Sunday, March 7, 2010

BMx Legends Interview with Larry "Mr. Sulu" Manyan

20 Something Questions with Larry "Mr. Sulu" Manayan

By Rey M. Samonte
February 15, 2005

Real Name and what's up with "Mr. Sulu":

Lawrence Manayan.  Back in the day when BMX Plus! was branching out
with a dedicated freestyle mag, they came up with "American
Freestlyer".  Scott Towne, who wrote for BMX Plus! Magazine, became
the editor-in-chief for "American Freestlyer".  At the time, I was still a
BMX Plus! test rider, but when the new magazine came out, I switch over
and tested bikes for "American Freestyler".  For some odd reason, when
Scott wrote an article, he would always come up with creative nicknames
for me.  I'll assume for now that he's a Star Trek fan.  Another one was
"Larry Mondello" from the "Leave it to Beaver" tv show (now that's old
school).  I can already see I'm dating myself way back for those of you
that don't know the show.  Yikes, I'm gettn' pretty old.  Well anyway,
when my close buddy (JBK III) read the Mr. Sulu article, he kept calling
me that so it stuck.  Even to this day.

Hometown: Northridge, California

1. Hey there Larry, how's it going? It's good to see an old school
rider come out from the shadows. Many years ago, I used to read
BMX Plus quite a bit. I always loved the freestyle coverage they
used to have. Reading up on the top pros and amateurs, I
noticed your name quite a bit in the expert class.  But before we
get into any of that, what or who got your started?

When growing up in Hawaii (Moanalua Valley in Oahu), I finally learned
to ride a bike at the late age of 8 years.  By the time I was 9, my parents
bought me my first bike.  I can't even remember the name but it had
a banana-like seat on it.  It wasn't a Schwinn I know that.  We couldn't
afford a Schwinn at the time. Anyway, I was already jumping little jumps
we built in empty lots near the house.  There were a lot of dirt jumps in
the area where I lived and I used to watch the older guys do most of the
jumping.  Ever since then I was always into bikes.  When we moved to
California (1979), my mom promised that she would buy me a bike, and
she came through.  I got a blue Diamond Back with bright gold anodized
aluminum parts.  It was awesome.  $275.55.  I still remember the price.
That's how excited I was.  About a year later it got stolen but that didn't
discourage me from riding.  I saved up some money and bought a used
chrome Robinson about a month later.  Soon after I got the Robinson, I
was racing at the local track (Devonshire Downs) and doing aerials on a
ramp we built in a friend's backyard.  The ramp was totally sketchy.  
Looked like a kick-turn ramp about 6 feet tall with 2 feet of vert
at the top.  It was like 9 feet tall and 4 feet wide. One of the ugliest ramps
you'll ever see. Looked like we slapped it together in 10 minutes.  So,
the guys and I would just go out and ride.  EVERYDAY!!!  Either
the sketchy ramp or just out-n-about causin' trouble staying out late.  
One of my riding buddies was Jeff Cunningham.  We would push each
other to learn new tricks that came out in the magazines at the same time
come out with our own stuff (I believe we were the first ones to do a G-
Turn-to-Squeaker, but who knows). Without Cunningham’s friendship, I
wouldn't have progressed the way I did.  There were other buddies
that I rode with; Jeff & Bobby Ordona, Ronnie de Leon & Bobby Salazar.  
I also rode with friends from across town; Danny Dubois, Francis
Lawrence, Francis’s neighbor down the street Steve, & Hal Mathonis.
Danny’s parents were totally enthusiastic about Freestyle.  They would
drive us to local comps cause we didn’t have licenses or cars back in the
day. Francis is now a bona fide music video & big screen movie director.  
He just finished that movie"Constantine" with Keanu Reeves.  Congrats
on your continued success.  It’s been such along time since
I’ve seen these guys, we’ve all continued with our lives and gone our
separate ways.  I’d be nice to see them again one day.  

2. How many years did you ride for?

I rode for about 9 years starting when I was 11 years old.

