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The first U.S. event will be May 20 at Penn Hills Skatepark in Pittsburgh. The series, the brainchild of skateboarder Joey Brezinski, showcases technical skateboarding, manuals (think skateboard wheelies), and trick combos on minimalist skate plaza features, "awarding the highest level of trickery on two wheels," and has its roots in a 2007 contest at Venice Beach, Calif. We caught up with Brezinski, last year's Manny Mania pro champ, for some perspective on how the simplest of ideas has evolved into one of the world's biggest skateboard contests.
ESPN.com: What's the state of Manny Mania, circa 2012?
Brezinski: It seems like we just had last year's finals a week ago! This is the sixth year of Manny Mania and to be honest I'm just completely blown away by what it's become. We built Manny Mania around technical skating, with the idea that we wanted to include some skaters who might have been left out of the big vert contests, the big park contests, you know, the traditional skateboarding events. But if you'd told me, back when we were having that first contest at Venice Beach, that by 2012 we'd be having contests in a dozen countries around the world, in places like Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Finland, Mexico, South Africa, Sweden, and the United Arab Emirates, well, I just simply would not have believed you.
Why do you think the Manny Mania format has caught on so much, in the U.S. and around the world?
The manual is one of the most fundamental balancing tricks in skateboarding, and these contests are skateboarding in its purest form and its most technical form. It's the idea that you learn a new trick and as soon as you get consistent with it you strive to evolve it, to move on to something more difficult and string it into a combo of other tricks you've mastered.
I think it's also the fact that it's just you and your skateboard and whatever your environment may be. You don't necessarily need a ramp. You don't need a skatepark. Manny Mania is about you and your skateboard and anything you can dream up to do with it. And what we've seen is that, in the heat of these contests, the adrenaline is so high and the level of competition is so high that you'll see something insane go down every time. It's evolving the technical side of skateboarding, and everyone knows they really have to bring it if they're coming to our contests.
Last year in finals I did a trick combo that I'd only ever landed once before, for a video part where I must have tried it a hundred times. But the crowd was going insane, everyone else was stepping it up, and somehow I pulled it off -- a frontside bluntside on the flat bar to fakie manual, fakie flip out. I don't even know what it's going to take to win this time around.
Last year Sewa Kroetkov from the Netherlands won the am championships and ended up giving you a run for it in the pro finals, ultimately finishing in second place. Have you been surprised by the level of talent that's risen to the top through these contests?
Yes and no, because that's what the whole idea was from the beginning: To find those kids out there who aren't necessarily going to stand out in other contests and give them a chance to shine. Finding those no-name kids that come out of the woodwork is what Manny Mania is all about. But did I think my biggest competition in the pro contest would be some kid from the Netherlands nobody had ever heard of? No way. It's just been amazing to see it play out like that. The way it's grown is way, way beyond what I ever imagined it would be. I have to thank Red Bull, of course, for making it all happen, and Skateboarder Magazine, for being there from the beginning. This year we also have a lot of help from Supra, 5Boro, and Skullcandy, and my own company, Andale Bearings, which I just started with Paul Rodriguez, is also a sponsor this year.
In the six years since Manny Mania got going it seems like we're starting to see a lot more skate plazas popping up, and seeing more manual pads and those kinds of features included in new skateparks. Do you think your contests have been influencing that evolution?
I'd be stoked if they have, and I helped on the design at the Stoner Skate Plaza in Los Angeles. Whatever is influencing it, I think it's great that park designers are actually getting it now: The vast majority of skateboarders are street skaters.
What are you most looking forward to with this year's contests?
Woodward is going to be having a Manny Mania event every week at their camps this summer, where the winner from each camp will get a Manny Mania prize package, and I'm stoked to see what comes of it because helping kids become better skateboarders is what they do best. Woodward is also hosting our U.S. finals this year. I'm going to be traveling to Mexico City and some of the other international events this year, and I'm really looking forward to that, too.
Given the level of competition, what do you think it takes to come out on top in these contests?
I think it's consistency, which is hard as hell in a contest like Manny Mania, just getting a lot of tricks down and evolving them. And because of the seven-minute jam format there's also an endurance element. When you're doing really technical tricks for seven minutes straight under that kind of pressure you feel like you just ran five miles.
How do you train or prepare for it? Do you go in with a set of tricks in mind that you want to get done?
The last few years I've gone out to Woodward for a week before the contest, and I'll just spend the whole week on the manual pads in the plaza there, trying to get on point. Then you get to the contest and see what everyone else is bringing and realize you need to step it [up] even more.