Sidewalk 206 – November 2013
In a day where kids only wanna be in Street League and generally seem to be missing the God damn point, it’s refreshing to see that people like Manny still hold it down for the love and remind us what the hell we’re doing this shit for.
Manny is a Colombian gangster with Canadian infusions; he’s done a lot of travelling and moving around growing up which has shaped him into quite a respectful, humble young man with a heart of gold. His heart of gold is only outmatched by his ability to not feel fear, (and probably bang supermodels).
Manuela mentally projects positivity every day and is never one to lose sight of why we ride this four wheeled plank – staying true to his roots is far from a foreign concept. If you truly love something, it shows.
He’s also kinda into himself. Sometimes. Now enjoy some seriously gnarly shit.
– Daryl Dominguez
PHOTOGRAPHY BY VARIOUS ARTISTS
Okay then Manny, so you’re half Colombian/half Canadian – how does that work? What aspects of both cultures do you have in terms of how you live your life?
– My dad is Colombian and my mum is Canadian. I was born in Canada and lived a very western lifestyle. I’ve only ever been to Colombia three times. I wish I’d lived there for a bit so I could gain more culture from my Colombian side, but that wasn’t the case.
The Western media tells us that Colombia is a scary, lawless place where anything can happen to you if you’re stupid – what are your thoughts on that?
– As I say, I’ve only been there three times – when I was 2 years old, 10 years old, and last Christmas holiday so I don’t know as much as I’d like to about the country but I’d say that the media is pretty accurate when it comes to the dangers of visiting and living in Colombia. The government and guerrilla warfare is less of a problem now then before though. I think the biggest danger is mostly for foreigners being in the wrong place at the wrong time; this mostly happens in Bogota.
My dad is from Cali, which is an incredible city, that’s full of life and friendly people. Of course you always have to be careful on where not to go on a night out, but that’s just like most cities in the world.
When I visited last year I had the best time; the women are gorgeous and love to dance and have a good time. Dancing and interacting with people is awesome. Everyone is friendly with everyone else and they all love to eat and drink.
Can you speak Spanish fluently then?
– When I was born my dad was still learning English, so for some reason he decided it was a good idea to practice his broken English on me (laughs).
So no, I don’t speak fluent Spanish, but I know enough to get around and I understand pretty much everything, I just have a bad habit of answering back in English.
I wish I lived in a Spanish speaking country because it’s pretty embarrassing to have a name like mine and not be able to speak perfect Spanish. My dad regrets it so much.
You’ve moved around a lot for somebody so young – Canada, Hong Kong, Switzerland and now the UK – what do you say is your nationality? Do you feel European? Or Canadian? Or South American? Or British? Or what?
– Out of nationalities I feel mostly Canadian, but got a good taste of the European lifestyle. I’m still adjusting to the British ways.
You started skating whilst you lived in Hong Kong, right? How did that happen?
– I started skating just before I moved. There was a skatepark across the street form my house in Canada. I just saw all the older dudes doing it and thought it was cool, so I begged my parents for a skateboard and never went a day without having skateboarding on my mind since.
What kind of life did you have in HK? Is it as hectic, overpopulated and as crazy as it appears?
– For the first ten months of living in Hong Kong, I lived in the centre and it was madness. It’s so hectic and there are just too many people. We finally moved and settled in a little apartment in Discovery Bay; it was so peaceful and so many foreigners lived there, so my friends were European, South American and British. I went to an international school, but this Nigerian guy and I were the only ones that weren’t Asian.
So aside from Canada as a kid, you’ve lived in London for the most time as an adult and as a skater – which place has the craziest humans on the streets? I’m assuming Switzerland is fairly mellow, Hong Kong I’m unsure about, but London after those two must’ve been a bit of a trip…
– Yeah Switzerland is pretty mellow, but crazy shit went down because I had a crazy group of friends. Street Gypsy Gang!
London is sick too, but it’s got nothing on Geneva in the summer. Not only are the skate spots amazing but there are actually places to swim and relax too. The nightlife is pretty dead but we always managed to turn it around and get up to some shenanigans, (laughs).
