Jump To The Beat
Marina Correia describes the euphoria of longboard dancing: “I have developed a kind of unconditional love for the sport. It’s an art and a way of life.”
By Marina Correia
When I was younger playing football I was told I looked like a boy, but that didn’t stop me from continuing to excel in sport. Later in life, I found longboard dancing and it just stuck. It’s hard to explain how it feels, but when I put my headphones on, I let my body express itself freely without worrying about other people’s eyes.
In my childhood I played lots of other sports. I used to skateboard but I was made to think that it was not for me and not in my culture, but that didn’t stop me from following my dreams and believing in myself, despite the odds. I discovered longboarding at the age of 17 simply out of curiosity. It quickly became a passion and before too long I was being offered sponsorship opportunities. Then, after years of practising like crazy, after many falls and scuffs, I was crowned world champion of freestyle longboard dancing in January 2021 at the age of 23.
Looking back, 2019 was definitely a highlight. I participated in my very first competition in Paris and I finished second in the sponsored women’s category. During this competition, there was a category called ‘hippie jump’ and I was the only woman to participate. The move is difficult – it consists of jumping over an obstacle and passing the board underneath. Now it’s what I’m known for! As far as I’m aware, I’m the only woman in the longboarding community to jump fences that high. It was terrifying at first. But, after this competition, I kept seeing more and more girls inspired to try and overcome their fears. That makes it all worth it.
Today, there are still very few women in the longboarding community, but I’m happy to see more girls joining and giving it a go. Since the beginning, I have always received inspiring messages from people who follow me on social – messages of support, love and admiration. All these messages make me feel so good and I am so grateful. Since I won the international longboard competition (held online because of Covid-19), these messages have tripled because of a social media post that accidentally caused a stir. I announced my victory on Twitter by saying that I was the first Black, Cape Verdean and African woman to win the competition. Sadly, the reactions were mixed.
My statement was not meant to highlight my skin colour, I don’t reduce myself to that. I said it to inspire other Black and minority women who don’t have enough representation in my sport and wider society. It was scary but I’m proud to have done it because it gave young girls the courage to buy a skateboard or longboard and go out riding.
I’ve been speaking out against under representation long before I won this competition and I continue to do so because representation really matters to me. After I posted on Twitter, I was harassed by people who said that I “wasn’t Black enough.” According to them, I am not dark enough and I don’t have frizzy hair, so I can’t declare myself a Black person. I must admit that, at first, I was very saddened by all the racism and cyber harassment I endured. But the messages of support were much greater. As time went on, I was able to move on and concentrate on my sport and the things in life that really matter, like getting better at my sport.
As a result of the cyber harassment and abuse I experienced, several media and TV channels became interested in me, my story and this competition, which normally takes place in the Netherlands every year. With all this unexpected attention, my life has totally changed. People recognise me in the street, they ask me for selfies – sometimes even autographs – and they congratulate me for my title and my journey. Every time it makes me feel so good to be inundated with all this love from strangers. It never gets old.
Last year, after becoming world champion of freestyle longboard dancing, I received many offers for new collaborations, adverts, interviews and more. This means lots of other women and girls will feel represented and be able to identify with me. In turn, I hope this will inspire them. I speak five languages including Capverdean Creole, French, Spanish, Portuguese and English and am currently studying languages at the University of Arts in Nice, so it’s hard to balance studies and my passion. Longboarding is slowly taking up more and more space in my life, so much so that I now have my own manager who helps me on a daily basis.
None of this would have been possible if I didn’t love what I do, because my love for longboarding goes far beyond a simple sporting activity. I have developed a kind of unconditional love for the sport. It’s an art and a way of life. When I skate, my problems disappear; I see only positive and beautiful energies around me. Nothing can stop me. My body and mind feel in unison. Longboarding brings me a daily dose of happiness. Without it I would not be who I am today. I carved out my identity with longboarding, that and my hair! My locs represent a crown – I feel powerful and special.
When I see children, young people and adults sending me messages, telling me that I inspire them, I feel so touched by their words that I find it hard to believe. It pushes me to do my best, to get better at what I do and to keep inspiring them, so that they can also find their way; the path that will lead them to happiness.
Who would’ve thought that 2021 would present so many amazing opportunities. My life has changed and I hope I can help others find the same peace. In life you have to fight, and it never stops. When people ask the key to my success, I tell them: work hard, smile, believe in yourself, have fun and never give up. No matter what anyone tells you, the most important thing is to believe in yourself and learn to love yourself along the way.