Meet Mariana — the surfskate champion who tested the Bolt Flying Carpet

Apr 21, 2023

bolt flying carpet

At Bolt, we already have shared cars, scooters and e-bikes to help cities solve urban problems. But sometimes, we like to put our wizard hat on (the cool Pharrell Williams type) and imagine what other magical mobility devices could fix our cities.

That’s how we ended up building a prototype of the Bolt Flying Carpet and inviting Portuguese national surf champion and world surfskate winner Mariana Rocha Assis to test it out. We had a chat with Mariana about her life, career, and experience riding the first-ever Bolt Flying Carpet.

Interview with Mariana Rocha Assis

Olá, Mariana! How are you doing? Tell the readers a little bit about who you are.

Hi all! I’m Mariana Rocha Assis, and I’m from Estoril, Portugal. I started surfing at the age of 9 (on Praia da Poça, Cascais) and travelling the world to compete when I turned 10. The highlights of my athletic career have been winning the World Surfskate Championship in 2017 and becoming the Portuguese National Champion [in surfing] in 2016.

In my parallel world, I graduated in Marketing and Advertising at IADE [in 2020] and started working as the brand team manager and video editor at SmoothStar.

Let’s pretend we’re your best friend. How would we describe you as a person?

I actually asked my best friend for the answer to be as truthful as possible. 😄

“The word that best describes Mariana is a gladiator. She has the most injuries out of everyone I know and still isn’t afraid to take risks. No hurdles stop her or slow her down. Mariana is always testing her limits rather than staying in her comfort zone. That seems to be her mission on planet Earth.”

How did the athlete journey start for you, and who was your main source of inspiration?

It was my grandfather who inspired me to take up surfing, although he never tried it himself. But he lived opposite the Praia da Poça beach (Estoril) and understood the surf culture. So, one day he asked me if I wanted to become a professional surfer. He drafted a contract between us that read that if I wanted to become a surfer, I had to surf every day for a year, even if I felt like I had enough. 

He taught me self-discipline and sticking to the rules. I ‘signed the contract’, and he motivated me to train every day. My grandfather also taught me that all our choices influence our future, and we should always do what we love and give it our 100%. Afterwards, I joined Surftechnique, a surf school run by David Raimundo and Nuno Telmo, that I still belong to. 

Skateboarding appeared later in my life when I was 14 years old, but I always did it as a side hobby. However, in 2017, my sponsors wanted me to compete, and it went well — I won! Long story short: I’m now 25 years old and have travelled all over the world, but I have also done something that I find very important — I have never stopped studying.

What does surfing give you, and has it changed you as a person?

Surfing has given me the life that I live today. I’m lucky enough to have travelled the 5 continents of the world, learned about cultures, and met new people who have become friends for life.

It has taught me to enjoy the taste of victory but also handle the multiple losses and learn from my mistakes. And, well, of course, it has led me to work with the best brands in the surf and skate world and now, with Bolt. This is, without doubt, a source of pride.

Let’s talk about the girls’ longboarding culture. Would you say that it’s become bigger, and why?

Yes, the girls longboarding community has definitely grown a lot. For many years, skateboarding was considered a man’s sport, so there weren’t many women practising it. 

Nowadays, it’s normal to see girls skateboarding, which is empowering to see. I think that the big growth of the skate culture (for both men and women) is also due to the fact that skateboarding is an Olympic sport. In fact, it was the 4th most commented sport worldwide during the Olympic Games.

Do you have any advice for girls who would like to start skating but need some encouragement?

My big advice is to start by finding a coach or a mentor who can teach you to skate and, funnily enough, to fall. Falling is especially dangerous if you don’t know how to do it. Also, nowadays, there are a lot of female longboarding communities that are very supportive of each other, so I’d advise them to join one.

Skating requires nice urban planning that allows enough room to move freely. Which are your favourite cities to skate in? 

I love the city I was born in, Cascais in Portugal. I skate there a lot, from Sao Joao do Estoril to Cascais, which is a distance of about 4 km. I can skate the whole way just looking at the beach and the beautiful sea. 

From other European cities, I really like Amsterdam. I love to skate there because everything’s flat, and the infrastructure prioritises bikes over cars. It’s a real dream destination for those enjoying alternative ways to get around over cars.

And at only 25 years of age, you’ve also managed to found and run an NGO. Tell us a little bit more about it. 

The nonprofit is called The Proud Surfers in Women of Africa (SOMA), and it aims to empower women and combat gender inequality and early pregnancy in African countries through surfing. 

I started SOMA three years ago, and we already work in 4 territories. In one year, we managed to help 90 girls and do 2 interventions with 384 hours of surfing and 144 hours in SOMA classrooms.

The programme is built to promote higher self-esteem, proactivity, and social and verbal skills for girls. Other than the element of surf, here’s what the programme contains:

Psycho Education: Once a week, our SOMAs have a group psychotherapy session where they learn how to identify and express emotions, seek help, and process trauma.

Academic Support: Created to foster a love for learning and increase school success rates, our classroom is a focused space where girls can study, do their homework, and develop lifelong learning skills.

Women Empowerment: Once a week, SOMA organises activities that promote self-esteem and confidence, such as debates on the role of women, sexual education, and many other workshops.

Being a pro athlete, working full-time, and running an NGO, makes us think — how do you fit everything into one day?

I normally wake up at 7 a.m. and work until lunchtime. Then I always make some time to surf, and if I can, I skate too. Then I work again until 8 p.m. All in all, I think the secret sauce is that most of what I do doesn’t feel like work to me. 

So, now we get to the final question… What made you say yes to trying out the first Bolt Flying Carpet and participating in the video?

To be honest, I don’t usually work with brands that aren’t my sponsors. But when this invite landed in my inbox, I thought, “I want to be part of this!” Not only because Bolt is a brand that I use in my everyday life, but because all the values that the brand represents align with mine. 

I gladly support projects that have an impact on sustainability and innovation and are completely out of the box, like this one. Also, the flying carpet was very fun to ride throughout the city. It turned a lot of heads and caused people to take out their phones or ask me if they could try it. 😄

Okay, we lied; this is the final question. Do you have any recommendations for people visiting Portugal? What are your top three locations?

My top 3? That’s simple! All my top 3 locations are in Cascais — it’s a magical place for me, so please do visit. It’s only a 20-minute train ride from Lisbon.

Cities of the future

You don’t need a Bolt Flying Carpet to travel sustainably, though. We offer a number of alternatives to private cars to help you get around safely and in comfort whenever you need to move.

Want to learn more about our mission? See how we’re making cities for people, not cars.

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