We round out the first ‘Best Of’ week with an interview with crowd pleaser, Manny Santiago. After ripping the North Hollywood Skate Plaza and recapping his best moments of 2014, it’s time to catch up with Manny and learn more about who he is and what he’s up to.
What have you been up to, now that the SLS Season is over?
I’ve been skating a lot. I have a Thrasher Ecko video part I’ve been working on. I was supposed to work on it all year. But because of Street League and stuff, I wanted to make sure that I focused on the contest and skating my best. I’ve got two months to finish it, so I’m just gonna get it done.
What are you doing in your off time when you’re not skating?
I just went to Puerto Rico and opened up my first skate shop. I’m really hyped about that. It’s called Sk8Hop. It just opened up last Wednesday.
Congrats. How did that come about?
About three or four years ago, I went down there for skating and met one of the locals, and we just hit it off. We were just skating and we went to the beach one day, and we’re talking about how we can help the skate scene on the island. So we decided to do a distribution, which is called Sk8Hop Distribution. Then we went full force, went through with it, and after three and a half or four years, we figured we should open up a skate shop. Next thing you know, he’s got all the permits, the place, and just gettin’ it crackin’.
You put out that video before Pro Open where you were training pretty hard, are you still going hard with all your training?
Yeah of course, because I want to maintain my body at its best. One event is not going to make me stop taking care of my body because I still have next year and the year after that. I’m just trying to maintain my body so I can be in the best condition I can, for as long as I can.
Tell us more about your personal YouTube channel.
My YouTube channel started as part of my website, and my website is MannySlaysAll.com. I actually started making stickers for the website and the name was too long, so I changed it to MSA, which is Manny Slays All. I wanted to show kids what was cool in skateboarding through my eyes. Like, who I thought was dope, what I thought kids should see. That’s how it all started. It was just a way to show skateboarding through what I thought was cool. And Then from there, Spanish Mike helped me with a lot of the stuff. Now, I have a new filmer named Arnaldo. Yeah, it just doesn’t stop. I keep putting out content and keeping the kids hyped.
My favorite one (segment) is To Live And Learn, which is kinda like a day in the life. We just picked one day and we filmed it. It’s kinda like a behind the scenes of what we do as skaters in one day. It’s pretty good. It just takes a lot of work, so we gotta stay on it.
What do you think you’d be doing if you weren’t a pro skater?
Well I graduated high school as a welder from a technical school. So, I’d probably be a full time welder for the union and living in Lowell, Massachusetts. I don’t know. Who knows! All I know is I’m a professional skateboarder now. But if I wasn’t, I would be a welder because I was really passionate about it. There’s only been a couple things I’ve been really passionate about: welding and skating.
Do you think that welding will ever play a part in your life down the road? Welding skate spots or obstacles?
I don’t know, but it would be rad to do something with it. I remember we went down to Lake Havasu for the Street League Plaza Opening and I got there a little early. I was just watching them weld and they actually let me weld one of the rails on the park. Pretty hyped to be able to do that.
What do you think is the most challenging thing about skating in Street League?
I think that, it’s pretty much you against yourself. In the sense of what four of the hardest tricks you can do consistently. I don’t think it’s anything difficult. It’s just people trying to get the best out of themselves, and that’s just hard for some people to do.
Do you plan a strategy for the contest?
Not really a strategy, but I know what tricks I’m gonna do and kinda stick to those tricks. I don’t really have any second guesses on changing them. Some people do. Like Nyjah, he will be trying something and he’ll see somebody else. For instance in New Jersey, Ishod Frontside Flipped the rail and Nyjah saw what he scored, so he switched his trick and tried Backside Flip. Some people adjust in the moment, but I feel like that doesn’t really define your skating and what you’re trying to show as a skater. For me, I like to do the tricks that I do because that’s what makes me, me. And I’m not gonna switch a trick to showboat somebody else’s score. I mean, at the end of the day that’s the name of the game, but I just don’t see it that way.
How do you deal with the nerves and skating in front of a big crowd? You get the crowd hyped, so it’s hard to tell if you get nervous or not.
I mean, I’m always nervous in a sense of like, right when I have to go. But the crowd overpowers my nerves. It numbs my nerves. The louder they are, the more calm I get inside.
Which Section of the contest do you think caters to your skating more?
Last year, the first year I was in the Select Series, it was more the Impact Section that catered to me a lot. This year, it’s the Control Section.
What’s your relationship like with the rest of the SLS Pros? Do you get competitive?
I mean we’re all competitive in a sense that we all want to do good. I live in a house with Chaz and Bastien, when he’s in the States, and they’re the other two Pros in the contest. I’ll be downstairs like, “Oh, I hope he doesn’t sleep well so he skates bad.” But at the end of the day, I tell everyone that it’s you against yourself. I want them to do good. I want to do good. Ya know, I’m not there to not do good. I’m just wishing everyone the best of luck, and at times I’m even yelling at people, “Don’t give up.” Encouraging them because I want everyone to do good. For me, it’s like a big brotherhood out there.
What was your favorite stop of 2014?
As a course layout and how it looked, Chicago was the coolest. But ultimately, the Pro Open was my favorite because it was in LA. It was in my backyard. For how small it was, they built the park pretty rad. The other ones were just very interesting.
What skaters get you hyped?
A lot of people that are in the League. Bastien, Paul, Chaz, all these guys that live in the Valley. Everyone really gets me hyped. But some bros are closer than others. The group in the Valley is pretty tight knit, so everyone’s always hyped to go and skate. We skate outside of Street League, we skate during Street League, we’re just out having fun and that’s really important.
What would be your all time craziest or most memorable moment from Street League?
The first Select Series stop in Brazil when [Greg] Lutzka bailed. Knowing that if he bailed, it would put me in first place. And right after he bailed, I got this crazy chill from my the top of my head to my feet. Almost like when a ghost runs through you or you get the chills. It was like the most insane relieving feeling knowing that I won the first stop. Not the fact that he did bad, but the fact that it put me in first place. And that I won the first ever Select Series in Street League.
That’s what got you in the League right?
Not the first one. What got me in the League was in LA when I had one more try left. In order for me to qualify first, I had to make it into the Finals. I Tre Flipped a four block and it was really long, but I hadn’t skated it like that the whole time. It was one of those, I went with my gut type things. Once I landed, I rode away like nothing else mattered. Even the next day for Finals, nothing else mattered because I knew I’d done what I came to accomplish.
So what do you have planned for the rest of the year?
I have a Thrasher Ecko video part dropping November 21st. I have a personal video part coming out on Christmas, coming out through my channel. Then December 14th, is the fourth annual Prince of Puerto Rico. Which is a contest that I put together in Puerto Rico to give back to the kids and the skate community, and try to showcase their talent to everybody outside of Puerto Rico. So they can see how good the talent is and how much skateboarding has grown on the island.
Any last words?
Smile while it’s still free.