Famous for its bootlegs, Brazil develops strong domestic brands and broadens U.S. imports.

Brazil is one of the largest countries in the Americas. With an area of about 3.3-million square miles (8.5-million square kilometers), its long coastline borders the Atlantic Ocean while its interior encompasses almost half of the Amazon rain forest. Brazil’s 171-million inhabitants are spread among 26 states and one federal district, and the majority are found in the southern cities of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. To the west and north, Brazil borders Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Guyana, French Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay, and Venezuela.

While Brazil’s heavy industries are limited to textiles, shoes, chemicals, cement, and lumber, in the 1970s Brazilian skaters began to make their own skateboards using roller-skate trucks and wheels. This small skateboard movement would start what is now a favorite pastime among Brazilian youth, and a steady national industry.

The first skateboard manufactured in Brazil, the Torlay, was made by toy company O Bandeirante. Later the BKPro board appeared, which was a copy of popular American boards of the time. The wider Vortex skateboard soon appeared with trucks and wheels that closely resembled Trackers and Road Riders, respectively.

The government in Brazil is very protective of its national industries, including small firms and trademarks, and it offers incentives that promote internal commerce. This is one factor that contributed to the creation of an independent Brazilian skateboard market in the 1980s and made it possible for domestic skateboard brands to develop. With a degree of protection, many companies began illegally copying American brands that were popular among Brazilian skaters. In one case, popular skater Beto Alva, who actually resembles the infamous Tony Alva, used the Alva name on his own line of shoes.

The Brazilian skate industry became notorious in the 80s for bootlegging the names and logos of popular American brands that were unable to challenge the politically sheltered Brazilian companies. To make matters worse, American products weren’t widely available in Brazil, so few skaters could compare the inferior bootleg product to the real thing. Tracker, Sims, Vision, and Alva are a few names still used by unauthorized Brazilian manufacturers. The problem goes far beyond just skateboard equipment, but at least now more distributors are importing name-brand skateboard products from the U.S., and Brazilian skaters can now easily identify inferior bootleg brands.

Just about every type of skateboard product is currently manufactured in Brazil. Boards, wheels, trucks, as well as softgoods and shoes are made in Brazilian factories under Brazilian brand names. Board companies include Son, Formigao, Perfect Line, Stage, Evil Track, and Cush. Domestic trucks are made under the Crail, Tracker, and Crazy brands, with Crail exporting its products all over South America and into the U.S. The most notable wheel company is Moska, which in the last couple years has begun producing high-quality urethanes. Other popular brands in the Brazilian skate market include New Skate Rock, Drop Dead, Narina, Maha, and Rude Boy.

Brazil even manufactures its own lines of skate shoes. Qix is one popular brand with a good reputation for high-quality shoes¿now that it isn’t copying American brands. Freedom Fog is another popular shoe brand that has an excellent team and a thorough promotional program that includes ads, demos, and tours throughout the country.

Most of the approximately one-million skaters in Brazil live in the city of São Paulo, where there are more skateparks, media, and all the opportunities a great city can offer. Still, one must wonder how a country where the streets are rough and the annual per-capita income is 6,300 dollars can produce so many amazing skaters. Sixteen-year-old street-wizard Rodrigo Teixeira says it’s simple: “When y don’t have good conditions to skateboard, you try harder because you really like to skate. And you learn to ride your best anywhere. When you come to America and everything is perfect¿ramps, streets, and contest courses¿it makes it easier.”

There are many skateparks around the country, but Brazil is so big that it’s difficult to get to them all. Some of the most famous and often-visited are Drop Dead Skatepark in Curitiba, Paco Municipal in São Bernardo do Campo, Tribal Skatepark in Brasilia, Rio Sul in Rio de Janeiro, the mini ramp in Piracicaba, Pista do Nautico in Ararangua, and Flamboymt Park in Goiana. But like in the rest of the world, street skating reigns in Brazil, partly due to the large urban cities where there aren’t any anti-skateboarding laws. At one popular street spot in the very center of São Paulo, Vale do Anhangabau, skaters, punks, and average pedestrians share the sidewalks every sunny day to have fun.

Brazil enjoys a tropical climate, and skaters can therefore enjoy year-round riding. As in California, this has helped produce several local legends: Bob Burnquist, Lincoln Ueda, Cristiano Matheus, Sandro Dias, Rodrigo Teixeira, Fabrizio Dos Santos, Rodil de Araujo, Nilton Urina, Carlos de Andrade, Rogerio Mancha, Biano Bianchini, Og, nine-year-old Karen Feitosa, and others.

Amateur and women’s contests are very frequent in Brazil, with three or four occasionally occurring on the same weekend. Pro contests happen about four times a year. Contests are very important promotional tools for Brazilian skateboard companies, so sponsored skaters are virtually required to enter them and place well. This forces ams to train hard and win some events before they can turn pro.

Brazil has developed many different niches within its skateboard market. Longboarding became popular a couple years ago, spawning its own magazine, 40 Polegadas. In 1995 Lisa Araujo and ZN Skate Park hosted the Check It Out Girls contest, and since then, women’s skateboarding has been the biggest area to develop in the last five years. Most major domestic brands now have their own women’s teams: Drop Sista (Drop Dead), Maha, Sugar Free (Diet), Narina Angels (Narina), Crail, and Billabongirls.

