Manuela Calle: “It motivated me to build a roller skating community”

by Marta
Brazilian roller skater Manuela Calle performing a axle grind on a ledge

When Manuela Calle was a kid, she used to make fun of her mom’s old-school roller skates. Manu (@marea_revuelta) joined an academy for speed in-line skating instead, but after a year of training, she just bladed for fun until she stopped altogether. Years later, in 2016, when she was 18 years old, she saw a clip on the internet. “I remember seeing a video of the Moxi girls, and I thought, ‘What is this? I want to do Moxi!’ because at that time I thought that’s the name of the sport”, she says. She asked her mom for her old roller skates and her father helped Manu remount the plate on another shoe, and off she went to the skatepark. “We had no knowledge of how to mount skates, so after 20 minutes the plate fell off,” Manu recalls and laughs.

Six years later, roller skating has become her career, even though she finished a bachelor’s degree in biology. It might be a good backup, but who knows whether she will need it? Today, Manu is part of the well-known Colombian skate crew Hell on Quads; she runs her own skate shop, Cuidado RollerSK8, gives skate lessons, and runs events.

After moving to Porto Alegre, Brazil, two years ago, she found a city full of skate opportunities but no quad community. Being the go-getter she is, Manu decided to build one and also managed to make the largest park in the city accessible to non-skateboarders.

roller skater street skating in Brazil
portrait of roller skater Manuela Calle

Manuela Calle in the streets of Porto Alegre. Photos: Alexsander Nicolau

Originally you are from Manizales, Colombia. But we see you skating in Brazil a lot. Where do you reside at the moment?

Manizales is a small city in the center of Colombia, but I moved to Porto Alegre in the south of Brazil in January 2022 after completing my biology degree. My older sister is a biologist as well and already lived in Porto Alegre.

Why did you move there?

My sister told me that there were many good job opportunities here. While Colombia is a really great place to live, the economic situation is not. At first, I planned to come to Porto Alegre for just a three month stay, but after a month, I fell in love and saw opportunities for my skating career and since I wanted to live from skating it was a better fit.

Manuela Calle
Photo: Alexsander Nicolau

How was the skate scene in Porto Alegre?

There were roller skaters here, but there was no tight roller skate community. They didn’t do events; they didn’t even know about each other. Everyone was doing their own thing. When I arrived, the largest skate park in Latin America had just opened in Porto Alegre. But they only allowed skateboarding. It’s openly accessible, so the police were patrolling and telling people they couldn’t use the facility. Since the time skateboarding became an Olympic sport, Brazil has been supporting it a lot.

In Colombia, we had built a huge community, so I was used to a much larger scene. In Porto Alegre, I was alone and the only girl in the skateparks. It’s a scene dominated by men. This surprised me, and I couldn’t understand why there were no young girls around. At the same time, it motivated me to stay, create, and build a roller skating community.

Were you able to build a community in the past two years?

Yes! You can’t imagine how big it is now. Just as we’re talking, the girls call me and ask why I’m not there skating with them. In October 2022, I started to give free weekly lessons. I taught women of all ages, but also boys. There are girls who skateboard or ride scooters, but they don’t have a support group. So they all love that we come to the park and teach. It becomes a safe space for all of us.

Roller skater Manuela Calle performing a frontside slide on roller skates
fs slide in Porto Alegre / photo: Alexsander Nicolau

You’ve managed to get access to the new skatepark eventually.

I simply started to give my free lessons in the park, and many male skateboarders were complaining. They said they liked it more when they had the park to themselves. As we became more and more girls, we had problems with the police because we became unpleasant for the boys who didn’t want us there. The police came up to us and told us that if we didn’t stop, they would take our skates away. So we turned to the city and the municipal secretary of sports. Thanks to our effort, everyone can now officially use the park. It was really hard in the beginning, but we kept going. Now, the guys even like us. They even support us at our events.

You basically made a change from within. People get used to new situations, even in skateparks.

There are many people here in the city who say, ‘Manu, thank you! You are making a difference for the girls here.’ We have new spaces now, since before, no one was really interested in growing a female scene.

spread from the dogdays yearbook 2024

The interview with Manuela Calle originally appeared in the DogDays Yearbook 2024. Get a copy here.

Interview: Marta Popowska
Photos: Alexsander Nicolau

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