If you’re from Bellingham and discover that skateboarding is your passion, at some point you’re going to have to travel farther afield to compete in your sport. Local 16-year-old skater Nina Aguilar has gone to California to skate and has crossed borders into both Canada and Mexico, as well. In fact, she just returned from Dubai with some exciting news. I sat down with Nina and her father, John, to learn more.

Born and raised in Bellingham, Nina started skating when she was nine. “My dad has been skating since he was my age, and he taught me,” she says. “I just kind of picked it up and stuck with it. The only skatepark here is at Civic Field, and I go there pretty much every day.”

Nina has found her place in a field that has always been dominated by men, but she hasn’t let that slow her down — and now she sees more and more female skaters alongside her. “Growing up skating at the park here, there weren’t very many girls,” she says. “Some would come and go, but none would ever really stick with it. Nowadays there are a bunch more and I’m seeing professionals that are older than me that are really good, and they’ve inspired me.”

When it became clear that she has what it takes to compete, Nina launched her skating career by traveling to the Seattle area to take part in competitions. As opportunities to travel farther away presented themselves, Nina began winning recognition — and awards — far away from home as well. One of those events takes place at the southern end of California. “In Encinitas, there’s a big contest called Exposure, for girls only. There are a bunch of people that come from all around the world to compete in that.”

Because she enjoys dual citizenship, Nina is able to compete as a member of the Mexican National Team. Photo courtesy Nina Aguilar

Even more opportunities were waiting on the other side of the border, as well. “Nina qualified to be on the Mexican National Team because she has dual citizenship,” says her father, John. The national team sends her to qualifying contests for the Olympics. “We just came back from the first one, in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, and there are more in Argentina and Rome, and then back to Dubai. And then it’s the Olympics.”

As a skater himself, John sees his daughter’s experience from a different perspective, and has noticed an interesting phenomenon. “Going to contests and seeing the same girls she competed with at the local contests skating in Dubai for other teams — we’re all friends, that’s the thing,” he says. “It’s an international contest, and it’s pretty cool to see the same people on the other side of the world.”

Nina recently traveled to Dubia in the United Arab Emirates to rack up points in competition so she can qualify to skate at the Olympics. Photo courtesy Nina Aguilar

If Nina does make it to the biggest stage in the world, John knows it’s partly because she’s had crucial, long-term support in her hometown from Zach Garza, the owner of local skateboarding emporium Unknown Board Shop. “He has helped Nina grow up skating, sponsoring her and giving her stuff,” John says. “And he gives a lot to the community — he does clinics to really push skateboarding, and he’s involved with some of the schools in the district, to let kids try and skate for a day at the beginner level.”

Now back home from Dubai, Nina continues to work on her craft and meet new people. “I mostly just skate by myself at the park, but there’s this group of girls that started skating at the park and they started weekly meetups. Girls only, but very inclusive,” she says.

She also echoes the sentiment of a lot of other skaters in town. “I wish there was an indoor park here, or something covered so that people can skate more. We’ve tried to raise some kind of awareness for that.”

As far as long-term plans go, Nina isn’t making too many predictions. But one thing is clear. “My future is skating,” she says. “Hopefully that’s what I can keep doing.”

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