MIAMI — I remember one time, when a group of people passed me while they were on a walking tour of Miami Beach that I heard the guide announce “…and, over there, we have a group of skateboarders. They are an inherent part of the beach’s rich culture.”

That really blew my mind.

Having skated for over 23 years as well as having been deeply involved in the skateboard scene, I’ve never really heard anything that positive ever said about it before. I’ve seen it at its lowest low and now at its highest high. If that’s what you want to call it.

When I was younger, what intrigued me most about skateboarding was the fact that people hated it. Mostly parents. Which is the reason why that made me want to do it even more. People will say, “Yeah, I used to skate,” because now it’s “cool.” Those were probably the same jocks that spit on me at one point. Not many people “really” did it. I was an outcast- along with the punk rockers and goths- at my school because I skated, which was fine with me because they accepted me for who I was.

Years ago, skateboarding thrived during the punk rock era because the lifestyle kind of went hand in hand with it, which was probably how the bad boy image associated with it came about. Now that skateboarding has become more widely accepted, it has taken some of the thrill out of it for me. Now a majority of kids want to skate primarily because of the money and the fame that can be achieved through it, rather than because of the feeling one gets from it. In my opinion, that’s the wrong reason to do it. Although I do meet kids from time to time that have their own style and seem to enjoy the actual act of skating.

I’d much rather view skateboarding in the raw essence of where it was born: in the streets. To me it’s much more abstract and aesthetically pleasing to watch. In my opinion, ESPN has turned skateboarding into a circus, perpetuating the idea that whoever does it will be rich and famous from it one day. Thinking that way misses the whole fun aspect of the experience.

I’ve always loved skating because of how the board felt under my feet as well as the feeling of rolling away from a good trick, which is why I still do it to this day. Skateboard videos influenced me greatly in the late 80’s and early 90’s. I lived vicariously through them. Now, videos have become disposable partially due to the Youtube era and it saddens me. The originality and the evolution of tricks is what always inspired me the most- like a never ending puzzle.

An unidentified reader commented on the interview I gave to Blast Magazine a few months ago, an article written by Gabriella von Rosen, making the comment that “since he makes no residuals from skateboarding then it’s probably not legit." Well, because I do it for fun. Isn’t that legit enough?

Honestly, when I was getting paid to skate, it made me not want to do it anymore. But why should I quit? Skateboarding has taken me to so many places I would have never been had it not been for this piece of wood with some wheels on it. The art has also introduced me to many influential and interesting individuals: artists, musicians, celebrities, athletes, comedians, etc. Skateboarding has been a very enlightening experience for me and has made me who I am.

Here’s a video I filmed and edited of some friends in Miami. We did it for the fun of it and I hope you enjoy it!

P.S. and YES I did get paid at one point in my skateboarding “career” and am also well known in the skateboarding world. I never knew that “Dango” (my nickname) meant sticky rice ball in Japanese until a few years ago. “I’M BIG IN JAPAN!!!”

About The Author

Skateboarder Michael "Dango" Mancini was profiled in Blast in December 2009.

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