I prefer living in London for sure, but Geneva is a good place to be.
So you’re 10 years old, you’ve just moved from a suburb of Ontario to Hong Kong off the coast of China – how did you find going skating in that environment? Was it popular there?
– I found it really upsetting and difficult moving away from Canada, but as soon as we moved away from the centre of HK and into a more international environment, I started making friends that skated too.
I’m sure there’s a bigger skate scene now, but it was still pretty good back then, and of course the spots are amazing. I entered my first competition when I was 12 and ended up getting second place in all of China. I started getting sponsors and got invited to the Asian X Games in Thailand, then I moved to Geneva a couple of months later and had to start all over again.
Which pros/videos/etc hyped you up in the beginning? What generation are you?
– I was obsessed with Element and watched all the 411vm videos. Tosh Townend was my favourite skater as a kid, now I’d have to say I’m in this generation of skateboarding with guys like Ishod Wair, Wes Kremer and Brandon Westgate. Those guys are my favourites to watch.
So when you were younger did you skate some of the spots in HK that have subsequently become famous with skaters travelling to China to film?
– I went back to visit when I was 15 and skated some famous spots, but I was mostly distracted by this girl I met to be honest, (laughs).
Was there a meet up spot that everyone went to?
– We would always meet up by the pier and skate through the shopping centres and get chases from security guards. There was this school with perfect movable plastic benches that we skated too.
Do you think you’re the only person to have ever manualled the entire length of St Pauls, the footage of which was in your ‘Fresh Meat’ Crossfire clip?
– Probably not, but Douwe (Macare) tried to nosemanual all the way to the street after the stairs I popped off. He ate it so hard right before the street curb (laughs). Xavien (Francis) has it all on film. You pick up so much speed; I have no idea how he made it that far in a nosemanual.
Give us an outsider’s perspective – what do you think of Southbank? Was it somewhere you found yourself gravitating towards as a new London resident? Have you witnessed much craziness there – skate wise or just in general?
– Southbank is sick; I really like it. If you can skate the ledges at Southbank you can skate just about any ledge (laughs). I wish I got to skate it before they put up all those walls though. The scene there is very mixed – you’ve got your Southbank locals that just sit on the sides all anti social, and then you got loads of kids and tourists. It depends on the day because I’ve seen the locals kill it too. Most of them are friendly, but there’s always those dudes who have got a big head and think they’re better than everyone. They don’t smile, got their hoods up and just sit by the Thames or cruise around. That’s just how I feel personally; maybe I’ve got it all wrong. I just don’t find it the most comforting place to skate when you feel like you’re the only person that’s skating the whole time.
It’s a weird vibe because you’ve also got all the tourists standing and watching all the skaters like zoo animals. I’ve had good times there though for sure, and lots of hot girls walk by in the summer. Chewy kills it, he’s easily my favourite person to watch skate at Southbank. No one can skate it like him.
You’ve also put in some heavy Bay hours since moving here – which layout do you prefer – new or old? Any good stories from your time spent there?
– Yeah, the UK isn’t the driest of places so whenever it’s raining, I’ll head down there for a session with all the homies. I prefer the new setup for sure because there’s more to skate. I only need to pay two pounds to skate at Bay as long as I clean up after the session, which is awesome because there is no way I could pay seven pounds to go there. Not many stories, just good times, new tricks and injuries.
How long did the nosegrind front-foot flip out on the SB beam take?
– That took about 10 minutes somehow, (laughs). My friend was just like, “I dare you to try it” and I was like, “OK, I’m down”. I fought for the landing though, I didn’t wanna keep trying it over and over again. Landing primo would suck.
So when you first moved to London did you have much of an idea of how the city was, or what skateboarding there looked like?
– I visited London when I was 14 so I knew kind of what it was like, but had no idea what the skate scene was like.
Had you watched any UK videos or anything, or were you more connected to a global scene?
– I didn’t know anything about UK skateboarding until I moved here. I only watched American or European videos. The Germans and French kill it!
