Giovanni Vianna Interview By Alan Hannon

Giovanni Vianna Header 2000
When Giovanni first popped onto the scene, he was impossible to ignore—his long, flowing red hair trailing behind him as he attacked Brazil’s crustiest, gnarliest terrain. A fateful trip to LA helped connect the dots between Santo André and the States, and he quickly found himself on the Am Scramble and filming for Primitive’s Encore. Currently wrapping up a new video part after recovering from a knee injury nobody even knew about, Gio dishes on ultimate wedgies, his early YouTube vids and why he had to change his last name.

Gio packs his new part with a heavy blend of hammers and wild combos. Witness the return

Where are you from in Brazil?
I’m from Santo André. It’s a really good city. It’s close to São Paulo—one hour to downtown by car, but only like 45 minutes on the metro.

Something a lot of people might not know about you is that you have a video part from every single year of your life from age four or five, right?
I think the first one we started was when I was almost five. My father used to film me a lot and we’d make these videos to put on YouTube, so I have footage since I was four years old.

Giovanni Vianna Backlip Oslo burnydiego DZBig-ass gap to back lip, there’s still a little Volcom style left in the tank   Photo: Diego

How old were you when you started skating?
I started at two years.

You were two years old when you started skating?!
It’s kind of crazy but it’s true because I had a part when I was four. I remember my father telling me my first contest was when I was four, too.

But if you go on YouTube and search your name, you won’t find them.
No, you have to search for “Giovanni Galera,” which is my real last name.

Why did you change it?
There was already a pro skater from Brazil named Paulo Galera, and when I was growing up people would tell me, Gio, I think you have to change your last name to your middle name, because if not people will think you’re the next Paulo Galero. You’ll always be behind him since you have the same last name. I’m not 100 percent sure, but I don’t think his last name is actually Galera. I think it’s a nickname.

HIGH GiovaniVianna front50 PAPKE DZPrecarious frontside 5-0 high above the San Gabriel river. SoCal nature is beautiful    Photo: Papke

So you could have kept it.
Yeah. But I just said, Alright, let’s change it. At first it was kinda hard because everyone knew me as Giovanni Galera. I was going to the contests and all that shit and they’d go, What’s your name, Galero? And I’d go, No, it’s Vianna now. It was kinda crazy at the time, but things like that happen.

You recently showed me your Gingerzilian video part. I’d never seen it before. Explain that era of Gio, with the long hair skating in Brazil.
I always liked to have the long hair because my mom liked it and it’s kinda hard to cut. I got used to it; I’d never go to the barbershop. And I had kinda a different style when I was skating, too—kinda more Volcom style back in the day.

DSC 1343 DZPhoto: Diego

What do you mean by “more Volcom style”?
Kinda heavy metal, you know, like rock ‘n’ roll. And because of how the spots in Brazil are kinda hard to skate, I’m used to skating rails and all that.

So the long hair and crusty spots equals rock ‘n’ roll skating to you.
Yeah. That’s kinda funny.

How long did you have the long red hair for?
More than ten years. I cut it a couple of times but never very short.

You started skating at age two, your dad’s filming you, you’re putting footage out at four—at what point did you start getting sponsors?
I think I was eight years old.

What was your first one?
It was called VLCS. It’s a surf brand from Brazil. It was a huge sponsor at the time; they were doing big concerts and stuff. I was getting some random sponsors in Brazil then, like, I wanna give you three boards a month. I’m gonna give you two pairs of shoes a month.

