Amanda Caloia: Happy Panda

Amanda is so stoked on skating. She tells us about her early days on the East Coast, her big move out west, skating with the women of longboarding and CHOCOLATE COVERED BACON! EnjoyPandaHello Pamanda, how are you?
Hello Gbemimi. I am doing well, how about yourself?

Great! Where are you from?
I am from Syracuse, NY, but I am currently living in Los Angeles, CA and loving every second of it.

Woah, woah! What’s with the hulk colour?
I usually go for green. Maybe I’m being nostalgic. Being in the desert is far from the green scenery of upstate NY.

When did you move West?
Very recently actually. I arrived at Santa Monica Beach on September 9th and I’ll never forget that feeling. It was a long drive in a packed car.

What was it like growing up in NYC?
NYC was about 4 hours south of me so I didn’t spend much time there. I took a handful of visits to the big city but I spent most of my time in Syracuse (Cuse Nation baby!). I spent the last 5 years living about an hour south of Syracuse in a little town called Cortland. You may have heard of the Ithaca Slide Jam in NY. Cortland is located about 20 minutes north of Ithaca.
If you haven’t been to Ithaca I highly recommend it. It’s a hippie loving, cliff jumping, steep hilled kind of place. Go during the summer months of June/July. Syracuse was a great place to grow up though. I was in a town called Baldwinsville located on the outskirts of ‘Cuse surrounded by farm, forest and good times with some awesome people including my family. Cortland was the time of my life, I miss all of my friends so much but they are slowly migrating into my California apartment. I knew they would cave, hehe.

Arian Chamasmany Photo
Arian Chamasmany Photo

What’s Syracuse famous for?
A few things really. Our Basketball team this year for sure. Dinosaur BBQ (I miss you so much), having the only upside-down traffic light in the world, and being really really ridiculously cold/snowy for 80% of the year. We are also pretty close to the Adirondack Mountains which I personally loved when I was there. I also miss my haircuts at Gigi’s Salon, I swear no one knows how to cut curly hair here.

How do all your friends fit into one apartment, are you Hugh Hefner?
Very strategically haha. Imagine playing tetris, with an unnecessary amount of furniture and mattresses. I don’t know if I would call myself Hugh Hefner. My boyfriend might be closer to that title than me, he wears his robe around the apartment most of the time.

When did you start skating?
In the fall of 2012, I realized that I could stand on a skateboard. I didn’t do much at that time though. Just cruised around on flat land with a board my boyfriend had made. I jumped right back to snowboarding when the snow hit and watched a lot of videos (many of the ladies just killing it). Longboard Girls Crew and pretty much any lady shredder I could find on YouTube really inspired me. It wasn’t until I got back to NY in the spring of 2013 that I picked up a board of my own and could not stop. I was having way too much fun.

Maria Arndt photo
Maria Arndt photo

Did snowboarding make skating easier?
I would like to say that it did, but the motions can be different. I’ll hit a box or a mediocre jump on a snowboard but I haven’t really touched that stuff with a skateboard. Ollie’s onto boxes and flying off of ramps are really intimidating to me.

When did you fall in love with skating?
When I broke my foot haha. It sounds really backwards to say that but it’s true. During the fall of 2012 back when I was just a push and carve kind of gal, I felt that it would be a good idea to make my way down one of Cortland’s fancy steep hills without anything but slip-on shoes and a board. I quickly got speed wobbles and did what anyone with that much experience would do and found the nearest bush. I was shot off my board and was only focused on saving my dome piece. I succeeded at that but in doing so, my right foot took the fall and I broke two bones.
I would say this is where I fell in love because for the first time I went decently fast and it felt good (until the wobbs). I had a few months of healing and laying down to do so I enveloped myself completely in skateboarding through any media I could find. I wanted to go after skateboarding because I had become passionate about it. Why would I ever stop doing something that I enjoy so much, ya know?

Was it scary to skate that road again?
I actually haven’t skated it since. After healing up I jumped back into snowboarding and wasn’t able to skate again until the weather cleared the roads. I moved from Cortland back to Syracuse before the weather cleared and I think by summer of 2013 I learned my first shut down slide. I plan to hit that hill at the end of April when I make a visit back to NY, just for old times sakes… And revenge.

