Gnarisa sat down with us in our virtual offices to discuss all things stoke related: getting excited about gripping boards in the Rayne shop, eating apples as big as her head and living the dream as a pro skater.
Hi Marisa! Where are you from?
Heyooo, I’m from Lima, Peru, and I was raised in Miami, FL, USA.
When did you start skating?
I started skating about 7 years ago. That´s when I bought my first longboard. I started skating down hills about 4 years ago. I started competing not long after. I fell in love with racing as soon as I started.
You never had a tiny board growing up?
Never rode a short board, I was never drawn to it, honestly. I’ve always thought longboarding was more my style.
Did you start riding in Lima?
I started riding in Miami with a group of friends who would get together at my university’s parking garage every week to skate down it. I initially got my first longboard to ride around in my Uni, just to get to class faster and with more style, hehe.
What got you into downhill?
I met a group of skaters who went by Miami Longboard Crew. They would get together almost every night and skate garages all over the city. I ran into them one night and they showed me what downhill longboarding was all about. I had no idea. I tried out one of their downhill boards, a Landyachtz Evo, and it opened my eyes to a whole new world that would later consume me! Haha so thankful for that.
Isn’t Florida flat?
South Florida is totally flat, yes. We would find our thrills in the multi-story parking garages all over the city of Miami. Sometimes we would go up north to skate the small hills in Central and North Florida. Those were our seldom skate trips.
Do you still skate with those guys?
Not lately, because I don’t live in Miami anymore. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen them since I’ve been gone. I moved back to Peru with my family last year in October. Then in March, I left to chase IGSA races around the world and I’m still doing that now. I have Canadian citizenship (because I lived there for 6 years when I was really little), so I´m planning/hoping to be able to stay there for a while and work, and find a place to live. This year is pretty booked for me though, so I imagine I will be settling down in Vancouver later on this year.
How does skating make you feel?
In the beginning it was FEAR. But then, when I made it safely to the bottom of the garage, that fear turned into mad stoke! I wanted to do it again and again and again. Eventually I bought my own downhill setup, which was a Kebbek Bassi Haller. I loved that board, until I realized that I preferred a shorter wheelbase and top mount.
The rush of going down a slope fast. The thrill that you can share with your buddy skaters. The feeling after avoiding a crash and not knowing how. The extent of the traveling and the experience and knowledge you get from the places you never even imagined going to in our life. Knowing that all those other ‘normal’ people who don’t skate will never know or understand all these feelings. Our community is so small yet so powerful and united. We have so much admiration for each other. It’s really like a family. This is all that has been consuming me for the past 3 years. I’d call it stoke.
When did you first discover this family?
I first discovered this family when I met the Miami Longboard Crew in 2009. They took me in and showed me the ropes. I had never heard of downhill longboarding till they opened my eyes to this whole new world. So thankful to these guys for that. I just got a message from Santiago Cadavid (co founder of MLC) saying that they made patches of our logo and he will be sending me one to put on my leather suit. Hell yeah!!
How did things progress after your Uni days?
Well, I finished 2 years of Uni, studying Interior Design, and I was so passionate about it. I would strive to always be the best in the class. I would work the longest hours, and put the most detail into my work (in my opinion hehe). That is just a characteristic in my personality. I’ve always been detail oriented and if I start on something, I do it to the absolute best of my ability. Then, after I’m done, I look at it, and try to see the imperfections and how to make it better. A bit obsessive, but that applies only to the things that truly captivate me. Design and Longboarding have been the only things in my life that have truly captivated me. I put my Design career aside for traveling and skating. I plan on going back to school where I am now, in Vancouver, to finish up my Bachelors degree. I’ll do this when I come to a point in my life when I feel satisfied with my skating career.
Does your design background translate into anything in your skate life?
My perfectionist character definitely carries over into my skate life. I am my own worst critic and always will be hardest on myself. I don’t think I could ever look at a picture or a video of myself skating and think, “yes, that was perfect”. This is something that I picked up in school for sure, and I guess I’m grateful for it because I’ll never give up progression.
