Campbell teenager races to World Skate Games in Rome

Fifteen-year-old Campbell resident Leiola Kahaku is a champion slalom rider, but not on skis. She speeds downhill on four wheels, a skill that’s earned her a spot on the 2024 National Slalom Skateboarding Team.

Kahaku will be part of the U.S. delegation to the World Skate Games in and around Rome, Italy, Sept. 6-22.

There are 24 skaters on the slalom skateboarding team. World Skate Games officials estimate 12,000 people will participate in this year’s games, including athletes and coaches. Delegations are coming from approximately 100 countries, and officials expect tens of thousands of fans to spectate.

“I’m pretty excited,” said Kahaku.

Kahaku also placed second in the women’s division at the International Slalom Skateboarding Association’s 25-Cone World Cyber Slalom contest that took place June 20-21.

Slalom skateboarding, a form of downhill skateboard racing that has been around since the 1960s, was added to the World Skate Games in 2022. Skateboarders speed down a course usually marked by plastic cones, trying to knock down the fewest cones in the fastest time.

Kahaku said she is probably going 30 to 35 MPH when she races. She is not fazed by the speeds, however.

“It feels sort of mellow,” she said. “Like medium speed.”

“Leiola is the next generation of slalom skateboarders,” said professional skateboarder Judi Oyama, who coaches Kahaku. “She has the youth and talent to take this sport to a new level.”

That’s high praise coming from Oyama, who began skating professionally in the mid-1970s at age 16 and was the women’s slalom skateboarding champion in 2003 at age 43. She was inducted into the Skateboarding Hall of Fame in 2018.

Oyama said she’s proud to coach Kahaku, pointing to the Campbell skater’s performance in the 25-Cone World Cyber Slalom contest. “She beat Lynn Kramer, the 17-time world champion in cyber slalom, and she matched her times with women and girls from all over the world.”

Kahaku competes in giant slalom, tight slalom and hybrid. Giant slalom features longer distances between cones and higher speeds, while tight slalom has short distances between cones and high turn frequency, where skaters may pass through three to four cones per second. Hybrid slalom combines elements of both giant and tight slalom.

Kahaku received her first skateboard from her uncles at Christmas when she was 7 years old. She enjoys skating on ramps and in skate parks.

“I skated off and on,” she said, “but I really started focusing on skating during the pandemic.”

In September 2023, a fellow skater introduced Kahaku to the slalom, and there she met Oyama. Kahaku said Oyama told her to try a small contest once every couple of months.

“I did pretty good,” she added.

From the smaller contests, Kahaku then entered the Texas Sizzler in Hockley, Texas, in March, where individuals could qualify to be part of the USA Slalom Skateboarding national team. Two women’s spots and one men’s spot were open. Kahaku secured one of the women’s spots, which allows her to compete this fall in Italy.

Kahaku is also a member of the Girl is NOT a 4 Letter Word skate team, a nonprofit sponsored …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment


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