Becoming a continental champion is no easy feat. It means that you're traveling across multiple countries and competing among the best in that respected area of the globe. But to become a continental champion 4 years in a row?
Elissa Mah has been quietly taking victories over the past few years as she has been ranked the Asia Pacific national champion for 4-years running. We wanted to sit down with her to learn a bit more about her life on and off the board.. oh and today is her birthday!
Max Vickers (MV): Elissa, first thing's first, congratulations on yet another continental champion win. The world is wondering, what did you have for breakfast this morning?
Elissa Mah (EM): Thanks Max! I had a couple of toasted chocolate hot cross buns slathered with Olivani. Gluten/lactose/egg free of course - damn allergies. I stocked up on about six or so packs in my freezer before going away mwahaha.
MV: How are you feeling about the Asia / Pacific continental win?
EM: Happy, but a bit awkward about it because to be honest there isn't really anyone else in our region that goes for the continental title. There are definitely other ladies I've met in Asia/Pacific who could put up some strong competition - and probably take the title - but they don't race the whole circuit.
MV: What is your favorite race on the Asia / Pacific circuit?
EM: Ah that's a hard one... They're all good fun for different reasons! In terms of just purely the track alone, I'd have to say Arirang in Korea and Seaside in the Philippines. Both beautifully turny tracks, but fast and grippy in the case of seaside, and techy and drifty for Arirang. Tight corners are much more challenging for me, I've got a lot to learn.
MV: Have you noticed any significant changes on the Asia / Pacific circuit over the years?
EM: Yes - the scene in Asia-Pacific is growing! Each year I've been back the level of locals has improved, and there have been more internationals attending which is awesome to see. There have been more and more women competing each year too which is rad!
MV: What's been your favorite experience (apart from skating) that you've had while traveling the Asia / Pacific series?
EM: Siquijor adventures! Siquijor is a tiny little island in the Visayas in the Philippines (you can literally circumnavigate the island on a motorbike in something like 2 or 3 hours), and they used to host an event called VLT. We'd spend a week or so on the island cruising around on scooters, exploring waterfalls, snorkeling, sleeping in hammocks on the beach.... and skating of course. It was island life, pared back down to the basics. It's a time I will never forge
MV: What inspires you to get out and go downhill skateboard racing?
EM: Honestly? Seeing my friends from all over the world. One of the most exciting things about turning up at an event is seeing and hanging with everyone else from overseas again, some of whom I won't have seen for more than a year! I do also like being able to challenge myself on a closed road too, because we only really have one closed road event in NZ each year.
MV: How long have you been racing?
EM: Probably about 4 or 5 years? This is the third year I've done the Asia Pacific tour, and the year before that was the first year we had the Ruapehu Gravity Festival in NZ (which needs to be brought back!). And before then, there were a couple of local races such as the Wind Turbine in Wellington, and the Kaikoura Longboard Festival which is still ongoing.
MV: Tell us about the local skate community in NZ. Are you out skating with them on a weekly basis?
EM: We called ourselves Gnartearoa, a play on the Maori name for NZ, Aotearoa. It means "land of the long white cloud", or in our case, "land of the long wide board". Each main city has its own group (Garden City Sessions for us in Christchurch), but the scene as a whole is pretty tight.
I wish I could say I was out skating on a weekly basis but at the moment, it's more like once every two or three weeks as I've just been so busy with work and other life stuff. I still get out on my board several times a week, but as the majority of Christchurch is flat, most of this is cruising or dancing. We do have some amazing hills, but they're all along the southern edge of the city.
Follow Elissa's adventures on her Instagram and wish her a Happy Birthday: @_hazecat
Photos by: Yuji Fujiyama (@yuji.jpg)