We are pleased to present this interview with a skater in the Middle East! Marcelo tells us about the community in the UAE and the awesome downhill roads they have including JH - known as “Maryhill on steroids” or ”the kid from the marriage of Maryhill and Teutonia”
Hey bro, great to chat to you!
My pleasure Gbemi. I’m really stoked, this is our first interview!
Where are you from?
Born and raised Brazilian! In Niteroi – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
When did you start skating?
Long ago, when I was 4 years old. I learned to skate on my big brother’s Hang Ten, two years before learning to ride my bike without the side wheels, but I will never tell what year that happened!
Have you been skating since then?
I did a lot from 4 to 16, skating on Powell Peraltas in the 80s, mainly street skating. It’s the old wider decks, not the thin street-skateboards; that generation I skipped. Even back then I always wanted to do downhill but it was almost impossible for a kid in Brazil to do it.
What was it like skating in Brazil?
I was closer to Rio, everything was much more surf-oriented, which I still do, but it was cool. Basically riding when there were no waves, street-style on the street themselves, not parks. People from São Paulo were years ahead of what we were doing, that was where the Brazilian scene was growing to what it is today.
Where is the Brazillian scene like today?
Everywhere, all over the country. The skateboard scene is already established as one of best in the world and the longboarding scene is growing really fast thanks to the great riders we have there now: Bob Burnquist & the vertical gang, Douglas Dalua and the downhillers, Thiago Nobre on freestyle/freeride.
Who do you ride with out there?
No one. I got back to skateboarding after I moved to Dubai/UAE 5 years ago. I know a few riders from Rio and Niteroi, Marcio Benevides from the south. I really want to go back to ride with them.
When did you start longboarding?
A year ago I went back to it but now longboarding, things are just picking up here.
Why did you move?
I shifted jobs, currently I’m an airline pilot, I moved to the UAE as a nice upgrade.
Have you been able to skate in your new found home?
Yes!!! UAE (United Arab Emirates) and Oman are a paradise for down hill, I call it the Hawaii for downhill.
You travel with your boards?
No, layovers are too short and need some rest, I don’t mix DH with aviation, besides the decks are too big for my suitcase! I still have plenty to discover and develop in the UAE.
Is there a longboard community in the UAE?
Yes, It’s still a small community, but with a great vibe. The street scene is very well developed, and I think the longboarders will benefit from that. I guess in the next few years we will see many kids shifting or taking longboards as well. Dubai is the biggest city around here, but it’s kinda flat with very few gentle hills. That’s a problem but we have a few kids pursuing freestyle or slow free riding, and a good number of cruisers at the beach also.
When did a scene start to emerge?
We had one shop that brought a few longboards and some guys bringing them from home, mostly North America. Now we are seeing it grow to at least two more shops coming in with more support.
Is there anyone making their own boards?
There is one guy in Abu Dhabi. He does custom made SUP boards and he did some decks for himself once.
Who organises events there?
The two biggest (and only) events we’ve had so far, the push race and a mini-dh-race were organized by the community itself with support from the shops. Also, several groups like our DH team, the kids freestyle group. On the first event the guys even managed Monster drinks support! Monster is a great partner here. Everything cools down now in summer with temperatures reaching 52ºC (125ºF), but we are preparing good things from October onwards.
Which members of the community were pivotal to these 2 events?
Mark Jayson, Buhay Espanta, Simon Hunt… (I am sorry if I’ve missed someone) did the push race.
Mark, Buhay and I did most of it for the mini-DH race. But we wouldn’t have got anywhere without every bit of support from most of the guys.
What was the push race?
It was a push race around Mushrif Park where most of the guys meet, I wasn’t there because I would’ve got beaten miserably. It was late last year I believe.
Who sponsored the race?
Beach St. (shop) & Monster Drinks mainly.
Who won the mini-dh race?
Marco Legaspi, he has a strong push and is heavy enough to make it difficult to get to him. It’s just too bad I haven’t convinced him (yet) to join our team!
You have a DH team?
