While Mariah Duran stood on stage in Los Angeles with her Olympic skateboarding teammates on June 21, she became emotional after the reality set in that she is America’s top-ranked female street skateboarder headed to the Tokyo Olympics to represent USA and Albuquerque, where she grew up.
Duran, 24, described her journey as “insane,” coming from Albuquerque to becoming a skateboarding star with her own shoe (Adidas Superstar Duran), traveling around the world for competition and promotions to becoming an Olympian for the inaugural competition at the Games.
“I kept skating for the love of it, and for it to come this far, the Olympics and skateboarding to be in the same sentence, is just unreal for me,” Duran said. She is a 2015 graduate of Manzano High School, where she competed in softball and basketball until her senior year when she focused solely on skateboarding. “Coming from New Mexico where there’s not many girl skaters, not that many skaters, and it’s not as poppin’ as California and for me to still get to the level that I’m at, it’s unreal. It’s really crazy.”
For the past 14 years, skateboarding has been a big part of Duran’s life — each session progressing from when she was a little girl in Albuquerque learning with her two brothers, Elijah (25) and Ezekiel “Zeke” (20), and developing to what many see from her today.
Elijah and Zeke also skate and compete. Duran said she learned from them and the three siblings push each other to improve and excel.
The key to becoming an elite skateboarder is the ability to adapt to your surroundings, Duran said.
“In Albuquerque you definitely have to adapt,” Duran said during a phone interview while in Los Angeles, where she is training. “I would say Albuquerque has definitely built me into the skater I am today. If I didn’t grow up there I would not be the person I am today, at the level I am at today. It taught me a lot.”
Part of Duran’s progression included travel, as in leaving Albuquerque to gain higher-level experiences at different skate parks and with other skaters. This is not meant as a put-down on Albuquerque, Duran said. She believes Albuquerque is still growing as a skating community.
“It’s popular here, but it’s not like California,” Duran said. “It’s not as common. The skate scene in Albuquerque is still growing. For some people it’s a little bit harder to get on the map if you’re not from California. But also there is social media that opens that window as well.”
Duran gained attention through competitive events, winning and standing on the podium at X Games and other international events.
“It’s been pretty cool just watching it all evolve and play out for her,” her brother Elijah said. “We all kind of started out together and then pursued skateboarding. We all picked up sponsors locally and it kept on progressing. It’s kind of surreal that it never stopped. That’s the beautiful thing about skateboarding: that progression never really stops.”
Duran thought of home and her family when she helped design her Adidas shoe, which has her autograph on the insole. On the heel is a cactus, a reminder of the deserts in the Southwest. In between the stripes there are three stars. That reminds her of her two brothers and their skateboarding sister, skating together.
Their parents, Deanna and Anthony, were concerned initially about the injuries and adversity that usually come with skateboarding, but they fully support them.
“It’s a pretty basic shoe,” Duran said of the Adidas Superstar in her name. “I like the clean, white shoe. It’s a shoe you can wear for skating or to any other type of event. I was excited to collide those two things together.”
Duran keeps Albuquerque in mind while training in L.A. She misses New Mexican food, and of course Dion’s pizza. She is proud to say her one and only job was when she worked at Dion’s as she was finishing up at Manzano. She said she learned about discipline and hard work while working for the pizza place.
“I used the Dion’s money to invest into my skating to allow me to travel to places to skate, buy new skate gear,” she said. “Everything I did circled back to skating.”
While in L.A., Duran said she is doing her best to be prepared for the Olympics. She makes sure to get to the skate parks by 8 a.m. to beat the crowd. Some days there are two skate sessions for training, one in the morning and the other in the afternoon. She also has gym workouts.
She said she leaves for Tokyo on Wednesday. She is scheduled to compete in the women’s street preliminary event July 25 at 6 p.m. (MT).
“For me to sign with Adidas and get a shoe, and sign with Mountain Dew and get to travel the world and skate and to be a part of the Olympics it’s just so insane to me,” Duran said. “I’m just super blessed. I’m just doing the best I can to be prepared for the Olympics because it’s never been done. It’s crazy. I’m just along for the ride, and I’m super excited for how far I’ve come.”
High School: Manzano (Class of 2015)
Parents: Anthony and Deanna
Brothers: Elijah, Ezekiel
Shoe: Adidas Superstar Duran
Note: Mariah is the top-ranked female street skateboarder in the U.S.
Fun fact: Mariah worked at Dion’s Pizza and used her paychecks to fund her gear and travel to events.
Quote: “If I didn’t grow up (in Albuquerque) I would not be the person I am today, at the level I am at today.”
Tokyo Olympics: Women’s street skateboarding preliminary, 6 p.m., NBC