3. What was it about flatland that made you dedicate yourself for
hours on end day after day?

One big crash on that sketchy ramp.  LOL.  Freestyle was my life but I
didn't want to get hurt like the way I did.  Got knocked out wearing a Bell
Moto III helmet (Eddie Fiola used to wear a Bell Moto III and 4 helmet).  
But to answer your question, I ate, slept, and breathed flatland freestyle.  
You know you’re addicted to the sport when you sit out with an injury and
you can’t wait to get on that bike again (except for ramp injuries,
hahaha).   The fact that the sport was totally new to anyone and ANY
trick you did impressed Joe Schmoe By-Stander was what fueled me.  
Being a showman was what I thrived on.

4. Who was your inspiration to you back then? Who was your all
time favorite back in the day?

Mr. Eddie Fiola.  That dude was "The Man".  King of the SkateParks.  No
one could touch him in the pools.  It's a shame he took a bad turn in his
career and left GT bitterly the way he did.  Anyway, Eddie, if you ever
read this, you still Da Man.  I’d also have to say Dennis McCoy.  This guy
is UNBELIEVABLE.  The unknown from Missouri blew away all Southern
Cali local riders.  We must all bow-down to him.  It’s amazing he still rides
at such a high level even today.  And last but not least, there were a
couple of really cool local riders in the area that inspired me.  Farley
Magdelena, and De-alvin Pacheco.  My jaw dropped when I saw these
guys ride for the first time when I was 13 years old.  They used to do
Freestyle shows back in the day when the BMX Action Trick Team was
doing their shows.  Although, not as high budget as BMX-Action.

5. Did your parents support your riding?

Mom and dad kinda let me do my own thing when it came to riding.  They
saw some of the tricks I did in front of the house but only to that extent.  I
guess you can say my dad just didn't seem too interested.  I was totally
okay with that though.  As long as I could hang out with my friends I was
happy.  Then, during the 86’ AFA Masters Finals in Carson, CA -
Velodrome, my parents decided to watch what their son was so involved
in.  I kicked some ass at that comp.  I was totally stoked.  I had the crowd
goin'.  After my run I went up into the stands to see my parents and gave
them hugs.  Pops said, "Wow, I never knew you rode your bicycle like
that".  I knew he was proud of me cause moms told me that during my
run, he was bragging “That’s my son out there” to the people sitting next
to them.  Kinda funny.  Thanks dad.  Anyways, I placed third out of 63
riders in the 16 & over Expert division.  I believe Karl Rothe placed 2nd,
and Reynaldo Santillion (not sure about the name spelling?) grabbed 1st
place.  It was awesome.

6. Who did you ride with on a daily basis or were you a solo rider?

Jeff Cunningham.  Jeff & Bobby Ordona.  Ronnie de Leon.  We were
always out late riding, especially during the summer months.  I also rode
with the homies from the LBC (Long Beach, CA).  Ron Camero, Derek
Oriee, Jeff Cotter, and Fred Urman.  Let me get a shout-out to the in-
famous So. Cal. “Street Antics”.

7. I remember seeing you test bikes for BMX Plus. How'd you get
hooked up with that?

The secret is plain and simple.  Hi-Torque Publications was about a 10-
minute bicycle ride from my house.  All the while the AFA had National
competitions, there used to be local competitions put on by “West Coast
Freestyle” in Oxnard, CA, of all places.  That’s about an hour drive from
where I lived.  I entered all of them and did rather well.  Then, Mike
Carruth, former writer for Hi-Torque, decided to put on comps more in
the LA Metro area.  He took notice that I would either win or make the top
3 consistently.  Mike practically took me under his wing.  He would always
give me a ride to all the events.  If he needed to shoot a bike or
something, I would always be involved.  He saw I was a pretty good rider
so I eventually started to test bikes.  Mike, dude, I owe it all you man.

8. When did you start riding competitively? How'd your first
contest go?  

I was 15 when I rode my first competition.  It was the 1984 AFA Venice
Beach Competition.  It was the first of it’s kind, as far as I can remember.  
Bob Morales saw the skatepark competition scene was dying out a little
bit so he decided to branch off into flatland/ramp competitions.  I entered
the 16 and Under Novice class.  I believe there were about 25 riders in
our class.  I think I placed 11th or something like that.  Not bad for my
first comp.  My buddy Jeff Cunningham entered as well; placed 13th I
think.  That was so long ago.  All in all, it was a great experience for the
both of us.

