Ten years ago, Maria Cristina Grasselli left her native Brazil with dreams of becoming a professional rollerblader and the journey is not over yet.
It takes a lot of courage to leave everything you know and follow your ambition to a different country but, at the tender age of 20-years-old, that is exactly what Maria Cristina Grasselli did. Born in Caxias Do Sul in the south of Brazil, the aspiring professional rollerblader took the opportunity to relocate to another country in order to pursue her dream when her parents moved to Sao Paulo Guruja and she had the option to follow them or go and stay with her brother, who had recently relocated to London to attend college. Needless to say, Grasselli chose the more interesting option and went to stay with her brother on the other side of the world, which must have been a drastic lifestyle shock as the weather is slightly less pleasant in England than it is in Brazil. Little did she know this would simply be the start of an 11-year adventure that would lead her to the west coast of North America.
“In 2000, I moved to London because my brother used to go to college there,” begins Grasselli. “I was there for five years. In 2005, I got a job at Woodward West and moved to California. Fabiola da Silva has been my best friend since we were little, so I went to live with her in Costa Mesa ‘til she moved back to Brazil in 2007. I went pro for ASA in America and just kept skating.”
Since Grasselli embarked on her globe-trotting mission to make a career out of rollerblading, a lot of things have changed. The ASA, which helped her turn pro, no longer exists along with events like Gravity Games and NISS, which also fell by the wayside when mainstream media’s fascination with rollerblading abruptly ended without warning. Despite leaving her family and friends to pursue a career that never worked out, she couldn’t be happier with the choices she has made and seems adamant that, if she had the option to do it all over again, she would make the exact same decisions.
“I don’t regret the move,” she states firmly. “Rollerblading is my lifestyle, it is not about money. I had a dream and I went after it so I’m happy. I have met so many good people and skated so many beautiful places, so money doesn’t really matter. Blading is a very new sport, if you think about it. It started in the ‘80s and just needs time to grow big again.”
Grasselli may say that money does not matter but, at the end of the day, there is not a pro skater on this earth that would not like to be earning more money for their talents and the numerous physical sacrifices they have made for the sake of helping the sport progress. However, she does have an admirable list of sponsors that include Fifty-50, Roller Warehouse and Gost and she has recently gained more exposure through online edits that show she is one of the most capable female bladers on street and park. This is probably due to the fact that she was first inspired to pick up a pair of rollerblades by one of the sport’s best all-round female athletes. “I got into rollerblading in 1994 after I saw a rollerblading magazine and it showed Fabiola da Silva winning first place at the X Games, so I decided to give it a try!”
Now 31-years-old, Grasselli is currently back in Brazil doing seasonal work as a lifeguard, but for the past few years she has been living in Long Beach, California, a hub for street skating that many of the country’s most respected athletes choose to call home. When she has finished her temporary contract, she plans to return to Long Beach and find work as a lifeguard because, in her words: “Long Beach is the best skate scene in America right now with the best parks and spots.”
The recent WRS Uploaded World Finals have been a huge talking point in the rollerblading industry over the past few months. Some people believe it is a new and interesting format that could expose our sport to a wider audience whilst putting some money in the pockets of the skaters that deserve it the most, while others believe that it is a flawed format that alienates certain skaters, as those with close ties to talented videographers are at an unfair advantage. Grasselli thinks it is a positive step forward for the sport and it may allow the general public to see that blading has grown up a lot in the past ten years, although she is slightly biased when it comes to voting. “I think it is really cool,” she states. “It is good for the sport to show how good blading is these days. I voted is for Chris Haffey. He’s one of my friends and he lives in Long Beach, too. Plus, he’s the best!”
Past moving back to Long Beach and continuing her work as a lifeguard, Grasselli has some very specific plans for her future, but she is adamant that it will always include rollerblading. She also believes that the sport has a bright future; it will just take time for everything to fall into place.
“I really wanna have a baby,” she says. “I’m 31 now and I want to have a child before I’m 35. I’ll rollerblade forever but not the way I skate now. I still wanna go to Winterclash and I believe X Games is gonna let blading in again. I’m filming a profile in Brazil and I’m going back to England and Barcelona. I need to film profiles there, too! For the next five years I want to skate, skate, skate!”
If all else fails, at least we can look forward to some new footage from Brazil’s second best female blading export. Let’s just hope she doesn’t decide to go for a roll with Haffey while she is pregnant. I don’t know if mothers-to-be should be skating handrails!
Words: Louis Flood Photos: Felipe Zambardino
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