Nora Vasconcellos On What it’s Like to be the First Woman in the adidas Skateboarding Team

Features. Interviews. Posted 1 year ago

Jessica Mincher


nora1Image: American Skateboarder Nora Vasconcellos.

‘…my biggest fear was not trying.’ On one of the Summer’s hottest days, lying on the grass overlooking Bondi Beach skate park, American Skateboarder, Nora Vasconcellos, talks about the sacrifices she’s made to become the first female selected in the adidas Skateboarding team.

The 24-year-old is in Australia as part of the adidas Away Days tour, which offers local communities the opportunity to meet and skate with pro-skaters. Here we talk taking risks, giving visibility to women in skating and her dreams of wearing a Ralph Lauren jumpsuit in the 2020 Olympic Games.

Jessica Mincher: How’s the adidas tour going so far?
Nora Vasconcellos: It’s going amazing, still pinching myself beyond my wildest dreams to be here with the guys. Yeah, other than feeling really run down it’s been amazing and it’s my first time to Australia. I’m blown away, it’s so unreal.

Jessica: You’re the first woman ever to be in the adidas Skateboarding team?
Nora: Yeah, so it doesn’t feel real at all.

Jessica: Congratulations, what has the response been (especially from girls) seeing a woman in the team?
Nora: It’s been really cool, I think with the way that social media is, a lot of people reach out and they’re like ‘hey you’re going to be here, can’t wait to meet you,’ and it’s cool to put a face to the name. You don’t realise it, but when someone is inspired by you or whatever it may be and they see you in person, it’s just a whole new thing. I know I have so many people that if I got to skate with them and watch them skate I would freak out! So it’s been really cool to meet people who are so into it and it means the world to me.

Jessica: Yeah and it’s so important to have that visibility for girls to see other women skating because I know that’s how you first got into skating. You saw a cartoon?
Nora: Yeah I basically would watch this cartoon on Nickelodeon called Rocket Power and it was just a bunch of kids skating and I remember this one girl – her character on the show was like the older sister and she was always right and she was gnarly and with the boys all the time. As a 5- or 6-year-old she really resonated with me and I was super obsessed with skateboarding. Even though I hadn’t really done it at the time. I was always really enthralled with it.

nora3Image: American Skateboarder Nora Vasconcellos.

Jessica: What do you think has been holding girls back from just going to the skate park as a hobby or perusing skateboarding as a professional career?
Nora: I think it’s a very male dominated industry, so I think it’s difficult when a lot of girls or people don’t see someone like them doing something, they get very turned off or become very unsure of themselves. I honestly just think as a woman or as a girl you’re very critical of yourself, which sometimes just makes women, women. We’re very critical of ourselves and we don’t let ourselves take as many chances that of course we’re fully capable of doing. I was lucky, because I was always one of the boys and playing outside. I was very naïve toward that fact of ‘Oh I might look this way if I fall,’ for me I didn’t give a shit. But I think a lot of girls don’t have someone saying, ‘hey you can do this!’ I think that’s really important. If you don’t have someone or a role model being like ‘hey you can do whatever you want,’ I think it’s very easy to be scared and not necessarily want to take those chances or risks.

Jessica: So did you have any friends in school that were skaters?
Nora: No, my parents were always really supportive of whatever my brother and I wanted to do. It wasn’t until middle school that I really started going to a skate park and messing around and trying to learn it. But for me it was very solitary, even in high school my girlfriends did drama, soccer or track. No one was really a skateboarder and it was kinda cool. It was a cool escape for me to be able to go skate by myself. At the same time I was very jealous of people who grew up with their little crew. I grew up in the woods and we had a barn that we would skate in. We had a wooden floor and wooden wedge ramp and it was very different. At the same time it’s what made me be the skater I am today, because I was very intrinsically motivated to skate and to learn. Skating for me has always been an escape. I don’t need to be with a ton of people to enjoy it. That makes it so much more rewarding when I do get to go on these types of trips and have that crew that I didn’t have when I was younger.

