Words: T. Bird
A few years back, I caught wind of a Chilean kid who was rumored to be tackling the heaviest lines that Stevens Pass, Washington has to offer. Normally, I'd shrug it off and wait for the photos and videos to surface but those regaling said tales told them with such animation and disbelief that from my vantage point, was hard to ignore. His name was Manuel Diaz, and this was mid-winter. By the time the season came to a close, the aforementioned photos did indeed surface, and I could hardly believe what I was looking at. Since then, Manuel has had a few big breaks in his career that aren't granted to many Chilean snowboarders who speak English as a second language, but that is merely a testament to his talent once strapped in. Manuel was hand-picked by Gigi Rüf to become a starting member of the Slash Snowboards roster, bumped up to Nike's international squad, filmed by Nike's Joe Carlino and Absinthe's Justin Hostynek for their respective film projects, and most recently, bumped up to the anon. global pro team. Manuel's finally made it, after years of hundred-plus days on the hill, charging everything in his path. However, it was no easy task to accomplish what he has, but like everything that stand on his way on the hill and off the piste, he simply found a way around it in order to get to where he wanted to be. Ironically, where he wants to be while on the clock is at the bottom of a run and off the clock, it's at the top of the professional ranks of our sport.
Is it as cold in Chile as it sounds?
South winds smell like penguin butt…yes.
All kidding aside, as a Chilean snowboarder trying to break into the North American scene, what are some of the obstacles you have to overcome?
Hmmm. It's been flowing easy in a good way, ever since I've been snowboarding Stevens Pass these last ten years, riding with my good friend Stone, Audisio, and Cristian. No really big obstacles throughout all this fun.
Does it feel even more gratifying now that you’ve been bumped up the anon. global pro team?
Is insane, bro. Being recognized like this because of your riding gives you more motivation to go bigger.
What’s it like to ride with Gigi in Alaska?
It's like watching a snowboard movie. The bro has some special blessing, radical moves, animal pop, it makes you wanna shred! It's good to have someone who's getting the most of it and can also explain things out there. You can move as a team, use each other's eyes and stuff. I hope I can always go there with him.
What’s it like to be filmed by Justin Hostynek?
Papa Tortuga. We don't call him that because he's slow, he's actually super fast, but he carries the heaviest backpack I've ever seen. The way he shoots Super 16mm feels special. I've watched Absinthe movies since I was thirteen, so it's a big honor to work with Justin, and super easy to connect with him in the backcountry.
How in the world do you look at an AK line from the ground and then know where you’re going to go when you’re finally on top of it?
I take reference points: rocks, fingers, snow features. A good photo of the area also helps you to know where not to go.
What are three things you hope to accomplish in snowboarding?
1. Win Ultra Natural
2. Get my /SL4SH pro model
3. Snowboard till I die
Do you get recognized when you’re back home in Chile taking laps now?
Hahaha, yes. There's a small snowboard industry in Chile.
Who are some up-and-coming Chilean riders that we should keep our eye out for?
Now that you’re a global professional, what would you like to say to the audience of snowboardermag.com?
Thank you for taking time to read my words and keep enjoying snowboarding for the reason you started doing it.