Nyjah Houston interview: Tokyo 2020, SLS and his Olympic medal dream

It's not every day you receive an invitation to visit skateboarder Nyjah Huston's house. People say Nyjah has one of the biggest net-worths in the sport. And he's still only 23.

Huston first started skating from the age of four. Since then, he has won more Street league Skateboarding (SLS) contests than anyone else. Consistently proving the haters wrong when it comes to his street-skating credentials, he recently released his latest video part called 'Til Death.

It is, simply, unbelievable.

Skateboarding is coming to Tokyo 2020 and Nyjah is already one of the favourites to bring home gold for USA. If you want to know who will be skating at the Olympic Games at Tokyo 2020, then you need to know about SLS. It will be the qualification process for the street skating side of Olympic competition.

Before the 2018 SLS season starts, Olympic Channel spent some time with the competition's most followed star, Nyjah Huston, at his apartment in Los Angeles.

What contests have you got lined up?

(The) next contest I am eyeing up is the London Street League (SLS). That’s the first one in London which is cool. There’s (going to be) one in Rio for the first time (and) a stop In LA again. (The) last stop could be China, or somewhere crazy, so there’s a lot of cool stuff coming up this year.

Skateboarding is going to make its Olympic debut at Tokyo 2020 and the skating community have debated the pros and cons, what do you make of skating being at the Olympics?

It’s about time. I can’t believe it’s taken this long. Mainly just because of how many people and kids out there skateboard throughout the world. Skateboarding is just you and the board and there’s so many people out there that do it, so many kids that love it and that’s why it’s really surprising it’s taken this long. But I’m just thankful that I’m in a place and time (to) hopefully be a part of it for the first time.

Nowadays, there’s lots of people wearing Thrasher t-shirts, in places like London and in New York, and a lot of these guys don’t actually own skateboards. Are there any dangers or risks in the sport blowing up like it has?

I wouldn’t say there are any dangers. I’ve always known it was something that would evolve over the years. I think skateboarders have always influenced style and certain brands. So, it’s not just a sport, it’s kind of a lifestyle and I think that’s the really cool part about it.

Nyjah Houston
Nyjah Houston

Do you think that there is anything in skateboarding culture that should be protected?

Not necessarily. Obviously, there are people out there who are stuck in their core skateboarding world and they don’t want it to go to the Olympics. But, I think in my eyes, as long as all the skateboarders keep that balance of where skateboarding came from... like producing a video part, like the one I just made with Nike, and just really still being dedicated to the love of skateboarding, hitting random rails and getting kicked out of places by security guards, that’s where skateboarding came from. I think as long as that stuff sticks around, which it will, it’s not going to matter how mainstream it gets and if it’s in the Olympics or not. I think everyone’s going to still have that true love for skateboarding no matter what.

One of the cool things about the Olympics is that men and women are on equal footing. Do you think it will be helpful for women in skateboarding as well?

Yeah, it’s going to do a lot for the women’s skateboarding, I think it’s going to blow it up a lot. In the past, I would say, two-three years I’ve noticed (women's) skateboarding going a long way. It’s not just with them being in more contests. (It's) the progression too. Those girls are doing some gnarly tricks now.

My Script board is at your local skate shop or check planbskateboards.com

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'Til Death

Let's talk about ‘Til Death. Your new part. It’s awesome. Honestly – did you almost die?

There were definitely a couple of times where I probably almost died (laughs). (I had) a couple of knockouts so I picked out that name for the part (and) I figured it fit pretty well. It was quite apt.

Can I ask you though... I was watching it with someone and they just couldn't believe what they were seeing. Is it real? Like, have you had people ask you that?

It was all real. It was all very real. That’s why we put in those falls and those bloody, gnarly scenes because it is important to show the real side of skateboarding. A lot of the times the stuff looks easy to someone who doesn’t really know everything about skating. (Someone who) doesn’t actually go through that pain. It’s important to show that side of things (to) show people, I didn’t actually land this trick (on my) first try. This thing took three hours to land.

And you still have all of your teeth?

(Checks teeth) They are all real.

Nyjah Huston: The 'LeBron James' of Skating

The comments on YouTube underneath 'Til Death are brilliant. This one stuck out for me was 'Nyjah: the LeBron James of skating'.

That one makes me stoked.

I knew you would like that one. How about this one - 'History has been made – Nyjah Huston is what Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are to football'. How does that make you feel to hear these big names next to yours?

It’s insane. It’s crazy to hear people compare people like that to a skateboarder in general. That’s the awesome thing about social media - being able to see stuff like that. I love seeing certain things (on there) and asking people if they like my shoe. Or being able to talk to kids and actually interact with them.

Instagram is huge at the moment but do you think that it has taken away from when someone releases a video part?

Yes. Instagram has definitely taken away people from looking forward to seeing a full video part from one of their favourite skaters. Back in the day, I used to really look forward to watching them - the whole thing - going out and buying the DVD. I used to watch the same videos over and over when I was a kid.

Skater of the Year

We're only about half-way through 2018 but you must have found yourself dreaming about the idea of winning 'Skater of the Year'?

Yes. I have put some thought into that. I think I will still have some work to do. Because that is definitely something that does not come easily in skateboarding. Everyone who wins that puts in so much work. All around. Contests. Instagram videos. Video parts. Covers for magazines. It’s such an all-around thing. It’s never something like ‘Alright – I have to get Skater of the Year’. I think that it’s something that should come naturally. I do plan later in the year to work on my street skating and to put out some more footage.

Just lastly, where would an Olympic gold medal sit in relation to your other trophies and stuff like Skater of the Year?

I would say that comparing Olympics to other contests – like X-Games and Street League and stuff - it’s definitely the number one. It’s the one you would like to focus on winning the most. The one you would be most satisfied with winning. But it’s not something that you can compare to other stuff like Skater of the Year. It’s just two completely different things. (But) winning an Olympic (medal) – that would be an amazing life goal.

It would look nice on the shelf.

It would.

Nyjah Huston was a big interview on the Olympic Channel Podcast. Each Wednesday we reach into the mind of someone Olympic. We want you to think like an Olympian.

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The interview and questions were shortened to make them easier to read. Olympic channel reporter Ashlee Tulloch conducted the interview.

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