Giovanni Vianna Pullquotes 1500 a month 2000
giovanni vianna skate 20230330 capetownSA joeyshigeomuellner 5238 morph DZCashing checks is great, but it’s better taking bluntslides to the bank    Photo: Diego

Brazil has its own skate industry. I think a lot of people don’t realize that. What was it like growing up there, breaking into the Brazilian skate industry and then being able to get sponsors outside of regional brands? Was Volcom the first one?
Yes, Volcom was the first. It’s kinda hard because when you’re young people aren’t for sure going to pay you, and that was hard. And they’re always going to give you less product. I think my max back in the day would be like five boards a month from my board sponsor. When I was 12 or 13 I was already known a little bit in Brazil. I was getting paid from my first clothing sponsor. I think it was $1,500 a month, which is good for a kid, you know? And with Volcom, I was getting $200 worth of clothes a month—just clothes, not money. But I stopped skating for the other brand that was paying me to skate for Volcom because I knew it was a good opportunity.

So you took a pay cut because you assumed it would help you get bigger global sponsors?
Yeah, and it helped me a lot. Ragueb Rogério, he’s someone who’s been helping me for a long time. He’s been a professional skater for a long time and he’s always told me what to do, where I should go, what I should skate. So he helped me a lot. The first time I came here to the US, he came with me, too, to meet all the guys from Volcom—Remy and everyone.

Giovanni Vianna FS 180 SW Crook High res Schreiner 1 DZFront 180 to switch crooks, anyone else catching Mariano vibes?      Photo: Schreiner

What was it like coming to the US for the first time? How old were you?
I think I was 16 the first time I came to LA, ‘cause I think I was also 16 when I came to Miami with Vans. That was just a little tour with Vans Brazil. But my first time coming to LA was crazy. I came for the Damn Am with Volcom and that was a good opportunity for me.

Were you out here trying to pursue other sponsors? Did you have any expectations when you first came out?
When I first came out I didn’t have many expectations, but I knew it was gonna be a good opportunity to get the industry to see my skating. Like, after that trip, the Vans Brazil guy Carlos hit me up saying, Yo, you need to come out here and stay. He sent a message to my friend Carlos Ribeiro who was also skating for Vans and told him I needed to come to LA and stay there for skating. So I had to do it. If I didn’t, Carlos Ribeiro wasn’t gonna respect me.

Damn, that’s crazy. Is that how you first got hooked up with Primitive?
Yeah, I started to hook up with Primitive like that, too. Because I skate for Maze skateshop in São Paulo, and Percio, the owner of Maze, he knows everyone on Primitive. He’d already told me, Oh, the guys know you. The guys follow you and know how you skate. When I was in Miami, I asked Persio if he could see if the guys at Primitive could send me some boards. And that’s the start of it. He asked them if they could send a box to Miami for me.

Giovanni Vianna BS Nosegrind 180 High res Schreiner 1 DZAsymmetrical parking-block placement paves the way for a backside nosegrind 180      Photo: Schreiner

I feel like when you got on Primitive things escalated pretty quickly. It went from you being on flow for like a year to all of a sudden you were in Barcelona filming for the Encore video. That was your first big introduction. I mean, you’d had some Volcom parts, some tour videos, getting exposure, skating contests, but was Encore your first real street video part for a global brand?
Yes, it is. Encore is my first one. And it’s a real good one, and that’s why I tattooed the name on me.

Did you go on the Am Scramble before or after that part?
I think the opportunity to go on the Am Scramble happened while I was filming for Encore in New York. Thrasher had a best-trick contest there on a picnic table. I did a full Cab noseblunt and won the contest. I think after that they were like, Let’s talk to this guy. He’s an am; he’s kinda good.

A lot of things changed for you around that time—you cut your hair, you started skating with Carlos a lot more, you kinda created this dynamic and brought a new energy to Primitive and to the team. You got people like Carlos stepping up to skate big rails. Did you realize that all these changes were happening at that time?
I kinda realize it right now, but at that time I didn’t really realize it. I was just skating and happy. Just for me staying in the US, skating with my inspirations, that was the most important thing for me around that time. Because I was just living my dream, doing all that shit, helping Carlos. He helped me a lot, actually; he helped me more than I helped him. Because he told me to come to the US. He would always pick me up at my house and bring me back. I remember when I first came here and skated with him for two days and then he said, Yo, I have to travel with Primitive. I didn’t know anyone and he talked to Bryce Pagter: Yo, Bryce, can you pick Gio up to go skate? I didn’t know Bryce but he came and picked me up every day, just me and him skating. I didn’t know any English. Imagine that—in the car, every day, ten hours and we can’t speak to each other.

