By: Sue Nicole
When you think of Colombia, you probably think of South America and you probably think of all the drug trafficking stories, especially if you’ve seen the movie Blow. You might have also seen pictures of people dancing and partying in the street. And of the little souvenirs friends bring you from a trip, like the colored chiva buses packed with people, jumping on and off.
But what about rollerblading in Colombia? Is there a scene out there? Yes there is! For example, check out this Colombian edit from the recent USD tour stop in Bogota.
I met up with some of the most passionate Colombian rollerbladers at the AIL at Woodward. One of them was Nikolas Calderon. I met Nikolas at the AIL where he was representing Colombia with his t-shirt and had a Colombian flag on his helmet. Check out our interview to see what these guys are up to!
HEY NIKOLAS, THANKS FOR CATCHING UP WITH US! COULD YOU INTRODUCE YOURSELF?
My Name is Nikolas Calderon. I’m 24 years old and I’m a professional rollerblader from Bogota, Colombia
Nikolas Calderon Air on the vert ramp in Bogota. You can good see the bad condition of the ramp and how small the ramp is. Could you imagine doing a douple backflip on this?
HOW’S THINGS GOING SO FAR HERE AT WOODWARD? AND, WHAT’S A DAY IN YOUR LIFE LIKE BACK HOME?
My training today here at Woodward was great! I landed a switch Fakie 900, 1080 McTwist, and I just invented a new trick a couple of days ago. I call it Stripper Flip because it looks just like the trick from freestyle motor X.
Back at home I wake up and usually have a really healthy breakfast. Then I train in the morning, one day on the ramp and the following day I go street skating. I usually skate for four hours and then have lunch. In the afternoon I go to the gym for two hours.
Four times a week I give lessons to kids before I go to the gym in the afternoon. I also go once a week to gymnastics to train on the trampoline and practice spins.
Our vert ramp is about an hour drive away. I usually go by car but for two days a week I have to take the bus. In Columbia we have a law for the environment that states that you aren’t allowed to take your car for two consecutive days during the week. It can be seen on your license plate when you’re allowed to drive, doing so on any other day carries a hefty fine.
HOW DID YOU GET INTO ROLLERBLADING AND HOW DID YOU BECOME A FULL-TIME PROFESSIONAL SKATER IN COLOMBIA?
I got a pair of skates for Christmas in 2001 and started just jumping around in them. Then I met some other bladers who invited me to skate with them. Before than I didn’t know that it was a real sport! The first time I went up on a ramp I just dropped in and I didn’t fall. My friends told me that I had talent, which was a huge motivation for me.
My first aggressive skate was the K2 Fatty. A friend of mine gave them to me for $30 and I had them for 3 years!
I had been skating for only three years when a cigarette company called me and asked me to do a demonstration for them. I was super excited because it was the first time I got paid for skating. This was the beginning of my life as a rollerblader; it was the moment when I realized it’s what I wanted to do for my whole life!
Nicolas Calerdon – Rocket Air
WHAT IS NICKSOUL ALL ABOUT?
After my first job I started a company with my brother called NICKSOUL. We created a foundation, non-profit organization to support the extreme sports in Columbia and South America. We established the company to get money to help athletes make their dreams reality and to make extreme sports a professional sport in our country. A lot of people see it just as practice. Today we do demonstrations of a few different extreme sports. We support Aggressive Rollerblading, BMX, Skateboarding and Climbing.
Nikolas Calderon – commercial for Nicksoul
HOW DO YOU MAKE A LIVING?
With the company Nicksoul we do many exhibitions, demonstrations, marketing events, advertising and publicity.
I have also started an inline school for kids. My goal is that the kids will keep rollerblading alive. We give them the chance to learn more about rollerblading and give them free classes and the parents give us donations. We also sell t-shirts and posters and try to raise money to put back into the sport and buy stuff for the kids. Right know we have 20 Kids on the vert ramp and 10 kids street skating.
HOW POPULAR IS ROLLERBLADING IN COLOMBIA? HAS IT RECEIVED A LOT OF EXPOSURE?
Rollerblading is known and even shown on TV and in the media. It’s not seen as a professional sport yet.
HOW MANY BLADERS ARE THERE AND HOW OFTEN DO YOU GUYS MEET UP?
I think in Bogota there are around 300 bladers, a lot of them are amateurs. Every day groups of them go street skating and meet up. Actually you can not say how many blader really out here. There are already so many in Bogota and there are many more out in the country, I’m not sure. I just know we have street competition at least every two month, they’re kinda underground competitions somewhere in the city. And there are showing up 500 and more rollerblader! We don’t do a lot of advertising for those, we just call friends and post it on facebook. Because we have just three shops here to sponsor stuff, we have just small prizes. But its all more about to meet up with everybody.
I can tell you, Columbia is a land of street skater – the real sport is alive!
We would love to go to USA or Europe more to compete and meet other blader. But first of all most of the blader can not afford it and an other big problem is to get a visa.
Alex Carreño “Chaca”, Top Acid
WHERE DO YOU GUYS GO SKATING?
Bogota is a really big city (6,8 Mio) and there are just around five skateparks, and just only one indoor park. So these parks are packed all the time. Also the condition of the parks is just ok, but they are too small and don’t have professional measurements. That’s why we have so many street skater here and there are a bunch of spots in Bogota. We have to get the governments attention that this is a real sport and he has to put more money into it. After a long time, corruptions and other bad things that went down, we finally got the money and can now start building up higher and better ramps. We plan on starting in the next weeks.