I can be creative on my longboard as well as in the classroom. I have been getting really into dancing lately. I suppose I’m more drawn to the flowy and stylish styles of riding and I feel like I can be as free as I want with dancing. It’s really all about style and finesse, and if you make it look good, then you’re doing it right!
Does your board have special designs?
Haven’t made any designs on my board except for the grip jobs. I love gripping boards. Whenever we get an invoice for a “grip and assemble” board at work in Rayne, I get excited!
Why did you decide to take a break from Uni?
I decided to take a break from Uni when I was offered a sponsorship with Daddies Board Shop. At that point it was the most solid contract I had ever gotten and it looked very promising for my skating and traveling future. That was when I decided to dedicate myself fully to this. I haven’t had one speck of regret since. A lot of support from my friends and family too, which was the major part for me.
How long after you started skating did you get sponsorsed?
I got my first longboard in 2005, it wasn’t until about 2008 that I started to push myself to get better, then I started powersliding. In 2009, I joined Silverfishlongboarding.com and the obsession began. I didn’t land a sponsorship until the spring of the following year, 2010, with Skatera. Then it was, really, all downhill from there.
What is Skatera?
Skatera is a girl’s brand, branched off Abec 11, that makes apparel, boards and wheels for the ladies. They support a wide variety of girl riders out there. From street skaters to downhill longboarders. It’s all about the pink with Skatera!
Do you still ride for them?
Haha yes, it’s like Abec 11 with estrogen. I do still represent them and I think I always will. They were my first sponsor, they believed in me during my first stages of skating and they have been attentive to me all the way through. So thankful!
Have you ever skated in Europe?
I have! This year I competed in the IGSA Eurotour. I arrived in Italy right after the Maryhill She-ride and the West Coastin’ tour with 4 other girl shredders. I raced in Teolo, then Peyragudes in France and went to Decente in Switzerland but didn’t race because the road wasn’t protected enough and I didn’t feel comfortable.
I spent the most time in Switzerland though, stayed in Zurich for about a week and skated all over the place. Switzerland has to be the most perfect country for downhill skateboarding in the world. The roads are always perfectly paved and abundant in hairpins! Absolutely loved that country.
I also went to the Giosteka Freeride in San Bernadino, Switzerland which was an awesome road as well. That event was sick in general, it was a 4 day freeride with free dinner, live performances and dancing every night at the campsite. I was the only non-european person there, everyone else had gone back home already. I had a really great time getting to know the European riders on a more personal level. Definitely planning on the whole tour again for next year and KNK and Giosteka freerides.
How was Padova?
Padova was a really great event. It took place in a small vineyard town in Italy called Teolo, and held about 300 people including riders at the event. The town of Teolo was absolutely beautiful, there were green hills all around us, warm weather, and bright sunsets to finish off the afternoons. I remember going to the local fruit market and buying the most juicy and delicious fruits I’ve ever had in my entire life. The apples were almost the size of my head and the peaches were as juicy as a normal watermelon, and all so tasty! I felt like I was in some sort of wonderland.
Regarding the race, a lot of people were complaining about the road, saying it was boring and slow, but I didn’t find it boring at all. The first section is somewhat straight and you can hit 65-70kph, followed by a set of a few hairpins. That hairpins section is rather slow, but not boring. I really enjoyed racing on that road, and I’m down to do it again next year.
Was this your first time riding in Europe?
This was my first time competing in Europe, but I had previously visited Spain for the Endless Roads tour with the Longboard Girls Crew. We visited and skated 9 cities.
How did you end up on Endless Roads?
I was contacted by the lovely women from Longboard Girls Crew in Madrid one random day. They happened to be looking for a couple of international girls to go on their Spain tour to film the next big vid by Mr. Juan Rayos. Jaw dropped, eyes wide open, speechless. When I finally gathered myself, I said, “Claro que si!!!” (Of course!!!). I was so stoked you could not imagine. We all got to work together and made this happen with only a couple of months notice. It turned out to be the best skate trip of my life, with the most beautiful video edit I had ever been in, along with the raddest chicks I had ever met in my entire life. Spain was amazing and so was the crew.
