At 14, Skateboarder JD Sanchez Is Taking It All In As He Aims Toward Paris

by Steve Drumwright

JD Sanchez skateboarding
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Like any other 14-year-old skateboarder, JD Sanchez just wants to skate with his friends.

While Sanchez has plenty of friends in and around his hometown of Pleasanton, California, he also has a cadre of cohorts from around the world. After all, Sanchez is one of the top performers in men’s park, and now he’s looking to take that to the next level.

Sanchez, one of the youngest members of the U.S. skateboarding team, will be in Dubai, UAE, for the Feb. 28-March 10 World Skateboarding Tour stop that also serves as a qualifier for the Olympic Games Paris 2024.

“This contest here in Dubai is the most important one for me because I’m currently sitting in seventh place for Team USA, and the top six gets to go on to the second phase,” Sanchez said.

Sanchez is ranked No. 19 globally, with fellow Americans Taylor Nye and Joshua Dirksen on either side of him. Jagger Eaton, the reigning world champion who won street bronze medal when skateboarding made its Olympic debut in Tokyo, is ranked No. 1.

Should Sanchez break into that top group, he’d move on to the new Olympic Qualifier Series set for May in Shanghai and June in Budapest, Hungary. Those events, which combine urban sports and culture, will also serve as the ultimate qualifying stage for BMX freestyle, breaking and sport climbing, in addition to skateboarding.

“So I’ll try my best and hopefully get my run and make it,” Sanchez said.

Sanchez is feeling the urgency to put together good runs in Dubai as he pursues a place in Paris. But he also has the perspective of a 14-year-old.

“There’s definitely a little bit of pressure, but every time I go there, I just think of it as, I’m having a session with my friends,” Sanchez said. “So it kind of takes all the nerves away. But before skating, I’m usually super-nervous.”

And what does he do to calm his nerves? Take a deep breath and remember that his buddies are with him. Among those Sanchez is most looking forward to seeing are fellow American Jake Familton of Culver City, California, as well as George O’Neill of Great Britain and Phoenix Sinnerton of Australia, all part of the next generation of up-and-coming skateboarders.

“I want to really land my run and skate that new park because it’s right next to the harbor, which is pretty sick,” Sanchez said. “It looks really fun to skate, so I cannot wait.”

Sanchez was turned on to skateboarding at age 7 by his dad, Danny Sanchez.

“He brought out my skateboard that I would never use at a basketball court, and he would do tic-tacs on it,” JD Sanchez said. “And I was (like), ‘I kinda want to try that.’ So I tried it, and then ever since that day I would go to the skate park every day and practice.”

JD said his dad, a former skater himself, is “pretty much my skateboarding inspiration.”

“He teaches me everything,” JD said. “He helps me with everything.”

JD has seen photos of his dad during his skateboarding days, so he knows Danny backs up what he says.

“There’s a bunch of photos that he has of a ramp back in Hawaii, where my dad used to live, that he made by himself and it looked really janky,” Sanchez said. “But there’s a sick photo of him doing a kick turn.”

Sanchez, who recently moved from nearby Fairfield, California, to Pleasanton, is a homeschooled high school freshman who turns 15 on April 19. When he isn’t skateboarding, he likes to take the bike he got for Christmas out for a spin or play racquetball, a sport he picked up recently that he plays with his parents three times a week.

“It’s just so much fun,” Sanchez said.

While his parents provide plenty of support, Sanchez also gets advice from other skaters in Northern California. What is the best advice he has received?

“Just have fun,” Sanchez said. “Just having fun during the contest, then it’s gonna go well. You don’t have fun, most of the time it doesn’t go well. So just do your best and have fun.”

When among the other pros, Sanchez said there is one he loves to watch.

“My favorite skater currently is Bucky Lasek,” Sanchez said of the 51-year-old. “He always does some crazy tricks, and I’ve gotten a lot of trick ideas from him. I’ve skated with him a few times, and he helped me a bunch with some tricks. So I would say that’s probably one of my biggest inspirations.”

Sanchez knows the sacrifices his parents, Danny and Jessie, have gone through to get him to this point.

“My parents have been the greatest help,” Sanchez said. “They’ve been helping me get everywhere. Obviously they take me to the contests, they drive me around. They take me to places that I need to practice at, and they make sure that I’m always in tip-top shape for the contests and being prepared.”

Now he hopes to reward those efforts with a trip to Paris. Sanchez has dreamt of going to the Olympics for quite some time, even before he was skateboarding. Originally, he thought he might represent the U.S. as a snowboarder as he watched five-time Olympian Shaun White win three gold medals.

“It would mean so much,” Sanchez said of qualifying for Paris. “That was my dream to get to the Olympics honestly even before I started skating, I just wanted to go to the Olympics and show my talent and just represent Team USA and have a great time.”

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