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A JOURNEY ON FOUR WHEELS with Andrea Benítez

Andrea has been around for ages, shredding the streets since way back when it was still a crime. She grew up in a small town in the South of Spain only to become one of the most acclaimed skaters in the country and the first woman to skate in the Olympics. Now she seems to be working towards her future and even has her own brand. She seems pretty much ready to take over the world…

Portrait by Roger Ferrero

Words: Letícia Nogueira

Photos: Raisa Abal and Roger Ferrero

Andrea, you’ve come such a long way! You’re now based in Madrid, correct? But can you tell us a little bit about your background and your hometown? How was it like, growing up skating in Algeciras? It seems so far away from everything!

Yeah I am! I was born in Algeciras, Cádiz, and lived there until I was 20. Then I got a scholarship to study in Poland for a year and it was amazing. From there, I started travelling more and moved to Barcelona for a couple of years, and after that ended up in Madrid. It’s been approximately 4 years since I moved here and I really like it. I would say Algeciras is right where it has to be, it’s just a total different vibe from the big cities. I started skating there when I was 8. There was a generation of skaters older than me, and sometimes I would skate with them. But as I started growing up a bit more, some of this generation moved abroad, or started a family, or just had different priorities, (which, I understand of course) and as the scene has never been really big, sometimes I found myself really alone in terms of skating. I skated by myself multiple times and I hated it haha. Also we didn’t have a skatepark for many years, so I learned mostly in the streets. I filmed my first video part when I was 12 - it’s still on YouTube! My dad used to drive me in the weekends to different cities around there like Málaga or Cádiz, and I met a lot of skaters there and learned a lot.

What were some of the challenges you faced as a skateboarder back then? How did you get diagnosed with scoliosis and still went against doctor’s orders and skated?

Definitely the scoliosis was a big one. I was only 14 and had recently just gotten sponsored by the local surf/skate shop so I was trying on some t-shirts, when my mom realised that one of the shoulder blades of my back was protruding out too much. We went to the doctors and they told me I had a severe degree of scoliosis and that my spine was turning as I was growing up. The options they gave me were: either getting a risky surgery or using a rigid corset 23 hours a day. I wasn’t a big fan of any of the options but I went in for the corset. It was basically like a super rigid t-shirt that was pushing some of my bones and that made me stay in a “straight” posture all day. Of course the doctors told me I should stop skating immediately because it was basically going to be impossible for me and I could hurt myself, but I only believed that for a few days. I decided to try skating again, slowly, getting used to my new complexion and had to re learn everything I had learned before but honestly I made it through it like a champion. I was so little but I was already so stubborn. Skating definitely helped, I met a lot of amazing people even when I was going through hard times and it made me forget how mean can some kids be. I had the corset for two full years.

Kickflip between the trees - Photo by Raisa Abal

I also know that you completed your studies back in the day. What did you study and what did you plan to be when you ‘grew up’, if not a professional skateboarder?

I graduated in Electrical Engineering at UCA a couple of years ago. To be honest when I was little my dream was being a professional skateboarder, but there came a moment where I saw it as something impossible realistically. So my plan switched to finishing college there, and getting the f out of my hometown and work as an engineer and skate whenever I could. But when I was half way through college, skateboarding trips and opportunities started coming up, and specially the possibility of qualifying for the Olympics so I decided to move to Barcelona and try to continue my studies online. 

Tell me about a memorable experience that shaped your skateboarding journey?

For sure the tours with Vero and the Asiplanchaba gang. I was so little when we started with these tours and I have very fond memories of it. We weren’t that many female skateboarders back then and it was amazing to feel identified. I remember I was like 14 or 15 years old when I went on my first skate tour. 

I can imagine it being epic back then. And then, further along the road, how did it feel to be the first woman to skate the Olympics?

Well, to be honest at the moment when it was actually happening I wasn’t thinking or feeling that much. I was just trying to survive skating big stuff because I hadn’t slept at all in three days and I was incredibly jet lagged and anxious. But when it all happened I felt a big amount of happiness and I couldn’t stop smiling. It felt like a reward after these crazy years and specially with COVID and everything. I just wanted to go back home and hug my family and friends.

What does it mean to you to be able to represent for your sponsors? You skate for pretty big names in the industry…

I’m really thankful that they are supporting me. More than that, it just feels great to have sponsors that I actually like, and where I feel comfortable with my own skating and personality. Also, I feel like having a good relationship with the team mates makes it really fun. I’m really stoked on everything. Can’t wait for all the next trips to come.

Wallride - Photo by Roger Ferrero

Recently, you’ve gone on to create your own skate brand, TIMELESS. What’s your vision for the brand and what inspired you to start it? 

Actually I wouldn’t call it a skate brand. TIMELESS is a creative collective and jewelry/clothing brand. I would say it’s an outcome for my creativity and the way I see skateboarding. Not just as skateboarding itself, but more as an artistic background, where people express themselves. I’ve always appreciated fashion and accessories, and I feel like it can really affect our mood and precisely our skating. So I figured, why not design my own stuff? I think it’s growing, slowly but surely and I’m really happy about the shape it’s getting. I started a little blog on the website, where I weekly interview artists, musicians, or skateboarders that inspire me. I called it MEET. On the other hand, I thought it would be interesting to share a video part every Friday, to help the readers get motivated for the weekend, and I called it FRIDAY PARTS. Not gonna lie I’ve skipped some posts lately, sometimes it’s very overwhelming to manage everything, but I promise I’m going to get back on track. I’ve been also designing some new pieces coming out in the end of the year…

I also heard you’ve gone back to uni? What are you studying now? Do you have a vision for what direction you want to take in your life?

Yes, this year I started a Masters in Graphic Design and Digital Marketing. I like engineering, and I’m really happy I have finished it, but my interests have evolved more in a creative direction lately. Also I’ve been working with some fashion brands and agencies on content creating for a while now, and that’s why I got interested in marketing and graphic design. I love being a skateboarder and also being able to work in the creative industry as a freelance. I’m glad I’m able to do both things. I would say I’m exactly doing what the little me always wanted to do and I want to stay in this direction.

Follow Andrea and her project Timeless Skate Co.

Portrait by Roger Ferrero.

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