You know that friend of yours who goes to spots only to complain? That dude who only gives excuses — “This run-up sucks,” “My board’s too new,” “I didn’t shit right today,” — instead of shutting up and just skating? Dan Mancina is not that dude. In fact, Dan is the complete opposite of that dude.
Dan became blind over the past few years, and he’s the first blind person I’ve ever actually talked to about what it’s like being blind. Dan still skates, hunts, and takes his girlfriend out on dates, he just does it all without being able to see. He’s not (as I stupidly presumed) embarrassed about being blind. He would never spend time worrying about that. So when we talked, he spared no detail about the logistics of doing everything blind. From skating a box with a cane to making sure his ass is clean, Dan explained how he doesn’t let blindness hold him back. Dan brings the positivity and makes you want to enjoy skating as much as he does. Dan is the dude you want on your session.
How did you lose your vision?
I have an eye disease called RP or retinitis pigmentosa. It’s a hereditary degenerative disease. It’s different for each person but it slowly deteriorates your vision from the outside in. A couple of my brothers have it but they still drive and stuff so it hasn’t affected them as fast and aggressively as it has me. The last four years is when I lost the majority of my sight.
Do you have any vision left? How exactly does being blind look or feel?
There’s a very small portion of my right eye that has peripheral vision. lf I had to put a percentage on it, it’s probably 5%, but it’s more shadows and lights. If something’s not moving I can’t really see it. And it’s not clear vision. It’s like you put a bunch of layers of saran wrap and look through that. The little section I have helps me when I’m moving really slow, like pretty much helps me not run into large objects. When I skate I can’t see my skateboard or my feet.
“If something’s not moving I can’t really see it. It’s like you put a bunch of layers of saran wrap and look through that.”
Did you know for a while you were losing your vision?
I’ve known since I was around thirteen. I’ll eventually be 100% blind and that could be anywhere from tomorrow morning to 10, 20 years when it’s completely black. I’ve noticed the most change within the last five years. I lost all the sight in my left eye. They tried to do a surgery, I lost that eye. The right eye started doing the same thing, progressing really fast. I lost the majority of my sight in that eye but we’ve been able to hold onto this last little sliver in my peripheral vision. It’s within the last five years that I’ve considered myself more of a blind person than a sighted person. That’s when I was thrown into this blind world.
After you take a dump, how do you know when to stop wiping?
You just know. Definitely wipe a little bit more than I used to. I’m actually a big fan of wet wipes. I picked it up from camping and hunting in the woods. It’s a game changer. It’s like showering, dude. No dingleberries.
Were you freaking out when you realized you were eventually going to be completely blind?
I never really worried or thought about it. I just kept doing what I was doing, which I think is the best way to go about it. Not dwell on or stress out about it. I’m going to school for teaching the visually impaired, working with blind kids on orientation mobility. I want to help them live not so sheltered of a life and not be afraid to go out there and do anything.
What do you do for a living, and did that change when you lost your sight?
I went to school for massage therapy, but I’m not too into it anymore. Massage seemed like something I could do that didn’t involve my eyes. I mainly do it for trading services nowadays. Like I do jiu-jitsu and trade services to get discounts and stuff like that. I don’t really do it to live. I’m on social security disability so I have a small amount of income through that.
Are the other technologies besides a cane that you use to get around?
Uber is pretty legit for blind people. Transportation is probably the toughest thing to deal with when you go blind, losing your ability to drive and just get up and go somewhere. But there’s all kinds of cool apps. One, you hold the camera to a bag of chips or a beer and it’ll tell you what brand they are.
“Transportation is probably the toughest thing to deal with when you go blind, losing your ability to drive and just get up and go somewhere.”
Since you lost your sight, have any of your other senses been heightened?
No, they don’t get heightened. You just pay more attention to them. I use my ears on things you would never expect. I don’t know if it would be considered echolocation.
Yeah, like Daniel Kish?
Shout out to Daniel Kish, that guy’s sick. I’m at the point where I can see a very large object, like a car or a building, but I don’t have it down 100%. Masters like Daniel Kish will know where a stop sign is. I try to utilize it at night when I have zero sight. I’ll tap the tip of my cane on the ground and get a feedback from that. You should try it. You don’t hear an object, you more feel it. Go to a large object or a wall, close your eyes, and walk toward it making that clicking noise with your mouth. It’s a feeling more than hearing.
Is there anything you appreciate or enjoy more because you’re blind?
Honestly, people’s speech. When I’m driving up north with my buddies I don’t like listening to the radio. Just conversations because it’s kind of the most stimulating thing for me. Everything else is pretty much the same. I haven’t done anything on my skateboard yet that I haven’t done before I was blind, so I’m hoping to eventually reach that point. My first goal is a handrail. I want something short enough so that I’ll be able to clear the rail if I bail. My big thing is 50-50 on round bars, so that would be cool.
“I haven’t done anything on my skateboard yet that I haven’t done before I was blind, so I’m hoping to eventually reach that point. My first goal is a handrail.”
Before you lost your sight you filmed at least one video part. Were you trying to get sponsored?
