Ballito’s own Thalente Biyela (26) will be competing against the world’s best skateboarders at the 2019 Vans Park Series (VPS) World Championship taking place in Salt Lake City, USA this September. Biyela sealed his spot for this all-expenses paid trip when he took first place at the recent 2019 Vans Park Series Africa Regional Championship held at Cape Town’s Shred Skate Park – the country’s only World Championship bowl skateboarding qualifier.
Biyela’s journey to this point has been paved with challenges, but his tenacious spirit and innate talent has seen him continue to break new ground. Homeless from the age of nine, Biyela discovered skateboarding and a passion for the sport before he was spotted by global skating legend, Tony Hawk, while on a trip to South Africa in the early 2000s. With the help of a five-year pro-visa, Biyela was able to compete on the American professional skateboarding circuit basing himself in Los Angeles. This incredible story was captured in the award-winning documentary ‘I am Thalente’.
Having had a break from the competitive circuit the past few years, Biyela said he was thrilled about his recent win and the opportunity to take on big-name skaters at the VPS World Championships:
“I still can’t believe I won! I’m really excited about heading to the finals in Salt Lake City, I’ve never been there. I competed overseas once before in the Tampa Am in Florida, but that was back in 2013. I had a long break from competing while we filmed the ‘I Am Thalente’ documentary, so winning the Vans Park Series championship feels amazing. This is a big comeback for me and I am excited to be on a roll.”
While preparing for this return to the global stage where he will be competing against the world’s pros, Biyela will spend a week in Cape Town practising at the ‘two best skate bowls’ – the new Hout Bay bowl and The Shred Skatepark. Following the contest, he will spend a further week in Los Angeles, catching up with old friends and visiting some of the area’s amazing skate parks.
His recent win has inspired Biyela to, once again, reach for the stars: “My dream now is to get to the Olympics 2020 and compete!”
Globally, the Vans Park Series attracts hundreds of riders from across the world to compete in a number of ranked events. Competitions are held in some of the world’s best skate parks, including Pro Tour stops in São Paulo, Brazil; Paris, France; Shanghai, China and Montréal, Canada. It was only in 2018 that Africa joined the tour – made possible by the creation of a world-class bowl at The Shred Skate Park, funded by Vans South Africa. The facility gave local skateboarders the opportunity to develop their skills and finally compete in an internationally-sanctioned event.