Ok, so a few years back, maybe 2001 or 2002, Strength magazine asked me to do a piece on manuals and interview some the manual champs on the subject. The article never saw the light of day, because Strength was headed towards its demise, but I did get to interview a lot of pros and will start posting them up here now, one at a time, for you to feast your little eyes on.
I shall start with Mr. Rodney Mullen, who concluded his conversation with me by stating, "This was fun!" Stay tuned for other interviews with Rob Welsh, Ronnie Creager, Tim O'Connor, Marc Johnson and I think I have stuff from Biebel, Henry Sanchez and Marcus McBride on tape that still needs transcribing...don't hold me too it though.
RB: What was your favorite place to do manuals?
RM: Schools with a bunch of different sized tables and benches, where I get the most freedom to piece them together every way I can think of. They're good for Casper, primo, and grind combos because they're so smooth, and they're tall enough to give it a little punch. That's the best part of skating to me: making ideas happen. Plus I can skate alone, or with a couple of random neighborhood kids that don't care about trying to impress anyone. Sometimes they're fun to skate with because they get joy out of doing basic goofy stuff, and it's fun teaching them stuff and seeing them light up when they do it the first time.
Who/what made you first want to try manual tricks?
Mike Ternasky is the one who pulled me out of old-school stuff and made me start trying "street" tricks. I started with manuals because I was so horrible that I didn't know how to do grinds or any other type of progressive street tricks at the time. Not much has really changed...
What was the first 'hard' manual trick you learned?
I don't know: it's all pretty relative to what you're used to doing. I wanted to do switch 360-flip to fakie manual before I could do good switch 360-flips, so that seemed hard. Nose-wheelie nollieflip to nosewheelie takes 5 minutes on flat-ground, but it got really hard doing it over a little gap because my eyes would gravitate to the gap every time instead of looking through the trick, so that's what made it hard. If I were used to the gap at the time, it wouldn't have been that big of a deal. It's stuff like that which is meaningless in absolute terms that acquires meaning only in context of what you're used to skating.
What was the one you are most proud of?
That changes for the same reasons. Right now it's this handstand flip up this little curb to nosewheelie. It was rotten from the beginning, looking at everything upside-down. Then my board kept bouncing off the curb near my face, which was also a bummer. Then I'd land nosewheelie, only to swerve off into the abyss because my feet were coming down from overhead like some kind of drunken pendulums. When I'd turn my head to look at the curb, it upset the whole shebang, so I'd have to roll into it blind and I'd count in order to keep everything else lined up right. Even once I landed to straight nosewheelie, my body was too out of whack to pop off, and I wanted to light myself on fire. Then the manager came out and threatened me, and I thought I burst a blood vessel in my head from 2 hours of being upside down under all that strain. Right now, that wins the award for me, but I'm not quite sure if "proud" is how I feel. I just feel joy.
What took you longest to learn?
I think it's this super long combo that I'm saving for the video as my last trick at the moment. You'll laugh when you see it.
What haven't you landed yet but are working on, or gave up on?
I've been pretty blessed at the moment, and I'm not carrying any of those monkeys on my back. I've got a couple of ideas for some future heartache, though.
Who is the king of the manual?
Daewon Song is the king, period. I hate him.
What is the most memorable manual trick ever done?
Probably that rotten handstand flip to nosewheelie, because I've been getting migraines ever since.
What's so appealing about manual tricks as opposed to other types of skating?
Because there are endless combinations, and they tune in your flip tricks so well, and you can practice them anywhere there is ground. They're just fun.