How far could a person go for their passion? How far would you go to make your dream come true? Would you give up on everything and start over? This is a story about a girl who did this and who succeeded.
Roxana-Ioana Botu is 22 years old girl from Bucharest, Romania who recently moved to Barcelona to make her dream come true. She has a different passion than most girls: she loves to take her skateboard and try different tricks in the skatepark all day long. She loves the ramps and she is very good at it. As in every famous story, she had an accident and everyone told her that she will never be able to walk normally and she will never skate again. As you may think, she has overcome her immobility and returned to skateboarding as nothing had happened. Moreover, she won many contests in Romania from a very young age, and now she is very good in Barcelona too. Recently, she gave some interviews for different local skateboard magazines and won an international skateboard contest. Furthermore, she is even followed by Tony Hawk on Instagram.
When did she discover her passion?
Her passion started about 8 years ago, when she was 13 years old. It was a rainy day and she was playing Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2, a very popular game at that time. At the end of the game, there was a section for credits where some videos with different actors of the game were, such as Tony Hawk, Steve Caballero, Bob Burnquist, and many more were displayed. As she saw those videos, she was curious and wanted to try to learn some tricks too and search for some tutorials on YouTube. After watching a bunch of tutorials, she asked her brother to borrow his old skateboard, a Walmart type. The skateboard was laying on the balcony, having been forgotten for some years. It didn’t have grip tape. It had plastic wheels and it was painted to look like metal.
“For me, it didn’t even matter. I went behind the block and I started to learn Ollie, of course standing still, because those plastic wheels didn’t move. After that day, some kids saw me and brought their old skateboards too and that was the day I started skateboarding, to the despair of the neighbors, who drove us from side to side because of the noise.”– Roxana
Our parents didn’t have enough money to buy us toys, so you had to put aside wisely before choosing something. Roxana raised money to get her first real skateboard, which was a ridiculously narrow Element board from a ghost site that no longer exists.
Every athlete had an accident in their career. In almost every case, the athlete overcomes this accident and quits his career or succeeds in it. Roxana had a big accident which stopped her from doing what she likes: skateboarding. This accident took place in Bucharest, in the spring of 2015. Roxana was skating in a park where she tried to do a 5 stairs kickflip. After 3 fails, she was sure that she will land it this time. She made a mistake and her leg went wrong on her board, causing her to fall and twist her ankle. She couldn’t walk or skate home because of the pain. When she arrived home, she realized that maybe she broke her leg and that she will need to see a doctor as soon as possible. After some visits at several public hospitals, nobody found nothing wrong with her leg. After 3 months, she went to a private hospital. After that visit, the diagnostic was clear. Her anterior ligament and her meniscus were broken and she needed surgery. 6 months went by between the accident and the surgery, and because of the broken parts inside the knee, the tibia and femur began to wear out. She found out that she also had a femoral fracture, which made it even more difficult for her to recover. She had her surgery in October, when she was in the 12th grade. It was difficult for her to stay at home for three entire months. That year she had her final exam, which is very important for a person who is preoccupied with her future.
9 months from surgery, she returned to the skatepark with a lot of pain and fear. She was declared “recovered” one year after the surgery, with an orthosis on the knee that she needs to wear, theoretically, whenever she does a sports activity.
She did not totally recover. She had severe immobility in that leg for the next 4 years. But after some kinesiotherapy, physiotherapy, massage, acupuncture, and swim lessons she was able to move it better than after the surgery.
“About 6 or 7 months after the surgery all I was told was to be happy if I could walk normally again. I had a period when I was down, I was walking very hard and the pain was terrible. I was lucky that I went from the beginning with the mentality of going back to skateboarding, but my mother was very affected throughout the recovery, considering that I was immobilized in bed for a month and a half and I limped for another 3-4 months later. It was a long and slow process, but I went back to skateboarding, and for me, that’s the most important thing.“– Roxana
The competitions won in Romania
Before moving to Barcelona, Roxana was part of almost every skateboarding contest in Romania. She wanted to participate to encourage herself, not necessarily for winning. Almost every time she won the 1st place, or at least the 2nd or 3rd. When she was 15, she participated in a skate contest where she won for the first time. She was part of different contests: in Alba-Iulia, she participated at Bastion Session 2 and 3, in Baia Mare at NOVA OPEN, in Cluj-Napoca at Trick it up, and many more.
Is this just a hobby or is it something more than this?
“I can say that this is more than just a hobby. A hobby is something you do when you have the time. I don’t wait to see if I have time for skateboarding. I plan my schedule to have time for this every day .”– Roxana
Roxana goes to the skatepark every day and tries to be there as long as she can. She even goes when it rains, even if the skatepark is 40 km away from her home.
“Skateboarding is what I love the most. I tried to build my life so I can skate as much as I want.”– Roxana
Even when she works, she tries to spend a few hours to the skatepark every day. The good part is that she earns most of her income from skate lessons, both on her own and as an instructor for Panorama Skate Club. She tries to organize her schedule and life around this sport.
