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Skateboarding pays off for Chula Vista resident Jennifer Bock | Fri, Aug 26 2011 01:32 AM

Professional skateboarder and native Chula Vista resident Thomas Sandoval, 25, has become somewhat of a local celebrity as he moves on to the final round of Street League Skateboarding, airing live from New Jersey, on Sunday, Aug. 28, at 2 p.m. Pacific time, on ESPN2. The contest, is the end to a series of three preliminary competitions that kicked off in Seattle, Wash. on May 7.

Sandoval, a former Hilltop High School student, was among 24 of the world’s best skateboarders chosen to compete in the competition by professional skateboarder, Rob Dyrdek, 37, founder of Street League.

 “Tommy is, without a doubt, one of the most talented skateboarders on the planet and on Aug. 28 he has a real shot at becoming the Street League champion,” Dyrdek said.

Sandoval, the self-proclaimed “impulsive” skater, was able to accumulate enough points with a preliminary score to secure his position to the New Jersey finals and a shot at the grand prize of $200,000.

Entering the last preliminary stop, held in Glendale, Ariz., Sandoval had one more shot at making it to the finals. Seen as the underdog, nobody, including Sandoval himself, expected he would stand a chance. “I never expect anything out of contests but in Arizona, I felt like I could do something, I gave it my all, made it through last chance qualifiers,” Sandoval said. “It just went my way.”

Sandoval was one of 10 finalists who will be moving on to the finals, with each vying to become the Street League 2011 champion.

Born and raised in Chula Vista, Sandoval first picked up a skateboard at age 13. “Me, my brothers and neighbors used to team up and do the same sport,” he said. “At one time, everyone skated, then some dropped off but I kept getting better.”

Using skateboarding as a way to get out of the house, Sandoval was soon able to perfect his ability by skateboarding with friends who were older and a step ahead. “I looked up to my friends and tried to imitate what they were doing, and then one day I started surpassing them,” he said.

Local skateboarding shops took notice to Sandoval’s talent and began providing him with free skate equipment. At 16, Sandoval had a decision to make, “I had to make a decision if I wanted to skate for a reason or as a hobby,” he said.

Choosing the former, Sandoval started filming his skateboarding tricks and was soon offered sponsorships.

Nick-named  “White Lion” because of his long blond curly hair and beard that cover his face, resembling that of a lions’ main, Sandoval, sponsored by Zero skateboarding, is currently a professional skateboarder and tours all over the world. He is currently in Pennsylvania.

As he heads to the Street League finals this weekend, Sandoval plans to make his hometown proud as continues to put Chula Vista on the map. “I’m comfortable being in Chula, I know where everything is and I like the food,” hel said. “I only eat Mexican food in San Diego but Chula is the best because the food is authentic.”

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