Were there any differences between Spanish roads and your local?
Yeah they are pretty different than the roads I’ve skated in Peru. The coast of Peru is very desert-like and filled with sandy dirt, so it is very slippery, great for freeriding. But if you go more inland then you get mountains, the Andes, and these roads are super clean and they can go on for kilometers and kilometers.
What is your perfect road?
I’d have to say that ‘my perfect road’ would have to be one with variety. Sections with different types of turns, sweepers, hairpins, steep straights to throw down some standies, then hairpins, hairpins and maybe some more hairpins. Predrifting is probably my favorite thing to do while skating, therefore, hairpins would be my preferred feature in a road. But if there was one road where I could work on all areas of my downhilling techniques, then that is what I would consider my perfect road.
How were the races in Europe different from other continents?
The races in Europe were different from other continents because it’s a totally different continent lol. Every place I’ve been to is different from the last and has it’s own culture and vibe. I noticed that Europe has it’s own view on downhill skateboarding as a sport. The Europeans seem to take it more professionally and are a little less under the description of a “grundgey American skateboarder” with the wreckless and ‘fuck shit up’ attitude that some skaters in Canada and the US may have. I say this because I experienced a culture-clash while in the Peyragudes event in France. The Americans and Canadians (me included) started a small food fight in the dinner tent with the food that the event was providing for us, and the French and some other Europeans got really mad about it and a brawl started. They said that an act like this was seen as disrespectful and inconsiderate, that visitors like us would shouldn’t throw food provided for us away. They were within their rights to complain, but Americans don’t see it as a disrespectful act to throw food, just a way of having fun and letting loose. This made me realize that we do have different views on certain things, and maybe we should be more mindful of how we act in order to not make anyone feel disrespected.
Is that the most hairy situation you’ve been in at a skate event?
Yeah. I was really upset at first because that French dude slapped a guy in the face, one who was sitting at my table, Josh. I didn’t understand why he did it at first, because as I said, the cultural differences. This made me confused but later realized the circumstances of the situation and we all reached an understanding.
Which skate culture which mirrors your soul?
Has to be the one in Australia. I was there for a little over a month, and I experienced nothing but positivity from the people involved in the skate scene. Not just good vibes towards me, but also towards each other. Everyone seems to really care about each other and they have a lot of love give. Especially my buddies Rob and Maga McWhinnie, this is the raddest skate couple I’ve ever met. These two are really special people and they really know how to live actively on the bright side. Miss them like crazy! Can’t wait to see them again in Aussie land next year.
How did you end up down under?
It was a really spontaneous decision made by both Ishtar and I earlier this year. We both couldn’t stop talking about visiting New Zealand and Australia, and our curiosity about their culture was eating us up from the inside. Also, Rob and Maga had spent about 5 months in Peru with us recently. We all had a really great time traveling around Peru together, we went to Cusco and Mancora, skated a lot and Rob made a few sick videos of it all which ended up being really successful. We all promised to see each other again in Sydney, so we simply kept our word and there we were. Best decision ever made.
What was the highlight of your time here?
Top was winning Newton’s Nation followed by a rad vacation in Byron Bay where we stayed at the Early Skatehouse with Austin, Flavio and Matias. Such rad and chill guys who love to surf and skate and just live life in the moment.
Who is Ishtar?
Ishtar Backlund is one of my closest girl friends in the world. She is a Swedish freelance artist and downhill skater. She’s in love with the world and hasn’t stopped exploring it since she started about 2 years ago. We often plan our trips to the races together and always have the best time. A lot in common between us. Hi Ishtar!
What trips have you been on together?
We’ve been in Peru, Chile, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, drove down to LA, California and back up to Maryhill for the She-ride. It’s been long ride and it still ain’t over.
What’s the biggest thing you have in common?
