New Jack: Nyjah Houston
By Rob Brink
The Skateboard Mag January 2007
There have been a lot of young skateboarding prodigies over the years, but its safe to say that Nyjah Huston, for his age, is the most accomplished, talented and progressive than those who have preceded him.
In 2005, Nyjah earned the coveted "curtains" slot in Element's Elementaliy Vol. 1 video, nabbed first place at Tampa Am, Am Getting Paid and Goofy vs. Regular—he was 10 years old then. In his 11th year on this planet, he's managed three second place finishes thus far (Global Assault, Panasonic Open and Right Guard Open). Not to mention the Unbridled Spirit Award, a special award given to him by the Kentucky Sports Authority during the Louisville stop of the Dew Action Sports Tour.
Nyjah's been a busy little fella' the last few years, landing himself a handful of impressive sponsors and plenty of those "10 Days with a 10-year-old"-type articles to boot. But, when you're done looking at all those pretty photos, what's it like to actually talk to Nyjah for a while?
Well, he's twelve now, so don't expect him to elaborate on the current state of skateboarding or world affairs, criticize the industry, discuss contracts, partying, cars, bling, professionalism, why he did or didn't stay with company X or company Y, Internet message boards or anything more than the topic of "having fun" and "not worrying about too much."
Through his youth and innocence, Nyjah is more enlightened than most of us. He was born into skateboarding, was virtually raised at a skatepark, possesses a natural gift for skateboarding and spends his days traveling and skating with his family. Add all that together and what do you get? I dunno…but I'm certainly jealous.
Hey Nyjah, how's it goin'?
Greetings! Hey what's up? I'm doing good.
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!
Were you skating around like 'I want to win this!" Or just doing your thing, having fun, and if you win, then you win?
Yea, I definitely want to just do my best—do the best I can and just relax and see how it goes, ya know? 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?
You've had many big second place wins too…does second place bum you out or do you celebrate it?
The last contest, [Dew Tour Louisville] 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 five?
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 have a little mini ramp in the backyard that my dad built a few years back. It's pretty cool and I skate it a lot. 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. I learn new things from my older brothers. We get pumped off each other.
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. My pop films me or my older brother will come out and skate with me.
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. How about your favorite videos?
The Kayo video is definitely my favorite right now. All different types of styles in there.
So far, you've grown up so far very differently than most kids. You are 11 years old and you were homeschooled 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.
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.
How did that feel to get on one of the biggest skateboard 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.
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 a surprise?
I heard a 'lil something before, but man, they definitely hooked it up.
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.
What's your favorite spot to skate?
I like skating UC Davis, all the Bay area, 3rd and Army…a lot of different spots.
How about your favorite trick to do and one you can't figure out no matter how hard you try?
I like a lot of different tricks…back tails, switch heels, tre flips…so many. To tell you the truth, frontside flips are actually pretty hard for me. Getting the hang of 'em, ya know?
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.
You've never cut your hair?
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.
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.
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.
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. She makes so many different things from deserts to good meals. We just try to keep it tofu, beans, rice, oatmeal…proteins ya know? 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. 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. I play with my older brother. It's just a fun activity to do, just like skating ya know? I like to keep a good balance. It's fun.
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.
How about when you went to Jamaica with Satori a few years back? I heard it was a really gnarly trip. Ryan Dewitt told me you had to sleep on the beach or in some sketchy hotel and you might have been a little freaked out.
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. But yeah, that was a crazy night. The first night staying there. We definitely got the feel. Hahaha. But I like Jamaica, ya know?
What was your favorite place to go to so far?
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.
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's the greatest memory skateboarding has given you?
So many different things, from landing tricks on the street to doing good in contests and traveling around the world.
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.
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?
Any closing comments?
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? This is cool. I'm hyped. I was so surprised to hear I'm getting this. It came out of nowhere.