Try-hard screams echo through the nar­row canyon of Ri­fle Moun­tain Park, Colorado, as a petite, dark-haired woman in a strappy pink tank top surges into the head­wall on Cryptic Egyp­tian (5.13c). Twenty tries deep, Ma­rina Inoue is just moves from com­plet­ing her sum­mer 2018 Ri­fle Wicked Cave tri­fecta of Tomb Raider (5.13d), Quick Tick Egyp­tian (5.13b), and Cryptic. Runout, Inoue has skipped the last two bolts; she’s snagged the good, fi­nal crimp but ne­glected to leave room to match on it. Fight­ing, her pony­tail quiv­er­ing as she ex­erts her­self, Inoue im­pro­vises a new se­quence, mov­ing her hands around to match the rail, and then guns for the an­chors. Cryptic Egyp­tian is not the hard­est route she’s ever done, but as the cap­stone to the tri­fecta, it’s the most sat­is­fy­ing, with the no­to­ri­ously crimpy boulder prob­lem at the top hav­ing thwarted her ini­tially.

If you’ve vis­ited Ri­fle, the New River Gorge, or Hueco Tanks in the last four years,

chances are you’ve run into 32-year-old Inoue, who lives full-time in the Sil­ver Bul­let, a 1996 Airstream B90. With no trust fund and no delu­sions of spon­sor­ship—though she has climbed 5.13d and V11— Inoue makes a liv­ing as a rov­ing tat­too artist, do­ing guest spots at shops owned by friends in Salt Lake City and Rich­mond, Vir­ginia, sched­ul­ing her work around climb­ing trips. Thanks to the time she’s put in since she started tat­too­ing at age 21, she has many loyal cus­tomers, peo­ple who will cross the coun­try for her work.

Inoue’s in­ter­est in tat­toos started dur­ing her teenage years hang­ing around in New York City’s punk/hard­core scene. She grew up in the city, the only child of her mother, Raeanne Inoue, a com­mer­cial still-life pho­tog­ra­pher; and her fa­ther, Izumi Inoue, a graphic de­signer. “I al­ways wanted to be tat­tooed, and thought peo­ple who had

tat­toos were so cool,” she says now. Inoue is not sure how many tat­toos she has—sev­eral dozen at least, with many of the larger ones in­cor­po­rat­ing smaller pieces. At 14, she got her first piece, a nau­ti­cal star on the back of her neck, at St. Mark’s Place, a punk hang­out in the East Vil­lage. Although she doesn’t have any for­mal art ed­u­ca­tion, Inoue has al­ways been into draw­ing, her cre­ativ­ity en

couraged by her artis­tic par­ents. ( See “When Leg­ends Die,” p.60, for more ex­am­ples of Inoue’s art; fol­low her @mari­na_i­noue on In­sta­gram.)

When Inoue turned 18, she be­gan work­ing as a per­sonal as­sis­tant and man­ager at Fly Rite, a tat­too shop in Brook­lyn, clean­ing, order­ing sup­plies, sched­ul­ing, and prep­ping each artist’s sta­tion. At 21, she started an ap­pren­tice­ship there, of­ten show­ing up at noon and stay­ing un­til mid­night, paint­ing, draw­ing, and do­ing su­per­vised—and even­tu­ally un­su­per­vised—tat­toos on friends and fel­low artists. Af­ter thou­sands of hours of work, she earned her po­si­tion as a full-time tat­too artist.

Four years later, in 2011, she was tired of the NYC hus­tle and moved to laid­back Rich­mond, Vir­ginia, at the be­hest of friends, tak­ing a job at Clas­sic Tat­too. She also, for the first time, had easy ac­cess to the out­doors, in the nearby Shenan­doah Val­ley, a haven of trails wind­ing through rolling green hills. “Grow­ing up in the city, I didn’t spend much time out­side,” she says. “But I had al­ways been in­trigued by moun­tains and the West and the desert land­scape.” Inoue took a solo trip along the West Coast, stop­ping in Yosemite where she saw peo­ple climb­ing and thought, “This is amaz­ing. I don’t ever want to come to a place like this again and not be able to climb.” In 2012, she climbed out­side at the New, and from there launched head­long into the climb­ing life­style. In 2014, Inoue felt es­tab­lished enough in her tat­too­ing ca­reer to try life on the road, climb­ing and free­lanc­ing as a tat­too artist. She moved into a Chevy S10 pickup and left Rich­mond for Hueco.

“Hueco changed my life and my climb­ing,” she says. “I met a lot of peo­ple who have be­come life­long friends.” Inoue draws par­al­lels be­tween the tat­too and climb­ing worlds—“They’re very un­re­lated groups of peo­ple, but they’re equally ob­sessed and pas­sion­ate,” she says. (At the 2018 Hueco Rock Rodeo, Inoue com­bined her two pas­sions: For the fes­ti­val’s twenty-fifth an­niver­sary, she and fel­low tat­too artist Brian Lynch of­fered $20 Hueco-themed tat­toos, like javeli­nas and prickly-pear cacti.) How­ever, she’s also found that her ded­i­ca­tion to climb­ing has im­pacted her tat­too­ing ca­reer. “I’ve sac­ri­ficed for­ward pro­gres­sion in my skill and ca­reer to climb,” she says. “When I’m climb­ing a lot, I have this anx­i­ety that I’m los­ing rel­e­vance [in the tat­too world], but I’d rather be hap­pier and less rel­e­vant than be con­sumed by one or the other.” How­ever, sim­i­lar to the nine days of work Inoue put into Cryptic

Egyp­tian, the of­ten 40-plus hours of tat­too­ing time re­quired for some of her larger pieces make the fi­nal re­sult all the more sat­is­fy­ing. “It’s a long, slow process for both,” she says. “You gotta put in the time.”

3. I noue drew this i mage, cre­ated a Ther­mo­fax sten­cil, then trans­ferred i t to her client’s l eg.

2. This girl plus tiger sits on a client’s i nner arm and i s an adap­ta­tion from a l ate80s flash piece.

1. Putting her own spin on a tra­di­tional de­sign, I noue tat­tooed this wolf from a Sailor Jerry flash sheet us­ing a tech­nique called whip shad­ing.

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