What media were you consuming in your down time?
Oh man, so much. I found myself being most inspired by the ladies because I could relate myself more to them for obvious reasons. I have always been an odd-ball growing up, hanging out with all the guys trying to find my place in doing what I loved. Maybe it had something to do with having two brothers and a wrestling coach father that pushed me to be the way I am. I don’t regret it though. There weren’t many females that had the same interests as me, but when there were, I was always quick to introduce myself. I liked seeing females branch out.
To be specific I watched everything that Longboard Girls Crew posted. My main inspirations were Cindy Zhou, Amanda Powell, Katie Neilson, Pam Diaz, and Molly Lewis (that girl’s got style, must be the East coast.

Maria Arndt photo
Maria Arndt photo

What oddball things are you into?
My father was a wrestling coach so my two younger brothers began wrestling at a young age. After watching from the bleachers I wanted to join the fun. I wrestled from 2nd grade until my sophomore year of high school when I tore just about every ligament in my knee. A little side note to blow your mind, my brother tore his knee 20 minutes later in the same practice. We pushed each other to recover because soon lacrosse season was starting. I picked up lacrosse not much later than I picked up wrestling and eventually became a goalie and continued lacrosse throughout most of college. I was addicted to the adrenalin rush and the challenge.

Having fun seems to be the theme in all of my oddball interests.

Other oddball things that I fell into included slaying the forest in my backyard with my ATV, paintball fights in the woods, street hockey, climbing the high peaks in the Adirondack mountains, the Ultimate Frisbee team in college, dabbling in gymnastics and competing in open water triathlons. I’ve always followed my own path with whatever interested me most regardless of whether or not my friends were going to follow. Right now I do a lot more skating than anything else but I do like to run, swim and hike when I can. Having fun seems to be the theme in all of my oddball interests.

Have you skated with any of the other girls you look up to?
Fortunately, I have. I skated with Amanda Powell a couple of times and recently skated with Katie Neilson at the Outlaw in Bakersfield.

It was very cool to see (Cindy’s) progression through the videos that she posted… one day; BAM! she’s got more footwork than Michael Jackson on an immobile floor and she’s ripping huge slides on a board that looks twice her size. I loved seeing that, it made me believe I could do it too.

What difference has the LGC made to the lady you are?
It showed me that everything I want to learn is possible. When I saw Cindy Zhou’s videos of when she first started I thought to myself, “Hey, I think I could do that if I go for it”. It was very cool to see her progression through the videos that she posted.Then one day; BAM! she’s got more footwork than Michael Jackson on an immobile floor and she’s ripping huge slides on a board that looks twice her size. I loved seeing progression, it made me believe I could do it too. Amanda Powell and Valeria Kechichian inspired me with their graceful styles and their drive to expand female’s in longboarding.
Valeria and the LGC crew have done such a great job so far but I can not wait to see where it goes. I haven’t been in the scene for as long as some of these ladies but I can already see it’s growth. However, there is always room for more growth and I hope to see more ladies on skateboards this year.

Maria Arndt photo
Maria Arndt photo

How important is progression?
Progression is key. Following progression according to the individual not only reduces the chances of getting injured, but makes it easier to learn “the next skill or trick”. I’ve seen people take big jumps in progression and many if not all of them get an injury from it. I am just one example of that and I’ve learned my lesson. I suggest for any skater to progress at their own pace and to be aware of what is coming naturally. It’s okay to learn skills in a different order from how someone else may have learned them, just be honest with yourself and consciously aware of what you are truly ready for. When you are ready, go for it!

I suggest, for any skater, to progress at their own pace and to be aware of what is coming naturally. It’s okay to learn skills in a different order from how someone else did. Just be honest with yourself and be aware of what you are truly ready for.

Who was showing you the ropes when you were back on your board?
When I got back on my board I wasn’t surrounded by anyone that knew the ropes already. However, I did skate with my boyfriend Jimmy Luttinger and our buddy Tim Lanterman and we sort of taught each other through trial and error. They had a street skating background and we all just kind of enjoyed the flow of longboarding. After seeing videos of what we could do we decided to start learning.

Is it tough being the only lady?
It was tough when I was in NY. I spent a lot of time skating by myself when the guys were busy. I noticed that I had to often separate from the pack to work on something that I was having trouble with especially when it came easy to them. It was a rocky start but I am glad I was as persistent as I was. It felt so good when I finally got it right.

