Amy Caron helps the 16-year-old Olympian Conquor her Fear of Robots
Usually it’s cliché to say “they were skating before they could walk” but in Minna Stess’ case, it’s nearly true- she’s been on a board since before she turned two. So it would be accurate to say, “she’s been skating since before she could ride a bike.” Or skip. Or spell the word “skateboard.”
Now, at age 16, the board has taken her to countries all over the globe, established as one of the world’s top female park competitors. She is a low-key celebrity in her hometown of Petaluma. In search of uplifting features to run during the stress of quarantine, news crews were mobbing her house to land story of the local girl headed to Tokyo in 2020. One point short of a spot, she didn’t end up going but those Olympcs were whack anyway- day late and a doller short. If she continues placing in contests worldwide she’ll be eating snails in Paris in no time. The only thing that could hold her back? An incredible fear of robots. Fellow child skateboading prodigy and medical professional, Amy Caron helped her unpack the issue. -Migzy
What’s going on? Where are you? Weren’t you just in LA. skating with the US team?
Yeah, I was in LA, then I went back to Petaluma for my birthday and I came back here again and I drove to LA. and stayed the night, and then drove back. And I’m leaving again tomorrow because I have to go to my grandmas 85th birthday on Friday. And then I fly back to LA. for the night, then go to Japan the next day.
Damn. Are you in high school still? Do you have your driver’s license?
No, I wish. I haven’t finished Drivers Ed yet.
Well, because people just drive you around right?
Yeah, I make people drive me around.
And you’re from Petaluma right? Do you remember Polly Klaas?
Yeah, her house is literally diagonal from me.
Really? She was kidnapped from Petaluma. That was the reason why my mom was, like, so f’n strict when I was a kid, she was like ‘Amy, do not go near any white vans or vans with no windows.’ And now I drive a white van with no windows.
I walk by her house all the time. I don’t know who owns the house- a family used to live there. People keep moving. It’s actually there’s a sign in front, someone’s trying to sell it right now.
So do they have to disclose that it’s Polly Klass’ house?
I don’t know. I think most people know. I also tell people every all the time, I’m like ‘don’t freak out but…’
So when did you decide to ditch the ponytail? I remember when I was a kid I had a ponytail and decided to make the transition and cut my hair.
I cut my hair at the start of quarantine I think. I made my mom cut it- she used to do hair for a living, which is good, but sometimes she’ll cut it too short and I’ll freak out. She’ll say ‘I’m never cutting your hair again’ and then a few months later she will, and then I’ll freak out again. It’s a cycle.
So you like your hair better now that it’s not in a ponytail?
Yeah, I never really had it in a ponytail. It was, like, really straight and flat. Like it was stuck to my head. I’ll look at pictures and I’m like, ugh.
Your hair is cool, I like it. Keep doing what you’re doing. So you got to meet Guy Fieri recently, right?
Yeah, at Sonoma racing. They invited me, the coach of the 49ers, and Guy Fieri.
That’s a pillar of success, being invited to things with Guy Fieri.
I know it’s funny, I just really wanted to meet him. And the first thing he asked me was, ‘do you have a pro board?’ And I was like, No. He’s like, ‘well, let me know when you have one.’ And I’m like, okay…
He didn’t want to mess with the until you got a pro board. Rude!
He wanted a he wanted my board or something, and I was like, meh.
[Migzy] Don’t let HIM advise you on hair!
Yeah don’t go to his barber. He’s a Halloween costume.
Oh my god, last Halloween I went trick or treating with some friends and I saw someone dressed up as Guy Fieri and they asked me ‘Are you that famous skater from here?’ And I was like, um… yeah. And then they DM’d me later, and said ‘I was that person dressed up like Guy Fieri’.
You did a lot of interviews with the news last year. What was the most awkward moment?
Yeah, a lot of people that interviewed me during quarantine, I had a PR person that set those up. Random people that like didn’t know anything about skating. So it was all like, dumb questions. ‘How do you feel about Tokyo’ and ‘when did you start skating?’ Those were basically the two main questions.
How old were you when you started skating? You look like you’re like two or something.
Yeah, I was two. Well, almost two. My brother started skating when he was like four. He was walking around the block and ran into a neighbor with a board, and he got on and started pushing mongo.
And your two-year-old self was like, ‘what a kook.’
Yeah. He started pushing mongo and someone told him not to, so I never did it.
You learned early on. How old were you when you did your first kickflip?
I think I was 9. There’s like a really old video of me. I stuck a kickflip and I posted it. I didn’t land it, but I stuck it. And I jumped off and freaked out. I got like, hate comments. Someone was like, ‘she sounds like a squealing pig.’ I was 8 or 9.
