Leo Favaro – Mal Nenhum

El Tiburon

Words by Ben Powell

There is an unfettered deluge of video content that nourishes the otherwise arid land upon which the edifice of the skateboard industry sits. For better or worse, video has long since supplanted photography in terms of both immediacy and influence as the primary conduit through which this culture is transmitted. You’d be forgiven for assuming that this carries negative connotations relating to oversaturation or the diminishing value of skateboarding but, in all honesty, we are way beyond that kind of culturally conservative nonsense in 2024.
Yes, there is absolutely still a place for the kind of benign gatekeeping upon which magazines like the one you’re reading right now are predicated, if only because, without the filters applied by the likes of Thrasher, or Free, or Dolores, or Cemporcento, we, as individuals, would be buried under so much wheat and so much chaff that the distinction between what’s just out there and what’s significant would be lost to everyone. Reassuringly, even amidst the overwhelming inundation of skate clips there are collective consensuses at work that serve to signpost brilliance. Greatness has its own signature, and no amount of smartphone distractions can hide that from an invested observer. Whilst it’s virtually impossible to explain why one person’s approach to riding a skateboard is likely to make deeper ripples in the pond than others, everybody with any sense of taste or aesthetics can feel it when it’s happening.

Frontside bluntslide in, Porto Colom, Mallorca. Ph: Gerard Riera.

Leonardo Henrique Favaro is one such skateboarder. I make no claims to any discoveries here as Leo was already a rising star in the vast constellation of potential Brazilian wunderkinds long before I happened across his ‘Obrigado MKD’ section back in 2021. But, as I already said, greatness has its own signature and Leo’s was writ large all the way across this truly mind-bending six and a half minutes of footage. Filmed and edited by his friend and frequent collaborator Leonardo Beazotto and representing his beloved local shop MKD, who Leo refers to as ‘literally family to me’ – this clip was a howl most definitely heard around the world. That Free hosted this, underground (at the time at least) Brazilian kid’s part filmed to rep the skate shop 30 minutes from his hometown, should be enough to banish any anxiety about skate footage having lost its magical aura through overabundance.
Does it really get more wholesome than hearing the following and knowing that it is heartfelt? ‘I definitely don’t think I’d be where I am if it weren’t for MKD – they are truly my inspiration.’ I think not. Anyone still performatively wailing about wanting skateboarding to die to rediscover its truth probably needs to sit down and watch that part at full volume. It’s not every day that you will encounter that degree of pop, speed and naked talent set to Gothic shoegaze, so go soak in the future and wash away your bitterness.

Backside smith grind, London. Ph: Sam Ashley.

Not everyone is born with a silver spoon in their mouth and Leo’s pathway towards the recognition that his skateboarding undoubtedly deserves is one littered with obstacles. Firstly, it’s easy for those of us outside of South America to forget how vast Brazil is and how different its infrastructure is from that of the global North. Blithely stating that Leo is from ‘near São Paulo’ ignores the reality that, Sertãozinho, the city he grew up in, is 330km away from that sprawling metropolis. As Leo puts it, ‘the city’s name comes from the word “sertão” meaning a place in the wilderness that is very dry and arid. This was not an easy place to learn to skateboard in. Modern architecture is rare, it’s very hot all the time and often the roads are either broken or made from mud. Although Sertãozinho is my hometown and where I started to skate, it wasn’t until I travelled to the nearby city of Ribeirão Preto, where the skate shop MKD is based, that I began to make connections and progress more quickly.’

Backside 50-50, Barcelona. Ph: Gerard Riera.