Maria Arndt photo
Maria Arndt photo

Do you have a favourite video?
That’s a tough one. There are so many great videos out there. When I was first starting out I enjoyed LGC’s Endless Roads. Now, I enjoy watching more Skate House Media.  Raw runs get me amped and a change of scenery is always a good thing.

What were the hardest levels of progression?
It’s difficult to pinpoint specific levels but I would say initiating a new slide. Every slide I’ve ever learned was always difficult to initiate. Especially the first slides you ever learn. Dancing was tricky at first but it was nice to take a break from sliding to dance around at the top of a hill before another descent.

I enjoy the creativity of freeriding AND the feeling of fighting gravity in a hairpin in the middle of a grip run. Diversity is a good thing.

What are your favourite things to do on your board?
It’s a tie between freeriding and downhill. I enjoy the creativity of freeriding and the feeling of fighting gravity in a hairpin in the middle of a grip run. I would say I enjoy various types of skating. Dancing is relaxing and I’m trying to hedge myself into the park more. Diversity is a good thing.

Did you get to do serious DH in the East?
Unfortunately, I did not. I tried to mimic the tucks that I saw in videos while going down 13 curves (a run by my hometown) but at that time it was more about getting comfortable at a higher speed.

Sophia Pellman Photo
Sophia Pellman Photo

What was the first event you attended?
My first event was a Slide Jam in Talega about a month ago and then an Outlaw race in Bakersfield. I didn’t expect myself to be going to events so soon but I had so much fun. Can’t wait for the next one!

Before last month you’d never skated with other people?
Up until October I hadn’t skated with anyone (on a regular basis) except for Jimmy and Tim. At that point, I wasn’t the safest person to skate next to because I didn’t know all of what I was doing. I was fortunate enough to meet people who cared enough to teach me.

Why didn’t you attend any events last year?
Like I said, I wasn’t someone you would want to skate next to haha. I didn’t know too much about events either. All that I did know was that I was not ready to skate in one. I found out about the Ithaca slide jam shortly after the weekend that it happened and I regretted not looking into it previously. I’m sure that if I did go even to lurk, I would have learned something and met some rad people. I was also busy working every day of the summer so that I could make it to CA.

What is the spirit of East Coast skating?
It was non-existent in Syracuse and Cortland. We got a few of our friends into it and met skaters very rarely but we found support from a lot of people around us. It is still so new to a lot of people there but it seems to be growing steadily. I’m pretty stoked to go to the Ithaca Slide Jam to meet up with a good number of skaters, old friends, old hills and of course, the lovely Micaela Wilson.

Who is Micaela?
Micaela is a shredder from New Hampshire. I first noticed her through LGC’s Open pics/clips and then I saw her destroying in a quick clip on Instagram and instantly wanted to meet her. I was fortunate enough to have that opportunity when she came to LA a few weeks ago to stay at the Ambassador house. We ventured around LA skating every day that we could. She definitely inspired me and helped take my freeriding to the next level. We had fun making an edit that will be out soon. She’s someone to watch out for on the hills for sure. I’m stoked to skate with her on the East coast this time!

You 3 are the Syracuse community?
Pretty much. We roped in 3 friends or so and met one or two others but longboarding didn’t have much of a scene in ‘Cuse. Black Mamba skate shop is all we had so we visited frequently and the owner, Scott, hooked us up and helped spread the stoke.

What were you riding back then?
My first board was a home made pintail that Jimmy made for me. After that board I decided to buy my own to sort of branch out and to explore what other companies had to offer. I saw Cindy riding a Loaded Chubby Unicorn and I thought that it would be a good fit for me. It turned out that I dropped a whole lot of money on something that was not built for my 5’4’’ frame but I rode it anyway and eventually learned my first slide on it and had some flat ground fun.
I then bought the set up that Molly Lewis was using in her Southern Expressions Session video because I felt that it fit my size. I learned a few more slides on this board when I first arrived in LA but I was still testing the waters with various set-ups and ultimately, I ended up on an entirely different board.

Are you smaller than Rachel ”Aerospace” Bagels?
Haha I am taller than her, but not by much. We discovered recently that my feet are smaller. I felt just a little disproportionate after that discovery haha.

When are you getting your AeroBageLid?
Charging down mountains in a half shell doesn’t bother me but I have never been on the other end of the spectrum and used a fullface. I have to be honest, getting hit in the face with pebbles and filling my contacts with dust isn’t the best hahaa. I have Caitlin Yong’s old full face right now but I don’t have a visor for it. I’m managing for now.

