Manny Santiago or otherwise known as “Manny slays all”, known for his toothless smile and a passion for a plank of wood and four wheels; it’s understandable why so many skaters gravitate to appreciate the Olympic skateboarders energy and style on the skateboard.
Born in Cayey, Puerto Rico, his mother moved the family to Lowell, Massachusetts in the U.S. where he stepped on a board for the first time at the Roberto Clemente skatepark at 13 years old. He normally jokes that his passion for skateboarding came from his 'love at first fall'. In previous interviews he says, “Mama made it all possible…she took me away from dangerous places and brought me to where I could follow my dreams and reach my goals".
At age 14 he started skating seriously, by the time he was 17 he was picking up sponsors and soon started dropping his ground-breaking video parts 'Everywhere We Go' and 'Pound for Pound' which would send him straight into the mainstream skateboarding spotlight.
Santiago gives it all to his skate game, as mentioned before including the tooth he lost, a failed rail grind gave Manny that instantly recognisable look. Santiago can boast about living every skateboarder's dream by having a full skate park in his backyard; as a competition skateboarder having this available for the constant practice he needs to build up his muscle memory for competition’s is what has allowed him to stay at the top of the game for so long. He made history last year by taking part in the first Olympic skateboarding competition representing his home country Puerto Rico.
Over the years Manny has inspired the next generation of skaters with his video parts, a unique style and a man who can really heelflip or varial heelflip into anything. There aren't many skaters you will see pulling off what this man is doing at the young age of 36, especially with the infectious smile and passion he has at all times.
What got you into skateboarding and what do you think you would be doing if you didn’t?
What got me into skating was watching a group of kids just having a blast skating around, I didn’t understand how they could be having so much fun. I grew up in a town where Latinos didn’t skate so it never dawned on me to try until I saw the magic they created that day. If I didn’t skate I would have gone on to work for the union welding and working probably, I went to a trade school and fell in love with welding.
You have competed in numerous competitions, what has been your favourite moment of your career?
I would say my favourite moment in the contest to date still happens all the time. When they introduce me and I’m about to drop in, to hear everyone cheering and showing love still gets me till today. Without you guys I would be nothing so thank you always.
What’s your favourite spot you have ever skated?
I don’t have an actual one favourite spot to skate, I enjoy a good session with the homies and rad vibes!
Why did you decide to start following a vegetarian/vegan diet?
I decided to turn vegetarian at first for my health and actually skating. Skating is my life so I want to be a kid for as long as I can without any limitations. I saw what it did for people around me and I made the switch, now I’m full time vegan and love it. Also I love animals so I hate to be part of that world. I say if you kill it yourself and need it to survive that’s fine with me.
What advice would you give for future skateboarders looking to make it professionally?
My advice to kids coming up and chasing these dreams is simply, Do it because you love it not for a financial reason. If you do that the rest will follow and it will all make sense. Also smile and enjoy the process, it’s the best part.