Why a sawed-up skateboard couldn't hold Letícia Bufoni back
As a sports-mad kid, Letícia Bufoni was always torn between skateboarding and football, until the day her father's saw helped her make a decision.
Growing up in São Paulo, the young Letícia Bufoni was always outside, riding her bike, playing football or skateboarding. Her father, however, wasn't too keen on the skateboarding side of things.
"My view was the view that the entire society had of skateboarding," he says. "It used to be prohibited, and there was a time when the police would arrest skateboarders, etc."
When she continued to skate behind her dad's back, he'd eventually reach breaking point – quite literally. Skateboard met saw and Bufoni's budding career hit its first bump in the road.
The big picture:
To frame the story in this way casts Bufoni's father as a bit of an ogre, which isn't fair on him. She was simply a precociously talented young athlete with a successful future ahead of her in either football or skateboarding. Brazil is a footballing nation like no other, but it's only in relatively recent years that its skate scene has started to make big waves on the international stage.
So, her dad was involved, he was supportive, but he simply loved football and didn't understand skateboarding. He tried to forbid her from doing it, but that wasn't enough: she'd still come home with scrapes and bruises. Eventually he snapped, took hold of her board and cut it in half. "It was one of the saddest moments of my life," Bufoni claims, but she was soon back up and at it with renewed determination.
"That didn't stop me. He can't forbid me from skateboarding," she says, and before the end of the day, she'd built herself a new board.
The turning point:
Not long after this incident, Bufoni was set to take part in her first proper contest: held in her native São Paulo, but featuring girls from all over Brazil. Her father still wasn't keen, however, digging his heels in.
Fortunately for Bufoni and, it's probably fair to say, for skateboarding in general, she won. Her father was able to get behind her skateboarding and the conflict was resolved.
Everything happens in Los Angeles and it was always my dream city
The big opportunity and the big sacrifices:
When Bufoni was 14, she was invited to take part in the X Games in Los Angeles. Opportunities don't come much bigger than that in the world of skateboarding. But it was by no means certain that she'd be able to attend. "We were going through a very hard time financially," her father explains, but he was in no doubt that she should go: "We had to find a way to get the money."
She ended up in eighth place, picking up a couple of sponsors along the way, but even more significantly, she convinced her family to let her stay in the USA. She gave up everything she knew to follow her dream. “Everything happens in Los Angeles and it was always my dream city,” she says. “You’re skating with the best pros and skating the best skateparks.”
Over a decade on from that big decision and it's clear that it was the right one. Bufoni is a role model: she has five X-Games gold medals to her name and over three million fans on her social channels. She's on the Plan B pro team and the first-ever women’s Street League Super Crown champion. It's not an overstatement to say she's helped change the game for female skateboarders.
What she really is, though, is the perfect example of why talent is nothing without dedication, without the perseverance to make the most of it. How many other young Bufonis are out there who didn't make the le