Coming from an unlikely background, Marcelo "Marreco" Giardi is the winningest Brazilian wakeboarder. Marcelo won the Pan American games in Rio de Janeiro in 2007 and he is the only Brazilian rider to be invited to the IWSF World Cup. In 1999 Marcelo got second place to Danny Harf at the WWA World Championships in the Jr. Men division. Marcelo has been sponsored by Oakley for 13 years and you may have seen him riding in the feature film Push Process. Marcelo is known for always charging it and going huge into the flats.
WW: In 2007, you won the pan American games that were hosted in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. That was a pretty big deal, especially because you’re Brazilian. What did feel like to win such a prestigious event?
MG: It was a really unexpected title. I got knee surgery 7 months before the contest. I was only able to ride two months before and never imagined winning the gold medal, but at the end I was confident, rode well, and won. It was for sure is the biggest win in my career, not just for me but for the sport in Brazil!!!
WW: How did winning the Pan Am games change your career as a wakeboarder?
MG: After the Pan American Games, the sport grew a lot because I did interviews on every TV channel and way more people started to know the sport. For me personally, my sponsors got better for sure.
WW: Your victory also single handedly put wakeboarding on the map in Brazil. You were somewhat of a celebrity for a while. How much has wakeboarding grown in Brazil since 2007?
MG: There was the sport before the Pan Am Games, but it’s been growing a lot since 2007. We have had a cable park since 2009. This also helps a lot.
WW: What was life like for you that following year, around 2007-2008?
MG: After I won the games, I spent the next seven months traveling in Brazil doing interviews everywhere. I did clinics and demos too. It was a really fun time in 2008. Later on I went to live in the U.S, for a couple months.
WW: You were one of the first Brazilian riders to ever come to the United States. What year did you first come to the US?
MG: The first time I came to America was in ’99, but the first time I lived in the U.S. was in 2004. I worked at O’Town for four months. It was a really good time. I spent the season here again in 2008.
WW: Where did you stay when you came?
MG: In 2004 I lived at O’Town and 2008 I lived on Lake Jessamine with Austin Hair and Brad Smeele.
WW: You didn't know any English when you first moved here. What was it like coming to a country where no one understood you and how did you adapt?
MG: It was really hard in the beginning because I love to talk. It is the worst feeling when you can't say what you want to say. Then I started to learn English and now I understand everything and I'm able to talk about anything I want.
WW: How did you first get introduced to wakeboarding? I imagine it was a much smaller sport in Brazil when you first began.
MG: When I was born, my father bought a house on the lake. So, every weekend I went there. I started to water ski when I was five, and when I was 14 I saw a guy doing a flip on a board. I said to myself, "I really want this board." A couple of months later I bought my first wakeboard. It was a Hyperlite Twin Baff. It was a really small sport here, but I did it because I loved it. To see how the sport is today and be a part of that evolution is the best feeling.
WW: You currently have your own wakeboarding school in São Paulo, Brazil. How long have you been running that?
MG: I have been coaching since 1999, but I bought my first boat in 2004, so my school really started in 2004.
WW: How many students do you coach a year?
MG: Around 400 people.
WW: How many of those students did you teach to wakeboard for the first time?
MG: I don't have an exact number, but I think I taught around 4000 people or more to wakeboard.
WW: You've been hands down the winningest wakeboarder in Brazil. Do you plan to keep that title in 2013?
MG: In 2013 I'm not going to compete in the first stop of the Brazilian tour. I'm gonna do the World Cup in Indonesia. I'm not going to have the chance to win the title, but I'm going to keep riding and try to improve every day.
WW: You've been to plenty of WWA stops, especially the World Series events. Do you have plans to come ride in some of the tour stops in the U.S. this season?
MG: I'm going to Wake Games. I really like the event because it is the first contest of the season and it is in Orlando. But I'm not sure if I'm going to do other events. It's really expensive to compete in America, but I'm probably going to Worlds in Wisconsin.
WW: What else is on your radar for 2013?
MG: My goal in 2013 is to stay healthy, ride as much as I can and coach a lot. I have my shop at the same place as my school. I want to grow the shop a lot this year.
WW: It seems like you and Jovem have a pretty good agreement at your camp; you get to travel around the world and ride while he gets to coach all the lessons. Explain to us how your relationship works out.
MG: When Jovem started working with me he knew I was going to travel a lot and he was going to be at the camp more than me. But when I'm here, I stay in the boat all day. I work really hard too.
WW: Now that the Olympics are in the equation, cable is becoming a career choice for some. Will you start coaching cable as well or will you stick with your roots behind the boat?
MG: I love to coach wakeboarding anywhere. I prefer the boat, but cable is the future. It's the future not because of the Olympic Games, but because it is cheaper and easy to access to ride. It's also easier for the beginner to learn tricks.
WW: Coming from one of the most unlikely places, you've made a successful career for yourself as a professional wakeboarder by all measurements. What advice can you give to kids coming up along the ranks?
MG: I try to help all the kids here to know what they need to be one of the best. I think we are going on the right way. My dream is to have a lot of Brazilians in the U.S. rankings!
We have really good grommets coming up. The best is Pedrinho Caldas. He and his dad own the cable park. He is the very first Brazilian rider who has Red Bull as a sponsor. Toninho Rodrigues is 16 and moved from Ribeirao Preto to the cable park. He is riding really good and he got Slingshot as a sponsor. He also coaches at the cable. We have an eight-year-old kid, his name is Gabriel Benneton. Now he rides for Oakley and we believe he is going to ride good. Other good riders are Vitor Cordeiro and Zezinho Ferreira.
WW: Is there anyone you’d like to thank?
MG: My parents, Oakley, MWS Wake School & Store, Nob Multisports, Luiz Campos, Anne Andrade, Jovem and everyone who helped along my career!