Yeah, the Jebel Hafeet Longboarding Downhill Team (long name for a small team). For now it’s just me and Mark Jayson. But there are other people interested like John Kehoe, Bhoying Jakoby and Rommel Mateo, they are getting ready to go bombing with us.
Who started the team?
I approached Mark last year, he seemed the most eager to do it and we decided on a strategy to take on the mountains here.
What does the team do?
We are basically learning to DH from scratch. When we decided to do it, we figured out there was a right way to do it. First we had to get hold of proper equipment and complete safety equipment. Then we had to maximise our time on the mountains and take it slowly, bit by bit. As I said, Dubai is really flat but we have several mountains within 1-2 hours drive. And to get better we needed to visit them regularly, we did our best to drop them every week or every time our schedules met. It’s hard here because we had no one to learn from and there’s no easy or intermediate hill. It’s like learning to surf in Teahupoo or Pipeline. We studied videos, and got some help from really nice pro riders!
Now we are expanding our mountains repertoire, visiting new mountains every month and still training in Jebel Hafeet (Maryhill on steroids as Mischo Erban put it). We still suck, I think I would only consider accomplishing something once we drop JH from the top.
How have you grown since you started your adventure?
Wow… indescribable. Every time we head to the mountains we do something for the first time. Learning to DH on our mountains is something, it’s a steep learning curve. Recently we’ve reached a level where going fast is not a problem, but turning fast is the key point for riding here. And doing it as a team is much easier, we learn a lot from each other. Discussing what’s happening, looking and suggesting new approaches. I am very lucky to have approached Mark in this aspect. Our riding styles complement each other. He’s more of a new style with more slides and freeriding concepts, I’m an old timer relying a lot on foot brakes. He’s riding top-mounts, I ride drop-through. He’s lighter and more stable, I’m heavy and faster. It’s a perfect team so far!
You’ve had international riders come over?
Yeah, Zeid Batayneh (the founder) basically discovered JH for DH and brought Mischo Erban and Olivier Bareaud here for a few drops. Misho got really stoked about it, the mountain is a Maryhill-like ride with fast turns, but runs for 9km with top speeds over 90km/h. Recently Mathias Lessman dropped it and made a sick video of it. And we’re bringing Douglas Dalua here in November for a few days.
What is JH?
Jebel Hafeet, a mountain in Al Ain, a city in the emirate of Abu Dhabi one-and-a-half hour drive from Dubai. Has been known as “the unreal Maryhill on steroids” or the kid from the marriage of Maryhill and Teutonia. More than 9km long, curvy as Maryhill, a lot steeper and faster. It’s the unsung Mecca of DH today.
Wow. That’s legit! What’s the end game?
End game? Now we gotta dominate JH ‘til November to be ready for the Dalua’s visit, but then, I don’t know. The search for an UAE speed record? An IGSA event here? Travel to make some of the races hopefully? Who knows?
Having an international race there would be cool!
It would indeed, who knows? I might give a call to Marcus Rietema.
Who is Zeid Batayneh?
Zeid is a sick rider, he’s from Amman – Jordan and now lives in Kuwait. He’s been to the first Danger Bay races, maybe the first middle-eastern downhiller. A gentlemen in style and I think he’s one of the guys behind Munkae precision trucks. He was one of the guys that we will owe a lot forever for the help and stoke, along with Mischo Erban, Marcio Benevides and the Master Douglas Dalua. These guys are awesome, and provided valuable info for us!
Are there many middle eastern downhillers?
No very few! I really wanted to have fellow emiratis, saudis, omanis… arabs into it. They are living in a very fertile land of curvy mountain roads!
What disciplines do people there enjoy?
Cruising, Freestyle, Freeride, Downhill, and now we’re getting some bowls as well.
Where do you see the UAE scene in 3 years?
I think a lot of kids will get longboards, to ride along their street-skateboards. The downhill scene will grow in 3 years. It will not become the biggest thing, but for sure will drag the freeriding bit for a bigger share than it now holds, the freestyle will also come along. I think the skateboarding in general will boom with the addition of longobards and old-school boards to the scene and the support from new shops and companies, With the right approach to the sport-lifestyle we will get all support we want. A great thing here that I have to share is that the guys and girls are pretty conscious about safety, helmets everywhere and everybody enforcing it. I guess the guys and girls that do it here now are the greatest thing, we absolutely have the right crowd, very stoked, positively thinking and doing stuff for the sport.
