Meet Mariah Duran, Member of the USA Olympic Skateboarding Team

Every month is women’s month, so FRANK is recognizing some badasses that have defied limits in the culture. 

We got to talk to Mariah Duran, a member of the USA Olympic Street Skateboarding team. She was dope and gave us some personal insight on her life, and the relationship between skateboarding and the culture.

As a kid she wanted to start skating after her brother got his first board. Her mom wasn’t down at first, but she eventually came around once she saw how much Mariah loved the sport. Mariah still skates with both of her brothers, along with the rest of the people she came up with. But being the only girl around them was never that weird to her. And now, “Being on a team with girls that are just as down as I am, it’s sick. It’s just cool because we can relate a lot more… It’s cool to just have someone to relate with, you know?” 

Bryce Kanights / USA Skateboarding

It also still hasn’t hit her that she’s become a role model for young girls everywhere that want to learn to skate. She explained, “I think it’s still crazy, it’s one of those things that never really hits me until a younger girl comes up to me and is super hyped or just in awe of me, it never really hits me until those moments… And I think it’s sick because I remember growing up and I could count the amount of women who were skating on my fingers and now there’s more than 10 women, you know? So like, for me it’s definitely changed and I can see how it’s definitely just growing and being more common for women to skateboard, or anybody to skateboard at this point. It’s really rad to just see something being so progressive and growing like that, it’s cool to be a part of.”

When we asked what she thought being in the Olympics would do for skating in the culture, she said, “The culture is always gonna be there for skateboarding. I feel like skateboarding is- I would just picture it like a big tree, the culture is the root of how it was grown. You can branch out as far as you want to go, it’s such an individual thing that you go where you’re trying to go. If you want to do contests and do the Olympics, go for it. If you just want to go cruise around and not be on a competitive level or skate streets, go for it. I think it’s just so rad that like, it’s just big enough for whoever wants to join can do it but also take it to however far you wanna take it. It’s very self-motivating and individual. And I think for skateboarding being in the Olympics, I feel like that is only gonna allow the conversation of somebody who’s just starting to skate be more acceptable to skate. Like when I was first tryna skate, my mom was like ‘You’re not gonna get a scholarship…’ The support system wasn’t really available at the time. Now the sport being in the Olympics, I feel like the support system is tangible for people nowadays and that conversation can go a lot smoother than for most people just being like ‘yeah I’m just trying to skate…’ I loved skateboarding before it was even in the Olympics or competitive for me. I loved skateboarding when I first stepped on a board and I slammed. I was like ‘Well I gotta get up.’ That, to me, was how I was introduced to skateboarding and I think that that’s gonna carry with me for the rest of my career.”

Bryce Kanights / USA Skateboarding

On what she wants the world to know about the sport: “I want the world to know that it’s a lot bigger than a sport. Like yeah, you should treat it as a sport, it’s hard on your body, it’s hard on your mental game. I’ve played sports all my life, and it just teaches me different things rather than other things that I’ve been taught in sports. I feel like it’s bigger than just a sport- I know it’s cliche but it’s kind of like a lifestyle, in a crazy way. It’s so much more important than just a sport… Of course I do everything I can to maintain my body, and eat good, and recover good and treat it like a sport in that aspect, but it’s basically a part of my life, it’s something that I just can’t turn off… I can’t even drive in a car without turning my head every direction looking at spots while we’re driving by. It’s like a constant thing, it’s more than just competition, it’s more than just recovery, it’s like that self-satisfaction of ‘Alright, it’s up to me to kind of push myself because nobody is telling me to jump on these rails, I’m choosing to do that…’ I’m telling myself I’m terrified of this rail, and I’m still gonna do it. It’s crazy, that’s all I’m gonna say.”

