At one point, Maiza Lima counted 100 pairs of high heels in her closet. She wore these often when going out with friends – first to salsa dancing and then to the bars and clubs. Crawling into bed at 3 a.m. was common for Maiza. Her life in Kirkland, Washington, just outside of Seattle, was drastically different from her life growing up in the Amazon rainforest of Brazil. In America, she had mastered the English language, and felt good in her community and group of friends. Maiza was running in the fast-lane of life, and she was doing so gracefully while wearing high heels. But she was never convinced this was the correct lane for her. She felt like there was something missing. On a whim, she signed up for rock climbing class, and it didn’t take long for Maiza to realize her high heels didn’t fit anymore. Physically they were still perfect, maybe a bit worn from so much salsa dancing. But mentally and emotionally, they felt like foreign objects on her feet. Her lifestyle was changing, and with it, her shoe selection. Today, her closet overflows with climbing shoes, hiking boots, ski boots, and trail running shoes.
Growing up in the Amazon meant Maiza wasn’t involved in organized sports until she moved to America with her mom when she was 17. Which is not to say her life was any less active. She and her brothers hiked in the Amazon and often this was done out of necessity rather than enjoyment since it was a means of acquiring food and water. It’s also how they got back and forth from school, occasionally stopping on the way home to go swimming. Hiking in Washington once she moved to America was for leisure, and she found it enjoyable instead of a task to loathe. But Maiza was looking for more beyond hiking – a common thread in her life story.
She had no idea people went indoors to climb in gyms, but she saw some pictures on Instagram of climbers on big walls outside. Never one to shy away from a challenge and always looking for something new to pump adrenaline, Maiza called up her local climbing club, The Mountaineers and signed up for a “sport climbing” course. Maiza said at the time she didn’t know what that term meant, but signed up anyway since it had the word “climbing” in the name. The club sent her a list of items to come with on the first day: climbing shoes, a harness, chalk bag. “Obviously I didn’t know anybody to borrow it from, so I literally just went to REI [outdoor gear store] with this list and I just gave it to them and said, ‘I don’t know what any of this stuff is, but hook me up.’ From there, climbing completely turned my life around, basically.”
This was in 2015, and now, in 2020, Maiza has graced the cover of Climbing Magazine.
Rock climbing was the catalyst that changed everything in Maiza’s life. Her group of friends changed, her comfort level with speaking in English improved, and she met her future husband on a rock climbing trip. She ditched late nights at the bar so she could be in bed by 7 p.m. and awake at dawn to take off on a climbing trip. She got engaged on a multi-pitch route and married at 5,000 feet while climbing a long alpine route in the North Cascades. Maiza’s wedding pictures don’t look like the average wedding day photos, but for her and her husband it was their dream wedding.
Outside of climbing Maiza hangs out on her longboard, sometimes sitting on it while her dog runs alongside leading the way. If you ask her to do something outside, her answer is likely to be “yes.” Mountain biking, hiking, trail running, camping, and skiing are just a few of Maiza’s favorites, but she’s open to others if the opportunity presents itself.
Why spend life outside in a constant state of physical exertion? “That was the first time in my life that I felt accomplished, and I felt a sense of happiness. When you come back home from a weekend climbing you feel fulfilled and you’re happy and looking forward to the next weekend. Versus when I used to just party, I actually felt the opposite. It was almost like a type of sadness.”
Maiza’s life is based upon always reaching for new goals and pushing physical limitations. From growing up in the Amazon to moving to the US, learning English, signing up for a climbing course on a whim to becoming a prominent female athlete on the cover of Climbing Magazine. Maiza’s story can be boiled down to one simple message: If the shoe doesn’t fit right anymore, take it off. Put some trust in yourself, and find a new shoe.