Gaby Velasquez: From Venezuela With Love
In 2007, before the 2008 global financial meltdown, some maniac convinced the Chilean government to invest in a South American multi-event action sports competition. It was held in Santiago, and they offered to fly Wes and I down to document the whole thing. If memory serves correctly, everything seemed a little “off” when we hit the ground… and that’s how it stayed throughout our colorful, fun, productive and unforgettable stay. That’s also where we met Gaby Velasquez, then a young, up-and-coming blade practitioner, learning the ways of the blade and just flirting with her life-long love of inline skating. Nearly ten years later we get to catch up with that young woman, now married to another personality from our shared blade history — John Goez — and still very much in love with the wheels beneath her feet. Living in Florida and working full-time, Gaby took time out of her schedule to answer our questions and give us all some insight into her Blade Life. This is her story.
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Hey Gaby, good to talk to you — what’s going on? I mean, I know you as the bladie from Venezuela that we met in Chile while there working on the Carlos Pianowski feature years ago, but that doesn’t help anyone else. Why don’t we start with your name, age, where you live, and how long you’ve been blading.
Hi all, my name is Maria Gabriela Velasquez, but I like being called Gaby. I’m from a beautiful country in South America called Venezuela. I come from the town of Maturin, where I lived until I was 18. That’s the place where I put on my first pair of inline skates. Then I decided to go to Argentina to study and keep pursuing my passion of aggressive inline skating. I managed to finish school and get my degree, while whatever free time I had was spent blading — even if it was just for five minutes! Rollerblading is that important to me. Now I reside in Florida where I have been living for the past three years. I’m 29 years old, still blading no matter what, and I can say that I’ve been blading for more than 10 years.
So how did you end up on inline skates?
Well, I started skating a long time ago with my brother. We used to have Chicago skates (for me they were the best skates ever, haha), and we would go around making jumps out of pieces of wood, or we would bomb hills as fast as those skates could go. Back in my town the scene was very small and I was too young to just go around and skate by myself, so one thing led to another and I ended up speed skating.
I did this for a few years until I moved to Argentina, but before I left I had fallen in love with aggressive inline skating while watching the best bladers that I had ever seen (Ernesto Borges, Yeiry Hernandez and the best blader that ever came out of South America — Santiago Azpurua!) in my hometown of Maturin at the Xtreme Vertigo skatepark. Before leaving for Argentina I bought a pair of aggressive skates from Ernesto Borges. Months after being in my new city of Buenos Aires, Argentina, I couldn’t stop looking and thinking of those skates that I bought and wondering if I could do what I’d seen those bladers do. So I gave it a try and ever since then I’ve been hooked.
What kept you blading? Who have been your role (roll?) models?
To me, skating is part of my body, spirit and mental health. It makes me feel alive! I’ve met so many good friends through inline skating, both the young and old generations. Some of my biggest female role models are Martina, Kaya, Chihiro, Mery Muñoz, Becci Sotelo, Coco, and Manon.
How long had you been rolling when we crossed paths in Chile in 2007?
I was just getting started, so maybe three years. I went out to Chile with a group of friends from Argentina because we heard that the best inline skaters from South America were going to be there. It was such a fun experience, one for the books!
Want to explain to everyone how you ended up living in Florida?
Yeah, for sure. Florida was the first city I visited in the US, a long time ago. I’ve always wanted to live here and luckily I met a very special person, John Goez (aka Ez Goeazy), my actual husband for the past two years. He has changed my life and helped me make all of this happen. He waited until I finished college and was ready to move forward. That’s when I came to Florida and started a new life.
Is the blade community in FL different than in VZ — or anything you can tell us comparing being in the two places?
I think everywhere you go there are pros and cons. The FL community is pretty big, and I’ve had the opportunity to blade with most of them, especially the South Florida crew. We go and skate out every time we get the chance. People here are a little more independent maybe, compared to my friends from Venezuela, but still I think everywhere you go rollerblading is like a family and you can have a good time.
What’s blading like for women? Has the climate changed for the better or worse since you first got into the scene?
Women’s blading has been growing the past year. I follow a lot of groups and I’ve seen more girls added to the lists. They are all very talented. It is still a evolutionary moment and women want to put in their time and their best to bring the bladie scene more alive.
I have met the most unique and fun girls thanks to rollerblading. I’m still trying to get in more competitions just to have the opportunity to meet more girls, skate with them, and have the chance to share cool times. I believe girl’s skating had been growing more rapidly thanks to edits like the latest from Javiera Garrido & Catherine Nro from Chile, Catherine Portillo & Romina Casana from Peru, Maria Cristina Grasseli, Mary Texeira, Tai Corales, and a lot of Brazilian girls. The variety and way they are spread out shows you there still girls out there, trying to push their limits and showing their skateing to the world. Despite how far we are one from one another we are still connected through rollerblading. Women like Chiriro Azuma, Stephanie Richer, Coco, Mery, and Chynna are always great to watch skate. And of course don’t forget about the new girls or the ones like me who are constantly working on improving their skating skills. I would love to see more girls skate, it would be a good way to open their minds and could motivate new generations.
You work full-time, right? How ofter do you get out and blade?
Yeah, I work full time and I also do freelance on the side to make some extra cash. I’ve been working since I was 15 years old. I’m always helping my family back home, and I like the independence of maintaining my own. Most of the time I skate twice a week, but recently I’ve been skating more often just for a fun workout and trying to learn new tricks.
What are you favorite skate spots, and what tricks do you like to do?
