“Some of my skate friends are 10 and some are 50”: Meet 13-year-old skateboarding phenom Fay DeFazio Ebert
Fresh off her gold medal win at the Pan Am Games, Ebert talks good luck charms, the best bowls in Toronto and setting her sights on Paris 2024
Teenage skateboarding savant Fay DeFazio Ebert shredded her way to stardom at the 2023 Pan American Games in Santiago, Chile, winning gold in the women’s park competition on October 22. Having narrowly missed the chance to skate for Canada at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, the 13-year-old from East York is now poised to make her world-stage debut in Paris in 2024. We caught up with Ebert to talk about the city’s best skate parks, her good luck charms and juggling gold medal wins with Grade 9.
What’s it like going right back to school after winning big in Santiago?
It’s been difficult going from such an exciting thing back to school—I was back in class just two days after that competition. Between the Pan Am Games and two other competitions in Italy, I’ve missed so much work that it’s hard to catch up, but my teachers have been really supportive. They’re all really happy for me.
How does one become a pro skateboarder at 13?
Back when I was eight years old, my dad was scrolling one day and saw a blog post for Impact Skate Club, which was holding free skate lessons one weekend over March Break in an old church basement on Danforth. We tried it out, and I just remember skating feeling super natural right away. People kept asking me if I had done it before, but it was my first time. I don’t even snowboard. I’ve always been athletic, and I had done track and cross country before. I thought I was pretty fast. When I was younger and watching the Olympics, I’d say, “I want to go to the Olympics for running!” Now it’s so crazy that I actually have the chance to go, but for skateboarding.
What’s the first trick you learned?
Ollies, I guess. And kick turns. But it’s less about the specific tricks and more just a matter of getting comfortable enough to try new things. After the March Break camp, I wanted to skateboard so bad. So my parents bought me a board, and I would skate every day. After doing weekly lessons with Yash Presswalla, the guy who runs Impact, I started learning super quickly. I would spend a ton of time skating with friends in East York, just at local skateparks—in the winter I’d go to CJ’s Skatepark in Mississauga, then in the summer I’d do camp at Impact and spend a lot of evenings at Skate Loft in Scarborough.
What’s the best place to skate in Toronto?
Vanderhoof Skatepark in Leaside is pretty good. Beach Skateboard Park at Ashbridges Bay is also a really fun one. Those are the only two proper big bowls in the city. And then there’s just a bunch of local parks. East York Skatepark is another one—it doesn’t have a big bowl, but it’s my fun local spot where I see my friends.
What’s it like being a girl in skateboarding? Does it feel like a boy’s club sometimes?
I like skating with everyone. It’s all about the vibe and connecting with people, no matter what their gender or age is.
What’s your favourite thing about the sport?
So many different things! There’s the hype and the energy, whether it’s with my friends at the park or at competitions. I love the anxious feeling that comes with a contest, but also hyping other people up and giving them hugs. When you do a nice trick around the corner, like a nice Smith grind, it feels so good. Even when other people do it, it’s like, Oh, that’s so good! The community in skateboarding is amazing. Some of my friends are 10 or 11, and some of the guys are 50, but it feels like we’re all the same age because we’re getting excited about the same things.
What was the vibe in Santiago like?
I had never been on a plane with so many Canadian athletes. I got to meet a few of them at the opening ceremony, which was huge. When we all walked in, we were right in between Brazil and Colombia. It was high energy, with music playing and dancers. I actually fist-bumped one of them! When the announcer belted out, “Canada!” I actually got shivers. It was just like the Olympics! Seeing all the people watching and the lights, it struck me that I was actually there. It really wakes you up. Like, Whoa, I’m actually going to do this.
Any good luck charms?
I always have a duck feather in my helmet for contests. It’s from one of my two ducks, Richard. They’re funny guys. They mostly run around the backyard, eat grass and sleep. In the summer, we fill up a plastic kiddy pool for them to splash around in and have fun. When they molt, they get feathers everywhere, so I pick them off the ground. They’re super soft. I believe having one brings me good luck. It’s like, birds fly—but I fly higher.
So you’re in the bowl, you’ve got a duck feather in your helmet, the White Stripes are playing—What’s going through your head?
I didn’t even hear the music. I was just tuned in to the course. I wanted to roll in as confidently as I could. It was like, Okay, first trick: a front Smith. I’m landing it. I’m sliding as far as I can. I was thinking about my breathing, because I knew I’d get tired. Deep breaths out for the next trick. I didn’t get tired, so I guess it worked. Afterward, my coach said he’d never seen me that confident in a contest. It really did feel good.
Where do you think that confidence came from?
I’m not sure! It might have been from seeing all the Canadians there. But it was really amazing. I want to feel like that in every contest from now on.
It was also your dad’s birthday, right?
Not going to lie, I kind of forgot. My mom told me, and I was like, “Oh, yo!” And then I did my run.
You gave a big hug to one of the other contestants, from Brazil. Are you two buds?
Her name is Raicca Ventura. We got to hang out a bit at the end of the Italy trip, and when I found out she was going to be at Santiago, I was like, “Oh, let’s go!” At Santiago, she went last, after me. She was in fourth place and hadn’t landed both of her runs before that, so I was really hoping she would do well in this one. And she landed every trick! I gave her a big hug when she got out of the bowl. We all lined up watching this big screen, and I was thinking, Oh, she made first for sure. But she was in second! I was thinking, How did I just win that? It was crazy. I also got to play ukulele with American skateboarder Bryce Wettstein. We’d just sing whatever we knew, and we even made up some songs. I’d love to write something with her one day.
Did you get a hero’s welcome coming home?
My mom and my brother picked me up at the airport, and they had a Canadian flag and flowers. I had so many messages on my phone. It’s overwhelming, but I’m excited that people are excited. The other day, I was skateboarding at Ashbridges and it started raining, and I was like, “Oh crap, we can’t skate!” Then the two guys I was with said, “Come check out this spray paint in the bowl.” So I did, and all of my skateboarding friends were there to surprise me! There were even people in the bushes. It was crazy.
What’s next for you?
In November, I’m thinking of going to Vancouver for the 7 Gen Skate Festival, which is both a contest and an Indigenous knowledge-sharing event. It’s cool—there’s dancing. The next big competition is Dubai in January. I’m trying to learn some new tricks for that one.
While still being in school, of course.
Dang—I forgot about school for a second.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.