FRONTPAGE is Highsnobiety’s weekly online cover story exploring the people, moments, and ideas shaping culture today. For the eleventh edition of our series, Highsnobiety’s West Coast Editorial Director Brock Cardiner sits down with Nyjah Huston to learn about his thoughts on skating’s debut at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
When we meet at the Millennium Biltmore in Downtown Los Angeles, Nyjah Huston is still recovering from his afternoon session at the new Berrics, a nearby skatepark owned by Steve Berra and Eric Koston. A few weeks before, he was in Brazil, earning his fifth career Street League Skateboarding World Championship title with the highest final score in series history.
The skateboarder – known simply as Nyjah within the industry – achieved this record-breaking performance by coming back from a near double-digit deficit with a hard-to-comprehend cab flip front board, followed immediately by a nollie heelflip back lip. Google “SLS Nyjah Huston Brazil” if you also have a hard time wrapping your head around what that means exactly.
Scrolling through his Instagram page, it’s hard to peg the kind of skater Nyjah is. Nearly every post is a clip of him landing a trick impossibly clean, almost robotically so. You often have to thumb through the comments just to understand what it is he did. Compared to other skaters du jour that cultivate entire lifestyles brands around themselves, Nyjah is precise, to the point of being anti-style.
His feed is dedicated almost entirely to his craft. Sure, you’ll see the occasional flex showing Nyjah tearing it up at his private skatepark with Justin Bieber (although who’s really flexing here?), or the flashy Instagram Story of him speeding down the freeway in his Mercedes C63 AMG. Besides that, every clip and every image reflects Nyjah’s core ethos: Send It.
Skating, however, is no longer just about being the first to send the next Hollywood 16. Instead, the entire culture and style has been appropriated by the upper echelons of the fashion world, largely by people who were influenced by the sport and its penchant for DIY brand-building in their childhood. Walking down the streets of nearly any metropolitan area around the world, you’d be forgiven for mistaking a skater with someone who just left Dover Street Market.
This generational shift seems to have bypassed Nyjah’s sphere of influence entirely. In a fashion scene dominated by English skaters on Parisian runways, he remains far more Nike Running than Dior x Stussy, and spends what’s left of his creative energy dreaming up new trick combinations to send during his next session. YouTube commenters liken his approach to LeBron James or Lionel Messi, athletes known to arrive early, leave late, and perform best under pressure.
Born on November 30, 1994, Nyjah sits right on the edge between the Millennial and Zoomer generations. He’s found that elusive professional sweet spot, earning lucrative sponsorships from Nike SB, Element, Monster Energy, Black Plague Brewing, Social CBD, and Privé Revaux – all while winning more tournament prize money than any other skater in history.
He’s now poised to take his career to the next level with the introduction of skating at this year’s Tokyo Olympics. With only a handful of skaters making the cut, there will be more eyes than ever on the 25-year-old California native. As the de facto leader of the team, Nyjah is set to take on a new role in pop culture, one that hasn’t been seen in the sport since Tony Hawk first landed the 900 at the 1999 X-Games. Whether summer or winter, Michael Phelps or Shaun White, every Olympic Games has its hero. Nyjah could be 2020’s.
Twenty years ago, Tony Hawk landed one of the biggest skate tricks of all time, the 900, and people remember it to this day. Is there still room in skating for that kind of signature trick? The kind of trick that’s seen around the world?
You really can’t compare street tricks to a 900, because the main reason that was such a big deal is just that extra spin. No one had done that before. There are still tricks that people do that you haven’t seen before, but it’s more so just mixing [one trick] into another trick, and really technical stuff that the normal person doesn’t really know how to comprehend.
Before I forget, happy belated birthday! Can you share anything, for those of us that weren’t there?
Man, yeah – my birthdays have become pretty legendary. I feel like every year it becomes more and more of a thing. I always invite a couple of fans to cruise out, a couple of random people from Instagram. So yeah, it’s a good time.
“If I don’t have anything to do throughout my day and I’m feeling good, I’m definitely going to be on the board.”
You’re competing at a level now that I think no one imagined skating getting to, 25 or 30 years ago. Do you have to cut back on the partying? Do you have to treat partying differently than you used to?
I’ve been thinking about th