Preconceptions of Brazilian contest prowess might have you presume that Leo’s formidable skill set was trained up in a skatepark regardless of what he says but although there was a park in his hometown, it played only a small part in his development.
‘I learned to skate on the street even though there was a skatepark in my hometown known as C3. To be honest, skating there was basically the same as skating street anyway because the floor was shit and the obstacles were not really all that skateable. It was an important place to me because I met many of my first skate friends there, like Rafael, who was one of my earliest inspirations. I love C3 for those reasons, but I couldn’t say that it was some kind of perfect plaza park or anything. Quite the opposite really…’
Fellow Brazilian, proprietor of Barcelona’s Al Carrer skate store and good friend of Mr Favaro, Leandro Fisher, mused on similar topics relating to Leo’s far from auspicious beginnings in his arid hometown and the effect that this experience has had on his progression and motivation since he began travelling. ‘With him being born and raised in such a small city in the Brazilian wilderness where every spot is very rough and hard to skate, when he did start to travel around, (first with his MKD family and then globally) his motivation levels are crazy. Imagine a kid who grew up skating dirt roads hitting up Los Angeles or London or Barcelona. He sees spots everywhere – everything is skateable to him because of his upbringing. It’s awesome to share sessions with him and he will make you progress too just from watching. Believe me, his talent is amazing!’

Backside 180, Palma de Mallorca. Ph: Gerard Riera.

Leo has left a similar impression wherever he’s been lately. LA-based filmer Felix Soto echoes Leandro’s sentiments. ‘I only met him recently through our mutual friend Leonardo Bodelazzi even though I knew of him from the CPT Mafia and Chancla videos. I think it must’ve been Leo’s first time in the USA, but he adapted to our LA spots really quickly. Every place I would take him to he’d just instantly start rifling off crazy tricks with absolutely no hesitation. He’s hungry but he’s also super humble with a great attitude: basically, the perfect guest. I’d say he’s definitely destined to make it as he has it all: style, tricks, adaptability and most importantly he’s just a really nice kid too.’

Frontside nosegrind transfer in, Porto Colom, Mallorca. Ph: Gerard Riera.

Likewise, the Boardman twins who’ve been filming Leo during his recent stay in London have nothing but praise for this softly spoken ball of energy.
‘Filming with Leo is crazy,’ says William. ‘He’s definitely one of the most talented and consistent skaters I’ve ever met. Any spot we go to, he has something for it. In terms of whether or not he has ideas for spots or just freestyles, it’s a mix of both. He definitely has specific tricks that he wants to try, but a lot of times we’ll be out with no real plan, and anything we pass by he sees potential in. He notices things that I would never see, sometimes we’ll turn up to a spot and he won’t really say much, and out of nowhere he’s trying something crazy, and you have to rush to get the camera out.’
Will’s brother Michael agrees, ‘Filming with Leo is definitely mental. It’s also super enjoyable because he can skate anything — he can go from doing a ledge line or a tech manual trick to skating a gnarly gap or a handrail. Sometimes we’ll be walking down the street on the way to another spot, and I’ll turn around and he’s eyeing something up that doesn’t even look like it’s skateable. But then next thing we know he’s getting a clip on it.’

Crooked grind, Barcelona. Ph: Gerard Riera.

Whether it’s the back streets of São Paulo for his full part in the recent ACE Trucks Brazil edit that ended up on Thrasher, or the numerous projects he seems to be involved with simultaneously in London, Spain and Brazil, all of those around him are in accord as to the direction he seems to be heading in. Not that Leo’s hunger and motivation are necessarily fuelled by a desire to get rich, more so that as a young Brazilian skater, he has little option but to chase opportunity outside of his homeland. As he explains, ‘Brazil is a huge country with a large number of skateboarders so naturally that ended up creating our own market and skate industry to some extent. The wider problem is the state of the Brazilian economy more generally. Despite it being such a big country rich in raw materials and labour, the economy is horrible, taxes are extremely high and access to quality materials is very difficult for both small and big domestic skate brands. This ends up making life very difficult for Brazilian brands/stores/media with little to no money left over to invest in travel projects, which consequently heaps the responsibility to represent your sponsors on the shoulders of skaters everywhere in the country. I believe that all of this influences people to look for opportunities abroad and to leave Brazil to make it happen.’

Frontside noseslide, London. Ph: Rafal Wojnowski.

