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Cubatao, Sao Paulo, Brazil “My City” with Akira Shiroma
My City is a Volcom video series showcasing the Latin American Skate Team as they take us through their hometowns, showing us where they grew up skating and what struggles they had to overcome along the way.
In episode seven of My City we visit Akira Shiroma from Cubatao, Sao Paulo, Brazil. The 27-year old skateboarder lives on the coast of Cubatao, a city in the populous state of Sao Paulo. With a very large industrial zone encompassing the area, in the past, Cubatao faced a constant influx of pollution and grimy, disheveled roadways. In fact, in the '80s, it was considered by the United Nations as one of the most polluted cities in the world, nicknamed "Valley of Death," a label that would drive away any individual, skateboarder or not. However, with the industry unions, local communities, and government assistance, the city has been able to control pollution levels and restore them back to reasonable levels.
The other issue that faced the region, at least for Akira and his friends, was a strong disapproval of skateboarding. Maybe it wasn't even the act of skateboarding itself, but the lack of understanding of the skateboard culture and what it provides outside of a recreation: a sense of community, creativity, and to reach for something further, among other things. When Akira was younger, he and his friends were condemned by the community for simply being a skateboarder. As Akira recalls:
It took a long time to gain some acceptance of skateboarding in Sao Paulo, and today, it is much more popular, not just in Sao Paulo, but worldwide. And you would like to think that an activity, like skateboarding, which starts to gain traction amongst like-minded individuals in major cities throughout the world, will soon be ubiquitous. And it did. Happily for Akira, the idea of transitioning skateboarding from hobby to profession soon started to sound like a viable option.
Cubatao does not have many street places to skate as spots are either non-existent or unrideable. Although, close to his house, there is Anilinas Park which includes a skate bowl that he loves and actually where he grew up skating. In addition, he is constalty finding places to skate in various places throughout Sao Paulo and Santos, which are both very close to Cubatao. In Sao Paulo, specifically, he typically skates at Praca Roosevelt and a few other spots in the center of the city.
While the region of Cubatao gets hit with sudden rainfalls and lightning storms, it doesn't pose much of a threat in comparison to nearby regions. Abundant rains downpour in the warmer summer months, followed by a mild and sub-dry winter season, leaving Akira to stomp out his sessions and tricks when it’s dry and the weather is tolerable. Interesting to note that neither Sao Paulo or the nearby coast has ever been hit by a tropical cyclone and tornado activity is very uncommon.
Cubatao is where Akira calls home. Where he grew up skating spots anywhere he could roll his skateboard. With minimal traveling under his belt, sub-par skate spots, and a society that’s just starting to recognize skateboarding as a credible profession, Akira has made a name for himself inside and outside of Cubatao. And he's not done yet.