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Interview with Max Ballesteros

Hey Max! This is our first interview together on Skate[Slate], can you help everyone know a bit more about you quick. How old are you? Where you from? Where you living?

I’m 26, born in Miami, Florida and raised in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. I’ve been living in San Diego, California since 2013. A lot of people don’t know or always wonder, but I have duel citizenship BRA/USA and I’m really grateful to have the freedom to live where I do or have in the past.

Are you working? Full time skating? School?

My life revolves around downhill skating and hitting event after event of the World Tour, when I’m back home in San Diego I have a part time job at Muir Skate. I went to graphic design school, but lost interest after I started traveling more overseas and haven’t done much with that since.

Max at pikes Peak. Jon Huey Photo.

Max at pikes Peak. Jon Huey Photo.

What got you going down hills? How long have you been skating?

Growing up as a kid I got my first skateboard when I was 12, I didn’t have any friends that skated or ideal place to practice tricks around my house, but I did have a steep hill just out front so it was natural to me to just start bombing straight down that hill. That was my first experience with skateboarding but I really got into skating at the age of 16, so almost a decade now!! Time flies…

How did you end up in California?

When I went on my first skate trip to California in 2012 I figured this would be one of the raddest places to live in and that stuck in my head! A year later I made it happen… sold my skateshop back home in Brazil, packed my things and hoped on a plane. Two years later i’m still here and things are just getting better and better, couldn’t had been a better move.

You are an incredible racer, but what do you prefer, race or freeride?

Thanks Les!! Well I do love both, there’s no feeling like being lined up for a final with some of the fastest guys on the scene, but freeriding and just having fun with your best mates is just too good. I think as of right now I would prefer freeriding over racing, just cause it’s more laid-back and there’s less pressure. Don’t get me wrong though I have a huge passion for racing and always will.

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What drives you to compete in racing?

Just the feeling of when you give all you got and go as fast as you have ever gone down that run, shoulder to shoulder with your opponent and you overcome your own limit on that one race heat it’s unreal… It feels like a tunnel vision and you get in the zone and nothing can stop you. That’s what drives me and I go after that feeling race after race!! When I do find it, I’ll most likely end up winning… but that state of mind and body doesn’t come around very often hahah, everything has to work out your way to.

Goofy or regular?

Regular!!

What’s your go to setup right now?

I have been working on this dream setup for the past couple of years. I’m lucky to ride for the brands that I do and have helped me create this board:

Bustin Boards Max B. promodel prototype, Ronin Pro Lites Signature Series 154/164 spaceble hangers with 2.5 rake and 45/35 baseplates, Rad Ballesteros Influence wheels 74mm/61cp/77a, Hondar Skate Biltin Ceramic bearings, Hondar Skate Super Grip.

It feels perfect to me, it’s really comfortable, agile, fast, grippy and really fun for any hill. I feel locked in to my board almost as one! Super stoked with it!!!

You just got a Rider Approved Designs signature wheel right? Congrats! Can you tell us a bit about your wheel?

Indeed I did and i’m super thankful for this opportunity I have had with Radl!! Since the start when I got on the team i’ve always wanted to add a faster wheel to our lineup, that day finally came and even better it became my pro model. This wheel is based off the Advantage mold, but its 3mm wider with a 61mm contact patch. Also it has a thicker inner lip to give more support and it grabs the pavement really well making it grippier. We tested several urethanes and different durometers throughout the year and I ended up picking the high rebound 77a, because its incredibly fast, grippy, and durable.

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I really like that each signature wheel is unique and not just branded. How long did you prototype for?

We’ve been prototyping all year, since January… It’s a long waiting game between testing and getting new protos made but well worth it at the end!

When you race, my guess is you will select the best wheel for the track? Or will you focus on riding only your wheel?

I’ll most likely race next season just on my wheel, I already tested it on all different styles of tracks and it works great in all of them!! So i’m hyped to race on all terrains with it!!!

You also recently got a signature Ronin Truck? Is there something special we should know about as well?

The Ronin Signature Series just differs on the color ways, the trucks remains the same. Mine is the green/gold pro lites and the green/yellow cast trucks. The cool thing about Ronin is that you can choose so many variations, like 4 different size axles or even 2 in 1 with the spaceble option, there’s 5 different baseplate 45/40/35/30/20 so the combinations are endless. Now you can also get the 2.5 raked hangers which I have been digging a lot lately!