Is the trajectory that Leo is currently on likely to mean that he too will have to leave Brazil semi-permanently?
‘At the moment there are many people who don’t need to leave Brazil but who continue to work alongside the help they get from sponsors, but to live solely from skateboarding here then you need big sponsors who will pay you a lot so that you can just skate. I’m financing all the travel I do currently by trying to work in the cities I visit and if I ever need help then Class and MKD are always happy to chip in. Mainly I can chase these opportunities through working for Deliveroo delivering food by bike. This is something I can pick up anywhere and I’ve done it in Los Angeles and London whilst I’ve been skating there.’
Hotwiring the gig economy to finance video parts in several cities at once is some Mysteries of Chessboxin’ levels of making it happen. It also shines further light on the nickname given to him by his crew of international friends who he spends time with whenever they’re all together in Barcelona.
‘We call him “El Tiburon” or “Shark” in English’ his friend Bruno (Rocha) explains. ‘The predatory fish in the food chain. We call him this because he’s always on the hunt for spots and possibilities. It’s also kind of a joke because he’s so nice. It’s difficult to give you a sense of his personality with just one story because every day we spend together produces another one. Whilst we’ve been working on this video part together something unique has been happening. As we embarked on the project I got married and had a son. Leo came to stay at my home, so he helped a lot with the tasks of taking care of the baby whilst we were also filming.
Many of the spots we filmed at were close to my son’s day-care, so we’d take my kid there and then go and film together until it was time to collect him again. Other times we’d just bring my son on the sessions. This is the other side to El Tiburon – anyone who just sees him skating on the streets could never imagine how kind and sweet a kid he is; the Shark is so pure. I truly feel a sense of privilege to have met him and to count him as a friend.’

Frontside 50-50, Barcelona. Ph: Gerard Riera.

As ringing endorsements go that’s pretty solid and meshes perfectly with the opinion of Andsu (Anderson Gomes), another friend of Leo’s and another member of skateboarding’s diaspora community.
‘Since our first sessions together in Santo André, it was crazy to see the way he skates. I remember one day we had been skateboarding all day, we stopped to have a drink, and when we came back to go home Leo jumped everything on the way: stairs, railings, gaps, everything. That day you could already see that his skateboarding had no barriers, that regardless of the situation, when he’s on his skateboard, he’s going to make it happen. This inspired me a lot. Much love Leo.’
This natural exuberance and absolute mastery of his skateboard even extends to his dealings with the Deliveroo bike that, in a warped sense, has led to this article and to our English to Portuguese and back again conversation via Google Translate. When asked about the Instagram stories showing him leaping hefty London road-gaps on a Boris bike, Leo’s chuckle and response further cements the reasoning behind his nickname.
‘If I see something whilst I’m out deliver- ing food, I can’t help myself. I love adrenaline.’

Frontside 50-50, London. Ph: Sam Ashley.

As you’d probably expect, although the conversations that enabled this rough sketch of Leo drew to an end at this point, Leo’s eagerness and thirst for more adrenaline surrounded by his friends continued. As the final pieces of this interview of sorts were being stitched together, Leo and his crew of international cohorts had just landed in Mallorca to put the finishing touches to yet another section soon to grace your phone screens.
‘I always feel comfortable in Spain surrounded by friends,’ Leo states. ‘I’m never 100% at home though because I can only stay for three months at a time before having to leave the European Union because of the visa situation. Mallorca is incredible, it feels like I’m in a movie. The landscape of the island is beautiful and there are so many spots to manoeuvre.’
If the skateboarding dream works out for him, which, let’s be honest, it categorically ought to, given the amount of energy he puts into it, then Leo could see himself settling happily in Barcelona.
‘I would choose Barca so I could be close to the people that I love and who inspire me every day. The quality of life here is great too. My motivation comes mostly from my friends and from everything we go through together. That gives me all the motivation I need to make each day very special.’
Hopefully you’ll come away from this with some idea of who Leo Favaro is and, more importantly, a glimpse into the background narrative that enabled these photos and the subsequent video part. If you’re not already a fan, do yourselves a favour and watch all of his online parts. Start with the Free site and go from there. I guarantee you’ll come away with a new favourite.
It seems fitting to end on Leo offering advice to other young skaters who grow up in places far from the convenient glow of the skateboard industry.
‘Always connect with good people and friends. That is the root of everything. Always try to do your best and be good to people and you can get wherever you want in this life.’
What else do you want? Listen the fuck up, El Tiburon esta cazando…

Ph: Gerard Riera.