Blind skateboarder defies odds by mastering complex tricks Olympians would be proud of

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A blind skateboarder has defied the odds by mastering complex tricks after becoming "fed up" with people treating him differently because of his eyesight.

Dan Mancina, 34, from Michigan, US, pulls off complicated board flips and jumps with precision and ease – even though he is completely blind.  

He was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa at 13, a rare genetic disease in which the back of the retina is damaged and causes loss of vision.  

Mancina began gradually losing his eyesight in his teens and by his mid-20s, his vision was drastically impaired.  

Around five years ago, Mancina lost his vision completely and now defines himself as a blind person.

The 34-year-old refuses to let it hold him back and says the most frustrating thing is actually other people's behaviours.

“It was just little things people did in public that made me overwhelmed,” Mancina said. 

“I’m still the same person I was when I had my sight.  

“But because I walk with a cane people speak about me as if I’m not standing right there.  

“People try to always help you in ways that you don’t actually need help, like crossing the street.  

"I can 'hear' when people are looking at me, it’s very weird being thrown into that world and it feels uncomfortable.  

“I was very self-conscious about being blind and carrying my cane in the beginning.  

“People don’t think you can do simple things and I wanted to prove that I could.”  

Mancina started performing tricks that some might not expect a blind person to be able to do – such as throwing darts and kicking a football in a goal post.

Mancina, who has been skateboarding since he was 7 years old, recently posted a video of himself performing a trick on Instagram.

The experience reminded him of his love for the sport and inspired him to continue pursuing his passion.

Before skating at a park, Mancina uses a cane to scope out the different ramps and corners, and get a feel for the area.

He also uses a beeper box or a Bluetooth speaker to bounce the sounds off anything in the environment – such as a nearby road – warning him of any dangers in the area.  

When Mancina performs a trick, he begins in the same area every time so that he is familiar with the surrounding obstacles.  

The skateboarder said: “I get a mental map of the area and where I'm at and use every other sense I have.

“I start in the same spot for every trick I do, so I have an idea where I am and which direction I'm going to.  

“Every spot has a unique landscape you can use, whether it’s a crack or something sticking out in the ground to figure out where you are.  

“Even a buzzing light post or the sound of the road can give me a direction.  

“I’m always trying to progress and keep pushing myself further and further, I have certain goals that I want to do.  

“One day I want to film full-length skateboard videos without any cuts, that’s really my goal.”  

Mancina is close friends with other blind skateboarders in the community including Justin Bishop and Nick Mullins.

Mancina has also qualified for the Dew Tour, a competition that brings the world’s best skateboarders, snowboarders and skiers to compete for a medal and international title.  

Even though he has good and bad days, the 34-year-old strives to maintain a positive mindset and achieve his best – and says he is happiest when on a skateboard.  

Mancina said: “My mind goes up and down, sometimes I stay in the mindset of skateboarding but the older you get, it's easier and easier to fall out of that mindset.

“But I'm the happiest when I’m skateboarding every day.  

“I feel good on my board and that is when I’m the happiest, I try to stay into that space as much as possible.  

“My goal is all positive and really the main thing is I consider my blindness a backdrop to who I am and what I do, I try to showcase my blindness as not the whole me.  

“I show me doing what I do in life, it's not like I'm putting on a show or an image.  

“It's just me and it’s a day in the life, and it just shows that blindness is just a small part of what makes me who I am.”

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