I really dig your logo, that eye is fly. Where did it come from? What does it represent?

The eye idea came a while ago, i’ve been rocking it since 2012 on my aerolid and it represents the third eye. There’s superstition behind it that it gives you higher perception and super powers, in my case it makes me faster!! hahaha… Some people think its an Illuminati eye but no, nothing really to do with that.

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What’s 2015 been like for you generally. Can you share a couple of your favourite highlights?

2015 was a crazy year for me, I had a lot of exciting things happening developing my signature series line, traveling a ton and I felt like I was skating at my all time best but I had a serious bad luck streak. It started at Maryhill and for 5 IDF tour races in a row I got either involved on a crash or taken out on the early rounds of racing. I nearly thought about stop racing or giving it a break, but I kept on going and after I went to China and won the race there it seemed like the bad luck went away. My favorite highlight of the year was definitely winning Teutonia against Douglas Dalua, it was probably one of the top 3 achievements I wanted to do in my racing career and it finally happened, its the fastest race in the world and its so legendary… since I started racing this was the one I wanted to win the most.

Congrats on Teutonia! That’s really a huge win! How do you prepare for that kind of drop? And that kind of race? Do you do anything special mentally or physically different than other races? Or do you just go for it?

Thanks man, I was really stoked to get this win!! Fuck, I don’t know what to do for training… a couple years back prior to the race I used to go skate some really fast hills before and try to skate more rough pavement as well, also train my balance and all that… and for the past three years I haven’t really practiced for it and its funny cause I made the finals those three years. Also this was my 7th year racing Teutonia so I already know the road really well and i’m just used to it, I guess there is no real training for that hill since there’s nothing like it anywhere else… you just gotta go for it and you either have it in you or you don’t! But most of all you just gotta go for the experience and live it up!!

Were you riding your wheels?

I was riding one of the proto’s of my wheel, same shape, same urethane formula but in different color… this one was black and it was also really fast but I didn’t like how it slid and the grip wasn’t as good! That’s why I decided to stick with the white thane that we tested earlier on the year.

With achieving that goal, is there a new goal? What tracks inspire you most right now?

I have a couple of goals in my mind but I rather keep it to my self for now, but definitely one of them is to win the World Cup series and that has never been a secret. Hope I get a good shot at it this next season. Some of the tracks that inspire me the most are the one’s that are really fast and challenging, like Kozakov and Angie’s Curves which unfortunately is not a part of the circuit anymore… I’m lucky I still get to skate it every once in a while cause I only live 50min away and its awesome to just fast freeride there, the haybales make it way scarier.

What was Yuping Cup race in China like? We had a raw run with you, Billy and Yates. Does China have the potential to be a new World Cup destination?

The Yuping Cup was really a unique experience for me, by being my first time in Asia and the fans there are so hyped on skating and meeting foreigners, everyone is so welcoming and it just makes the whole experience intense. The location and track are great, they have everything we need for a high level event, but unfortunately I thought the track was going to be faster. I was a little disappointed once I skated for the first time, there’s lots of flats and very little steep sections so we only reach speeds of about 70km/h and you only gotta drift twice so i’m not sure if it would be worthy of a World Cup race. The Chinese scene is very young but it is growing rapidly, in my opinion the Yuping Cup track is great for a WQS event and for everyone there to grow their skills on, so maybe in 2017 they can find a new hill and who knows we can then have a World Cup class event in China for the next couple of years. Well, anyways I’m not the one to be making these decisions hahah… nonetheless I would love to go back next year!

What are your plans for 2016?

Next year is still in the air, I haven’t planned much yet… I know I do want to keep competing on the tour, we will see what happens. I still have the stoke in me and I want to try and do my best ever next season and try to go for a World title campaign!!

Thanks for taking time to chat with me and share with everyone. Congrats on the new wheel! And all the best for 2016 World title!

Anything you would like to leave us with?

Thank you Les, it’s been a pleasure chatting with you!! And yeah for sure, I just want to thank all my sponsors and everyone that supports me somehow and shares a skate life with me, it’s been a hell of a ride and I hope to keep it going for as long as I can. To everyone out there just remember to just go out have fun and always ride safe!! Peace, see you on the hills!!!

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