International News: Brazil

With an increasing number of Brazilian skateboarders entering and doing rather well in skate contests around the world comes a growing curiosity as to what’s actually going on in Brazil. Are we witnessing a recent breakthrough in skateboarding’s popularity among Brazilians, or has it been kicking ass for some time now?

According to all three parties interviewed in this article and studies by companies like Datafolha, the estimated number of skateboarders in Brazil for 2003 is close to three-million, the majority of whom are in the state of São Paulo. Also, an estimated 90-percent male and ten-percent female ratio includes mainly individuals between fourteen and 24 years of age. However, these numbers may rise as the industrial economy strives for improvement.

Some recent issues of the Brazilian skate magazine 100% document journeys to interior towns and the Amazon in search of some isolated skate spots in Brazil. Their objective was to reveal the birth and survival of skateboarding even in places unimaginable. What does that have to do with the industry? The Brazilian industry is revealing a strong desire to promote and encourage skateboarding and its growth, even in the most impoverished regions of the country.

Ciro Nogueira of Moska and Up Trucks in São Paulo explains one of the problems for the Brazilian skate market: “Few are actually consumers of skate items, due to an extremely low purchasing power,” Sergio Bellinetti of Crail Trucks in Rio de Janeiro agrees: “The biggest challenge we are living with today is that of rescuing the skateboarders from the grand purchasing power. In Brazil, the majority of skaters are kids from homes of low income.” Both Nogueira and Bellinetti say that it is for this reason that sales are higher where products are cheaper. The Brazilian industry appears to take into great consideration the low purchasing power of the majority of consumers. It continues to make decisions that encourage the growth of skateboarding for anyone and everyone with the passion in them.

Many Brazilian decks are made from Paraguayan maple of the White Guatambu species. While Canadian maple is notably more durable, to import it and effectively produce boards from it in Brazil is simply too expensive. Paraguayan maple is easily available, has a sufficient hardness to it (825kg/cm2), and produces a board that, according to Nogueira, costs one-third that of an American deck price. Nogueira is a specialized engineer in urethane elastomers and has been manufacturing Moska wheels since 1988. Moska is a popular brand that makes dual-durometer wheels, high-rebound wheels, a medium-rebound wheel and a low-rebound wheel (their cheapest). “Our raw materials come from U.S. and European suppliers like Bayer, Basf, and Arch,” says Nogeira. His company is also gaining international recognition for its UP trucks, which was invented by Nogueira himself. He calls it “an innovative design with many advantages over the conventional trucks,” adding that “They’re 30 percent lighter in some cases.”

The passion in Brazilian skateboarders does not seem to be lacking, nor does the development of at least some companies, like Nogueira’s, involved with skateboarding. But according to Renan Maurice of Simex (the Brazilian distributor for DVS Shoe Co.), there exists a small number of companies that are technologically developed enough to meet the demanding market. “Particularly in the case of skate teams, which have largely been provided for by means of import,” says Maurice.

Nogueira explains that the fall of the purchasing power within the last two years has negatively impacted profit margins, which consequently influences the decisions of businessmen in the industry toward investing in sponsorship of skateboarders and competitions. “In spite of this,” says Nogeira, “China has not invaded our market. As skateboard consumers read magazines that specialize in skateboarding, they look to buy well-known brands that invest inn the skateboarding industry.”

Maurice says one of the major challenges is overcoming that lack of investment. He explains, “There are practically no investors prepared or willing to join the skateboarding market. There aren’t many that realize that the sum of their efforts could contribute to the growth of the market.” He attributes this to a lack of professionalism. Many times Maurice finds companies joined the market without the necessary business preparation. “That destimulates the investor in general,” Maurice says, “and consequently makes development difficult.”

However, Maurice reports a calculated ten-percent annual growth in the skate market. In São Paulo alone, at least 42 public skate ramps have been built near playgrounds, soccer fields, and city parks. Bellineti says that at least one ramp is built every month with government incentive. There was also the recent construction of one of the largest skate parks in Latin America, the Plasma Radical Skate Park. “Only in the state of São Paulo does there exist more than 200 skate ramps,” says Maurice. In Brazil there are at least 700.

Simex and Crail are only two of the important distributors in Brazil. Others include Brutus, Plimax, and Skate Two. Popular national brands are Drop-Dead, Qix, New Skate, and Maha. And among the well-known foreign brands there are DVS, Lakai, Globe, Reef, Independent, Bones, and Etnies.

The skate market in Brazil is gradually improving due to an increasing collective interest in economic growth, and a swell in the support of skateboarding could potentially contribute to a positive future for the Brazilian economy as well. “The recent economic goals attained by the government,” says Maurice, “will without a doubt bring significant benefits for the growth of the economy, as well as a better purchasing power for the general population.” Because skateboarding is occupying the hearts and energy of so many there, we should expect to see the Brazilian skate scene continue toward a positive evolution.