By Sadie Maeda
Welcome to the latest installment of MAHFIA.tv’s interview segment, MAHFIA Spotlight! We interview different women in the industry, from athletes to photographers/filmers, industry leaders, influencers, and other rad people supporting women in action sports. More than just a celebration of their accomplishments, we take a deeper look into how they got to where they are, including life changing moments, fears, and inspiration. By shedding light on women who are pushing our community forward, we hope to inspire and empower you all to get out there and go for it.
Nirvana Ortanez, a snowboarding wizard and badass, has been snowboarding since she was 12 years old. Despite growing up in La Jolla, CA and being a surfer girl by nature, Nirvana fell in love with snowboarding. Starting off in rail competitions, her style and navigation of technical terrain helped her earn a name for herself. She has an inspired but yet playful approach to features, which is one of the many things that makes her stand out in a crowd. Where we see one or two possibilities, Nirvana sees its full potential and is always thinking of new ways to spice up the game.
Part of Jet Pack 5000, Nirvana and the crew travel around the galaxy on a mission to explore foreign terrain and powder. They take off in their 4 wheeled rocket and head into the unknown, fully equipped with their snowboards and a kickass squad. When she’s not ripping it up with the Jet Pack girls, she’s working it as an ambassador to the Soy Sauce Nation, a squad that has no problem with embracing their roots and bringing a little asian invasion to the mountains.
All in all, Nirvana is one badass boss lady who never lets anything stop her from having fun and charging in the mountains and we got the chance to talk to her and get some insight into what makes her a fearless shredder!
If you could skate/snow/surf/hang with anyone, living or dead, who would you choose and why?
*Sigh* So many people to think of! Just cold turkeying it, not knowing how they would be IRL, and with the times I would want to hang with Allysha Le and Alessa Quizon. I like boba tea. I also like warm waters with nice surf.
Favorite place you’ve been to? #1 place you want to go to but haven’t yet?
My most favorite place that I’ve ever been to would have to be tie between Mammoth Lakes, CA and Mt. Hood, OR. Not that exotic huh? These two places have always been my favorite places to snowboard at: Mammoth because of the insane powder that we used to ride/endless South Park laps and Hood because I got to meet the people that I know now. Without them there wouldn’t be this! #1 place on my list is Japan! Everyone who has gone wants to go back and everyone who hasn’t wants to go.
Who has influenced or inspired your (skating/snowboarding/surfing) the most?
For skating, any and all girls who decided that one day they wanted to do it. That was the most terrifying part of skating to me was just trying it. Once I realized that people are there to support you falling face forwards into the bowl, those people were the literal influence to keep me going. Snowboarding and surfing was inspired by my family. My dad taught me how to surf growing up then my mom and brother had passion for snowboarding, I never looked back since. In the grand equation the people who I surround myself with are always the ones that influence/inspire me to do everything I do.
What is something that most people don’t know about you?
I know how to play the trumpet and be in band ^-^
Describe the last time you laughed so hard you cried?
What happened? This was recent actually…A group of friends and I got to go on a sort of pre-season adventure. We didn’t have much of a plan other than find the snow. Anyways with the whole insta-story-snap thing going on we wanted to make a Blair-Witch style story on the JetPack gram. One fake scenario led to another, we were all so delirious from the long day, and ended up laughing so hard at dinner just talking about it…But time ran out and the actual insta-story never actually came to be created.
The last time you cried?
Probably last week, I tend to cry at least once a month.
The last time you were scared?
Hmmm not so much scared, but more so nervous. I think about the choices to make in life and sometimes get nervous about them since there’s no telling what will happen. But the beauty with that is I know I’ll be okay with whatever it is.
What do you do our tell yourself when you are feeling scared or intimidated?
You are a strong, smart, and capable human. You can do this. Or I just blackout completely and forget all the mantras I was telling myself prior.
Where did you grow up? Do you think there are any characteristics about your hometown or household that shaped who you are?
I grew up in San Diego and I for sure know that it shaped me into me. The people around me during that time were all passionate about surfing, myself included. My best friend and I would wake up before dawn, ride our bikes down to the nearest surf spot, and ride back with barely enough time to get to first period. Then go surf again after school. It didn’t matter what the conditions were like, but we were out there. Maybe it’s a little harder to do that with snowboarding but I’ve been able to snowboard every month of the year for the past 5 years…So I’d say that kind of mentality carried over from the ocean to the mountains.
Can you tell us about a pivotal (or “a-ha”) moment in your life? ie) a life changing experience?
Yes. The moment I got a job up at High Cascade Snowboard Camp. That place 100% changed the course of my life and I can easily say that if I didn’t get that job I would have stopped snowboarding a long time ago. You just meet so many like-minded individuals with the same passions, ideas, and creativity. Then one day you just decide that those are the people you want to be with forever.
What’s a crazy invention (doesn’t have to be realistic) you wish existed in your sport?
A formula or switch that we can turn on that would make global warming stop. Or somehow all the cars in the world expelled oxygen or whatever off-balanced element we need in the air at that moment instead of carbon emissions. To have an invention that will give us winters that dump feet and feet of snow again everywhere (not just in one specific part of the country)…
Tell us about a time where you felt super humbled.
On a boardworld level: Being at the Drink Water Rat Race these past couple of years — sometimes I would be able to ride, other times just watch, but either way it was rad. You get to go up there and watch some of your favorite riders do their thing, maybe going fast, maybe doing methods, all having fun, and meanwhile standing on a beautiful dormant volcano glacier! It doesn’t get any more surreal than that!! On another note: Visiting Yellowstone. It’s everything you think it’s going to be and more. MORE. You get charged at by bison, smell crazy geothermal pools, and see some next level nature there.
If you couldn’t do your sport/activity, what would your dream job be?
If I can’t snowboard, then I’ll surf. If I can’t surf, then I’ll skate. If that falls through then why not plan events or market for any one of those sports! Don’t leave the sport, help grow it. OR If that’s not an option I’d like to be an educator. Teaching psychology would be a job I would want to take up whether it be in university or high school!
What is something you would like to see change in your sport/industry?
Growth in general. Realizing that the old way of how things worked might not be that way anymore. We might not know the exact answer with how to deal with the changes, but we can give it our all in making sure the sport keeps going. Getting more people to get off their computers, phones, and video consoles to go outside. Go snowboard.
What is something you would like to see change in the world?
Women getting equal pay, recognition, and respect. I know that there are steps overall in action sports that are making that happen (Lizzie Armanto getting cover of TransWorld Skateboarding or Kelly Slater posting on social media how he was proud of Stephanie Gilmore for winning surfing), but as a world I think that it’s insane how it isn’t a thing we’ve resolved completely in the 21st century.
Tell us something you are working right now (can be a trick, a hobby, life skill, etc).
Sometimes excitement in creating things turns into being overwhelmed, but I currently took up meditation. I love yoga and it definitely helps with mental and physical well-being, but for 5 minutes a day (still working up to more) I just sit outside on my porch and mediate. Easy enough right? I’m also working on web design and coding in CSS/HTML. It’s pretty fun, kind of hard though haha..I want to make a SoySauceNation site and let the people know what it’s about! Check on it in the near future.
Any shout outs?
My family back home! Danika, Amanda, Des, AK, Jenna, ADB + JETPACK crew…Everyone who believed in what we were doing and helped along the way! My guys Ted & Louis. Kdubbs at HCSC KUNIT. Brighton Resort. People who film videos and the people in those videos. S/O to my sponsors: Salomon Snowboards, Nikita Clothing, Celtek, Smith, Milo Sport + VintageSponsor Luv you <3