At what point did the idea of being sponsored and deliberately going out and filming tricks come into it for you?
– I just went out filming because it’s fun to get a line or a clip at a spot with your friends. Of course I was thinking about sponsors, but it wasn’t something I cared too much about as a kid.
Were you jumping on rails in Switzerland? Or did you wait till you moved to the city with the roughest spots in Europe to do that?
– I started skating handrails when I was 10 in the skatepark, but I didn’t do my first street one until I was 12. It was in Hong Kong at the pier. There was this nine-stair handrail I really wanted to boardslide so I just went for it. The feeling of landing that was amazing, so I continued skating them. And yeah, the handrails here are brutal (laughs). That much is definitely true.
How did you go about integrating into street skating in London when you first arrived? Did you know people already? Where did you go first to meet people and whom did you meet?
– I met Sparrow Knox in Geneva through a friend before knowing I was moving to London, so when I moved here the first person I hit up was Sparrow and then got introduced to Tom. We skated at Cantelowes then Tom invited me to Bay one night, and that’s’ how I met Daryl (Dominguez) and continued going to Bay and meeting more people to skate with.
Did you find London to be a friendly place when you first arrived in the city?
– Umm…London isn’t the friendliest of places, that’s for sure, but I’m not sensitive about it. I’ve made good friends from skateboarding and outside skateboarding and they are all happy and good people, and that’s what matters.
So you get boards from Fabric – how did that happen? Did you chase it – or did they approach you?
– Fabric saw an edit of Kyron (Davis) and I at Mile End and contacted Bryce from Parlour to ask about me. I’d never even heard of the brand so I went home and looked at their website and saw that (Mark) Baines rode for them and that it’s a fresh company and has a lot of potential. David (Whitelaw) called me up and we had a chat; he started flowing me boards and they ended being the best boards I’d ever skated. I was hyped. Getting sponsors in the UK for me was not happening so I just took a chance on Fabric, and it’s been awesome; David knows what he’s doing. It’s an all around good vibe being a part the team.
Is anything else happening, sponsorship-wise?
– Just Fabric and Doodah Skate Store in Switzerland. Jody (Smith) has been flowing me DC shoes for the past couple of months too.
So you’re not afraid to jump onto big rails Manny and presumably were just as keen before you became sponsored – what’s the motivation for you to do this kind of dangerous stuff?
– I love handrails (laughs). I don’t know what else to say…
I often wonder how much that genre of skateboarding is based on the development of pro skating as a lucrative career – as in, would dudes be jumping on 20 stair rails if they weren’t getting paid to do it?
– Personally, I like the rush and overcoming the fear. Being paid to do something you love more than anything is worth all the pain. To be able to make a career out of it would just push me more to go bigger, so I think they probably have that mind-set that’s either about making that cash money, or because they really feel like doing it. To be honest, it’s more the feeling that you get of knowing that it’s possible, and if you land it, you’re the one that feels that sensation. It’s hard to explain (laughs). I think the main thing is to just not give a f*ck and go for it, and if you really want it then you’ll do it.
What’s the worst slam/outcome you’ve personally had with handrails?
– My worst slam isn’t on a handrail; it was on a ledge with a two-metre drop. I tried to back 5-0 it in a line and got caught on the hole you’re suppose to gap over, and I just flew to the bottom straight to my ribs and chin. I couldn’t breathe; it was the worst 45 seconds of my life. Being winded is not fun at all, but at least a minute later you’re good to go again.
I slammed pretty hard trying the nose blunt on SOAS 14; I did the splits and hit my knee. I slammed like that the first time I tried it, then went back half a year later and slammed exactly the same, only that time my trousers didn’t split so after a couple of minutes I got up and kept going for it until I landed it.
So at the moment you’re still living at home, sharing a bedroom, working part-time as a waiter and then going out and back-tailing kinked rails in your spare time – how much of this is motivated by personal satisfaction vs. how much is you on the come up?
– I would have to say it’s pretty equal. It really is a personal satisfaction, but also I’m hoping that something good comes out of it.