Giovanni Vianna Fakie FS 180 FS Crook Schreiner 8 DZGio takes a regular approach to Jerry’s trick—frontside half Cab nosegrind

He just shows you a skate spot and you say yes or no, that’s it?
Yeah, that’s all. So when I realized that I was like, Carlos helping me was the most important thing. He helped me so I feel like I have to do something to help him—not just in skateboarding but in life in general.

You guys have a great working relationship, but you also talk a lot of shit to each other. What’s up with that? Is that the Braza way?
Yeah, that’s the Braza way. It’s always like that, ‘cause everyone kinda grew up on the streets with their friends and we just joke with each other. You don’t have much to do sometimes so we’re just talking shit with each other and that’s it. That’s the funny thing. And if you get mad they’re just gonna fuck with you even more. They’re gonna say more shit. So you have to chill out and try to think of something you can say back to them.

Giovanni Vianna Fakie Heel Oslo DZFakie heel eruption in Oslo   Photo: Diego

That’s something I learned with Brazilians in general—you gotta have thick skin. You gotta be able to take the shit talking. If you get upset then it’s a wrap for you. But he uses it as a form of motivation with you, too, doesn’t he?
That’s true; it’s motivation. Sometimes when you go to a spot you’re gonna get joked like, You’re not gonna do that. So then you’re like, Oh, I’m not gonna do that? I’m gonna do that first try!

What about the filmer Eric Iwakura? I know you guys fuck with each other a lot as well. There’s that famous clip of him giving you an ultimate wedgie—it’s the gnarliest one I’ve seen in my entire life, it’s just your underwear ripping off your body.
I think it’s because at the time I was the youngest. Brazil has that mentality where if you’re the youngest you’re gonna get fucked up by the legends and you can’t say anything. You have to do what the guy is saying. If you don’t do that you’re gonna make it worse for yourself. So I was kinda talking shit with Eric at that time, just joking, and he kinda got mad and Tiago and everyone saw it and they were like, Alright, let’s do something. He’s being kinda cocky. Let’s do something to chill him out.
Giovanni Vianna Pullquotes Wedgie 2000
Has anyone ever done anything to really piss you off, like where it’s not fun at that point, like the ultimate wedgie?
No, that was chilling. I got so much wedgie in Brazil. That’s kind of normal in Brazil. Back in the day when you won a contest you’re gonna get wedgied. If you win the contest, everyone who was in the contest is gonna grab you and give you a wedgie. That’s normal.
Giovanni Vianni Nollie Hurricane 750Gio always puts his extra spin on things, nollie backside hurricane

Okay, so after the Am Scramble and Encore, Primitive went right into filming another video—Fourth Quarter. Tell me about working on that video part, which unfortunately leads into your injury.
Yeah, I was skating a lot at the time, getting some clips, just filming. You had been to Brazil to film the intro to the video, and I wanted to re-film a trick on a rail there. I tried to film it again and I got hurt.

Giovanni Vianna Pullquotes Knees Tore 2000
What happened?
I tore my ACL and meniscus trying to nollie front feeble a rail. I had already landed it but it was kinda sketch so I wanted to redo it, because I think it was my first rail that I nollied into and I was so hyped because it was kinda big. I really wanted to put a nollie trick in my part because it’s so hard for me. So I was so excited and I tried one nollie boardslide and kinda slipped out. I was like, Alright, I’m not gonna do the boardslide, I’m just going to go straight to the nollie feeble. The rail is kinda steep and the landing is a bit slanted. I jumped off of one and landed with both legs straight on the ground and one of my knees tore.

