Getting to know the Girls of Guanabara

Taking a trip into beautiful Brazil

Most of you guys saw the Guanabara Boards movie released 10 days ago on Social Media. If you didn’t, here it is:

The Girls of Guanabara

To celebrate its release, I spoke to Teresa Madeline, longboarder and producer of The Girls of Guanabara Boards. Wanna watch the video interview instead of reading? You can check it out here.

So thank you for talking to me today, I am excited to talk to you. A lot has happened since we last met. You’ve just launched a movie! But maybe before we get into that, it would be cool to know a little more about you, Teresa. When did you start longboarding and what was your first inspiration?

I started longboarding in 2013, I really started it because I had been snowboarding and surfing and I was back in London and I was really missing being on board. So I thought I’d try longboarding and got into that. As I started doing it, I felt kind of lonely. Because there wasn’t many girls, and I was trying to find a way to connect to them. So I created a blog, called Boardettes, and it was kind of a social media platform as well. So I started making videos and from there I naturally started knowing more people through the longboarding and skateboarding community.  We made different events and workshop for women to introduce them to skateboarding. I wasn’t teaching back then but we had this amazing team of instructors teaching other women to skateboard. We tried to create a very encouraging and supportive environment.

And then, I went to Brazil! And this is, I guess, the start of the video that has just been released. I was doing some research with the idea of making a documentary for Boardettes. I started meeting up with the women skateboarding there.There is such a big scene in Brazil. It was so exciting. And this is when I came across Guanabara boards. I got in touch with them and asked to meet up and if I could film them, but I got completely lost in a park, skating around in a little penny board. It was my first time on it. I had no clue what I was doing, completely lost in this park, in Brazil! I managed to find my way towards them. As I was approaching them, I had to take a little slope, and they were at the bottom. I wasn’t experienced at the time. The board was shaking beneath my feet. I tried to jump off, lost my footing and smashed my face into the concrete.

The ever so elegant Teresa

… right in front of your future husband??


… so you literally fell in love!

Literally! Yes! Head over heels!

So remind us who Guanabara boards is?

They are a skateboard collective, a group of friends making videos and running a skateboard school, mostly teaching adults actually.

So they were mostly a skateboard school at first, right? Not much longboard dancing?

When I talk about skateboarding I mean all disciplines on a board. They were already teaching longboarding dancing but it was an up and coming trend back in 2010. They were part of implementing and promoting longboard dancing with their own influence and creativity. This is what attracted me and that is why I wanted to film them. Which I managed, eventually, after my little accident! And then, the romance blossomed with Alex and I found myself going back to Brazil a few months later to live there.

Amazing! So what about your life outside longboarding? Most people don’t know but you’re a photographer and you’re also a film maker, right?

Yes! I have been a photographer for 13 years as well as a journalist. I used to work with different magazines, skateboard magazines, and blogs before I went to Brazil. I used to work with Lonely Planet, doing travel journalism as well.  This was incredible and really great way to get to know Brazil on so many levels and discovering the hot spots.

So you joined the school Guanabara, while freelancing as a photographer and a journalist.

Yes indeed. At the moment, we’re running the school remotely, from London, as we had also launched the school here. This has been quite difficult with the pandemic obviously. There is not much people can do in terms of going outdoor and exercise, but at the same time there is a growing appeal for longboarding. It is such a freeing and liberating activity to do, it gets you out of the house and get some fresh air.

Yeah, and I think the discipline has been democratized through many longboarders like yourself. More and more people know what longboard dancing is and are attracted to it, which is really cool. Obviously there should be more and more students, coming and joining the sessions!

Yes, I hope so! And I think this is it, we’ve always had the purpose of inspiring people, through the videos we make as well as the things we do as a collective. Inspiring more people to come into longboarding, to make it a very inclusive sport, as much as possible. No matter what age, what gender, what lifestyle you already have, you can learn to longboard! It is such a joyful activity, it brings so much to your life. So we were really keen to share our passion with people.

The Guanabar Girls, Left to right: Ana Maria Suzano, Teresa Madeline, Beatriz Gavelak, Sara Watanabe. Photo by: Lucas Inke

And what does longboarding means to you?

I think when I’m longboarding is when I feel the most connected with myself. It’s so freeing, you just put on your favourite music, it’s sort of meditative, and you can really get into the zone and feeling the movements. It’s such a sensual feeling as well, you’ve got the vibration on the ground and the wind in your hair. It’s so special, it brought many amazing people into my life. It’s brought me my family. I have met my husband through it and now we have children together and we go longboarding together. I also met many friends through it. It’s a huge part of my life.

And how did it go for you in Brazil, is there a big community?

It’s massive, there is such a high level of ability. It’s incredible. People are really fun and open. I think the longboarding community across the board is very chilled out and easy-going kind of family. So there is definitely the same feeling there. It’s so inspirational to see the amount of skill and ability that is out there in Brazil. 

Oh I agree! That was the first thing I thought when I watched the movie. I was so impressed! It’s not just the level of skills but it’s also the creativity of the combos, of the lines. I had to watch 5-6 times! They were things I had never seen before! It’s a great movie! So let’s talk about it a little bit! When was born the idea of making that movie?

