FWT Wildcard 2022 | The Manuel Diaz Interview

After years of filming, Manuel Diaz makes his debut on the Freeride World Tour

Above Manuel Diaz. Photo: J. Bernard.

With FWT 2022 in full swing we thought it’d be a good time to catch up with one of our favourite Chilean snowboarders, Manuel Diaz, who’s making his first appearance on the Free Ride World tour.

“I started enjoying myself way too much and almost forgot I was in a competition”

The Free Ride World Tour kicked off at a new venue in Baqueira Beret, Spain, one week ago, but it wasn’t exactly the flying start Manuel had hoped for. He said of his 7th place finish, “I started enjoying myself way too much and almost forgot I was in a competition.”

We caught up with the Absinthe Films and Pirates legend on an early Thursday morning, to talk about the tour and how his experience in filming in the backcountry might have played against him at the first stop.

Manuel Diaz. Photo: D. Daher.

With the first and the second stop of the tour only being one week apart, Manuel headed out to Ordino-Arcalis straight after Baqueira Beret. Currently staying at a friend’s, Manuel thought it’d be good to check out the venue on time. With current bluebird skies and rising temperatures in Andorra, Manuel’s hoping for the snow conditions to get a bit softer before the weekend, “It [the snow] doesn’t look that promising. It looks kind of firm.”, Manuel laughs.

“I’ve never been on a tour like this before so competing and gaining points is something new for me”

But this isn’t Manuel’s first visit to Ordino-Arcalis, “My first trip to the Northern Hemisphere was to Ordino-Arcalis. My sister was working here as a ski instructor. I was 14 and I had never had the chance to travel before. I had a lot of fun, did my first shoots and actual freeriding in the trees, in the lower parts of the resort though.”

However, it is his first time riding in the Freeride World Tour, and preparing for that is a completely different thing than shredding through the trees with your friends. “FWT sometimes has these stops without the best snow conditions. I can ride ice, and I can ride in bad conditions so I was sort of ready for that. But the rest is on you.”

Manuel continues, “I’ve never been on a tour like this before so competing and gaining points is something new for me. And it’s difficult to manage it. I’m nervous and there are all these people looking at you. There is this some sort of new emotion coming over me, I don’t know, I didn’t expect it to be like this. But I’m starting to manage it and I think it can result in something cool. Something new.”

Dropping in at the Freeride World Tour must be overwhelming, nevertheless, whether it’s your first or fifteenth time doing it. Luckily, Manuel’s experience riding varied terrain might work to his benefit.

“I’m comfortable riding rocks and stuff like that because I had to deal with it back home”

“I started snowboarding when I was 13. There weren’t any snow parks in Farellones [his home resort], so in order to do jumps I had to travel out to natural terrain and build them. I started following these guys that were older than me, probably 10 years older, and they were filming videos and welcomed me to their session. But, when it came to riding big lines in the backcountry… They didn’t want to risk it because I was only 14 so I ended up doing my own searching, which was quite cool.”

“Chile has it all in terms of snow conditions,” Manuel continues, “It doesn’t snow a lot, I’d say it’s pretty similar to Europe, so it’s very similar to some of the stops of the tour. I’m comfortable riding rocks and stuff like that because I had to deal with it back home.”

But Manuel doesn’t just have one home mountain, as he’s spent the last 15 years spending half of his winters in Stevens Pass too, “I’m very used to steep terrain too.”

Manuel Diaz. Photo: D. Daher.

Known for filming with both Absinthe and the Pirates Crew, Manuel’s got years of experience riding in the backcountry. However, the mindset for filming and competing in natural terrain is completely different, “When you film, it’s mostly prime conditions so you can send it deep and go fast. But in the competition, you have to manage your speed and think smart.”

“On the Baqueira stop, I was very nervous”

Manuel continues, “On the Baqueira stop, I was very nervous. But when I dropped in, I felt a huge relief and was enjoying my time riding down the face. And suddenly, the snow got a lot better, so I started enjoying myself way too much and almost forgot I was in a competition and that played against me. You got to change your mindset to just think different. Filming is just you and what you want to do, you want to show a good time instead of showing the judges what they want to see. Based on Spain, I need to change that [his mindset] if I want to be a better competitor.”

Competing on the tour has played on Manuel’s mind ever since he first applied for the wildcard entry three years back – however, there were no available slots back then. But last spring, he received the email that he was officially accepted as a wildcard on the tour. “It’s something different. I believe it will be a new and cool experience. It’s something to add into my career and make me a better athlete.”, Manuel says excited.

Throughout Manuel’s career, Gigi Rüf has always played a big part, “My professional snowboarding started when I met Gigi. He has been helping me for my entire career and supported my decisions.”

Manuel’s been on the Slash Snowboards team for years now and for the tour, he is riding the Slash Brainstorm. However, for the next stop, he’s considering strapping into the Aurora instead, “It’s a stiffer board and a long length, which makes it easier to try and land everything.”

Tune in to the FWT Ordino-Arcalis ​live stream on Sunday here!


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