Was this your first real injury?
First injury of my life. I’d rolled my ankles before, but two or three days later I’d be skating again, nothing too serious.
Giovanni Vianna Front Blunt Pop Over burnydiego DZFront blunt with extra hang time    Photo: Diego

And you didn’t get surgery right away because the Olympics were so close, right? You just did physical therapy.
Yes, at that time I think I had three contests left, so I didn’t have surgery because I didn’t think I’d be able to come back 100 percent. I was scared of that. Because everyone says, If you fuck up your knee you’re never going to come back the same. But that’s not true. But at that time I was like, Damn, let’s just try physical therapy. I did that for eight months. It kinda helped, but not too good. It’s not good to do that.

But you were skating. You went to the Olympics and skated really well. But you weren’t feeling 100 percent, huh?
I was not feeling 100 percent at all. I could feel that there was something wrong with my knee. I had to use a brace and I could feel my knee shaking every time. But yeah, that’s kinda crazy, but it’s a good story. After the Olympics I was like, I can’t skate with this brace anymore. I had surgery two weeks later.
giovanni vianna fs tailslide Glendora CA BURNETT DZGio sets sail with a white whale of a front tail   Photo: Burnett

How long was it total—from the initial injury until you were fully skating again after surgery?
I think a year and four months.

That’s pretty good for not going straight into surgery and doing a couple different forms of recovery. I don’t think a lot of people knew about your injury because you still had video parts come out and you turned pro during that time.
Yeah, ’cause I was still skating with no ACL and no one knew if I was injured or not.

So what’s up with this part you’re working on right now?
I had a little part in the Monster Side Mission video. That kinda helped me start skating and get my confidence back in the streets, but it wasn’t 100 percent what I wanted to do. So the part I’m working on right now is the one that I really want to do, and I’m really happy doing the tricks and coming back to the spots I really want to skate. I think this part is kinda different because I’m trying to skate differently. I’m trying to process some more switch and nollie tricks.
Giovanni Vianna BURNETT DSC 5887 DZ
Do you have a newfound appreciation for skating after going through your injury?
Yeah, I have a new appreciation for sure because when I started skating again it made me think about when I was young and learning new tricks. That made me hyped again to skate because I had eight months of not skating at all, so when I started again the hype came back into my heart and I really just wanted to skate. I just wanted to keep it going, skate, be happy and have fun with my friends and everyone.

Is this new part gonna be Gingerzilian II?
That would be dope, actually.

So what’s next for you?
I’m gonna keep skating, keep doing parts, take care of my knee and take care of all of my body.

Giovanni Vianna Pullquotes Not Really Italian 2000
Let’s end with this—you recently found out that you’re not actually Italian, right? Tell me that story.
That’s true. It’s kinda hard to talk about that. My mom is from the farms of São Paulo. She had two sisters and my grandfather and my grandmother didn’t have the money to keep all three kids. My mom was given to my grandmother’s sister, and I grew up with them. So I was always like, This is my grandmother and grandfather. And my grandfather, he’s real Italian, born in Napoli. And since Giovanni is an Italian name, I always thought I was Italian, too. But I found out a few years ago that I’m not really Italian; I’m not Italian at all.

I remember being in Rome with you and thinking, I’m in Italy with Giovanni and he’s Italian! For as long as I’ve know you, that’s been part of your identity.
I’m still proud I’m Italian, you know? I don’t care.

Alright, let’s wrap this up. You got any shout outs?
I wanna say shout to all my sponsors, all my family, my friends. And thank you, Thrasher Magazine, for the opportunity, for sure. This is my first interview, so it’s a dream come true. So let’s keep it going and make the dream happen.

Giovanni Vianna FS Halfcab BS Smith High res Schreiner 8 DZ
Giving the Bancroft rail so much wedgie with a frontside half Cab back Smith. Good to have you back out there, Gio
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