Alex Carreño “Chaca” – big air on a little ramp in one of Colombia’s many parks
I REMEMBER WHEN I FIRST MET YOU YOU HAD TROUBLE WITH THE HEIGHT OF THE RAMPS, WHAT WAS GOING ON?
Even if I train skate every day, our parks and ramps are not good ones. Sometimes our pool is a real pool and you can better go swimming instead of skating in it.
Bowl turned swimming pool. Welcome to Colombia.
Furthermore we have just a 10 feet vert ramp. I’m able to do in that small ramp high airs, spins and flips. Because of my small ramp I train on, I could not compete better. I could not even do the 1080 mac twist, which is here my safety trick. Woodward is every year a big chance for me and the possibility to represent our country.
Nikolas going high in small ramps
MOST BLADERS FOCUS ON STREET OR VERT. YOU DO BOTH; HOW COME?
I think your just a real and complete rollerblader, if you’re able to do both disciplines. Lot of street skater forgot the vert ramp and don’t catch up. But it makes you even better in street if you do both. I’ve been skating vert with CJ Wellsmore, he is so good! And even in some tricks better than I. Everybody just knows him for his good park and street skating. I think, if you skate vert, your not afraid of everything!
HERE IN EUROPE OR THE USA, WE CAN EASILY ORDER OUR SKATES ONLINE. WHERE DO YOU GUYS GET YOUR STUFF?
We have just three shops here in Columbia but they are really expensive. They have to order in the USA and than they pay a huge amount of taxes at the customs and we have to pay up to 500,- Dollar ( 1 million pesos) or more. That could be the wage of one month of a person who works in a store! So people try to get used skates. You can see people skating here with very old blades, models from back in the day you haven’t seen for years. You can find the Oxygen AR 3.1, Rollerblade Chocolate Troupe or, one that no one any longer knows, the Ultimate Skate.
Everybody who leaves the country tries to bring some blades back in. That’s what I do and I give them than to the kids to support them and get them into rollerblading.
SINCE I’M A GIRL SKATER I’M OBVIOUSLY CURIOUS ABOUT WHAT THE GIRL’S SCENE IS LIKE HERE. HOW IS IT?
Here in Bogota are around 20 girls balding. I think they are very grown up and take it serious. They do some sick grinds, airs and flips. They all have one dream: they all wanna go to Woodward and see rollerblading outside of our country. You need to come here and check it out!
WHO ELSE DO YOU LIKE TO HANG OUT AND SKATE WITH?
I love hanging out and train with my friend Alex Carreño (Chaca). Alex is a really good street skater. Furthermore he has a funny story… In real life he is a professional salsa dancer and teacher. So he competes at rollerblading competition as well as at salsa competitions! That’s kind of weird, but he is a cool dude! Unfortunately he can not make enough money for trips to Europe or the USA.
Alex Carreño “Chaca”, steet skater and professional salsa dancer
We don’t have very good video or photo equipment here in Colombia like you guys have in Europe. But Alex put together a good edit so you can see some of our cool spots in Bogota and Colombia. And you can see our professional salsa dancer street skating!
YOU AND ALEX WERE AT THE PLAYAS EXTREME WORLD IN FEBRUARY – HOW WAS IT?
Ecuador was simply amazing, there were many skaters from all around South America and other countries (Spain, Chile, Colombia, Brazil, Ecuador, Perú, México, Venezuela). Plus with the visits of Demetrios George, Billy O´Neill and Mark Wojda made the competition more interesting. They made the level of all competitors grow and pushed the others.
The competition was full of energy and so many hard tricks were done like they were normal. Disaster tricks from the U.S skaters against the flips and spins from Brazil. The winner was Kalleo Hipólito doing a huge 540 disaster backside backslide!
I did a demonstration with Demetrios George, Billy O’Neill, Mark Wojda and Yuri Botelho where I had to put together all my best vert tricks to make the crowd go crazy. The American skaters were treated like rock stars in Ecuador and there must have been 100,000 people in attendance at the Playas` skatepark.
A lot of people did not agree with the judges because of the way the competition was organized, but we could certainly see that inline skating is still alive in South America and that latin skaters are growing everyday. Including the amateurs and girls; there were about 20 girls competing against the guys and keeping up: Erika Tavares from Brazil, Camila Farías from Chile, Erika Ruiz from Colombia, and Javier Garrido from Chile.
SO, WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU?
I want to go to as many competitions as possible this year: Woodward, LG Action Sports World Championships and also to Europe. It all depends on my sponsors. I think rollerblading is the chance of a lifetime! I want to become a real professional rollerblader. I know I have some good tricks but I need to practice on bigger ramps.
Overall, my future goal is to support rollerblading in my country and keep on giving the kids lessons. Furthermore, I want to help some athletes make their dreams real!
WHERE DO YOU SEE THE FUTURE OF ROLLERBLADING IN COLOMBIA AND SOUTH AMERICA?
Columbia is the DOOR of South America – what becomes popular in Colombia can make its way to the whole of South America! That’s why we need to push rollerblading so badly in Colombia! I wish that we had more help from the city to built better ramps and parks. But we also need to be supported by the rollerblading industry, so that more people will be able to afford blades and gear.