It was Christmas 2003 when an 8-year-old Alec Majerus got his first skateboard. He'd asked his dad for a board after trying out one that his brother had brought home a month earlier.
There was a hitch, though, before young Alec could start riding: snow was covering the driveway. So, he shoveled, started riding — and never really got off.
Now 22, the Rochester, Minn., native is competing in his fifth X Games — the first ever hosted in his home state.
Extreme sports athletes from around the world are convening in Minneapolis this weekend for the X Games, and Majerus is among the top tier of skateboarders. He's traveled internationally for skateboarding, and has sponsorships from Adidas and several top skateboard brands.
But to get to this point, it took a move to sunny, snowless California and overcoming a serious leg injury that kept him off the board for a year.
Majerus was an early success. He was entering competitions — and winning — within two years of hopping on a board.
By the time he was a teen, Majerus began to realize these competitions could bring in $250 or $500 a pop, enough to pay for food and drinks, and to keep skating all the time.
"At that point, I was like, 'Oh, maybe I can make a little living off this for a while,'" he said in a brief interview as he prepped for the X Games. "And then I got my first sponsor and started getting paid and then I was like, 'Oh, I can really make a living out of this."
Growing up in Minnesota, Majerus said, it could be hard to find friends willing to skate with him when it was too cold, so "I'd just put on a jacket and try to skate anyway, or we'd skate in garages."
Majerus moved to California after graduating from high school. He turned pro soon after.
Life as a West Coast skateboarder is much different from Minnesota, Majerus said.
"In California, you see pro skateboarders at the park every day," he said. "I feel like kids have it almost better, or an easier way of becoming professional, because they have more motivation.
"If they see a pro at the park and they're doing really good, the pro will be like, 'Dude, like, you're killing it' ... maybe give them a board or something."
Majerus skated constantly in California, and it took a toll on his body.
One leg started to fracture, he said, and "eventually it just completely snapped in half."
It was supposed to be a six-month recovery. But a couple days after Majerus returned to riding, he said, the metal in his leg was catching on his tendons, giving him a staph infection.
Majerus needed emergency surgery, he said. "It like spread to my blood and my bone and stuff."
That laid him up another six months, off the skateboard with in-home nurse visits and 30 days of injecting medicine into his arm.
"I was bummin' and then I got some cats to keep me company 'cause all my friends were skating all day and I was so bored," he said.
The break was three years ago, and Majerus has made a full recovery. At a Wednesday practice session at U.S. Bank Stadium — home to X Games Minneapolis — he skated as if the brutal break had never happened.
With the X Games in Minneapolis this year, he's been able to spend some time back home in Rochester.
"I've been doing a lot of Minnesota activities," he said. "Riding four-wheelers, tubing down the river, just a lot of fun stuff like that."
Now that one of skateboarding's biggest events is in Minnesota, Majerus said he's looking forward to something new: his grandma's never seen him ride before. That'll change this weekend.