Pro Skateboarder Manny Santiago Is Skating Better Than Ever At Age 35

He tells us why.

Luis Ferrá

Coming off the release of the best video part of his life and heading straight into the Olympics, Manny talks health, daily routine, sponsorships, finances, reconnecting with old friends and chasing your dreams together.

ONE37pm: At 35 years old, you just released your best video part to date. It's so good and so well rounded. Rails, jumping, ledge lines, mannies. How were you able to put such an incredible part together at this point in your career?

Manny Santiago: Thank you! Well first, I don’t think I could have done it this way without the time frame COVID-19 provided for us. I tried to stay positive during something so tragic. With that being said, I had a lot of time to think about what I wanted to focus on. Watching my childhood skate videos like Menikmati, Sorry and In Bloom, to name some, I envisioned what my skating would look like back then and with that I came up with the concept for a video part. I’m going to make a video based off the OG California spots I grew up watching before I came to California. Feeding this idea every morning I had to do some research on spots which got me hyped to skate because it was videos I loved, and knowing I had to finish it before I left to Puerto Rico in December played a big part. That was all the motivation I needed. My childhood dream video part.

And you filmed it in 6 months?

Roughly, give or take 6 months. I started in July and finished around Jan. I had to take September off due to two back to back contests. Backyard Skate Battle and SLS had events so I couldn’t miss out on that. Street skating takes a toll on your body, especially if you're filming the caliber of tricks at high injury risk spots and I needed to prep for the contest. Then continued in October/November, which put a time crunch on everything. July, August, October, November and January was around the time frame. I’m not too sure how long, so I say 6 months, give or take.

The video has been so well received in the skate community. 

I’m blessed to be able to put out a piece of art I am happy with. I feel when you ultimately put your all into a project, it shows in the final result. I have gotten a lot of amazing feedback from legendary skaters, including Paul Rodriguez who was there for a majority of the filming. He was a big part of my inspiration for this project, since he has always been one of my favorite skaters and now a brother in my life. One piece of feedback that also meant a lot to me was Leo Romero sent me a DM. I have always admired him and his skating.

Do you have a trick or spot that are your favorites from the video?

I would have to say the Front Shuv-It Nose Manual Nollie 360 Flip at Pier 7 and Nollie Heel Back 5-0 at Clipper. Both are in SF.

What is your daily schedule like?

My daily schedule consists of waking up around 6:30am - 7am and taking an outdoor cold shower, then making some coffee. Directly after that, watching a motivational video on YouTube. After that I’ll text Spanish Mike and Paul to see what they got going on and set the plan for the day. Make breakfast around 12, I’m on an intermittent fasting lifestyle, and my window to eat is 12pm-8pm. I skate Monday, Wednesday, Friday—two sessions. Tuesday, Thursday, I take off to let my body recover, which allows me to take care of “life stuff” and also work on my “off road transit”, which I’m currently working on so we can go on camping skate trips. On my skate heavy days, when I’m finished, I sit in my ice bath for 10 minutes, then just rest and catch up on some Naruto or Boxing. *Laughs*

That’s very structured. 

It just makes sense to me. I have tried many different schedules and this one works best for what I need right now I’m my life. It’s hard not to skate everyday, but ultimately I have goals and in order to achieve them I have to discipline myself so I can have ultimate control while still enjoying my life.

What about diet? What are you eating?

For breakfast, we have either oatmeal pancakes made from scratch or actual oatmeal. I have a vegan lifestyle for health and recovery. I try to be as conscious as I can of what I put in my body. As for dinner, we either make something at home, which is usually some veggie soup or some vegan meal made from scratch, but of course we have cheat days. Sometimes we get “El Cocinero” which is the best vegan Mexican food in Los Angeles.

Over 6 years ago, you signed a big deal with Ecko Unltd. I know you had loved the brand since you were young, so it was a perfect fit. What did that mean to you at the time? What did it mean for your career?