You got trolled.
It got like a thousand likes for some reason- me, not doing a kickflip. I tried to land it again before I got to be a certain age but I couldn’t. Then I was skating Ryan Sheckler’s park with Neil Mims when he used to do the Skate Academy and I landed my first real one there. Then I did back-to-back kickflips with Ryan Sheckler.
Did he make you drink a Red Bull? Is that why you landed it?
Yeah, he forced me to drink a Red Bull. It’s on my Instagram if you scroll down somewhere.
So you basically you went from 0 to 1000.
My kicksflips have been really bad though. Until I started skating with like kids my age in Petaluma- then they started getting better. They’re like ok now- not horrible.
I will critique your kick flips
Sometimes I’ll do a really good one and sometimes they’ll be super rocketed, like, straight up.
Well, rocketed kickflips might come around and be popular.
I don’t know. My friends don’t like rocketed kickflips.
Who’s your favorite person to skate with these days?
To skate what though… anything?
Yeah. Who hypes you up?
Probably just my friends in Petaluma, but they don’t really hype me up, they kind of just shit on me. But they’re fun to skate with.
Did you have fun on your birthday? Did everything work out?
Yeah, my birthday was really good. No one was a dick or anything thing. Everyone was on their best behavior.
Were you expecting things to go haywire?
The only bad thing that happened was my friend like fell and like kind of hit his head a little bit, but he was fine.
Was it at your house in Petaluma?
No, at Potrero. We took the train at like 7:47 a.m. to Larkspur then took the ferry to SF. and skated around Pier 7, then we skated all the way to Potrero, which was like three miles.
Sounds fun. Did it did any of your friends give you a gift?
One of my friends did. I was like it like a drawing of a minion and a tiny Rubik’s cube, some random stuff.
That’s where I grew up skating. It was cool because you could skate everywhere… Pier 7, the main library, I don’t know if people skate there anymore. Potrero wasn’t there.
I hadn’t skated Potrero in so long.
Do you surf?
Um.. no. I went surfing though with…
Stella Reynolds and another friend. They forced me to go surfing with them and didn’t teach me or anything. I just went out and didn’t know what was going on. I was really cold and got so far out. I knew I was where the good surfers were because Sky Brown and her dad and brother were there. They were like, what are you doing here? I was like- I don’t know. Then my friend pushed me into a wave, and I was just holding on, like, oh, my god. I just went straight down. I guess my legs flew in the air and it was super funny, everyone was laughing. But I don’t really like water like that.
Where was it? Trestles?
Oceanside Harbor. And every time I see Sky now she’s like, ‘when are we going to go surfing again?’ And I’m like NO!
Maybe in summer. When it’s hot and I would actually like, want to.
She has a positive mental attitude. So what’s your favorite trick, like, the funnest one for you to do.
Probably just a backside air. I just like flying in the air. It’s my go-to warm up trick.
Do you ollie, or just pop off the coping?
I don’t ollie into it I kind of scrape my tail or bonk my wheels, kind of depends on where I’m at. Sometimes I’ll scrape my tail too much and land really low.
Over-scraping. So when do you leave for Japan?
On the 17th.
Do your parents go with you or do they let you travel alone?
I’ve only flown by myself once, and that was to Woodward East and back.
That’s a long flight.
On the way back I got stuck. I was supposed to land in Chicago, but I got stuck in Milwaukee. I thought I was going to miss my connecting flight but the girl next to me was like run, you can make it! I ended up like getting to Chicago and the next flight was delayed till 7 a.m. and it was midnight.
So did you have to sleep in an airport?
No, my parents had friends in Chicago that picked me up and I slept at their house for like 2 hours.
Are you going to get burnt out.
In, like, what way?
Like skating and doing all this stuff.
I hope not.
Do you feel like anyone has ever forced you to skate?
I mean, maybe I’ll get burnt out on contests.
You don’t have to skate contests to be a skateboarder though.
I know. But like, if I get invited to the X Games I don’t want to turn that down.
Well you get a free a grab bag when you do X Games, that was my favorite part.
You do. Yeah. I’m happy I get to go on trips too though, and not just contests.
You got to always love it.
[Migzy] Back when Amy skated the X Games everyone wore these low rise, tight jeans. We were wondering if you were scared they’d come back into style.
Who made you skate in them?
Society made us skate in them. Me and Vanessa [Torres] both had them. I’ll find you a good picture.
Yeah, try doing a kickflip in pants with like this much zipper and no pockets.
Oh, God. I never skated in super skinny pants. Maybe like Dickies, but they’re not that skinny. Just like, fitted.
