Manny Santiago is smiling like a kid on his birthday. The professional skateboarder, who will grind rails and perform tricks Sunday, August 23 at the Street League Skateboarding Nike SB World Tour at Prudential Center, has just received a customized New Jersey Devils jersey.
“This is rad! This is the memorabilia you live for,” Santiago says, as he tries on his first officially licensed hockey jersey and prepares to show Fox 5 New York personality Baruch Shemtov how to skateboard at Castle Point Skate Park in Hoboken.
Before Shemtov and the Fox crew arrive, Santiago takes the time to explain exactly what he’s going to do for the onlookers and waiting cameras. By demonstrating where the board will go, he helps assure the cameras will be aimed in the right spots to get breathtaking shots of the stunts.
After warming up a bit by skating around the park, doing tricks on the ramps, rails and quarter pipe, he takes a break and provides a combination of play-by-play and color commentary as local skaters perform tricks on the half pipe.
Watching the locals perform tricks and practice their craft reminds him of how he first got involved with skating. “I was born in Puerto Rico and raised in Lowell, Massachusetts, and my town had built a cement park, like this,” Santiago explains. Seeing local skaters and thinking it looked fun, Santiago eventually asked the skaters if he could give it a shot, and one skater loaned him a board. “Once I stepped on [the board,] I was hooked. I couldn’t ride, I couldn’t even stand on it, so I would just come back every day.”
Eventually he built the skills that propelled him to become part of Street League Skateboarding’s World Tour, which will make its fifth consecutive annual stop at Prudential Center on Sunday. More than a skills competition, Santiago describes skating as a brotherhood. “It’s an outlet for you to express yourself. You don’t need a team to do it, you can do it by yourself.”
Back to skating, Santiago smooths a railing before performing a few tricks, alternating between grinds and jumps. He’s got Lil Wayne playing in his earbuds as he dances on the platform, waiting for cameras to be set and in-focus. Once the cameras are good to go, he’s instantly in performance mode, staring down the rail as he skates toward it and goes airborne.
Santiago talks with the local skaters as Fox 5 arrives, and after asking Shemtov which hand he’d lead with in a boxing match, he determines that the broadcaster would skate with his right foot forward, known as “Goofy” stance. After showing Shemtov how to stand on the board and balance while the board isn’t moving, Santiago guides Shemtov up a ramp, which he tells the first time skater is a lot harder than it looks.
It seems Santiago’s smile is contagious, as Shemtov starts too smile as he gets used to moving on the skateboard. Recognizing Shemtov’s unfamiliarity, Santiago offered encouragement as Shemtov took his first steps on the board.
After the demonstration and a quick interview, Santiago is off to New York City for another appearance, promoting Sunday’s event at Prudential Center.
Check out the Fox 5 NY story below