9. Sponsors. Who were they and what kind of good stuff did you
get from them?

My main sponsors were SE Racing, Vision Street Wear, ODI, Rector &
Awesome shoes.  SE Racing provided all my bicycle frames, forks, &
handle-bars.  This included the many Quadangles, and one banana-
yellow P.K. Ripper.  Special thanks to Scot "The Old Man" Breithaupt &
Mike Devitt.  Special personal thanks to Mike Carruth from Hi-Torque
who introduced me to Scot Breithaupt.  The Vision Street Wear people
were also very generous.  They flowed all kinds of cool stuff.  T-shirts,
Shorts, Pants, Dress Shirts, Shoes, Jackets, & Tons of stickers.  The
clothing were all the latest designs for bike riders and skaters alike.  I
think I got a skateboard too.  ODI made the famous “Mushroom” grips.  
They sent all the signature ones as well as the non-signature ones.  The
signature ones are classic; RL Osborn, Brian Blyther, Ron Wilkerson,
ect… just to name a few.  Too bad I don’t have any more.  Rector made
safety equipment; knee pads, elbow pads, and gloves.  I mainly just used
just the gloves and some times the elbow pads when learning new
tricks.  And finally, Awesome shoes.  Mr. Van Doren left “Vans” and
started a fresh new shoe company.  The shoes were practically identical
to Vans.  The company just never took off like planned.  See what
happens when you sell your company?  Just kidding.  Who am I to say?

10. Did you do any traveling to attend contests? If so, what are
some of your most memorable moments on the road?

I travel to several cities across the states.  I can vividly remember one
competition in Portland, Oregon.  Aside from myself, the other SE rider
was Denny Howell from South Carolina.  After we put our bikes together
in the hotel room, we would mimic trail-riding moves by Bunny Hopping
from one bed to another.  (Please do not attempt these stunts at home;
only in hotel rooms.  Hahaha.)  Things you do on the road.  Anyway, all
these National Competitions were one big jam fest.  Riders from all over
the world unite.  It was an awesome experience several times over.

11. Let's talk about bikes. What was your favorite bike?

Before the SE Quadangle, I rode a chrome 1984 Haro Master.  That bike
was THEE bike.  I rode it so much I beat it to death in about a year’s
time.  So, I saved up some cash and bought a 1985 Neon Green Haro
Master.  This bike was my main ride.  So many cool memories.  No
bicycle company could out design that double top-tube feature.  I’m sure
Bob Haro thanked Torker for that.

12. Do you still have some of your old bikes? If so, which ones?

I have only one bike from back in the day.  It’s the first frame I got from
SE.  A black Quadangle.  I just recently restored it into a racing bike with
modern-day parts.  I had the frame powder coated in the original color
and the red Landing Gear forks chromed.  I’m glad I kept this bike.  I
almost tossed it because before the restoration, it really looked like it
needed to be buried.  Special thanks to John B. Kuzma for convincing
me to bring that bike back to life.

13. Have you checked out eBay? Are you surprised about how
much these old parts go for?

During the restoration of the Quad, I saw another old-school Quad on
eBay with the envious “loop-tail” rear drop-outs.  The winning big ended
up being $1240.00 just for the frame.  I was like “What?”.  Now I really
wanted to put my old ride together.  Too bad mine doesn’t have the
infamous “loop-tail” though.  No big deal, I still like the way it rode.  I have
no plans of selling it.

14. So you've seen some of the new bikes riders are using today.
What do you think about today's bikes compared to the ones we
used to ride?

Today’s bikes are tanks.  The drop-outs are 3 times thicker than drop-
outs on the frames we used to ride on.  Built too beefy.  Like 20 pounds
heavier than the old-school bikes.  Tough to do tricks on.  I bought the
wrong one I suppose.  It’s more of a Street/Ramp bike.  I’ve been told
today’s “flatland” bikes are much lighter than Street/Ramp bikes.  Maybe
I’ll get one of those.