I think the biggest thing we have in common is our positive outlook on the world and towards people. We both encourage each other to think big, stick to our goals, and notice the glass being half full, not half empty. Good vibes indeed.
What is a she-ride?
The Maryhill She-ride was an event only for the girls, put on by Deano, the guy who organizes all of the freerides at Maryhill. It was a really successful turn-out actually, about 50 girls from all over North America showed up and we all got to skate the hell out of that road for 3 days straight.
What’s the skating like in Vancouver?
The skate scene in Van is like none other. There are so many skaters, everywhere, people are so down with the mountains out here. I noticed that most people in Vancouver are really into outdoor-living; hiking, swimming, rock climbing, cycling, etc. Naturally, the people are really active during the day. This is something that I was longing for while living in Miami. There really wasn’t any outdoorsy activities to have fun with. It might just come down to the landscape in general. No mountains = no outdoor fun. Vancouver’s landscape is remarkable. The mountains are big and the forests are beautiful. It would be really hard to find a place that could top it within this realm. The skaters are really friendly and always down for a ride. I’d have to say that this city has the best downhill skateboarding scene in the world. Hands down.
Are you into outdoor living?
This year after so much camping and spending time outside in different scenery, I discovered that I am very much into outdoor living. I was never the person to encourage people to go camping, hiking or fishing for our dinner, but I guess the camping thing where I grew up was practically non-existent. I mean, who would want to sleep in between clouds of mosquitoes in the swampy Everglades of South Florida? Hahaha, I did that once with my dad and we decided to never do it again. We were both in bed for a week completely covered in bites and with fever. I guess if you are in the appropriate surroundings, you can really enjoy your nature. You should always enjoy and take advantage of it if you have it! It’s priceless.
How do you defend yourself from the bears?
Hahaha thankfully, I’ve never had an encounter with a wild bear, and I hope I never do. What I’ve always heard you should do is play dead. But I don’t think my natural instinct will let me to do that. I would most likely run as fast as I can in the opposite direction.
What was your first race?
My first race ever was an outlaw in North Carolina, USA. It was called Rumple Flat spot outlaw put on by the local skaters. I was the only girl participating. This was in 2009. I must have fallen like 20 times hahaha.
When did you first race against women?
I first raced against women in Guajataka, Puerto Rico in 2010. I placed 2nd of 4 girls.
Is racing with women different?
Yes it is. Women tend to be more gentle than men. They choose safety over winning most of the time. Of course, it depends who you’re racing with and if it’s the final heat or not.
What did you have to change to get yourself that first place finish?
It was all a matter of courage, and actually performing to my fullest potential, that I was able to do. I had a lot of fear in me because I wasn’t used to skating hills, all we had to practice on at home were parking garages, and they are not fast. At these races, I had to learn and compete at the same time. Hard, but rad.
What did you get up to in the 2011 season?
In 2011, I raced in Puerto Rico again, some outlaws in Florida, Maryhill, Argentina, Peru and Chile. Was around the Latin Americans for most of the year. It was a rad one.
How was this past season for you?
This 2012 season has been remarkable for me. I traveled farther than I ever thought I would, and skated more amazing roads than I knew existed. Met so many rad people and all so helpful and as passionate about downhill as I am, we’ve shared some really awesome moments skating together and just getting to know things we didn’t know. I’ve been to Los Angeles, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, back down to California, Portland, Italy, France, Switzerland, back to work for Rayne in Canada, Colombia, Argentina, and finally back at home base in Peru. I’ll be here for the next month until I leave to Florida for the King of Clermont race and Puerto Rico in January.
Looking back at this year, it all seems hard to believe that a pro downhill skateboarder can have these kind of experiences, but then I realize, that skateboarder was me, it actually is possible! Holy crap, life’s great at the moment! But like all life experiences, there is a balance of good and bad. I did have a few really tough moments in which I thought I was screwed, but pulling through made it all worth the worries.
Is it hard living as a professional skater?
It’s not anything to be complaining about at all. Of the up’s and down’s, there are definitely more up’s. I mean, traveling around the globe doing what you enjoy doing the most and living off of that? Who could possibly have it better?