You have equal female participation?
No, the girls are mainly cruisers but their participation is greatly appreciated! We had 4 brave nice girls on the mini-dh race!!!
Rayne Demonseed, Aera trucks, Venon bushings, ABEC11 and FaceSkate wheels, Seismic Bearings. But I am also riding a Nemesis (with a drop-through cut) and an Amazon with Ronin trucks, for my own development.
Mark rides Landyachtz Wolfshark 2012, Bear trucks, Venon bushings, and ABEC11 wheels. He’s looking for some precision trucks, Rey, Ronin or Aera maybe.
You like Rayne!
I’m heavy, I was born with all the grip I need in kilos. I love the performance of those light decks, and they’re sick low and stable! I love my Nemoseed (Nemesis w/ a cut drop-through) I don’t know why Rayne doesn’t make them!
What events are coming up in the UAE calendar this year?
Dalua’s visit in November will make a few events. His documentary film exhibition with Q&A afterwards, a freeride and a downhill clinic. We also have a gap to plan some DH event in October. And I think the freestyle kids have something in stock for this winter as well!!
Are there any middle eastern longboard media channels?
No, we meet mostly on Facebook, “Skateboarders of the UAE” and there is also a new one “Skate Middle East” to try to unite skaters and longboarders from all Middle East countries. There is also our team page on Facebook, “Jebel Hafeet Longboarding Downhill Team” and the “Enough Said” freestyle kids.
Are there plans to evolve into an association?
I was thinking about that, we need to approach the right channels. Things here are a bit more serious and formal than in the US or Brazil, but if the demand comes it could be easily done.
What do you do when you’re not skating?
Hanging around with my family and teaching my 5y.o. kid to skateboard, surf etc. without their support I wouldn’t be able to do it. Flying around the world, spending time searching for new roads to drop either on Google Earth or driving around.
Do you get to skate in any exotic locations?
No I don’t take my skateboard with me besides isn’t Dubai and the UAE exotic enough? I can guarantee that there is a lot more to come from the Middle East in terms of DH skating! That’s such a stoke, to be the first to drop one sick road! Just wait and see… we’ll be dropping more and more sick virgin roads for the first time.
Choose 3 numbers between 1-26
Oh no… 2, 9, 26.
2 – Would you rather have a hook for a hand or a wheel for a foot ?
Hook for a hand, got 4 wheels under my feet already!!!
9 – Favourite song to listen to when you skate
“I don’t like you – by Electric Six”
26- What kind of films do you like?
Any kind but good… Star Wars, Lord of the Rings & Top Gun are the top ones.
Longboarding videos(Sector9’s Second Nature ), Lords of Dogtown… Anyone with a strong message about honor.
It’s been so good to talk to you and learn a little something about the scene way out there! I hope we get to skate together sometime!
Definitely!!! If you come to the desert give us a shout!!!Sk8Fast Everyday!!!
Any thank yous?
Again the masters Dalua, Zeid, Mischo, Marcio, and Walter Baresi Ribeiro (luge racer). My team mate Mark Jayson for embarking on this one. Marcus Rietema for being very approachable, hope we can work it out! Thane Magazine for being the first to portray us!!! Surf Shop Dubai for joining the fray. Beach St. shop. FaceSkate and Norberto Bertoncello (sick new wheels!!!). ALL the guys and girls from Skateboarders of the UAE that put up with me and my extra-stokedness!!! ABOVE ALL my lovin’ wife and lil’ Luca.
Skateboarders of the UAE: http://www.facebook.com/groups/182005708509798/
Team page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Jebel-Hafeet-Longboard-Downhill-Team
Skate Middle East: http://www.facebook.com/groups/skatemiddleeast/
Surf Shop Dubai: http://www.facebook.com/groups/surfshopdubai/
Enough Said (amazing kids): http://www.facebook.com/pages/Enough-Said/173357442736710