I guess. I moved to California right after high school, worked at a skate/snow/surf shop for about four and a half years. I got flowed from the shop and through Black Label and Vans. It was super fun but the whole scene was not what I expected. I kind of lost a lot of love and passion for skating. Coming from a smaller town, I’d never seen judgment in skateboarding. Whether it was your style or the way you dressed, as long as you landed the trick it didn’t matter. Then you get thrown into this world where there’re so many good skateboarders it has to be graded on a higher level. I just wasn’t stoked on that view of skating. I always viewed skating like, if you skate it’s all good. But that’s all about how you look at it. I’m looking to just have fun and skate with the homies.
Have you ever tried to get boards from Blind?
No. I always thought about that, that would be the perfect company for me.
How do you skate now that you’re blind?
I got inspired one day and built a box, then I was just like I’m gonna see what I can do. Originally I was doing it without my cane but the cane gives it such a dramatic effect. It’s hilarious like, “Whoa, is that dude blind?” I’ll take the box to a tennis court and put it along the white line in front of a crack. I’ll pop over the crack and know the box is coming up, and I feel the box with my cane and just hit it from there. I haven’t done any street skating, which is what I really want to do. It’s gonna have to be more creative than dropping hammers. I have a million ideas I want to try but it’s the same as when I was sighted. You have all these ideas and you get to a spot and you’re like, “Yeah, I’m not going to be able to do that.”
Since you can’t watch skate videos or look at photos in magazines, how to do keep up with skateboarding news and coverage?
I don’t. I started listening to Really Sorry, PJ Ladd’s “Silence Is Golden” part. It’s awesome to listen to because when you have the music over it you don’t really hear the riding and the popping, the grinding and all that. I like to put it on a loop and listen to it.
Do you remember all the tricks in his part?
Not that part but there are classic video parts I remember. Tony Trujillo In Bloom, the whole In Bloom video is fucking awesome. All the old Zero videos, Jamie Thomas stuff, I can recite quite a bit. It’s like listening to a song, you hear the lyrics and can follow along. It’s nice to have been sighted once and been able to watch that stuff.
You also make videos basically doing things people wouldn’t expect a blind person to do. There’s “blind beer pong,” “blind woodchopping,” “blind archery,” and “blind automatic rifle.” Why do you put that stuff out?
To change the perspective of what you think a blind person is. I’m literally the exact same person I was before I was blind. People are afraid to approach me, even talk to me. Or people are always going out of their way to help me and that’s just as weird as ignoring me because you’re still treating me differently because I’m blind. Some of it comes from me convincing myself of that and then hopefully convincing other people I’m the same person. I carry around this cane and people treat me differently, so it’s pretty much living a life of proving myself. That’s kind of where the videos come from.
Have you done “blind driving”?
I’ve done parallel parking but we did it with trash cans. I’m trying to do it with real cars but nobody will let me use their car.
What’s it like when you dream?
Because I was sighted I dream the same, so just pure visual dreams. There are times when in the dream I am blind, it kind of jumps back and forth. Like one second I’ll be sighted and the next I’ll be trying to do something and I can’t because I’m blind. But a person who’s born blind, they’ve never seen so there’re no visuals.
What do you do if you want to enjoy some pornography?
I listen to it. PornHub.com. Just like you would search your favorite videos I search my favorite videos. I have my screen reader so it reads the description of the video. There are a lot of videos that are just like, if there’s not enough female feedback, I gotta go on to the next video.
Do you ever listen to narrated porn? PornHub recently came out with a big expansion of narrated content.
No, I didn’t know about that. I’m gonna have to check that out. I know they have that for actual movies. That’s pretty sick to know that porn has that too. But that’s kind of fucked up. How much shit isn’t accessible in this world, but we got porn?
Is sex better for you?
Sex is better dude. It’s better for the girl, I’ll tell you that much. I’m on point, dude, especially as a massage therapist.
Why is it better? Is it like when people blindfold themselves to increase pleasure?
It’s that awareness of not only my body but her body. It’s paying more attention to that. It’s not just the visual for me, it’s more of the feeling and the touching. I’m totally fucking around. I’m trying to give a good name for blind people so they get laid more. It’s all the same. Actually, no. I take that back. I think I do have a little more awareness of feeling and what she’s feeling.
“Sex is better dude. It’s better for the girl, I’ll tell you that much.”
Have you ever seen a picture of Donald Trump?
Yes, I know what he looks like. There are not too many people who I don’t know what they look like. I don’t know what Kim Kardashian looks like. My girlfriend just said, “She looks like me.” I’m more hyped about hunting season than politics right now.
Before you lost your sight, did you have a bucket list of things to see?
I was always conscious of moments throughout my life, whether it was looking at my son or being up in the mountains, of trying to take in as much as I could. It’s not the vision so much that I remember, it’s just that feeling. But I’ve realized I can get those same feelings of beauty without the visual aspect. Vision is just another sense. You get an emotion from it, so I’ve learned I can get the exact same emotions from things other than vision. Whether it be through speech or an action like skateboarding or hunting. If I can get the same enjoyment out of life I’m not missing anything.