December 20, 2006
Here's the complete and unedited Nyjah Huston interview from my piece in this month's issue of The Skateboard Mag. I spoke with his father after Nyjah and he had some cool stuff to say as well, so check that out at the end of the interview
Greetings! Hey what's up? I'm doing good.
You ready to do this interview?
Definitely, yeah, I'm hyped!
You've done plenty of interviews before right?
Yeah, I just did one for the contest [Dew Tour].
Do you get nervous doing interviews? Do you like them?
Nah, I'm pretty used to it.
You are at the Dew Tour in Denver right?
So what's it qualifiers today?
The prelims for the finals were yesterday and twelve people are in it.
Are you in there?
You got second last time, think you can win this one?
Shhhheeeeesh. I'll do my best and see how it goes.
How about winning that Kentucky Unbridled Spirit Award? That's a cool thing to win huh?
Yeah, that was a big pleasure. I was really surprised. Phew! Big ups to those people.
Kinda better than winning the Dew event itself, huh?
Yeah, that's such a big thing to win. Out of all the people and all the sports there. I was just so thankful to get it.
How does it feel winning a large event like Tampa Am?
Back then that felt pretty crazy because I was kinda young. I was surprised to win that. I was feelin' good!
Do you go into a contest like that trying to win? What's the strategy?
Yea, I definitely want to just do my best—do the best I can and just relax and see how it goes, ya know?
Are you skating around like 'I want to win this!" Or just doing your thing, having fun, and if you win, then you win?
Kinda both in a way. But I try not to think of it too much as a big competition because sometimes that will mess you up, ya know?
Ya, you're getting all nervous and thinking too hard.
You've had many big second place wins too…Does second place bum you out or do you celebrate it?
The last contest, I was definitely hyped to get second. But that just makes me want to work harder to get first in the next one.
So you like skating in contests then?
Yeah, definitely. Its cool, its fun and it's a challenge.
Compared to street skating, what would you rather do?
I like keepin' it real on the streets and I like mixin' it up in the contests too. But my real roots are on the streets.
You basically grew up at a skatepark…probably a dream for most kids.
Yeah my dad owned a little skatepark and it definitely helped me out so much along the way. I learned so many new things.
How did you feel when it closed down?
I was pretty bummed. We were all pretty bummed. But you gotta just keep working hard and move on and do what you do, ya know?
You started skating when you were 5?
Yeah, my pop and older brothers started getting into it and I was just following them and started really getting into it when I was about five. Yeah, I was havin' fun.
What is your earliest memory of skateboarding?
I just remember havin' fun, going to the local skatepark and just rollin' around and feelin' the vibe.
Do you remember the first trick you learned?
We were into tranny. We had a little mini ramp in the backyard. It was pretty cool. Just ollieing around on the mini ramp then going to the local skatepark and rolling down the little pyramid dropping in. That's mainly how we started out. But I would think I probably learned an ollie first from my pops and older brothers.
How does it feel having a whole skateboarding family? I think that's something else a lot of kids might wish they had, ya know?
Yeah my whole family supports us so much. It's such a good feeling. My pop still rips. My older brothers and my younger brother skate.
What's your favorite stuff to watch your dad do?
He does a lot of different things. He's really good on the transition. I like watching him do a lot of different things.
You always have someone to skate with, huh?
Definitely. Especially my older brothers, around the house, skatin' with each other and havin' fun.
You have a really tight family it seems, you skate together and travel together and stuff, how has that helped you?
They support me so much. We get pumped off each other. I learn new things from my older brothers. It's such a good feeling.
Do you ever skate alone?
Maybe around the house sometimes. Mainly my pop films me or my older brother will come out and skate with me.
So far, you've grown up so far very differently than most kids. You are 11 years old and you were home schooled right?
Yup, I was home schooled and I think it was such a good thing. Going into a real school and traveling around the world like I do would be so hard.
Do you ever wonder what it would be like to be in school with most of the other kids?
Not really. My older brothers go to a school that's kinda more like a real school. I actually think I learned a lot more from just traveling around the world and seeing new things.
Do other kids who don't skate treat you differently or do they think you are famous some super hero or something?
Yeah, maybe a few kids, but really, it's all about skating.
Is there anything you want to do when you grow up besides skateboarding?
I just wanna skate as much as I can and enjoy my life, ya know?
What's your favorite spot to skate?
