Designer, artist, musician and skater Karen Jonz is the queen of multi-tasking. The Brazilian two-time world champ skater and X Games medallist, started out learning alongside the boys at her local ramp. She’s gone on to become a pioneer of the girls' scene, not to mention a minor celebrity back home. Going big in the vert and technical in the park, somehow we managed to get her to sit still long enough for a chat at the X Games in Barcelona…
Words by Hannah Bailey
How was it having a stop of the X Games on home soil in Brazil?
I didn’t go to that one because they made it in Foz, a place really far away from where everybody lives. It’s just a touristy place, but beautiful.
But you were over in Barcelona for the stop there to compete. How did it feel to have park introduced for women?
We were out of the X Games for a while, the last time we competed was 2010 with vert. So it’s all really new. I think the girls are looking good. Everyone is stoked to see us skating, which is really good for general skating. Europe is always my favourite place to come so any small reason to go I will!
Personally would you prefer that vert was reintroduced rather than the park comp?
I’m better at vert I think so it would be easier, but I was kind of over it too. I wasn't enjoying skating vert that much. It was time for new challenges!
Are you a nervous competitor?
I’m always nervous about competing. It’s been 13 years, I do contests and I’m nervous every time.
Do your nerves push you?
I think I kind of learn how to manage it and keep it under control, so it's a good thing. It takes you to a mental state where you can land anything. It’s good. But sometimes when you lose control of it, it’s not so good.
You grew up in Brazil, how did you even get on a board in the first place?
I’m from Sao Paolo and when I started skating there were very few girls skating. Back in Brazil now I think it’s popular all over, but when I started I was the only girl. Me and the boys always! And now you go out on the street and you always see a girl crossing with a board. It's great to see how its developed and grown so much and to be a part of it. To know I am responsible for a big part of it. They show contests on TV and I’m always in the magazines. So girls look out for me a lot and I’m really happy it turned out that way.
Are you a minor celebrity in Brazil then?
Yea I guess!
So what kept you dropping in and not dropping out?
I think the sport itself. Ever since the first time I stepped on a board I never wanted to step off. No matter what, I knew I would keep doing it. I loved it. I have to do it everyday or I get mad. It takes out the stress. All of a sudden I was professional and making a living out of it, and I never questioned myself about doing other stuff. It was like that from the very beginning.
I watched an interview in which you said you like skating cause you don’t get wet, are you not so keen on surfing/water?
I used to surf when I was little as I was at the beach. It was really hot so good to be in the water. But when I moved to America and all the girls there would wakeboard and snowboard and surf. I thought, this water's so cold, I don’t want to get wet! I hate the cold, I’m from a tropical country.
So you don’t snowboard either?
I do, they take me with them. But I’m always cold, I just want to be in the lounge drinking hot chocolate! So skateboarding is the perfect conditions. It fits perfect for me.
What would you say your skate style is?
I think I am really technical. I like to do the hard stuff. I don't go that fast. In Brazil we didn't have a lot of good skate parks, so I grew up skating in a shitty vert ramp which was really tiny, so I got really good at tech stuff, tricks with variations. Like I know how to do pretty much every trick there is, lip tricks and airs. I can do any one.
So how did you go about learning?
I was skating in Brazil with the boys. Skating together and learning together. That was our world, we just had that ramp, doing the best we could with it.
Do you think skating with boys pushed you harder?
Yea, I think so. I am really competitive so was always trying to be as good as them. I didn't even realise I was a girl. I just wanted to beat them! Whatever they tried, I thought I can do that too. I think that's how you get tech. Lots of focus on not giving up. I will try no matter what; you have to be really patient and focused and I like that. You don’t just have to go fast, you have to think about it. My brain works like that, I do a lot of stuff: I skate, I paint, I play music. It works for me.
How long have you been skating?
Have you got any words of advice for the ton of girls interested in learning right now?
I think the first thing is not be ashamed. You are going to fall a lot and that's normal. So don't be embarrassed if you go somewhere and you fall. Also the main obstacle for girls to skate is getting over going to a place that is only boys. Just go there. You are going to look silly in the beginning so if you get over that you will have fun.
You're always busy doing a lot of different stuff! What drives you or inspires you to be like that?
I’m just like that, I can’t explain why. I like to do a lot of stuff at the same time. That's what makes me feel happy. I go to places, I see things and I get inspired. I have to do this! It comes from the inside, I can’t help it. When I see it, I am already doing it.
What’s the best thing about skating for you?
I think the travelling and all the friends we make, plus the satisfaction from learning new tricks. It makes me happy being able to skate every day. The simple thing, the skating itself…