Rayssa Leal: the Brazilian skater went viral after landing the iconic fairy kickflip | Photo: Rayssa Leal Archive

If there's one iconic heelflip that changed a skater's life forever, it's Rayssa's. Here's how a young girl's dream became more real than reality itself.

Rayssa Leal was born on January 4, 2008, in Imperatriz, Brazil.

Today, she is an Olympic silver medalist, X Games gold medalist, and multiple-time World Skate and Street League Skateboarding (SLS) champion.

Leal never imagined she would become famous in her hometown.

Imperatriz is the second largest city in the state of Maranhão. It's a place where people struggle to make ends meet.

But the young skater's life would change forever on September 7, 2015, Independence Day in Brazil.

Rayssa Leal was wearing her fairy outfit, saw people skating around, and wanted to join them.

She put on socks and shoes and, on her first attempt, she landed a heelflip over three stairs, and the video went viral.

On the next day, a friend asked, "Did you see that? Tony Hawk just re-posted your video!"

First, Rayssa was flabbergasted; immediately after, she started crying.

The Gen Z rider started riding at six at her local skatepark, where she learned every trick she now uses in competition.

Rayssa Leal: a fearless and ultra competitive skateboarder | Photo: Rayssal Leal Archive

An Inspiring Street Skater

Now, every time she visits it, she is overwhelmed with the support and love from kids, fans, and even people who don't skate but know her from TV and newspapers.

Her father, Haroldo Oliveira Leal, still remembers and has pictures of the day one of his friends showed her daughter his skateboard.

"She never liked to play with girl toys," Rayssa's father explains in the Thrasher documentary "Out There."

"We didn't have anything else to give her, so we gave her a skateboard. She started playing at home, but then we took her to the skatepark, and she started getting better and better every day."

"Soon, we understood her talent for skateboarding. Her success was meteoric, and our lives changed a lot for the better."

"Before, I worked as a glazier and my wife as a retail cashier, and today, we dedicate our lives to her."

Leal is super competitive.

The 2022 SLS Super Crown world champion knows how to manage pressure, cameras, and her fierce opponents.

She also works her mind space with a psychologist to put her in a comfortable zone where she feels confident enough to stomp the sickest trick.

"The first time I met her, she definitely reminded me of myself a little bit seeing her out there that young," confessed Nyjah Huston.

"To most people out there, being famous is what they would want. They think it's cool, and they think it's like you made it to the top, you got all these people surrounding you, and they're hyped on you."

"But when it comes down to it, that was a lot to deal with - I'm not gonna lie. Coming up as such a young kid, cameras and interviews, it was kind of a lot."

"There were definitely times where I was like, I'd rather not be doing this, but watching Rayssa deal with it, she deals with it great. She's cruisin'. She's nice to everyone, saying 'What up?'"

Rayssa Leal inspires anyone - young and old, men and women - but she's also focused on finishing her studies.

Rayssa Leal: the Nike SB skateboarder released her signature shoes Dunk Low | Photo: Bianchini/Nike

Stepping Stones

And she's now a youngster of the world, traveling the globe in competitive mode and living and training in California at Shane O'Neill's April Skateboards house.

"Before I had met her, I had seen her before. She was insane," reveals Shane O'Neill.

"I met her at a contest in Brazil. I was skating there, and she was just a little kid. She came up with her mom and got a photo together." 

"Maybe a year later, she was in the contest and, you know, whirlwind tour, and now we're here."

"We had her on April just pretty much around the beginning."

"She wasn't introduced, though. My plan was to always get the opportunity to skate with her, try to go filming, try to see what the relationship was all about, and try to do it the right way with her instead of 'Well, she's winning contests. Put her on.'"

"So we just tried to make it more genuine and. She's just the best skater ever at her age, male or female - just so much energy."

O'Neill thinks Rayssa Leal is not from this world. You can ask her to do tricks, and she's like, "No way, I can't do it."

"If you just keep telling her, she'll smile, and she'll do it," says the Australian X Games gold medalist.

For the Brazilian skater, there's always a new challenge about to be cleared.

One of them is obviously the 16 stairs at Hollywood High. The goal is the backsmith grind.

The first day is warm-up. The second day is show time. Rayssa clears it at age 15.

Rayssa Leal belongs to an ever-growing club of female skateboarders leveling the game up with the boys.

In March 2024, the Nike SB Dunk Low by Rayssa shoe model hits the market.

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