It meant the world to me to skate for Ecko. I used to dream about it. I remember I told Dave Bachinsky that “one day ima skate for Ecko, watch”. He laughed, but when it happened I realized that you can truly make your dreams reality. Manifest your dreams with hard work. It was a blessing, so thank you Ben. As for my career it was a double sided sword that I was willing to take on. I had to work double as hard and just keep going. Skating sometimes doesn’t appreciate a brand coming into our space. The difference is what you do with the opportunity that life gives you. Ecko allowed me to be myself and work on two videos that went to Thrasher Mag (Pound For Pound, The Rematch) and to have ads in the magazine. Not to mention my own line in JC Penney. I wouldn’t change anything if I had to choose again because it was a chance of a lifetime. So thank you Ecko for the opportunity!

The difference is what you do with the opportunity that life gives you.

- Manny Santiago

It was the biggest deal monetarily that you had ever done, but instead of going out and blowing it, you were very smart with your money. 

It was the biggest deal I have had to date, which put me in a place to purchase a home, take care of my friends and family and just skate everyday. For me, I always watch those around me and I learn from other people's mistakes or situations. Paul helped me a lot with conversations about money, so I didn’t blow my money on things I didn’t need often. I invested in homes, skatepark, filmers, companies, stocks, crypto and also just budgeted myself. I have learned to have strategic things in place in case anything happens, I’m still able to just focus on skating and not stress on life stuff that sometimes derail your dreams.

You bought a house in PR right?

Yes, I recently just bought a house in Puerto Rico. I’m super excited because that has been a goal for a long time. As for now I plan to just get the house how I want it and build some skate stuff in the back with some plantation. That way if any of my friends want to go to PR they will have a place to stay so they can enjoy the tropic!

Going back to skating, you are already planning on filming another part right?

Yeah, I got so hyped on this part that the juices are flowing for another one and again finish it before I go to Puerto Rico in December. The difference will be that now I can skate any spot, not just restricted to the OG spots.

manny santiago vertical
Luis Ferrá

What keeps you so excited and motivated to continue to film at such a high level?

I think that we owe skateboarding that. It has given me freedom and a voice. A reason for living. So as far as I can I will skate as hard as I can and continue to push the limits. I want to represent the idea that you can skate how you want for as long as you want. I want to be 50 and kickflip crook a hard rail. That’s the next goal, on top of many more.

I want to represent the idea that you can skate how you want for as long as you want.

- Manny Santiago

It looks like you've also gone back to skating with the people you were originally skating with in LA years and years ago: Prod, Spanish Mike, etc. How did the gang all come back together again?

COVID brought us together, literally. Going back to reaching out to people you have fun skating with and also being responsible during that time. That led to us skating the backyard at my house, then when we started filming for the part, we would all street skate. I’m happy “Menudo” is back together. *Laughs*

What is it like to skate and film with Paul (Prod)? 

Paul’s like me. He’s a kid that just loves skateboarding. He’s a professional also. We prepare and decide what we want to skate and then we go get it. Paul's one of my biggest inspirations. Once I finished filming the part, the energy got passed to him and he started getting clips like crazy. He’s working on something right now that I think everyone’s going to be super hyped on!

What about working on projects like this with Spanish Mike, given all the history you two have together?

Spanish and I are like Khalid and Drake. We just get to work and enjoy it. If I tell Mike something, he has nothing but belief in what I tell him. That’s important. Plus it’s always good to have him with us, he’s a very special person. He is a vital part to my story and I thank him for that.

What is your situation for the Olympics? Are you in? What is the process?

The Olympics are a go. It’s at the end of July into August. I’m in the top 20 right now. Currently in 12th after you remove the 3 skaters per country quota. I’m really high in points, so I will for sure be in Tokyo. I will do everything in my power to be in Japan. They are taking the top 20 skaters overall with 3 per country and at least 1 per continent.

I want to change the history of Puerto Rico and be the first male Gold Medalist.

- Manny Santiago

How are you preparing for it?

Non-stop hard work. Perfecting my craft as much as I can. Don’t want to give away too much. You never know who’s reading this. *Laughs* But I want to change the history of Puerto Rico and be the first male Gold Medalist.

What is next for you Manny?

Winning Gold at the 2021 Olympics in Tokyo.

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