At least I had the money to take care of my health and to be able to come back strong to do what I do. Thanks to SLS for the opportunity.
You consistently do well in SLS, what’s your strategy for skating the contest?
I just try to land the tricks that I have in my mind. But sometimes I forget the tricks that I want to try and do other ones as well. I don’t have a strategy in mind. I just try to have a good run and land a few good tricks.
You’re one of the few street skaters that may be known more for contests than video parts. How do you prioritize skating contests and filming, is one more important than the other to you?
It’s interesting how people think that, maybe because they don’t know my story. I grew up skating contests in Brazil just like every other Brazilian skater. We used to skate a lot of the contests together since we were very little. That’s how you can get some opportunities and sponsors in Brazil. So I guess that’s how all the kids started in Brazil. I believe there’s no such a thing as a contest skater or a street skater. We all came from the streets. We came from poverty and the hood. We all learned how to skate in the streets and the contests are just contests. Skaters are different. We are always pushing our limits, breaking bones, going to hospital, and never giving up! We fall 99 times and we get up 100. Just for the feeling of landing or learning a new trick.
The first time that I came to the United States was in 2009 for Tampa Am. I came with 300 dollars in my pocket. I stayed with my friend Caio Notaro in Atlanta and we drove to Tampa. I crashed on his couch and had a dream that I would live in America. I was very young and broke. So how could I be able to do that? I went back to Brazil and worked my ass off to turn pro with the sponsors I had at the time so that I could have some cash. In 2011, I went to Europe and won a few WCS contests and saved some money to live in California. I just had to invest in my dreams with the money I made from contests.
I grew up in a beach city called Guaruja in Brazil. Everyone surfs there or plays soccer. Most of the streets in my hometown weren’t paved at the time. So we used to skate in a schoolyard every day after school. But everyone was so poor and we had no video cameras around. With the first contest money that I won in Brazil, I bought a video camera. But nobody knew how to film with it. My dad was a cop, so he never allowed me to go to other cities to skate street when I was a kid. After I turned 18, I was able to get out and travel the world and start filming more in the streets. Now, I usually film in between contests and just stack clips for anything that I need to do. I think filming in the streets is the most exciting thing to do. It’s fun and you have all the time you need to land a trick. Plus the footage looks so good in the streets. Skating a contest sometimes puts a lot of pressure on you. I have more fun filming in the streets for sure!
How do you feel going into this year’s Super Crown? Are you doing anything special to prepare?
I’ve been filming some edits in the streets. I haven’t had too much time to think about the Super Crown yet. A few surprises are coming and I had to film a welcome video.
I think I broke my big toe in Barcelona but never went to find out. So my toe hurts so much lately. I just saw the park a couple days ago and it looks great. I think a park like this one will bring out the best in all of us.
Being that you’re the 2015 SLS World Champion, what does it take to win the Super Crown in your opinion?
You need to be having a good day and land all the tricks that you have in mind for yourself. You can’t compare yourself to other skaters. They are all good and they all can take it, you know? You just need to know where you are going and know that will get you there.
Carlos Ribeiro said that it’s almost impossible for Brazilians to make it to the U.S. for skating, which is part of what drives them to get so good. What’s your perspective on that?
Yeah, he’s 100 percent right. We don’t have much! When I was young, all I wanted was to buy a Santa Cruz maple board. But it was so expensive. Like 400,00 reais and minimum wage in Brazil was like 600,00. My dad would never buy a board that expensive for me. One of the richest kids in my city got it for Christmas. We all wanted to touch it! Plus, we don’t learn English in public schools. To get a visa for the USA, you need to be rich or know somebody influential in the government. I had my visa denied in 2008 because my whole family didn’t make enough money. In 2009, my sponsors helped me out and got me a visa through the company. I used to buy used shoes, trucks, and wheels to skate. I only got new stuff for Christmas. I have many friends that were very talented and stopped skating because of that. And they were very good, like crazy switch gods! Only a few will make it through. If they already have a family that can support them or because of skateboarding. After I moved to the U.S., i was like, “all the kids here have the best skateparks, the best shoes, the best boards, the best wheels—all they need is to skate.” We have a lot to think about before we skate. When we go out street skating in Brazil, we need to watch out for people trying to steal all of our stuff as well.
Where do you see skateboarding and the skate industry in Brazil going in the future?
I think is going to be huge. There’s a lot of talent in Brazil and brands as well. We have nearly eight million skateboarders in Brazil. There’s a lot of unknown brands in Brazil because importing is very expensive and kids don’t have the money to spend on expensive products. All they want is to be able to skate. I was one of those kids that couldn’t afford expensive products. But I have a great feeling about Brazil and the industry. I think skateboarding is going to grow a lot in the next few years.
What do you have planned for the rest of the year after the Super Crown?
I would love to go film some clips and a new street part. But I’m battling with myself because I need to take out all of the hardware that I have in my body. It’s been bothering me. I skate with a lot of pain everyday.