PEDRO BARROS SAYS that a kid in Brazil doesn't start skating to become famous or to land sponsors. The kids in Brazil skate because they love it and want to hang out in the skatepark with their friends. And even for 18-year-old Barros, who signed with his first major sponsor four years ago, this claim seems to hold. In his rookie season, Barros gave away the first gold medal he ever won, at X Games Los Angeles 2010, to a friend. He's not even sure what he did with last year's gold medal.
And on this perfect March morning, winning gold medals is the furthest thing from Barros' mind. He and his father, Andre, are driving about 15 minutes from their home in Florianópolis, Brazil, on the island of Santa Catarina, for a surf session. It's a ritual the two have performed since Barros could stand on the front of his father's three-fin. Afterward, they stop by the Pousada Hi Adventure, an inn that doubles as a skatepark and is owned by Barros' godfather. It's where a 4-year-old Barros dropped into a bowl for the first time after watching his dad do the same day after day. But now they're here for some acai and a nap. They're still jet-lagged from a trip to Australia, where Barros competed in the Bowl-A-Rama Bondi, which he won for the fourth straight year.
That result is just one reason Barros has been the top bowl skater in the world since 2010. Fearless and powerful, with some of the biggest tricks in the sport, Barros has found equal success in skateboard park. In April he'll have a chance to pick up a third gold medal in that event when X Games debuts in Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil, near the Argentina and Paraguay borders.
But he'll worry about that later. Right now, as the evening sets in, father and son start in on another ritual: skating, playing music and barbecuing. This time it's in their backyard, where Andre, a former chef who owns a food distribution company, built an oversize bowl and vert ramp. For Barros, the setup is a luxury. Growing up in the Rio Tavares neighborhood, there were few paved roads and no decent skateparks. To skate, he would go to Hi Adventure or cobble together ramps with his friends. So he's not keeping this luxury to himself. "The gate is open," Barros says. "Anybody can come, skate and barbecue whenever they want."
Swing by after X Games Brazil and a kid might just be handed a medal, courtesy of Barros. Better yet, stick around long enough, that kid may win one someday.
Alyssa Roenigk is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN.com whose assignments covering action sports, Olympics and football have taken her to six continents and caused her to commit countless acts of recklessness. In 2012, she joined the X Games TV broadcast team and ordered additional pages for her passport. Follow her on Twitter at @espn_alyssa.