Moving to Barcelona
Barcelona is considered one of the world’s capitals of skateboarding for many reasons. Starting with the large community and the diversity of the skateparks, Barcelona is a place where everyone can find their place and can practice this sport as they want.
For Roxana, one of the reasons was that in Barcelona the number of skate lessons was very high because of many motives. First, skateboarding is an extracurricular school activity that kids can choose in their schools, where they have 2-3 ramps that can be built very easily. They can practice this sport in skateparks too, where the complexity of the trick is higher. Secondly, Barcelona is very different from Romania, because their people start skateboarding at any age, without shame or prejudice. Roxana even had a 45 years old student.
She decided to move to Barcelona in the summer of 2018, when she was gone in the United States of America for 4 months, through a Work&Travel program. She was most influenced by her experience in New York, where she met some skaters from the older generation (60+). She was influenced by the conversations she had with Jim, one of the locals from the Chelsea (Pier 62) Skatepark.
When I was at the skatepark, Jim always blocked me with questions like: “What makes you think you can’t live out of skateboarding?” or “What’s the point of wasting time doing something else when you already figured out your passion?“.
On her last day in the United States, she has a very long conversation with Jim, which made her think about skateboarding in a very different way on her way back home in Romania.
She came back at the end of October, after a long summer in the USA and a holiday in Amsterdam. She was thinking she will move as soon as she finished her studies in Romania. She came back to Cluj-Napoca, where she studies Design at the University of Art and Design, and finished her studies after some difficulties. She graduated in July and arrived in Barcelona two months later, in September. After a year and a half in Barcelona, and after many difficulties, she admits that she is now happier than ever.
Moreover, another good reason to move to Barcelona was the weather. In Romania, the skaters lose almost four months every year because of the winter and the bad weather.
The community and the facilities
In comparison to Romania, many big cities in Europe have a diversity of skateparks and the community is usually larger. It is important to have a community around you, because they help you grow, they motivate you to become better at what you practice. When you are surrounded by a community that is at a higher level than you, the perception of what is physically possible changes radically.
“USA changed my perspective radically and in my opinion, this is more important than any other practice. I can see that my evolution was faster here than in Bucharest, where we just have one decent skatepark that is always overcrowded.”
In Barcelona, you are surrounded by pro skaters from all over the world almost every day. The city also has an urban architecture that is suitable for skateboarding. It is generally accepted to ride on the streets and skate in different urban spots.
The community of skater girls there is bigger than in Romania, without any doubts, but is not that friendly and strong.
“I noticed many times fake friendships between the girls here and that’s very sad.”
Despite what goes on in Romania, in Barcelona, every contest has a girl category, sometimes grouped in 2 by age or level (AM/PRO).
The skateparks and the street spots
Barcelona has a lot of skateparks and they are good for every kind of skateboarder, no matter if they want to practice on flat, vert, or street. The main problem of Barcelona is not the diversity of the skateparks, but their quality.
There are a lot of skateparks, but there’s none as good as in the USA or Japan. The only exception is Agora, a skatepark situated in Badalona, a city near Barcelona. The skatepark is suitable only for those who want to practice their street skills, but not that good for those who want to improve their mastery on ramps or verts.
“I cannot even complain. I have access to better skateparks than in Romania, and I can practice and evolve. “– Roxana
After one year and a half in Barcelona, Roxana has earned some popularity and people started to notice her more and more. Her first contest took place last year in Madrid. It was the first competition where she was part of the girls’ competition. In Romania, she used to always participate in the boys category, because there wasn’t a competition for girls. She also participated at FISE, a contest in France where she won the 3rd position in the pro category. She also participated at Exposure, a contest in the USA which is the biggest girls’ in the world.
This year, Roxana gave an interview for a New York skateboard magazine named Oh-So Magazine that will appear soon. She also appeared in a local skateboard magazine, named Dolores, with some photos of her tricks. Now, she works on some tricks for the next number of this magazine and more.
She integrated well in the community adn made lots of friends. She has a funny reputation because of the skate lessons and because lots of people know her by Roxana “la profesora”.
“Moving here has helped me a lot. Besides the good weather, the access to every skatepark, the community, I was lucky to receive a board, wheels, shoes when I needed them. I changed my board like 10 times and before I had a board for at least 6 months in Romania. Now I receive skateboards from Hydroponic, a local brand with a very good team. “
Sometimes, it is difficult to change your life so radically, and some people regret their choice. This is not the case when it comes to Roxana. She is happy in Barcelona and she is doing what she likes the most. But sometimes she misses her family and friends and she thought about coming back for a short time, on a holiday. She insists that she will never come back to her life before moving. She’s also thinking to move to the USA, where she believes she will have a better chance than in Barcelona.
“It remains to be seen if I will succeed. At the moment I am raising money, I am skateboarding and I enjoy sunny Barcelona as much as I can, while I am still here.”