What’s your perfect setup?
My perfect set-up as of right now would have to include Caliber 44’s, 78a Biggie Hawgs for DH and Orangatang 80a Kilmers’s for FR. I enjoy my 85a and 87a Venom bushings very much for DH but I am excited to try out 85a all around for freeride. I couldn’t tell you what board is my favourite. I have been riding a Landyachtz 2013 Wolfshark lately but I’m always down for an experiment so we’ll see how it goes.

How was the move to LA?
It was incredible. I had been wanting to make that trip since I was a teenager. We set a date to leave around this time last year and after working multiple non-stop jobs for a few months we had the money we needed to get over here and enjoy ourselves. Jimmy and I packed the Element with everything that we had, including our puppy Lego, and then we headed to Tim’s house down the road. Tim and our buddy Mihali packed into Tim’s car and the four of us made the trip across the country stopping at as many places as we could, camping every night in a circle of hammocks. Our last night of camping was in the middle of nowhere in Kansas (that state gets old very quickly and I suggest never to drive through the whole thing). However, we had a pretty sick campsite and woke up to a beautiful hill. After taking a few runs on that middle of nowhere road a motorcyclist stopped us at the top to tell us that he used to bring his microscopic skateboard out there to bomb the hill when he was younger and that was the first time he had seen anyone on it since. That felt pretty cool. Like we were somehow a part of skate history on that road.
A short while after leaving Kansas the AC in our car exploded. The desert is not where you want to be without AC. So we hit Boulder, Colorado and that place was unbelievable.
If Cali doesn’t work out you can find me somewhere in the Colorado mountains. We explored the area and hung out at the west border until the sun began to set and then booked it through Utah, the tip of Arizona, and Nevada in an effort to beat the heat. Driving for 13 hours straight can make you delusional. From what I could see of Utah it looked like a place I would want to go back to explore. When I think of driving through Nevada I can honestly say I don’t remember any of it besides the skyline of Vegas. That was amazing. We drove through the strip briefly to check it out but hit the road almost instantly so that we could get to the beach and hopefully see the sunrise.
JakeFrankenfieldPhoto1 We ended up arriving on Santa Monica Beach at around 9 in the morning. We hung out there for a while, went in the water and got a drink. It was like years of dreaming had become a reality and I was finally able to soak it all in.

What did you hope to find in the West?
I did my best to not have any expectations of living in California but after years of dreaming about it was unavoidable to not have painted a picture. I hoped to live within at least a skating distance to the beach. I lived most of my life in cold and snow, so hitting the beach in warm weather everyday was a dream for me. I also hoped to find more female skaters. The one expectation that I was set on was that there would be at least a decent sized crew of lady shredders.

How has skating influenced your relationship?
Through skating, Jimmy and I have met a lot of people so our group of mutual friends has grown exponentially. He is very encouraging of me and supports me entirely and to me, that is huge. We do spend a lot of time together. We live, work and skate together so there is hardly any alone time in there. Our alone time happens when we are taking mountain runs. Especially if we jump in different cars. Sometimes I won’t see him until the end of a session but a quiet downhill run is good for the soul and we appreciate giving each other space even when we are on the same mountain.

Has LA been as good as you dreamt?
It has been a dream being here. I didn’t end up in skating distance from the beach but I did end up about 7 miles from it so that was good enough for me. I can see the mountains and Hollywood sign from my roof so that is always nice to wake up to. The weather has never made me wear more than jeans and a hoodie so, I am a happy panda. The only upset that I had once I got settled and into the LA skate scene was that there weren’t any chicks on boards. I mean, there were some pushers on the boardwalk through Venice and Santa Monica Beach but where were the shredders? I eventually met Rachel Bagels Bruskoff and Caitlin Yong. They aren’t quite close to me in LA but we meet up when we can. I’ve only had a couple of opportunities to skate with Amanda Powell and both times it was a lot of fun. She’s a rad chick and super chill. It was way better skating with her than watching her on YouTube in NY with a broken foot. I’ve met some other chicks that are scattered around California but even if you put all of them together into one location the crew would still not be as large as I had imagined. We are in the Disneyland of skateboarding ladies, come have some fun!
LA has exceeded my expectations in other areas though. The guys here have been super welcoming and helpful. They have taken time out of their day to help progress my skills and to teach me the ropes of skateboarding in general. Like I said, I haven’t really been a part of skateboarding for too long but I fell in love with it instantly and everyone has been so welcoming. I am eternally grateful.

