The boy’s first skateboard arrived when he was 8 years old. He told anyone who would listen that he planned to become a professional skateboarder someday.
He named his first e-mail account — flipskater63 — after his favorite skateboard model, Flip. He wore Volcom clothes religiously because that is popular apparel for serious skateboarders. He studied videos of pros performing crazy tricks, hoping to be like them.
Alec Majerus mapped out his life at an early age and never wavered, even though his hometown of Rochester is not exactly known as a hotbed for skateboarding talent.
“I just wanted it,” he said.
He laughs now at how his dream aligned so perfectly with reality.
Today, he’s a professional skateboarder who, at age 22, competes around the world. He has sponsorship deals to ride Flip skateboards and wear Volcom clothes. He also has a contract with Adidas, which makes customized shoes embroidered with Majerus’ name that are sold retail.
His journey will come full circle when he competes in street skateboarding at the X Games in Minneapolis this week, his fifth appearance in the premier event for extreme sports. Majerus’ career began at 3rd Lair Skate Park in Golden Valley with his first big competition when he was 13.
His mother, Lisa, brought him to that event after hearing older boys rave about her son at a local park in Rochester.
Swept up in the excitement of competition, Majerus attempted a trick he had barely practiced on a handrail called a kickflip frontside feeble. He nailed it and finished second in the contest, qualifying for nationals in Arizona.
His family tempered expectations. Told him not to be disappointed if he didn’t do well because other competitors had been competing in the sport much longer.
Majerus performed like a star.
“I can hear all the other parents talking like, ‘Who is this kid? Where’s he from?” Lisa recalled. “Nobody knew who he was.”
Majerus won the event and a $2,500 first prize. He celebrated in style.
“I came back and told my friends, ‘Dudes I’m rich, let’s go to the gas station,’ ” he said. “… ‘Anything you guys want, put it up there, I got it.’ I was buying their snacks.”
His win wasn’t a fluke. He won again the following year. Volcom sponsored the competition and took notice. Representatives called his mom and asked if they could send her son apparel to wear at contests.
Jacob Smith, Volcom’s global skate marketing director, was intrigued by Majerus’ skill at that young age and his “funny neon green shirt that made me laugh.”
The company began flying Majerus to sponsored events as an amateur. He won a competition in Amsterdam when was 15. He has competed in Europe, China and Australia.
The final step came after high school graduation when Majerus turned pro and moved to Long Beach, Calif.
“Everything just fell into place perfectly, like it was meant to happen,” he said.
Majerus declined to discuss his earning power as a top-tier skateboarder, but Volcom’s Smith said there is a wide range in money for pros based on sponsorships and competitions.
Practice makes perfect
Majerus’ rocket rise is somewhat unusual because he hails from a northern state, unlike many of his competitors. As a kid, he practiced in garages during the winter or trained at indoor skate parks in the Twin Cities. His mother remembers many slow crawls through snowstorms on the drive back to Rochester.
In the summer, he often would ride with his mom to work at 7 a.m., skate to a nearby park and stay there until she picked him up at 7 p.m. If he was honing a new trick, he refused to leave until he did it right. His hands and knees would be bloody from spills, but he wouldn’t stop.
“Sometimes I would sit there for two hours, and he’d keep doing it,” Lisa said. “I understood that he had to land it. This is really important. So I’d just wait.”
He skated every day for hours, even when bitter cold sent his brothers inside for warmth. He would remind them that he was going to be a pro skateboarder so he needed to practice.
Riding offers an outlet for his creativity. He looks at staircases or ledges differently than most people. We see concrete. Majerus sees endless possibilities. His calling card is his expertise sliding down handrails.
“He’s just really effortlessly gnarly,” Volcom’s Smith said. “He can do very technical tricks on big obstacles and make it look easy.”
Sometimes when he’s at the mall, Majerus will stop and stare at a staircase. He will look at the angles, study the handrail, his mind racing with ideas for tricks, which is how skateboarders are judged in competitions.
“I’ll notice people looking at me like, why is this kid just staring at the handrail on the stairs?” he said.
Competing, he said, is secondary to his love of being on a skateboard. It has never been about competition. The challenge of doing something innovative gives him joy.
“It’s almost like an art form or music,” he said. “You’re expressing yourself through your skating. Once you get good enough to the point where you can land tricks down rails every single try, it almost feels like magic. It’s like a roller coaster. You hop on a big handrail and ride the whole thing. That’s really fun.”
How about terrifying? Imagine leaping onto a handrail and descending 30 steps on a skateboard, gaining speed along the way.
“Sometimes we’ll go to spots that are really, really scary,” he said. “I’m like, dude if you fall wrong, you could severely get hurt. Sometimes you’re thinking, I could die if I mess this up.”
He has collected his share of injuries. He fractured the tibia in his left leg and had a metal rod inserted three years ago. He’s broken feet, ankles, fingers.
He can’t remember his total surgery count — “A lot,” he said — and has suffered multiple concussions.
“I had a really bad one in Australia,” he said.
So why risk his health?
“That’s what I live for,” he said.
Constant travel can become a grind. He leaves for Denmark the day after the X Games, then to London, then … he can’t remember exactly. His life is a blur sometimes but in those moments when competing “feels like a job,” he stops and reflects.
“I’m like wait a second, I’m just going skating,” he said. “I’m going to Barcelona to skate.”
He experienced another cool moment recently at an event held at 3rd Lair. A group of kids approached him in awe. They told him they idolize him and watch all his videos and hope to be like him someday.
“I can totally relate to that,” he said. “I still feel like a kid myself.”