Jessica: What’s the most insane excuse you’ve heard people come up with to justify why there aren’t more female pro skaters?
Nora: I just hear funny things. I’ve heard interviews that really bum me out where guys or team managers get asked ‘Hey why is this girl who rides for you – why does that girl not go on trips?” and they’ll say shit like ‘well we don’t want to play who’s the Daddy nine months later’ and they’ll say shit like that.

I think a lot of people; (especially because it’s a male dominated industry) don’t understand that I’m as passionate as any of the guys are about skateboarding. I do it a little bit differently, I come from a different place but in the end I love it as much as the next person. I think it’s also hard to be like ‘I want to work this hard; I want to film this video part and I want to go on trips and eat shit.’ I want to eat it, I’m gonna get written off. I get up for the same reasons that you guys get up and do it again. It’s more or less, the more [women] there are, the more guys get to skate with girls who love it and are capable, [and] the more understanding there will be. I think skateboarding is much more of an art form than a sport. With other stuff the men and women are usually very segregated, so I think it’s actually super cool with skateboarding, you can have a whole bunch of different people on the same trip.

Jessica: What kind of sacrifices have you had to make to get to this point?
Nora: Even when I was growing up in the Northeast I didn’t have much to skate – I was always going to these skate parks on the weekend. My weekends were really skate orientated because I didn’t really party too much. I didn’t come from a ton of money or stuff like that so during the week I would usually work 3-5 days after school to make gas money because this park I would skate was 80 miles away. So I would work to make gas money and take my Dad’s car on the weekend.

Also, not going to college and moving to California was a really big risk. You know moving 3,000 miles and not really having a plan at all.

nora2Image: American Skateboarder Nora Vasconcellos.

Jessica: Yeah that’s huge, you just had a lot of faith?
Nora: Yeah, my biggest fear was not trying. By biggest fear was going to school and being in debt and not skating. That to me is so depressing. So I got really lucky. The stars aligned.

Jessica: I wanted to talk a bit about your own personal style. Skate as a subculture represents individualism, non-conformity and authenticity. How does skateboarding inform your personal style?
Nora: I think for me my personality really translates through my skateboarding. I’m a pretty goofy person and I’m also – I dunno, I like life and I try to enjoy life. With my skateboarding, I just want to look like I’m having fun because I am most of the time. I think that’s what’s most important to me and my skating style.

I’m also one of those people where it will take a long, long time to learn certain tricks. I definitely will work really hard for certain stuff, where I’ve noticed on this trip with the guys, they’ll do it so quickly and so confidently. It’s really amazing. I’ll be trying one trick and sometimes I feel like we’re just waiting around for me to do it. Maybe it’s just me being critical but I will eat it and eat it and eat it until I get it. The only other way to describe my style is that I eat shit all the time.

Jessica: You’re also really talented at drawing – have you ever thought about doing a fashion line?
Nora: Oh thank you. That would be incredible, that would be my dream, I would love to. My Dad’s an illustrator and we had a studio in the house and I would go in and watch him draw all the time and I think for a long time I was like ‘I’m going to be an artist.’ I didn’t know what goes into being an artist but I think in a way I’m still an artist, with my skating alone. I would love to do more with art and stuff.

Jessica: We’ll look out for some merch.
Nora: Yeah dude that’s my dream!

Jessica: I also just read that skateboarding is going to be part of the 2020 Olympics. Is that another dream?
Nora: Yeah it’s definitely a goal. It’s happening, I don’t want to miss out on that you know? It’s a really cool goal and it’s definitely opened up skating – who knows if things would have worked out for me if that didn’t happen. We have a big park series contest happening now that Van’s hosts and they’ve added girls and now we have events around the world and we didn’t have that before. That’s definitely a huge plus. I really just want to be able to show up in a Ralph Lauren jumpsuit – I don’t even care about what place I get or whatever. Just give me the Ralph Lauren jumpsuit in a bag and I’m golden.


* Please note that, for clarity, this interview has been edited in parts. 

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