Born and raised in New York City, Sloan started skateboarding outside the industry’s spotlight. After building his halfpipe skills at local parks out East, he took the gamble of moving to California with dreams of becoming a sponsored pro. And it worked: After claiming his first X Games gold in the Big Air discipline in 2013, Sloan joined the elite field of Mega Ramp innovators. Today, he owns 13 X Games medals (5 gold, 6 silver, 2 bronze) and endorses a pro model skateboard on Tony Hawk’s company, Birdhouse. Training at his private compound in Vista, California, Sloan continues pushing the boundaries of vertical skateboarding and living the dream.
Where does Sloan get the inspiration for never-been-done tricks and how does he cope with the risks connected to Mega Ramp skateboarding? Tune in now! The innovator shares his creative process with the two UNLEASHED podcast hosts, Australian action sports personality Luke “The Dingo” Trembath and professional snowboarder Danny Kass.
Growing up in Manhattan, Sloan started out doing what all the other urban kids did back then. “I used to skate street and mess around. I feel lucky growing up there. The Nineties in the city were pretty iconic!” But one day, he tuned into ESPN and his entire world changed. “Then I saw Tony Hawk do the 900 at the X Games in 1999. That was it for me! I was like, ‘I’m going to the skatepark tomorrow and skate vert!’”
Fortunately, two of the public skateparks around town featured halfpipes at the time. Sloan became a local at Chelsea Piers and the 108th Street skatepark in Riverside. As his skills gradually progressed, he expanded his radius to ride what few vert ramps existed on the East Coast, heading all the way to Philadelphia to pursue his passion. But ultimately, the harsh winters and lack of year-round facilities held back his progress. Scratching ice off his car’s windshield one day, Sloan made a resolution: Move to California, the focus of vertical skateboarding at the time, without a plan but dreams of becoming a pro skater.
After driving cross-country in his van, Sloan settled in Cali working odd jobs and trying to break into competitive vert skateboarding. Instant reality check! “I worked jobs and entered a few Dew Tours trying to qualify. But I always ended up dead last,” said Sloan.
Ultimately, his persistence paid off. Sloan became a ramp local at the training facility designed by Bob Burnquist, the most decorated skateboarder in X Games history. As it happened, the facility included a Mega Ramp featuring a giant roll-in into a 60-feet gap jump and a 27-foot quarter pipe. Originally pioneered by pro skateboarder Danny Way, Mega Ramps are considered the burliest obstacles in the skate universe. Although featured as an official X Games event since 2004, ‘Mega’ is reserved for a handful of select riders.
“It took me a couple of months to build up the courage to ride that thing,” said Sloan, who suddenly found himself riding with the sport’s elite on a daily basis. “It was a very small group of dudes riding Mega at the time. I skated alongside Jake [Brown], Danny [Way], Bob [Burnquist], and Rob Lorifice.”
As it turned out, Sloan found his niche riding Mega. Not afraid to pay the price for riding at this risk level – he details some of the scariest falls on UNLEASHED – he climbed the ranks of Big Air Skateboarding. Until 2013 proved his breakout year: Starting with silver at X Games Foz do Iguacu 2013, Sloan earned a podium spot in every single Big Air event that season, culminating in his first gold medal at X Games Los Angeles. Since then, he’s emerged as a dominant force and took his fourth gold in the discipline at the most recent Big Air event at X Games Minneapolis 2019.
Today, Sloan trains at his residence in Vista, where he built his own Mega Ramp compound. “I got pretty lucky with the neighbors. And I got lucky with the property because, in the city that it’s in, you don’t need permits for anything under 30 feet tall,” said Sloan about the facility featured in viral videos that generate more than 100,000 views on YouTube.
Asked about new tricks innovations, Sloan revealed on the podcast: “I’m inspired by everything. There's a couple snowboard tricks I still want to figure out how to do on a skateboard.” Looking back, he names the inventor of the Mega Ramp in 2003 as a main driver: “Originally it was Danny Way. Seeing the DC Video was my all-time inspiration. I was 11 or 12 and they just got the video at the skate shop. They popped it in… and that was it!”
While the future of competitive Mega Ramp riding remains uncertain (the next X Games contest remains to be announced), Sloan has returned to ‘traditional’ halfpipe riding. After taking double silver at X Games 2021 (Vert & Best Trick), he will be dropping into the Skateboard Vert competition at X Games Chiba in Japan this April. Plus, Sloan currently has a new Mega Ramp record attempt in mind, as first revealed on the episode!