Manny Santiago is hands down one of the hardest working skateboarders in the world. And not just on his skateboard -- Manny puts in equal amounts of time off his board to help the brands that support him grow and to continue to expand his social media footprint. After taking top honors last year in the Street League Select Series, Santiago is now working hard to prepare for the upcoming contest season. Following the release of his newest video part with longtime friend Dave Bachinsky, XGames.com caught up with Santiago to talk about all the changes in his life as he continues to move forward in hopes of winning this year.
XGames.com: The new Salt N Pepper video was awesome. Tell me about the concept behind it. To me it seemed like it was all about your roots as a skateboarder: Growing up with Dave Bachinsky, being Puerto Rican and the Love Park Segment at J-Kwon.
Santiago: Yeah, the video was just to show people the friendship that Dave [Bachinsky] and I have and how much fun we have skating together.
Did you plan on having the video segmented from the beginning?
It just started with us filming together but as it progressed we were like, "We should have a Puerto Rico section." And "Let's have a J-Kwon section!" Then I said, we should make the J-Kwon section like Stevie's [Williams] part from "The Reason." And while we were trying to figure out how to tie in the Puerto Rico part, we got that clip of us almost dying on that rail, so we made it as if I got knocked out and us skating down there was part of a dream.
What was your role with the whole video? You did more than just film tricks for it, right?
I kind of directed it. I always try to have input in my video parts and in this one I had complete control. And since Dave wants to just skate, I was sort of the man behind the scenes figuring out the sections and the music to go with it. All the small things like the Mortal Kombat bit and the Super Mario part, because Dave is obsessed with Mario, everything ties into our childhood. I played Mortal Kombat and Dave played Mario. It was pretty awesome to do all the things that seemed like they would be cool but most people wouldn't take the risk to do in a video part. But I didn't care. Like it or hate it, it shows who we are as people.
One of the other things I noticed in there was that you're waving some new sponsor flags. Who are you skating for now?
Right Now, Flat fitty, Rockstar, Ecko Unlimited, I'm still working out the shoe situation, Etcetera Insoles, Grizzly, Diamond, Ammo, Tensor, Andale Bearings, Bliss Wheels, Ion Cameras and OC Ramps. There's quite a few in there.
How did the whole Ecko Unlimited thing come about? I'm sure a lot of people don't realize that they have such deep roots in skating on the East Coast.
That's exactly what I try to explain to people. Even before the Beast of the East (a contest series sponsored by Zoo York and Ecko Unlimited) I used to wear Ecko to skate in. Fresh out of high school that's all I wore. So it's cool to tie that back to what is going on now. I even have old footage of me in Ecko shirts. Basically, I got a phone call from them around the time that my Famous contract was up and I just felt like I had been there for a long time and it was time to grow as a person. Ecko was somewhere I wanted to be since I started skateboarding.
Is Ecko going to do a whole skate program or just focus on you?
They are just focusing on me for right now.
Is there going to be a full MSA and Ecko line?
Yeah, it should be out this summer. They are just figuring out where it's going to be sold right now.
That's rad. So what happened with Ipath?
There was a period of time where we were doing as much as we could, but with the economy the way it is, the numbers didn't end up adding up and there was miscommunication. Then I had the option to leave or stay and I just realized that I want to skate for a brand that is already established so that I can grow with one rather than try to rebuild one, because we already tried to do that with Axion. That way I can just focus on the skating rather than help run a brand.
Dave said that you are moving up to the Simi Valley area. Is that so you can be getting ready for the contest season with the rest of the guys up there?
I just saw it more as an opportunity to live somewhere a little more quiet and safer. Plus, I'll be able to do a lot more. Shane O'Neill lives right down the street, Paul [Rodriguez] lives two exits away and Paul's park is about a mile away. So there are more pros than cons. Plus, the valley has a lot of spots I can skate. And we ended up having another room so Chaz [Ortiz] moved in and now we can skate together all the time. I've known him since he was about 8, so it's cool to be able to live together now.
What's going on with your knee right now and do you think it's going to affect you as we move into the Street League season and the upcoming X Games?
My knee was kind of bugging me for a little bit and they said there was nothing wrong with it when I got my MRI. But last night when I was skating Paul's park, I ended up falling and putting a bunch of weight on it toward the side and it started hurting again. So right now I'm icing it and kind of chilling, which I don't normally do. But I'll be back in a couple days most likely.
I would see you over the summer at contests and it seemed like you had a pretty strict routine for getting in shape, are you still running a lot?
I had to stop running because it was really hurting my knees. But when I'm on my routine I start my day by waking up, making some coffee and then I do sit ups and push ups. I've also got a bike in my room now, so I ride that a couple miles too. Then I usually go out and have about three sessions throughout the day and come home and take a nice bath with the jets. Chaz is giving me a dirty look because he's jealous that I have the bigger room with the jacuzzi.
With this new part, how are you feeling about the progression of skateboarding?
I think it's incredible. I only want to progress as well and I want to leave a dent in skateboarding, which will take progression. I have come too far in this to not be remembered for who I am and what I did. To be able to be one of the first people to have done tricks at a street spot is pretty amazing. Not many people can say they are the first to have done this trick or done that trick.
One of the coolest things you've done is that along the way you have given back with the Prince of Puerto Rico contest and all the "Homie Hype" on Mannyslaysall. Did you plan on doing that all along or did you just fall into it?
I feel like if you can make a difference, you should do it. You shouldn't be greedy about your life. If I can help someone I will, and if I can give advice, I will. If I can bring light to someone's skate career, then I will. I know I worked hard and if I can give someone a little bump or a little guidance, why not? There were a lot of people that helped me to get to where I am today, so I want to do the same for others.
What advice would you have for kids out there that are coming from the small towns and trying to slay all one day?
I would say that it's not going to be easy and to not give up right away. Just keep your head up and work hard.
What other stuff do we have to expect from you in the near future?
I don't know. Hopefully I can have my hand raised by Rob [Dyrdek] at the end of one of the contests this summer.
Is your main focus getting ready for the contests?
That and I have until November to film a video for Ecko.
Do you have any footage for it yet?
No, I have nothing!