FYI: Paula Zibasa

FYI: Paula Zibasa

photos: moritz ablinger, marcus skin, georg lindacher, boris beyer, jennifer lang

Introduce yourself:

Hey! My name is Paula Zibasa, and I’m 23 years old. I’m originally from Latvia, a very small country in Europe, but I grew up in Innsbruck, Austria.

What do you do for a living?

Currently, I don’t make enough money to do mountain biking for a living, so I do little jobs for a couple of months to keep living the dream. Mostly, it’s shooting or coaching jobs, which are fun, so I feel very fortunate!

How did you get involved in riding?

It was a love/hate relationship. I started racing BMX very young, but I wouldn’t say I liked it. Later on, my parents signed me up for a Downhill youth camp, which was the best thing ever. A couple of years later, I raced my first Junior DH World Cup, won it, and kept racing until 2019, but unfortunately, at that time, I found myself in a very discouraging environment.

I didn’t touch my DH bike until the start of this year, and in the meantime, by riding my DJ bike, Enduro, and even a Road bike, I discovered my passion again. No matter what I do later in life, I’ll always be surrounded by bikes because I don’t know it any other way!

© Moritz Ablinger
© Marcus Skin

What have you been up to lately?

I’m currently in New Zealand, training and riding a lot. I want to be a little more prepared for the upcoming season, and Crankworx Rotorua is just around the corner.

Do you have any other interests besides riding? Are there any other activities or hobbies that you do?

All my bikes keep me very occupied most of the time, but I love film photography. It’s about being thoughtful and choosing every shot wisely. You have to consider the film, the light, and the settings have to be very precise. It’s a slow process in a very rushed world.

Besides that, I spend a lot of time in nature, whether hiking, skiing, or surfing; something about it makes me feel very connected to nature and keeps my head clear. It’s very easy to disconnect.

What’s the best and worst part about riding, if there’s any?

The best part about riding for me is that I’m in the moment as soon as I drop in on a trail, with no thoughts, just pure joy. It’s like meditating but in such a fun way. The worst part is the injuries; it’s part of the sport but time-consuming, expensive, and mentally draining.

© Moritz Ablinger
© Georg Lindacher

What inspires you and keeps you motivated?

The space and possibility of improvement. I’m not even close to where I want to be in biking, and that keeps me going. But also to be within the moment and be grateful for each day. I’m surrounded by a handful of very supportive and caring people, and their belief keeps me motivated every day.

How’s the biking scene in your area?

For most of my life, I’ve lived in Innsbruck, and the community is slowly growing; there are a lot of very motivated mountain bikers, but unfortunately, the city is not willing to invest a lot in biking or more legal trails, which makes it really hard because there’s not a lot of variety of trails.

© Moritz Ablinger

Which is the best place you’ve been to for riding?

I’ve spent a bit of time in British Columbia, Canada, and it’s probably my favorite place to ride bikes; there’s a wide variety of trails. Mount Prevost trails are insanely good in the fall on Vancouver Island, but so are the ones in Pemberton, Coast Gravity Park, and Whistler Bikepark. I’m excited to explore more trails this upcoming summer.

Are there any places that you’d like to visit to ride?

Yeah, I really want to visit Virgin, Utah!

How important are the clothes that you wear, the products you use, and the look of your bike? Do you put thought into it, or you don’t mind at all?

I’m thoughtful about what I wear most days. Sometimes, I’m full-on Freeride mode, wearing the baggiest pants I can find, an oversized Patagonia men’s T-shirt, and no gloves… And then other days, I wear my high-tech Patagonia gear. It really depends on what bike I’m riding and where.

I’m lucky enough that I’m sponsored, so it makes it a lot easier. But I’d never shame anyone for what they wear or ride because I used to be that kid with the worst gear and oldest bike, and unfortunately, bullying someone for not having the sickest gear is very common in mountain biking.

© Boris Beyer
© Boris Beyer

Who are your favorite riders?

I got a couple, and a bunch of them are my friends: Alma Wiggberg, insane Slopestyle rider; Jess Blewitt, who’s very steezy; Vaea Verbeeck, the Queen of the biggest jumps in the world; Vinny Armstrong with the most insane whips… There’s so many more, it’s mainly my friends who inspire me and who I look up to! And of course Brandon Semenuk!!!

How would you describe your riding style? 

I don’t feel like I’ve found it yet or have any.

© Jennifer Lang
© Jennifer Lang

Have you suffered any injuries because of riding? How did you face it? Did you learn something from it?

I tore my ACL in 2022, and a month later, I injured my meniscus; that was my first ever serious injury. I had surgery and was rehabbing for about half a year. It took a long time to be able to ride pain-free, and I struggled a lot.

From the beginning, I knew I could overcome the injury, but I wasn’t prepared for how mentally challenging it would be; you’ve got the good and bad days, but the bad ones seemed so much worse. I distanced myself from social media and put my main focus on my healing and rehab process. The journey is different for everyone.

How do you see the future of the sport going? Is there anything that you would like to see done differently or better within the biking scene/industry?

I’d love to see more women get the same opportunities as men in our sport, more women on World Cup teams, equal paychecks, and women being more welcome to ride a bike. It’s amazing to see what women can and have accomplished, and this is just the beginning.

© Jennifer Lang

What are your plans this year?

I’m very excited to spend a couple of months in Europe and then return to Canada. I’ve got so many goals I want to accomplish in the future… I want to get more into the Freeride scene, do some fun big jump events, and tick off a couple of tricks… there’s so much I want to do; I don’t want to jinx it all.

Any last words?

It’s better to live for the moment because if you plan ahead, you might not make it that far.