I like skating UC Davis, all the Bay area, 3rd and Army…a lot of different spots.
When you aren't skating with the family who do you usually skate with?
I'll skate with Karl Watson sometimes. He's such a good influence and a good person. He's actually one of the first pros I met and hooked me up with my first package so it was definitely very tight meeting him.
Yeah, that dude is sick! He's definitely always doin' original tricks. So other than him, who are your favorite skateboarders?
I like so many different skaters. I like all different styles. Too many to name.
How about your favorite videos?
The Kayo video is definitely my favorite right now. All different types of styles in there.
How about your favorite trick to do?
I like a lot of different tricks…back tails, switch heels, tre flips…so many.
Any tricks you can't figure out no matter how hard you try?
To tell you the truth, frontside flips are actually pretty hard for me. Getting the hang of 'em, ya know?
Yeah, that's the one that always gets me too.
Yeah, I dunno why it's so hard.
It's just weird sometimes.
How about something down a big rail or stair set? Are you scared to get hurt? Do you not even think about it when you are approaching it?
I definitely don't try to think of it as getting hurt or scared. I just try to keep a positive mind and focus in.
Do you know you have to get something done in a few tries before your body can't handle it anymore? When do you quit trying something?
I try to keep going as long as I can to tell you the truth. The feeling of rolling away from a trick is just such a good feeling, so it's definitely worth it.
I heard that Reese Forbes kinda found you at a Vans skatepark and got you hooked up on Element?
Yeah he did. He definitely helped me out so much and then I started sending in little sponsor-me tapes and stuff. So that was it.
Do you still talk to Reese?
Not really. I haven't seen him for quite a bit.
How did that feel to get on one of the biggest skate companies ever?
Element is the best company for me right now. I can't even picture myself on any other team. They just got a natural mind and positivity.
You've never cut your hair? Not even once?
Ya, I've never cut my hair before.
Not even once?
Do you ever plan on cutting it?
Nah, I just wanna keep it natural.
Do you feel it has some special energy or powers to it? Does it help you out?
Since I was young, I just wanted to let my hair grow and keep it natural. That's how I like it.
Do you still have a mini in your yard? You skate it a lot?
Yeah we actually have a pretty good one in our yard that my dad built a few years back. I really like it and I skate it a lot.
How about when you went to Jamaica with Satori a few years back? I heard it was a really gnarly trip.
I think I was seven or eight back then. I went with my older brother and my pop. It was my first big trip and such a good experience to go there. Good times.
I heard you had to sleep on the beach or in some sketchy hotel? Ryan Dewitt told me you might have been a little freaked out.
Yeah, that was a crazy night. The first night staying there. We definitely got the feel. Hahaha. But I like Jamaica, ya know?
You have a character in the new Tony Hawk video game?
Yeah I do. Phew. That's such a big honor to be in that with all those great skaters. So thankful to be in that.
Do you ever play it and pick your own character?
We have a few of the older ones and I just pick anybody.
Does it look like you and skate like you? Or is there anything that looks kinda funny?
I actually think the new one is going to be a lot different. They are doing all these crazy things to make it look exactly like you. Crazy stuff.
Did they put you in that suit when you were making it?
Yeah, you wear this suit and then skate around for them.
People make a huge deal out of how young you are. I mean, you won Tampa Am when you were only 10, and now you have all this stuff going on at only 11. Does age matter to you?
I'm sure it does. I just try to keep it real and skate. I don't think about it too much.
Any plans on going pro soon?
I think somethin' is in the works. But I try not to worry about that too much and just have fun skating.
How does it feel being an am but winning and placing high in pro contests? It's not something a lot of people do…or maybe they can't do it.
Yeah, that is definitely a big deal for me and I feel really good to be doing what I'm doing.
I know you are a busy guy. What are you working on now? éS video? Element video?
Yeah, the éS video is coming up soon. Maybe the end of this year and that's definitely gonna be a big one. I'm just gonna keep on filming for that, mainly just that and Element's making a new video. But the big one right now is the éS video.
And you are just on the Dew Tour for the next few months now too?
You are very into healthy eating, why is this so important to you?
Oh yeah, I definitely like eating healthy and saving the animals. I think everybody should have a positive mind, try to eat healthy and save the Earth.
What do you eat on the average day?