What’s the toughest thing you learnt this season?
The toughest thing I’ve learned was to sleep outside in a broken tent on a cold and rainy night. That was not fun.
When did you hurt your knee?
I hurt my knee this year, quite a few times. The first time was in Danger Bay in May. It was raining and a girl crashed in front of me on carnage corner, I jumped over her to not hit her too hard and landed right on my left knee. I was out for a couple of weeks. Never got it checked, but it swelled and turned purple all around my knee cap. I continued to skate and fell on it again a few times, each time just as painful as the first. Then in Colombia I smashed it again and it swelled up like I had never seen before, veins popping out and everything. So I went to the hospital for an X-ray and an examination and doctor said it was fine, just swollen. But no skating for 1 month. So I couldn’t race in Colombia or Argentina or Peru or Brazil. Missed the rest of the season, but that’s alright, I needed a break anyway. I finished my therapy sessions so I’ll be skating hills again really soon.
Watched the Calgary race and you were quite ginger!
Hahaha I had hit my bad knee earlier that day in the practice runs and wasn’t able to bend. Well, I did for the race, but in very much pain, it swelled up again.
Where will you be skating next season?
Next season, I’m starting out in Florida and Puerto Rico, followed by… who knows?? I know I wanna go back to Australia and Europe because I loved the roads and had a great time. But the rest is unplanned, just gonna let it flow.
What’s your take on the evolution of racing?
It has been a pretty fast evolution. We might not realize it because we are looking at it from within, but it’s going at a pretty good pace if you take a step back and look at it. I just hope that the future of our organization teams don’t get too political and take away their energies from the actual events. There are some uprisings next year that will change a lot of the things we are used to. Like having one World Champion for example. We just have to remember to keep it about the sport and the competitors and not about who organizes what better. That’s all I’m gonna say.
How does the birth of a new Umbrella affect you as a racer?
I know that it will affect my results at the end of the year because I probably will be participating in both organization’s races, and it might take away points that I’m accumulating for the other one. But in the end, I think it won’t really matter. As long as the riders just ride and do their best, and get the treatment they deserve in an event, like free water and food. I really don’t ever care about prizes, just give us the essentials. FOOD AND WATER PLEASE.
What else needs to change?
Well, I’m no politic, but I’d say that the time trial system needs an upgrade for sure. There have been way too many times when the whole system is messed up due to this or that reason, whatever little thing that can screw up those silly laser machines. It’s time for some microchip action! Duh, it’s way past due.
Will you have any involvement with the new sexy democratic face of skateboard racing?
Lol sexy and democratic are two words that just do not belong together. But to answer your question, Gbemi, no involvement that I’m aware of yet. But I’ll gladly help out anyone who is in need. I do care a whole lot about our sport and I want it to thrive and continue to grow as it has been. We gotta avoid the setbacks at all costs.
Pick 3 numbers between 1-40!
5, 8, 25
5 – What is your favourite skate video?
Favorite skate video… hmmm… that’s a really tough one. I have many favorites, but the one video that got me into downhill was the Orangatang For President video by Adam Colton. 2008. Old skewl.
8 – Best board you’ve ever ridden?
Best board I’ve ever ridden has to be the one I’m still riding today, my good old Rayne Baby Killer!
Miss Sunshine, it’s been awesome having this conversation with you, get well soon and catch you in Europe next time!
We’re finished? Can’t believe it! lol thanks man, hope to meet you one day, I’ll let you know when I get to Europe, maybe we’ll cross paths.
Any thank yous?
I’d like to thank Darth Vader and Mickey Mouse. Oh yeah, and also my sponsors.
Daddies Board Shop- http://www.daddiesboardshop.com/
Rayne Longboards- http://www.raynelongboards.com/
Predator Helmets- http://predatorhelmets.com/
Abec 11- http://www.abec11.com/
Skate Slate- http://www.skateslate.com/
Aera Trucks- http://www.aeratrucks.com/