It was popular to pluck your eyebrows really thin back then. Have you ever seen a picture? My eyebrows grew back and Vanessa like, didn’t. You have a nice set. We were just talking about it.
Oh thank you. I would look horrible with no eyebrows. My mom always told me never to pluck them or do anything.
Your mom’s cool, she knows what’s up.
Cause she used to pluck them when she was younger and regretted it.
Yeah, she went through what Vanessa went through.
Maybe not as bad though.
It’s unfortunate, when you google me you find out I used to pluck my eyebrows so thin.
That’s not good.
[Migzy] Vanessa got kicked out of the X Games one time when they had it at Staples Center because she took the free deodorant and wrote ‘titties’ on the wall.
Did she actually get kicked out?
Yes. It was free, complimentary deodorant.
Well, I’ll make sure I won’t do that.
Yeah, that’s one thing you shouldn’t do the X Games. It was sponsored by Garnier Fructis that year. The shampoo. What’s your hair regimen? What do you use?
Since my mom has her cosmetology license, she buys nice shampoo and conditioner. On TikTok someone asked me, ‘what shampoo do you use?’ So I posted a video and they said ‘it looks like grandma shampoo.’ I was like, well, it makes my hair look good. Oh yeah, it’s Paul Mitchell.
I’m pretty sure some skateboarders used to ride for Paul Mitchell, back in the day. Maybe I’ll try to get you on the team.
My dream sponsor is Yerba Maté.
Really, Do you still have the manager, PR firm working for you? I bet they could do that easy.
I think they tried and the company said no, cause you have to be 18. Even though it’s literally, tea. Red Bull has a squadron of kids that are like 13. But a tea company won’t sponsor a 15 or 16 year old.
What’s another Maté company that’s not so square? Tell them you’re going to take you’re business elsewhere.
Yeah, ok. When I went to Brazil for the Red Bull Generation they had coolers of Red Bull, and little cups of water, but they ran out really fast. I ended up drinking like 3 Red Bulls a day, it was horrible. And they weren’t even cold.
What’s worse than a Red Bull? A room temp Red Bull.
“Try it, you might like it.” The first one’s always free. So when’s your board going to come out? Asking for a friend – Guy Fieri.
I don’t know. Whenever it happens, it happens. I need to do stuff. It’s just weird when people get a pro board and don’t have a video part out yet. I don’t think that’s right. I would like to earn my pro board.
That’s a good attitude. It seems like you’re doing the work. Are you going to be doing a lot of filming on this trip?
Honestly, don’t know. I don’t really get many details.
If there’s anything I regret, I would have filmed more stuff when I was younger. We didn’t have the same capabilities. We did so much that was never filmed because you know, people didn’t have iPhones. Are you in school right now?
I just got a new math tutor and we had a Zoom yesterday for like two and a half hours and it was actually good. She showed me her dogs.
[Migzy] Send me your homework and I’ll do it for you.
Yeah, it’s easy for us, for adults
Can you write 205,000 in scientific notation?
[Migzy] Yes, yes, I can answer that. So, yeah… scientific notation one 200 with the little things over it with notation.1000 I think. It’s a ratio point thing… .05 times ten to the… something or whatever. I don’t know. I can’t do it, I was bullshittin’.
[Migzy] Something I watched this morning, said you had three surgeries. I did not know this.
Yeah, I broke and dislocated my elbow. I went to the emergency room and they put me on ketamine. The worst thing was that I couldn’t open my eyes. The hardest I tried, they wouldn’t open. It was horrible.
[Migzy] It’s horse tranquilizer. That stuff is crazy. I think you were in what is know as a “K-hole.” Do you wear an elbow pad now? Got any metal in there?
I did have a screw but once the swelling went down, my arm was too skinny and it started popping through my skin so they had to take it out. That’s why I had to get a third surgery, my arm didn’t like it. It all happened ‘cause I was trying to do a 50/50 down a round rail.
Round rails are deadly.
I know. I don’t know what was going through my mind.
[Migzy] It seems like you have like a lot of old school tricks. A classic style.
I appreciate it as a skateboarder.
That’s cool, I like it when people say I have a good style. I always skated with older dudes like Allen Barkley. He used to teach my brother when he was younger. Before I started skating, he’d hold me on the board and ride around. He has such a cool style. I guess he taught me a lot. He taught me hand plants. That was such a hard trick to learn.
You need that upper body strength.
And I have zero.
So is your arm all healed up now?
Yeah it’s good now. I did physical therapy.
You need a robot arm.
I used to have a robot brace thing.
[Migzy] I wonder when cyborgs are going to, like, start skateboarding.
Huh? I don’t like Robots. ♦