You’ve lived all over the place and skated within various different scenes – was Britain the easiest place to get noticed/hooked up? Why do you think that is?
– The UK has been the best and hardest four years of my life for many reasons, not just skating. I was all hooked up in Switzerland and had a sponsor for everything. I wasn’t getting paid or anything, but I got a lot of free product and as a 14 to 16 year old kid, that’s all you needed. It has been so frustrating trying to get noticed in the UK. At the end of the day it comes down to whom you know in every industry. People here absolutely destroy it and most of them deserve what they have or should have more, but for sure there’s those ones who don’t deserve it based on skating alone but have that ‘certain look’ about them. That’s in every country though, and that’s life eh? I love UK skateboarding and the scene and have learned so much from it, but I just don’t feel like this is where I’m meant to be.
Living in London is hard: life is so expensive and finding work isn’t too easy. I’ve got pretty good qualifications, but all I wanna do is skate and go on trips and shoot photos and film for videos. Hopefully it will be all worth it in the end, but right now I’ve got no money, especially now that I spent it all on a trip to California.
Is it crazy to an outsider to see such a small country with so many little board brands and ‘sponsored skaters’? What do you think of that?
– I think it’s amazing. I think it’s incredible how the UK has so many board companies. When the skaters support British skateboarding, it’s great to see. Even skaters around the world are hyped on some of the brands that come out of the UK.
You’re a firm fixture at UK events too – what do you like about skating in contests, and is that something you’d had experience of before moving to the UK?
– I wouldn’t consider myself a ‘contest skater’, but I’ve skated a lot of contests. Amsterdam Am is my favourite one because I get to see all my homies from around Europe, and the level is unreal – there’s such a good vibe there. There are not too many skate contests here; I wish there was because they are fun. I prefer street skating 100% but I would never say no to a chance to win some money.
Describe an average day at work please – what exactly are you doing, where and what kind of customers are you dealing with?
– I’m basically unemployed. When I was 19 I had this dope full time job as a teacher’s assistant at a private primary school in Knightsbridge; I love working with kids and helping them out. Now I’m too old for that job because it’s only for gap year students. When I do work as a waiter I’m serving drinks to old stuck up pricks with a lot of money and young girlfriends and wives. I just smile and act friendly with the women. They don’t look at me like a lowlife serving them drinks. I’ve also done some modelling and been paid in cash. I wouldn’t want to work through an agency though because I’d have to work with dumb two-faced people that don’t have any personality. I can’t stand dishonest people that smell their own farts.
So what are you planning to do in the future? You’ve mentioned moving to the States before – is that your plan? Where do you want to go and live and why?
– Yeah my plan is to move out to California to skate and go into the business world and work in media – to advertise and promote companies. I would prefer to work for skate companies, but I can see myself offering an authentic and original aspect in other marketing brands. I’m going there and I’m gonna work for that opportunity and make the right connections. It can be a pretty twisted industry sometimes and full of fake people, but it’s something that I could put aside and stay real.
I don’t take bullshit from anyone, we are all human: I’m a hard worker when it comes to something I’m passionate about. Hopefully it all works out.
Have you ever visited your father in Qatar?
– Yeah he’s a fitness personal trainer. He moved out there four years ago and he trains the Prince of Qatar and has loads of other clients. Qatar is very strict and has a lot of rules due to the culture and religion. I’ve been there three times and it’s so boring for a teenager or young adult, but I get to see my dad who I look up to more than anyone. He’s so much fun and an incredible human being. He doesn’t have much money, but he doesn’t have to pay taxes and he’s really happy and has fun and a sexy 30-year-old Colombian wife, (laughs). Skate spots are rad there because it’s all new, but I don’t bring my board because I just wanna hang out with my dad and relax.
What’s the connection between you and Douwe (Macare)? You now both ride for the same board brand but you were friends before, right? How did you meet each other?