I love skating street and in skateparks. I think the trick I enjoy the most is doing lines, having that connection between tricks. My bag of tricks is very normal — I enjoy all kinds of soul grinds, backsides, porns, topsides, mistrals, farvs, fishes, jumping, spins. But it all depends on my mood, sometimes I’m very tired and I can’t even do a trick. Other times, I get really inspired and start doing tricks more easily.
How about the hardest trick you’ve done — can you think of one?
There’s a few switch ups like farv to fish, farv to mistrals, top to 360 out, alley-oop top acids, top acid to true mizzou, sweat to ao porn, and I have some good memories of doing small tricks like soul 180 on big ledges or acids on big rails.
Over the years have you had a lot of interest from sponsors?
Having sponsors for sure always help, but I’ve never really been too crazy about getting sponsors — rather be more independent and do my thing. I was talking with Mery Muñoz. She was like “Gaby, try it and decided to give it a try with K2 as a brand ambassadors.” That’s like creating social posts and writing a lot of hashtags. But she was right — it’s always good to support the brands you like and get more exposure. Rollerblading is small but big. Just make sure to always buy stuff to support the community.
Have you competed a lot through your skate career? How do you do under those circumstances?
I started competing in Argentina against the guys, always as an amateur. My first girl competition was in Chile where I got second place. After that I went to Brazil and got made the top 10 — though I don’t remember much more than that. When I moved to the US, I was excited to have the opportunity to compete at Pow-Wow with girls like Fallon, Ursa, and Melissa Brown, who are definitely on another level. I also like to travel and participate in comps like New York City Invitational, A-Town Stomp, Blading Cup, Bladesgiving, Blades in the Glades, and more. Traveling to comps makes me feel like skating and learning more about rollerblading, And then competing in big competitions like Winterclash is a whole other lever of blading and self control. Laced in Liverpool was really fun too. At the end it’s the adventure behind the mission that most motivates me. Doing those tricks that you been practicing, meeting with more bladers — my larger goal is just to keep supporting rollerblading as much as I can.
You’re with K2 to some degree now, right? How’s that going?
It’s going great. K2 is a big company. I think in a way it’s a good way to start to promote the sport and get products to others bladers. Their marketing influences are very strong, though I do wanna see them push and promote the industry — that’s why I’ve been rocking their skates and I’m trying to give them feedback about their products. Being part of the K2 Ambassadors motivates me to keep blading, doing what I love while generating more exposure. Maybe Im wrong, but at least I’m trying my best.
How did that all come together?
K2 launched an ambassador program where you had the opportunity to apply by sending your social media channels and showing them the reason why you should be part of their team. I really like the new marketing program, and I was eager to help the sport through their abilities, being the large company that they are. So I thought, why not give it a try, and so far it’s been super cool. I never thought I would be able to get different types of skates from the same company. They have been very polite and responsive any time that I need something. So now I have my powerblade/fitness recreational, and of course my street and park setups.
What do you like rolling on more, small trick wheels or larger freeskating wheels?
I love the speed that larger wheels give me for training and doing long distances, big wheels are the best. But regular wheels help a lot with the aggressive part of skating, which is great too. Right now I’m trying the flat frames with the largest wheels possible in park, and the difference is pretty big in a good way.
How often do you travel for skating?
Before moving here I was traveling 1-2 times per year, depending on the destination. Maybe now it’s 3-4 times, more if it’s in the same country. I like road trips, so John and I get around Florida a lot, or even drive to Atlanta or North Carolina. This year was kinda slow — I had a lot of different family issues. I lost of my mom, so it’s been a little slower, and I’ve been focused on helping the family. Though I still take my skates everywhere I go; you never know what spots you might find along the way.
What’s the best place skating has taken you?
Definitely Area 51 at Winterclash, Rotterdam (Jacky Schrooten skatepark), and Laced in England is very dope too. Kona here in Florida is really cool… there are so many places to go. Argentina, Peru skateparks wow! In Barcelona almost everything there is amazing. Chile and Brazil have a lot of spots and parks too. I love Caracas, Valencia, and a bunch of different places in Venezuela. Miami and their crazy spots and hot weather. Atlanta has amazing spots. Woodward in Pennsylvania. Wow, that was a long time ago. New York… Texas… California…
Where’s the next place you’re off to?
I’m looking forward to Medellin, Colombia, the Panama, France, Russia, Germany, Ireland, Japan and Venezuela — of course I love my country!
And anything else we should cover?
Nope, I’m good. Thank you so much for this chance, and for taking your time to make this awesome magazine possible. Thanks to all my family, my husband John, my blade friends that always give me that motivation: Chris Padilla, Robbie, Safe Journey, Sofloroll, Moraco, Zack, Garcia, Robert, my friends from Venezuela, Ernesto, Lari, Sanchez, El Tino, El Conde, Santi and more!
Well thanks, Gaby — always good to hang out and have some laughs. Keep rolling and we’ll see you soon!
Photos by Ernesto Borges and John Goez
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That girl is awesome at everything she does, she works her regular job, she skates, she parties and helps me out as a second shooter everytime I have a job ❤️
EXCELENTE GABY ERES GRANDE, SIGUE ASI DE TESA 😀
omg claps, she is very good at it, congratulationes GABY
gabyyyyyyy you are the best bladie for me, corazón , alma y blading . Todo lo bueno reina
Gaby is an amazing blader and person in general. Gaby is a great ambassador for K2. Keep up the great work Gaby. Thanks One magazine on the read it was great.