Monster rails, giant stair drops and trick combos our eyes can barely keep up with – watching 23 year-old Marisa Dal Santo skate is most definitely a pleasurable experience. She’s medalled in street at the last five X Games, including three golds, but it was her section in Zero Skateboards’s Strange World that really got people talking, with Transworld Skate calling her part the “raddest” in the whole movie. Earlier this year, we got her thoughts for the magazine, on everything from getting sponsored and why Elissa Steamer rules to how cartoons just ain’t what they used to be
Interview by Sam Haddad, action photos Joe Hammeke, portrait shot Shigeo
Where did you grow up?
La Grange, Illinois. It’s 15 or so miles west of Chicago.
What kinds of things were you into as a kid?
I really liked to draw. I used to make little things out of clay too. And I was into music, some good, some terrible. I played piano when I was really young then I started playing guitar. Cartoons were way cooler back then, I really dug those. I wasn’t into being normal, I think all the kids in my class avoided me for the most part.
When did you first step on a skateboard?
Back in ’95 my neighbour had a garage sale and my friend down the street came up on a Flyin Brian board. I really wanted it but my friend’s mom wouldn’t let me have it. My parents found out about it so they got me a Variflex for Christmas. I might’ve stepped on it once but I didn’t really get into it until a couple years later.
Did you then get good pretty quickly?
Definitely not. It still takes me years to learn stuff. But I don’t remember having trouble standing on that thing, and I never pushed mongo.
Who and what inspired you?
Wu-Tang [Clan]. The first few skate videos I saw. Kerry Getz, Brian Anderson, [Chad] Muska, [Andrew] Reynolds, [Jim] Greco. Jim Greco’s Misled Youth part definitely changed my perspective on things. The Sixteen [Skateboards] video called I Hate Children. Everyone in there was about my age and they killed it.
When did you first meet Elissa Steamer and what do you like about her skating?
I first met her at a Toy Machine demo when I was 11, she doesn’t remember that though. I really met her my first year at the X Games when I was 18. I like everything about her skating. She really puts fun before anything and watching her skate makes me want to skate.
Did you dream of being a pro skater when you were younger?
Not quite, I didn’t even think it was feasible. I thought there were specifications or something, like requirements. I was more down to skate for the love.
How did you first get sponsored?
There was a parking lot jam contest at a school next to the skateshop and whoever won was the shop’s new team rider. My friend and I both skated in it when we were 12 or 13 and both ended up getting on the team.
And when did you hook up with Zero?
The Fallen team manager at the time was a judge for Tampa Am. I skated in it one year without a sponsor and got I think 90 something or 100th place. A few months later he called me up saying I should send a tape to Blackbox, so I did and it all worked out somehow.
Did you feel extra pressure skating once you were sponsored?
Not at first but now sort of yeah. You have to meet expectations, like this company is backing you so you have to show you’re worthy.
Which trick in your video part are you most psyched on?
Definitely the crook on that rail off the doubleset. There was so much I was picturing going wrong that I didn’t even wanna try it. I was terrified jumping on that thing. A broken toe, pretty much broken ankle, and a few hours later I finally pulled it, only to be told to do it again because it was “sketchy.”
Is there a trick or spot that you’ve been trying for years which has been eluding you?
Yes too many to even name. Pretty much every trick and quite a few spots.
How many decks have you gone through in your life?
I used to count but I lost track a long time ago. I’ll just say a shitload of decks.
You do pretty big drops and rails, do you ever get scared of hurting yourself?
Sometimes but usually I’m trying something that I think I can do, so getting out of a sticky situation is kind of a part of the fun. Freak accidents do happen though.
You got a lot of props for your part in Strange World, were you surprised by the attention?
Yeah definitely, I didn’t even think I was going to have a part in it until a month or so before it came out.
Do you prefer filming or contests or just riding around with your friends?
Probably just cruising with friends. Filming can be fun but it can also be really stressful. And contests are mostly not fun but they put food on the table sometimes.
Do you hate being described as “really good for a girl?” or does it not bother you?
It doesn’t really bother me. I think it’s just a pointless thing to say. People who still have that mindset might as well keep their mouths shut because it’s not doing good for anybody.
Do you have any advice for young girl skaters wanting to get good?
I guess just give’r. It takes passion, you have to want it.
What do you like doing when you’re not skating?
Drink beverages and listen to tunes.