Felipe Gustavo is a bit of a celebrity back home in Brasília, Brazil, where everyone knows him as an athlete who followed his dreams and turned his passion for skateboarding into a fully-fledged career. Now operating from his adopted hometown of Los Angeles, California, Felipe is quickly becoming one of the top street skaters worldwide.
Born in Brasília, Brazil, Gustavo is the son of two federal government employees. He grew up playing soccer and was a strong athlete from the start.
Although there’s not much of a skateboard culture where he’s from, his two older brothers got into skateboarding and when Felipe turned seven, he too started skateboarding and entered a few local contests. His dad, especially, was always a huge supporter of his.
“We were a skateboarding family,” Felipe says, “My Dad would always be like, ‘Let’s go to the skatepark.’ My two brothers were skating as well and my Dad was always encouraging us. That made a huge difference.”
Felipe began winning contests in Brazil and by his teenage years, he started thinking about the bigger picture: Where could skateboarding take him next?
In 2007, at the age of 16, Felipe travelled to Tampa, Florida, to enter Tampa Am, the most respected amateur contest in skateboarding and one that’s been known to launch the careers of otherwise unheard of young skaters. It was Felipe’s first international contest.
Out of nowhere, he won. “I got lucky and won,” Felipe says now. “I was so stoked. I knew that was my day to try to prove myself.”
After Tampa Am, Felipe was set on pursuing skateboarding. In order to do so, he had to make a tough decision: he’d have to leave his family and friends in Brazil and move to California, where hewould have a chance of making it pro.
He dropped out of high school, started picking up sponsors, and in July 2007, he relocated to Costa Mesa, California, a hub of the action sports industry.
“I went by myself and moved in with a bunch of skateboard friends,” he says. “I went for the dream.”
Although Felipe has always had success on the amateur contest circuit – with strong results at the Maloof Money Cup am contest and more – he has shone most in front of the camera. In 2010, he joined the team at Plan B Skateboards, and started filming short edits for the company’s annual videos.
For his first full video part for Plan B, which debuted in 2013, Felipe travelled to China, Los Angeles, Barcelona, and elsewhere to film and skate ledges, rails, and more around foreign cities. “I’ve been all over the world,” he says. “I’m trying to do the best I can to make my family proud of me.”
In 2012, Felipe made his debut on the pro contest circuit, when he returned to Tampa, Florida, but this time for the Tampa Pro. He placed fifth amongst an elite field. He also started scoring top spots at contests like the Maloof Money Cup in South Africa and the Dew Tour.
He hasn’t forgotten to give back along the way. Felipe joined fellow skateboarder Ryan Sheckler on a trip to Lincoln, Nebraska, to volunteer for a program called Skate For Change, which gives disadvantaged youth a chance to skateboard. “That was a big opportunity for me,” Felipe says. “I got to meet some new people and it felt really good being able to help.”
Thanks to top performances at qualifier contests at the X Games and top ranking spots at Tampa Pro, in 2015, Felipe earned a coveted invite to compete on the Street League Skateboarding World Tour. Injuries halted his progress, but still, he says, it was a good experience. “It’s good for me to experience that kind of pressure, being on TV and having to be on point,” he says.
Whether he’s in Brazil – where he returns a few times each year – or riding the Santa Ana skatepark near his home in LA, Felipe can often be found skating with headphones on. He’s a loyal fan of hip-hop.
But really, whereever in the world he is, Felipe is just happy to be on his board. “I really like to skate and having that feeling of grinding my board,” he says.Read more