– Douwe came to visit Daryl a couple of years ago and we went out, skated, and then became friends. We saw each other at competitions and he continued to come back to London and visit. He went out to Barcelona with our friend Kilian and had an apartment there for three months, and I went over for three weeks and stayed with them. We all had such a sick time, partied a lot and all filmed a ‘Pop In, Pop Out’ at the DC embassy. He was riding for Alien Workshop at the time, but just through the distributor in Holland. Fabric were really hyped on Douwe from seeing edits and asked me if he lived in London. I told them he lives in Holland, but adding him to the team would be a power move.
Douwe was so down because we would be on the same team and we would go on team trips together. He came to visit me after Barcelona and David sent him some boards to try out, and of course he loved them. At first it was a flow deal because no one knew him except me, but then he came to Barcelona for the Fabric DC Embassy trip and met everyone and got along with everyone; he killed it at the park and on the street. Then we went to Newcastle just before the summer and he met David and we stayed at his place. After that and all the footage he put together for his welcome part, it was a done deal.
You’re pretty tight with the Skrimp Life crew – how did you meet all those guys?
– I met them all through Kyron, then I started going out filming with Xavien (the master mind) and I was hyped on the sessions and the fun times with everyone. Sooner or later it started to become a thing and people were hyped on the Skrimp Life edits.
We’ve got a full length video coming out in January, and Xavien wants to put out another Skrimp Life edit and trailer before releasing the full length video. Kyron and I are the only ones with full parts, but the video consists of a lot of sick tricks and skaters. It’s not something you’re gonna want to miss.
Explain what Skrimp Life means to those who don’t know please….
– Skrimp Life is the everyday struggle…no money and just skateboarding, but we all like to think we’re big ballers, (laughs).
What else is important to you Manny – out- side of skateboarding I mean – what else do you care about?
– My family is really important to me. I’ve got an 18-year-old sister that I love more than anything; I would do anything for her. My mum and dad are both smart, loving and caring. My health and fitness is important to me because it makes me feel good and healthy. I like helping people and making people laugh. I like to read about other people’s opinions on life. It’s interesting to know how other people perceive life. It makes you think more about what’s important in life and to enjoy the little things. I like meeting new people and going out and having a good time.
And women! I love women, (laughs)…
How deep are you into the Social Media matrix? How much time do you spend on FB/Insta etc every day? Too much?
– After a year and a half of not having a working phone with credit, I finally got an iPhone, so when I’m chillin’ at home I’m watching Vines, on Facebook and watching fails and skate videos on YouTube. I hate it and love it. Instagram is fun too, (laughs).
Okay, let’s finish off with a few questions that Daryl Dominguez sent to me: Tell us about the time Tommy Fynn stripped for you…
– It was at the Far N’ High skate contest in Paris. I bailed and split the back of my head open on the corner of the rail and Tommy took off his shirt and wrapped it around my head to stop the blood. It wasn’t much of a strip, (laughs).
Pretty much everywhere you go you seem to attract a fair amount of female attention – what’s the secret?
– (Laughing), I can’t answer this…ask the ladies.
From moving around a lot growing up, how do you feel this has shaped the way you skate? The hammer flex you operate on can’t strictly be inspired by British skating alone, can it?
– Living in Geneva made me skate more ledges, but since not a lot of people skated handrails I wanted to skate them more. All my friends back in Canada are handrail kings so I’ve gotta keep up with them. London has made me more creative and made me skate faster. I watch a lot American skaters and I’m more inspired to skate bigger stuff I guess.
Okay that’ll do Manny – finish off with any thanks or shout outs please…
– I’d like to thank David and Bish at Fabric skateboards. Ben Larthe, Leo Sharp, Reece Leung and Johnny Haynes for all the photos. Jody Smith for the shoes and clothes. Shout out to all of you at Sidewalk Magazine – thanks for everything. Shout out to all the Skrimp Boys and the Street Gypsy Gang. All the homies! All the ladies! UK skateboarding! My little brother D-Man. Get Lesta – keep doing what you’re doing! DAMN! SGUITB out in Newcastle, NPG, La Fin Equipe! Thanks again for this Haunts!