Domestic magazines play an important role in Brazilian skateboarding. Popular titles include Tribo, 100%, Method, Rio Skate Mag, Observer, and Check It Out Girls. Tribo is by far the largest; it was founded by skater and journalist Cesar Gyrao, who’s been following skate history with a passion that shows in his work. Edited by skater and photographer Alexandre Vianna, 100% is a more recent, but good-quality magazine that focuses on the new generation. Method focuses on northern Brazil, just as Rio Skate Mag covers the Rio de Janeiro scene. Check It Out Girls was created in 1995 to give women skaters coverage that was lacking in the other skate mags. Originally black-and-white, Check It Out Girls is now full-color, bilingual in Portuguese and English, and covers all facets of the feminine skateboard world.

As in other parts of the world, skateboarding is very popular with mainstream audiences. Several new consumer-product commercials and ads feature skateboarding on television, radio, and in general-interest magazines. There is also a weekly televison spot presented by skater Cesinha Chaves on the ESPORTV channel every Saturday that includes information about Brazilian and international skating. Commercials for yogurt, chocolates, dishwasher detergents, and cereals all feature skateboarding, and in turn help popularize skateboarding in Brazil.

Some of the most important developments in the Brazilian skateboard market in the past few years are higher-profile contests, like the annual World Cup Skateboarding events, and the disappearance of many bootleg brands; this is partly due to the increased investments U.S. skateboard companies are making in sending their teams to Brazil and opening proper distribution channels. The influx of original product allows Brazilian skaters to more easily identify bootlegs.

The vast majority of skateboard products in Brazil are sold through specialty stores. Domestic brands are much cheaper than heavily taxed U.S. imports and therefore sell much better. The strong U.S. dollar has recently caused prices of American-made goods to rise further. For example, a pair of Brazilian-made trucks might cost twelve to 25 dollars (U.S.), while an American-made pair would be 65 dollars (U.S.). American skateboard products are beginning to sell better as companies are advertising more in Brazilian skateboard media, but the prices are still far beyond the means of the average Brazilian skater.

Click here for interviews with Brazilian distributors.

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BRAZILIAN DISTRIBUTORS

Atlantico
51-593-6070 ph
51-594-5408 FAX

Brooklyn Warehouse
Rua Junquis 273, cj12
São Paulo-SP, Brazil 04081-010
Phone/FAX: 11-542-8096
Distributes: 5boro, Infamous, I-Path, and Rookie.

Brutus Distribution
Av. Miguel Stefano, 533
São Paulo-SP Brazil
Phone: 11-5071-8850 or 11-5071-0783
E-mail: distribuidora@brutus.com.br
Distributes: Bones, Bullet, Destructo, 411VM, Jessup, NMB, Orion, Powell, Reds, Spitfire, Titan, Venture, and Santa Cruz.

California Distribuidora
Av. Vila Ema, 4981
São Paulo, Brazil
Phone/FAX: 11-6911-6322, 11-6911-2098, 11-6916-5460, or 11-6911-2672.
Distributes: Sole Technology (éS, Etnies, and Emerica)
E-mail: esetnies@dtlink.com.br

Maze Skate Shop
Rua 24 de Maio, 62
Loja 460, São Paulo-SP, Brazil 01041-000
Phone: 11-3361-7061 or 11-222-4552
E-mail: maze@macbbs.com.br

Skate Power
Rua Senador Flaquer,970
Santo André, SP, Brazil 09010-160
Phone: 11-4992-4747
skatepower.com.br
Distributes: Powell, Bones, and Reds.

Click here for interviews with Brazilian distributors.ard companies are making in sending their teams to Brazil and opening proper distribution channels. The influx of original product allows Brazilian skaters to more easily identify bootlegs.

The vast majority of skateboard products in Brazil are sold through specialty stores. Domestic brands are much cheaper than heavily taxed U.S. imports and therefore sell much better. The strong U.S. dollar has recently caused prices of American-made goods to rise further. For example, a pair of Brazilian-made trucks might cost twelve to 25 dollars (U.S.), while an American-made pair would be 65 dollars (U.S.). American skateboard products are beginning to sell better as companies are advertising more in Brazilian skateboard media, but the prices are still far beyond the means of the average Brazilian skater.

Click here for interviews with Brazilian distributors.

+——————-+

BRAZILIAN DISTRIBUTORS

Atlantico
51-593-6070 ph
51-594-5408 FAX

Brooklyn Warehouse
Rua Junquis 273, cj12
São Paulo-SP, Brazil 04081-010
Phone/FAX: 11-542-8096
Distributes: 5boro, Infamous, I-Path, and Rookie.

Brutus Distribution
Av. Miguel Stefano, 533
São Paulo-SP Brazil
Phone: 11-5071-8850 or 11-5071-0783
E-mail: distribuidora@brutus.com.br
Distributes: Bones, Bullet, Destructo, 411VM, Jessup, NMB, Orion, Powell, Reds, Spitfire, Titan, Venture, and Santa Cruz.

California Distribuidora
Av. Vila Ema, 4981
São Paulo, Brazil
Phone/FAX: 11-6911-6322, 11-6911-2098, 11-6916-5460, or 11-6911-2672.
Distributes: Sole Technology (éS, Etnies, and Emerica)
E-mail: esetnies@dtlink.com.br

Maze Skate Shop
Rua 24 de Maio, 62
Loja 460, São Paulo-SP, Brazil 01041-000
Phone: 11-3361-7061 or 11-222-4552
E-mail: maze@macbbs.com.br

Skate Power
Rua Senador Flaquer,970
Santo André, SP, Brazil 09010-160
Phone: 11-4992-4747
skatepower.com.br
Distributes: Powell, Bones, and Reds.

Click here for interviews with Brazilian distributors.