It’s always nice not only skating with other girls, but getting to know one another outside of skateboarding. I think we inspire and encourage each other to try new things.

What are you guys doing to get more ladies into the gang?
We are doing our best to inspire and interact with as many ladies as possible. I’ve been seeing a lot of females that show an interest in the sport but are always hesitant to get after it. A little nudge and encouragement usually does the trick. When I’m with Bagels it’s not hard to inspire others. We’ve become close in these last few months and it’s easy to see that we enjoy what we do and we are becoming comfortable skating close to each other. I think that girls of all ages are attracted to that and they want to be a part of it. We support them and welcome it with open arms. We recently made a trip to San Diego and met up with Rachel Martin, Norm Plante, Alex Newton and a few other shredders. After a long day of skating, we spent some time in the ocean and chilled out at a park. It’s always nice not only skating with other girls but getting to know one another outside of skateboarding. I think we inspire and encourage each other to try new things.
I’ve seen both of them pushing their limits and that encourages me to push my own. I won’t lie, if I see a little girl watching me on a hill in passing, I will make it a point to do something that she might see as really cool, just to inspire her to get on a board. I personally have some plans rolling around to help grow the lady skate scene but I can’t talk about it too much. All that I can say is that I am extremely excited!

C. Yong photo: Bagels in tow
C. Yong photo: Bagels in tow

When you Amanda, Rachel and Rachel hang out, do you use name tags?
Ha! No we didn’t, maybe we should have.

What is the ambassador’s house?
The Loaded Ambassador house is home to Ethan Cochard and Nic Escamilla (and Apollo the not so small dog). They constantly have visitors from all over the world showing up to stay with them and explore the many roads that we have to offer here in CA. When I was in NY I was so wrapped up in the ladies shredding that I didn’t pay much attention to really any of the guys in the scene. We moved to LA to be close to some of my favorite beaches (Santa Monica and Venice). I knew that I would find skateboarders in Los Angeles but I didn’t know what I was really walking into until I got here. I met Ethan and Nic amongst many others including Nick Li (from Stoked Skateboards) within the first month or so of being here and they taught me a lot of what I know now. It was skateboard information overload but I loved every second of it. If it wasn’t for Ethan, Nic and the ambassador house, I don’t think I ever would have ever made such connections with such rad skaters from all over the world.

What setups are you riding right now?
It’s a little complicated at the moment. I’ll always love riding my Caliber 44’s with purple/yellow Venom’s. As for wheels I can usually be found on Biggie Hawgs for downhill but my freeride wheels are constantly changing. I’m currently having fun on some Orangatang 80a Kilmer’s. I’m usually on my reshaped 2013 Wolfshark but I’m going through a board experiment phase.

Gel Shark photo
Gel Shark photo

What are your plans for the year?
My plans for the year include skating every day while going to as many events as possible. I have some slide jams on my radar and some races that I would like to attend but while leathers and event money are somewhat of an issue, I also feel as though I need to be hitting the mountains more than once a week for more experience. Eating more food wouldn’t hurt haha. My main focus for 2013 is to just have fun on my board and meet as many people as possible along the way.


Winning. Chocolate Covered Bacon
Winning. Chocolate Covered Bacon

Choose 3 numbers between 1-20.
8, 11, 14.

8 – what did Lincoln keep under his hat?
Taco Bell.

11 – Justen Ortiz asks: if you could combine 2 animals to create the most deadly animal on earth, what would those two animals be?
A Box Jellyfish and a Cheetah. Think about it.

14 – What’s the hardest word to splel?
For me? Baylense or balance. However you say it.

Gel Shark photo
Gel Shark photo

It has been a pleasure taking this walk with you, thanks for sharing your story. Hope skateboarding gives you lots of smiles and road-rash!
This was fun, thank you lots Gbemi! Let’s hope the roadrash days are somewhat over haha. I’m sure the smiles will always stay.

Any last words?
I’ll send a few thank you’s to my family, friends and Jimmy for being so supportive of me. Thank you to Landyachtz Longboards (Hawgs and Bear) for flowing me, Maui and Sons for keeping my birthday suit covered, and Edge Boardshop Team USA for recently welcoming me with open arms.