Skateboarder Ryan Decenzo on the 2020 Summer Olympics and Why Barcelona Is Great for Skaters

Ryan DeCenzo skates at Red Bull Hart Lines in Detroit, Michigan, USA on 11 May, 2017.
Joe Gall/Red Bull Content Pool

With skateboarding making its Olympic debut at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Japan, boarders from all around the world are competing to be part of the historic group that gets to go to Tokyo, Japan. With strong competition at events during the qualifying period, every skater knows that one mistake could be the difference between competing for Olympic gold and watching at home.

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That pressure is one reason why skateboarder Ryan Decenzo is excited about the 2020 Olympics. The 33-year-old Canadian native has been active on the pro circuit since January 2010. Knowing that history will be made by the skaters heading to Tokyo, Decenzo is excited about the possibility of making it.

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“It would mean a lot to me to represent my country,” Decenzo told Men’s Journal. “It’s crazy to think that skateboarding is here. Going from when I was a kid, fundraising for our local skatepark to maybe going to the Olympics is a long road to take, and it’s amazing to look back on now. It would be super cool to be there and qualify.”

Ryan Decenzo performs a tailslide near Moab, USA on November 5, 2018.
Ryan Decenzo performs a tailslide near Moab, USA on November 5, 2018. Jonathan Mehring/Red Bull Content Pool

(For more details on the qualifying process for skateboarding, check out our previous interview with skateboarder Tristan Rennie.)

Decenzo spoke with us about how he trains, his favorite cities to skate in, the Olympics, and more.

Men’s Journal: How does it feel to see skateboarding debuting as an Olympic sport at the 2020 Tokyo Summer Games?

Ryan Decenzo: When I first heard about skateboarding in the Olympics, I thought it was crazy and couldn’t believe it. Like, “Why do they want us in there?” We’re usually the outsiders when it comes to sports. This is really cool and good for skateboarding itself. My parents weren’t super supportive of me boarding and in a way, this can help the sport to be looked at in a different way by people. We’re athletes and we put our body through tough situations, and people should acknowledge skateboarding as a physically demanding sport. When snowboarding first got in the Olympics a few years ago, I thought that it was cool that extreme sports were being recognized. I thought, “That’s so rad, who knows what could happen one day?” And here we are.

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What has the qualifying process been like for you?

It’s definitely a lot of work for anyone making it in, because skateboarding is so difficult that it’s inconsistent—anyone can have an on day or an off day. One event can change your rankings. There are a lot of contests involved in qualifying, so the teams will be determined by who is the best and able to be consistent and skate at a high level each time. Like even on bad days, you’re still landing tricks, and can put it together. To make it for my country would be awesome, it’s definitely an accomplishment my parents would be proud of.

What are some of the ways you train for your sport other than actually skating?

The main thing I like to do is road biking and cycling. Not necessarily doing it on a stationary bike, that’s not as fun. If you’re coming back from an injury, it’s on the stationary bike. It’s nice to get out and get some fresh air, and see the world on a beautiful day. When you get on a road bike and get exercise, it clears the mind, and it doesn’t put the impact on your body that skateboarding does. When you skate, it impacts your knees and hips, and when you’re on the bike, it gives you the chance to work on those muscles without as much of an impact on them.

How about when you’re actually skating?

With skating, a good way to train is by going to different skate parks all the time and trying things out. It’s also good to go to one park regularly, that way you can measure your progress all the different times you go and try different things out. Going to different ones is helpful because that way you have to deal with different obstacles and features in the park. At events, the courses are different every time. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the same course twice in an event I’ve been in, so it’s always challenging and new when you get there. It’s always fun to be challenged and see what you can and can’t do.

You’ve been able to skate all over the country and the world, which places do you enjoy skating most?

One of my favorite places I enjoy visiting and skating is Spain, especially Barcelona. There’s a great train system, so you can get around everywhere and bring your board with you. It’s a pretty moderate climate, unlike where I grew up in Vancouver in Canada. There are beaches, fun places to hang, great restaurants—it’s one of the best cities in Europe for skating. I also like Montreal. It’s the same idea for most of it: good trains to get around, good food, and friendly people everywhere.

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When did you first start skating? How did you first get into skating?

I probably started around nine years old, and I got more serious at 13. I started young, went through a phase first of rolling on the board on my knees. My friends and I would mess around and try to get up on the curb with our boards, taking turns and just having fun. I had seen some of my neighbors doing little board slides and I just thought those were awesome and I wanted to be able to do those one day, too.

What’s coming up next for you?

There’s one more contest in Rio de Janeiro in November, that will be for Olympic qualifying points. Rio is really fun, there’s a skatepark right by the beach, which is awesome. Then it’s a couple of months off for the holidays, and then qualifying gets going again in March.

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