15. I don't know if you're aware of it or not. But there's been a few
old school riders coming back out from the shadows too. To
name a few Scotty Freeman, Brian Blyther, I know Eddie Fiola still
rides, but what about Larry Manayan? Can you see yourself
getting back on the bike and riding for fun?

Mr. Boomerang, Mr. Smooth, and The King.  I think Mr. Aching Back and
Muscles (that would be me) is better off watching all the real riders ride.  
All kidding aside, maybe I’ll buy one of those new, lighter, flatland bikes
and cruise around with my boy Rey Samonte.

16. What were some of your most favorite tricks/combos you
used to do?

I liked the G-Turn to Squeaker and the Front Wheel 540 to Squeaker.  
For a while, Jeff Cunningham and I were the only one’s dong it.  I still
remember landing a Fire Hydrant to Cherry Picker.  Dude, who does
Cherry Pickers these days.  Nobody!  Hahaha.  

17. Have you seen some of the stuff the riders are doing today?
What was the hardest trick you learned?

Today’s tricks are sick, sick, sick!  Combos everywhere; Bob’s Big Boy
would even blush.  What the hell are these guys eating for breakfast?  
Scuff this, scuff that.  I remember when the scuff tricks just came out.  
High learning curve.  If I can remember, the Backyard was THEE first
scuff trick.  Then came the Funky Chicken.  Every trick now is a scuff
combo and Twirly-Whirlys.  The hardest trick I learned was the
Whiplash.  Rolling on the front tire like that felt way too foreign.  Too
many tumbling crashes and bent brake levers.  Hahaha.  That’s the one
trick I have no desire to attempt today.

18. I know these are a lot of questions to answer but it's been
such a long time. What have you been up to since you stopped

After my competitive riding days, I concentrated on college.  I graduated
with a Bachelors degree in Business Administration with an option in
Marketing at Cal. State Northridge, home of the mighty Matadors (and
earthquakes).  Hahaha.  Hey, we beat the Bruins in basketball one year
on their home court.  Anyways, my life is now consumed with golf.  Every
weekend, baby.  Just like flatland riding back in the day, you meet up
with golfers that have other common interests aside from playing golf
and just hang out.  Plus, the biggest difference is that you have money
in your pocket.  Not like when I was riding; I was poor as a schmuck.

I’ve been happily employed at the same company since I graduated over
10 years ago.  Just like a second family there.  I could go on for days
about my life after riding but I’d rather not bore you all with the intricate

19. What would you say was your biggest accomplishment in
flatland? What were some of the things you got out of it?

There were many accomplishments to remember.  Touring two weeks
with the Kuwahara guys was fun.  We got to visit places I would never
even think of visiting.  Prior to the official two-week tour, we made a road
trip to the Vancouver World Expo in 1986.  They held a World
Championship Freestyle contest there.  I placed 6th out of 37 riders.  
That was cool.  But my biggest accomplishment was the 3rd place at the
Velodrome in 1986.  (See answer to question #5).  Flatland riding gave
me the opportunity to meet new people and visit many places I couldn’t
have done on my own.  I owe that all to the sport.

20. I actually ride with one of your admirers and we talk about you
sometimes. One of the questions he wanted to ask was...What's
the best "spot" in Tijuana? I'm Kidding! Any last words from Larry
"Mr. Sulu" Manayan?

There are some really nice golf courses in Tijuana.  Those are the
“spots” I go to.  Hahaha.  Moving on, I’d like to give special thanks Mike
Carruth, Scot Breithaupt, Mike Devitt, Perry Kramer (Mr. P.K. Ripper
himself), Scott Towne, Todd Britton, Mickey de Wolfe, Bob Smith, and
Larry Besunder from Bicycle Den in Granada Hills, and anyone I missed
mentioning who believed in my riding abilities.  I’d also like to mention my
riding compadres Jeff Cunningham, Jeff & Bobby Ordona, Ronnie de
Leon, & John Kuzma.  I won’t forget Farley and De-Alvin, my first real
BMX freestyle heroes.  And finally last but not least, my boy Rey
Samonte.  If it weren’t for you, BMX Freestyle would have been a
forgotten past time of mine.  Thanks for rekindling all the great freestyle
memories I had locked up in my not so recent memory bank.

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