I had been in Brazil for quite a while and I had already this focus of filming women in skateboarding and longboarding. I was skateboarding with these girls for a good 3 years already. We had been training together, learning new things off each other.  We were meeting either every day or at least every week, and that is something I really enjoyed. And something that really touched me about Brazil is that it’s a very creative country, and there are so many positive aspects about it. I found however that there is a very positive and a negative side of being a woman in Brazil. As a positive, people are very accepting of different kinds of women. A lot of my friends who came visit really felt like they built their confidence while being in Brazil. But there is also an uglier side of it, where people just put a lot of attention on how women look, it is quite a lot about physical appearance. It was very hard to deal with living there at first, being a feminist myself. So what I wanted to do with that movie and also why I started Boardettes in the first place is to really change the conversation about the representation of women in board sports. It’s getting better now, things are changing, but when I started longboarding you could always see this pictures of girls riding in a bikini, showing their butt on a surfboard or a skateboard. That was pretty much what you could find when you search for women in board sports on Google. So, really, the movie was about changing that conversation, still showing beauty, but forgetting about the physical beauty. Yes, they are all beautiful but taking the attention away and show what these girls can do, how creative they are and how beautiful what they are creating is. Women as creators of beauty rather than the subject of it.

That movie is beautifully shot. You worked with an absolute legend within skateboard movies, Brett Novak! How did you get in touch with him? Did you know him already? Did you just send him an email and invite him to Brazil?

I had some contact with him in the past through my journalist work, but nothing very concrete.  For me, Brett Novak’s films were one of the reasons I really got interesting in filming skateboarding and even skateboarding myself. The way he shots is so poetic, it just changes the way you see skateboarding. He does it in a way that you can understand it even if you are not a skateboarder. Which was important to us. Although we are skateboarders and we hang around with skateboarders, we didn’t want to make a film just for skateboarders. We wanted to make a film that inspire others that never thought about it to be interested in it and give it a try. I thought that Brett Novak, with all his artistic ability, would be a great person to make this film. It was almost like a dream! We thought, let’s email him and tell him about the project and see if he’s interested in joining us.

The Guanabara Girls being filmed by Brett Novak in Barra de Tijuca, Rio de Janeiro. Photographer: Lucas Inke  

Amazing! This movie is so beautifully shot, it almost look like an ad for Brazil tourism. When I saw it, I immediately wanted to go there too! What was the highlight of that shoot for you?

One of the highlights is probably when we were filming at the carnival. Even though you don’t really see us girls much in there, that shows so much of the essence of Brazil. The carnival scenes were shot with a local band called “Orchestra Voador” (The Flying Orchestra), they make their own parties within the Carnival and they are extremely artistic. Just being there… they let us go in the middle… in the parade and there were gazillion of people around us. Having that experience with Brett there filming, even having our friends protecting him while he was filming, that was a really fun experience. 

I also think the general vibe, the whole 10 days we spent shooting was absolutely incredible. We had a lot of our friends around, part of the production team and the collective was there. It was such an amazing amount of energy that went into making this film. I think that is part of why it is so beautiful. Brett really picked up on that and made some great connections with us and with other people in Brazil and the country itself that you can feel that in the film.

I agree and you can see there is so much love for Brazil. There are so many lovely places that are not famous spots. You could have chosen to go to famous places in Rio like Ipanema beach but you chose to show other spots that give a very different vision of it and it’s so beautiful. And one thing that was really surprising to me is that you were pregnant while shooting!!! That’s nuts!

Yeah, it was insane. We had done all this planning for the video, everything was ready. Brett was there as well as another 10 people sleeping in our house ready to get the film done and then I found out I was pregnant literally the day before the shooting began.

No way!

It was kind of crazy to process this… it was insane, but we did it! I was very focused on this film but I had to take a bit more care on how I was skateboarding. It added a certain level of pressure. For me, as soon as a camera comes out, I can’t do any tricks and I fall out, maybe because I am a film maker and I tend to be behind the camera. So it added a level of pressure because we had to make this right, I didn’t want to fall, I had to be careful with my body and pay extra attention to what I was doing but it was amazing and it’s lovely to get back to the film and seeing those moments and thinking that my son was there with me! He was in my tummy while I was riding! I like to look at it with him and tell him: That’s you, you’re in mummy’s tummy! 

Have you already tried to put him on a skateboard? Or is he too little?

No we tried, definitely! He’s getting there, little by little! We try to encourage him to skateboard. He will be a little skateboarder as soon as we can make that happen!

Lovely! And what are the next steps for you guys then? Are you going to make another movie? Maybe about London?

Yes, definitely! We’re thinking to make another one next year. Where in the world will depend a little bit on the situation… it might be that we don’t have any other choice but to make the movie in England. But I would like that, there are so many beautiful places in England and London. The only problem is the weather. We will see, we’ve got loads of creative ideas already about new movies we can make and different locations we can use and different creative projects we would like to launch…

It was such an incredible video that I really hope you’ll be making some more. At the same time, if that’s the tone, that creates high expectations!

I know, right?

It was good, I’m looking forward to the next one!

Amazing, thank you. I won’t disappoint!

Thank you for speaking to me today, that was really cool!

Thank you! See you soon, we’ll go skateboarding in London!

TL;DR: Here’s the video interview

Because sometimes it is just more fun to watch the magic happen

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