Dan Mancina can't see, but he keeps grinding out his skateboarding dreams
APR 29, 2019
The next time you think about quitting your passion because it has gotten too difficult, consider Dan Mancina.
Just last week, the 31-year-old skateboarder from Warren, Michigan, nailed a kickflip onto a ledge for the first time, posting the footage on his Instagram account for his 128,000 followers to see. Pulling off a kickflip — or any trick for that matter — for the first time would be thrilling for any skateboarder, but Mancina enjoyed it even more — even though he could barely see it.
Think of Mancina as Marvel's Daredevil with a skateboard: He's blind. Ninety-five percent of his field of vision is blacked out. He likens what he can see to peering through a “dirty, hazy window,” something he discusses in Out of Frame, a documentary by Red Bull about his skating exploits. He can't see his own skating successes, even if you can see them on Instagram.
But he won't stop pulling them off. He largely focuses on board flips and grinds (instead of aerial work), attacking these tricky moves with abandon. And sure he's taken a few falls, but that's not going to make him quit anytime soon.
So how does Mancina do it? What he lacks in sight, he must make up for with feel. When arriving to a skatepark, Mancina surveys the area with his white cane, gauging space and feeling out any obstacles such as ledges, rails or gaps to deposit as internal data.
Mancina skates everywhere with his cane. He never stops feeling the terrain, always keeping cane in contact with the ground so he knows what's coming and knows he's not near a halfpipe (unless he needs one).
“I’m feeling how tall it is, how long it is, how wide it is, a starting point,” he says. “Everything has to be very consistent with what I do. Starting in the same spot, trying to have the same trajectory. It’s control for not being able to see and it’s figuring out the speed, timing. I know where I am, I know what direction I’m going and those are all almost instinctual and then it comes down to performing whatever the trick is.”
What is Mancina’s Condition?
Mancina suffers from Retinitis pigmentosa (RP), which is a bundling of rare, genetic disorders that causes the retina to lose its cells, resulting in a progressive loss of vision over time. The National Eye Institute estimates that the disorder affects one in 4,000 people worldwide. Some lose their vision completely, while others are left with minute sight.
Mancina was diagnosed with RP at 13 following a routine eye exam in which the optometrist spotted something different. For years, Mancina led a normal life. But in his 20s, things changed.
“That’s when I lost a majority of my functional vision,” he says. “I stopped driving, stopped riding a bike and was unable to navigate by myself. It took a large effect on me and my lifestyle.”
Initially, Mancina was depressed, frustrated he couldn’t do the things he normally did. One of those things was skateboarding, a passion he’d held since childhood, and he briefly pondered quitting it entirely. That would have been logical after all, right? But a few years ago, he decided he’d find a way to do it anyway.
“It was about slowly realizing that there’s some kind of void in my life and trying to figure out who I was,” he says. To truly do that, Mancina had to draw a distinction between being a blind man and being Dan. “I had to search for what Dan wants and who’s Dan,” he remembers. “Getting back on my board and realizing I am a skateboarder — that’s who I am. I definitely won’t be as happy without doing it.”
The Challenges of Skating Without Sight
As hard as the tricks are to perform physically, Mancina finds the mental aspect even tougher. Skateboarding is a challenge in and of itself. Mancina needs even more mental focus, so he can react terrain he can’t even see. “Mentally, definitely is more challenging,” he says. “It’s just more stressful. It’s really all stress. It’s hard to get myself really in my mindset, where I’m only concentrated on the trick and I’m not thinking about anything else.”
He never lets that get to him. He hits the skatepark at least three times per week, and he has more than skateboarding in his future, too. He’s working towards a Master’s degree in vision rehabilitation therapy (VRT). He hopes to eventually work with visually impaired and blind people, giving them the skills needed to be independent. He’s already run a workshop in Calgary, teaching visually impaired and blind children the basics of skateboarding.
Mancina even has a custom braille skateboard on sale, with part of the proceeds going toward his nonprofit, Keep Pushing, to raise funds to construct an adapted skatepark in the Detroit area for skateboarders who are visually-impaired and blind.
Mancina’s not trying to be an inspiration, he says. But he’s well aware that he’s doing that for you with every ultra-challenging skateboarding trick he pulls off. And the ones he fails at, too.
“Hopefully, if you haven’t skated for a while, you get back on your board,” he says, “or if you’re somebody who wants to try it, you go out and try it, but ultimately do what you love."
If you want to see Dan Macina in action, follow his Instagram page where he posts videos of himself skating, and enjoying life! @danthemacina
Article from Men's Health