Gui Khury owned a skateboard before he was even born, thanks to his father, Ricardo.
Gui was in skate lessons at a Y.M.C.A. in the beach town of Encinitas, Calif., by the time he was 4 years old. One year later, he was dropping in on halfpipes, vaulting above the lip of the vertical ramp at high speeds.
“He was just a small kid, but he was so brave,” Ricardo Khury said in a phone interview. “That’s how everything started — he was the little one that drops in on the big ramps.”
This month, the 11-year-old became the first skateboarder to land a 1080 on a halfpipe — a trick in which the skater spins three full times in the air, 1,080 degrees, before sticking a landing on the vert ramp.
“I thought I could land it,” Gui said a few days after landing the trick, still ecstatic. “I just kept trying.”
Young skaters have long catapulted to fame with tricks that had seemed impossible, suspending disbelief and defying gravity to push the sport forward.
When Gui was born, in 2008, skateboarding had mainstream popularity. It had been nine years since Tony Hawk landed the 900 — two and a half turns — at the X-Games. Hawk’s Pro Skater video game franchise was already in its 11th iteration. Bob Burnquist had built his Mega Ramp, standing at eight stories tall, allowing skaters to reach 55 miles an hour and launch across a 70-foot gap. The young phenoms Ryan Sheckler and Nyjah Huston already had won their first medals at the X-Games.
There were skate parks all around the family’s Southern California home, and Ricardo Khury quickly picked up on his son’s abilities.
So when the family moved to Curitiba, in southern Brazil, he built a ramp in a warehouse for his son to practice. “After I built the ramp here, he landed his first McTwist,” Ricardo Khury said, describing a 540-degree backside spin. “He was just 7 years old. That’s really, really difficult for a skateboarder. Three months after that, he had landed his first 720 and became the youngest in the world to land it.”
When the coronavirus pandemic closed schools in Brazil, Ricardo realized that his son could benefit from the pause on much of the rest of daily life. Gui would have more time to train, he could eat well at home and he would have unlimited access to the only athletic facilities he needed. The warehouse vert ramp is 20 minutes from their home, and there is also a smaller ramp in the family’s backyard.
Gui and his father, who acts as an informal coach and cellphone videographer, drove to the warehouse one day after finishing classes from home. Gui tried and tried for the 1080, just missing the landing and sliding down the ramp on his kneepads.
He was confident he could land it eventually. And he did, after roughly 10 tries.
After three full spins, the wheels of Gui’s skateboard touched down. His knees wobbled a bit — he was lower on the ramp than ideal — but he was able to straighten out and the celebrating began.
Hawk, who has skated with Gui in Southern California and watched the young athlete’s progress, connected as much with Gui’s recovery as the trick itself.
“He can recover from a landing that’s not perfect,” Hawk said. “That’s one of his signatures. He can squat his way out of a landing that’s not straight, and very few people can do that.”
Gui threw his helmet in the air, laid in the center of the ramp and screamed “OH MY GOD” as skaters in the periphery yelled and shrieked. But not many could say they were surprised to see this milestone on a vert ramp.
In 2012, another young skater, Tom Schaar, landed a 1080, this one on a Mega Ramp, a massive structure with a long roll-in and a higher quarterpipe to let skaters build up speed and soar above the lip, giving them more time to pull off aerial tricks (and more room for painful failure).
“It’s all a matter of baseline and perspective,” said Josh Friedberg, the chief executive of U.S.A. Skateboarding, the governing body that is organizing the American team for the Tokyo Olympics. “Skateboarding is iterative. It all builds on the shoulder of the people that have come before you.”
Gui has plenty to build on during his time in quarantine. He’s already successfully landed the 1080 again, and aims to do so in a competition as soon as events restart.
He said his favorite part of skateboarding is learning new tricks, and he’s already eyeing a 1260, which would add on another half-spin to the 1080.
He’s also eager to get back to skating with his heroes in California, Hawk and Burnquist. For now, his own vert ramp in Curitiba will have to do. Luckily, he has a solid team supporting him, including the family’s dog, Toni, who runs to Gui and licks his face whenever he falls on the ramp.
“It’s all a dream,” Gui said. “One of the best things about skateboarding is hearing your heroes say: ‘Hey, what a nice trick. Congratulations.’ ”
Hawk had quite a response to that. “I feel very lucky to bear witness to this new generation and participate at the same time,” he said. “I’m way older, they could pass me as a washed up skater.”