If she could give her young self advice, “I would probably tell myself that it’s gonna get a lot harder as you continue to go. But the small victories that you’re gonna have, like whether it’s learning tricks and stuff- basically the first things that are gonna get tested are your patience, and your energy, and your love for the game. So if I could tell myself just knowing that those things are gonna be tested- not my physical ability that much, mostly mental, mostly my patience and everything- if could tell myself that that’s the first thing that’s gonna get tested, I feel like I would’ve had more accepting moments and would’ve been able to get through a lot of setbacks a lot quicker throughout the process. But I think the craziest thing is you can tell yourself that, but it’s so different to learn it for yourself. I think it just hits different when you experience it and I feel like that’s the biggest thing too, it’s like understanding that experiences are lessons or blessings, so just keep going forward.”

She described her biggest “hell yeah I made it” moment as “when I won X Games gold in 2018 for the first time in Minneapolis. It’s a crazy thing because of course you wanna go into X Games for the first time- this was not my first time, by the way. I had to go through losses and injuries and mental battles to even understand the value of the gold medal… When I first did it, I think I took second in X Games Mineeapolis two years before, and then the following X Games I’m like ‘Alright I’m winning gold’ and then I took tenth. And then I was devastated, and I was like ‘what the heck’ just in the mindstate of like ‘Man, I don’t even know.’ You start thinking you’re ranked tenth, when you’re really not, it’s just your performance of that day. So it was just like I had to go through a lot. But the moment when I pulled up to the next year I was like ‘I’ve felt being on top, I felt being on the bottom, at the end of the day I have to tell myself that i’m gonna keep going no matter the result.’ And the moment I let the idea go of putting everything out on the line… It was just a moment of “Wow, all those trials and errors made sense for me to feel this…” That was one of those moments where I was like ‘Alright I’m locked in even more now.’”

And continuing about perseverance: “You’re the one creating the story the whole time. You’re the one that’s telling yourself ‘Oh, I ranked tenth…’ or ‘I didn’t do good.’ You’re also the person that’s like ‘Oh I killed it. I had another gear to go,’ you’re also that person. Just knowing that there are things you can control and you can’t control. You can control the preparation for something. You can’t control if the weather is windy and you can’t flip your board in a contest… It’s all like trial and error. And that’s basically what skateboarding was based on. A lot of the time people tell me, ‘I skated one time and then I fell and that was it.’ And then skaters are like ‘Yeah I fell but I got back up.’ That’s the moment where you know you’re locked in.”

“Even at a professional level I feel like constantly telling myself it has to work out. If I try it 100 times, the 101st time maybe, or the 102nd time. It’s a crazy insanity thing that you go through, but the reward is so satisfying that all those tries were worth it. And that’s the most addictive part. You’re like, wow something that was not even possible, was possible for me at one point. You’ve seen it being done and you have to put in the work to learn it, and you have to put in the falls and the slams, to get there. But it’s always like an ongoing thing cause once you have that moment, you’re like, “alright that’s great, I pushed myself that far, how far can i push myself for this trick?” It’s a crazy mentality and I feel like the only way to really understand is to experience it.” 

Some advice she had for people that want to pursue skating: “Don’t chase it for a career, just chase it to chase it. You’re gonna get more out of the journey if you are present every single time you’re on the board. And I think that’s the most beautiful thing about skating, is you have to be present. If you’re thinking about something else and you try a trick, you’re getting smoked. Like, you’re done, you know? I would say for somebody who’s just starting out to just chase it for the game, because if you’re gonna chase it for the reward,  I don’t think you’re gonna last that long. Because it’s brutal… The times that you ride away and you land your tricks are great. But the hours of trying that trick, and slamming, and getting hurt, and going through injuries; those are the times where you need to understand that you have to love the game. Because if you’re focusing too much on trying to turn pro, I feel like it’s gonna take away from the journey to get you there… Of course you wanna be a professional skater. You don’t know how many times I blew out my candles at my birthday wishing that, years and years… Your time will come when it comes, the only thing you can control is what you do until it comes… That’s the best advice that I can give somebody; continue to dream, but understand the journey is the most important part and what’s gonna keep you going.”

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