My mom cooks all our food pretty much. We just try to keep it tofu, beans, rice, oatmeal…proteins ya know?
What are your favorite kinds of foods?
My mom makes so many different things from deserts to good meals. I gotta give props out to my mom right there.
I heard you like basketball a lot, what do you like about it?
Ya, I'm into basketball. I play with my older brother. We have a little hoop at home. It's just a fun activity to do, just like skating ya know? I like to keep a good balance. It's fun.
Are you into pro basketball?
We watch it on TV and stuff. We've never been to a real game or anything. We just like to hoop it up at home.
Did you feel a lot of pressure having the last part of the Element video?
I was just super hyped and stoked.
Did you know you were gonna get the last part? Or was it surprised.
I heard a 'lil something before, but man, they definitely hooked it up.
How about traveling? Do you ever get sick of it and just want to go home and relax?
Yeah we definitely like to take a break and chill at home sometimes. But traveling around the world and meeting new people and seeing new places is definitely a fun and good thing to do.
I know you mentioned traveling being able to teach you more than you can learn in school, what has traveling taught you so far?
So many different things. Just meeting new people and experiencing new places. It's hard to describe
Dealing with a lot of surprises and unexpected circumstances too huh?
What's your favorite place?
Japan was really cool. Australia was really good for skating. And in the US I really like Denver, Colorado. It's such a good place. The people here are so nice and there are really good skate spots. Good vibes.
Are you skating street there too or just the contest?
Yeah I think we are actually planning to after the contest. The spots here look so good. I can't wait.
Is this your first time in Denver?
No we've been here two times before. I really like it.
What have you learned from your experiences in skateboarding so far?
I mean, just having fun, the challenge of it, how to stay relaxed and doing what you like to do.
What do you like to do when you aren't skating?
I just like chillin' at home with my family. That's pretty much it.
What's the greatest memory skateboarding has given you so far?
So many different things, from landing tricks on the street to doing good in contests and traveling around the world. So many different things.
What kind of message do you want to spread through skateboarding?
My main advice is just to have fun and just keep skating. Don't rush. Just do what you enjoy doing.
Any closing comments or things you want to say?
I just want to give shouts out to God, Most high Jah Rastafari. My family for helping me out along the way. All my friends. One love. Jah bless, ya know? And thank you. This is cool. I'm hyped. I was so surprised to hear I'm getting this. This came out of nowhere.
See ya later!
Hey greetings Rob.
I guess the first thing that comes to mind trying to put myself in your shoes. When Nyjah was little, when he first stepped on a skateboard, could you see right away? Did you know he had the gift that he has?
In our family, we wouldn't put any possibility out of the way of any child. Fundamentally, that's what we try to teach them, from the youngest child who is 7, to the oldest who is 15. I am just like "Hey, anything is possible with hard work and practice."
I don't think right from the beginning, because it was all fun. We were just flowing. It was me and Nyjah's older brothers. I think when it really started clicking in was probably a year into it, when he was 5 or 6. Just seeing what he could do on the streets with his size. It definitely provoked some interest into his possibilities in the future. And it has just grown and grown. Still to this day when I watch him skate, whether we are at a street spot, home, on a ledge, flatground—just playing S.K.A.T.E. with him—I'm still surprised. It's kinda like a continual amazement. But I think that's how skateboarding is, even when you start learning tricks, I don't think any parent can see that far into it whether they skate or not. Because there are so many dynamic factors involved when these guys push the limits or push it forward.
I've been skating about 16 or so years, and I am six foot five—like I'm tall. And when I saw Nyjah skate and win Tampa Am, I remember thinking like 'Oh my God! Like how?" because I never saw someone so small, skate the way that he skates. Size ratio-wise, its baffling. And I think all of us, sitting there on the decks of the ramps, other than being amazed, were thinking that same thing.
He's developed some pop! The snaps! [Laughter] You know what, the way he approaches it, he approaches obstacles with a precision…like if he has to use the last two inches before the crack or after the crack or whatever is there, he's got a mental little steez where like…well, he's got his way. I think every skater has their own unique way to approach any of these obstacles and he's just found his niche. But yeah, the proportional issue is just out of hand. His foot size, just everything.
Does he ride a smaller board still?
He's got a custom board. It's bigger than a mini. Its probably and inch under a regular deck. It's got a nice little concave. You know, the Doc, PS [Paul Schmitt] hooked it up.