ESPY winner Nyjah Huston talks skating, being a child prodigy, and what’s next

Over the past few years, Nyjah Huston has lifted more Street League trophies than all of his fellow competitors combined; photo courtesy of Monster Energy.

Over the past few years, Nyjah Huston has lifted more Street League trophies than all of his fellow competitors combined. Photo courtesy of Monster Energy

In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, we’re here to catch you up to speed: Nyjah Huston is an absolute beast.

At 19, the skater has won basically everything there is to win in street skateboarding, including six X Games golds, the first two Street League Skateboarding titles, and more prize money than any skater in history (yes, you heard that right, in history). Earlier this July, Huston took home his second Best Male Action Sports Athlete ESPY in a row, and is in the middle of another dominating competition season that has already seen him win the first two stops on the Street League tour.

While most of his fellow competitors were talented skaters from an early age, Huston was bred for skate success. Growing up in a strict Rastafarian compound in Puerto Rico, Nyjah and his two brothers skated for hours every week with their father and stayed relatively isolated from the outside world. Combining physical talent with his disciplined upbringing, Huston had pro potential by the time he was a teenager. Since then, he has moved to Southern California and quickly rewritten the script in street skateboarding.

GrindTV caught up with Huston during a brief break in his competition season to see what it was like to be the big name in street skateboarding and how he keeps things fun in the face of pressure. Here’s what he had to say.

Nyjah Huston

Despite having a vigorous competition schedule, Nyjah Huston gets out to skate and film with his friends as much as he can. Photo courtesy of Monster Energy

You’ve won the ESPY for Best Male Action Sports Athlete two years in a row now. What does that say for your skate legacy?

I'm totally honored to win another ESPY. Winning the first one felt pretty good, and I think the last couple of years have been going pretty well for me. But I think it's more that skating is finally getting to the point where that we're capable of winning stuff like that, you know? It's good that everyone is starting to recognize that skating is a serious sport.

With all of the success so early in your career, how do you stay motivated?

The way that I look at it is that no matter if I were a pro skater or not, I would still want to be out there skating every day. Doing it for fun is the most important part. Whenever I'm skating, I'm always challenging myself to do more tricks, because that's the fun part of skating for me. Something you try for hours, then finally landing it—that's the best feeling in the world.

Nyjah Huston

Nyjah Huston has made a name for himself making the impossible look easy. Case in point. Photo courtesy of Monster Energy

Do you feel any pressure, feel anything that takes away from the fun?

Honestly, sometimes skating—I mean it is a job—sometimes it's going to feel like a job with all the meetings and interviews and stuff like that, but for the most part I'm just out trying to skate with my homies and have a good time. Not a bad job at all, really.

So there were some massive switch-ups in the X Games location and format this year. How did you feel about the changes?

This year's X Games were a lot different than last year's in Los Angeles. I think it was a good change, though. It had been in L.A. for a while—obviously, I loved it because it's kind of home turf for me—but I was stoked on it being in [Austin] Texas because the town was so big and everyone was so hyped up. It was amazing. It was honestly one of the best crowds I've ever seen for a contest. That's great for competing; it makes you want to get out there and really give it your all. I really wanted to check out some of the concerts and stuff going on, but it was all right before my competition.

You had a pretty unique upbringing; how do you feel that your family has contributed to who you are today?

My family has everything to do with where I'm at. I’ve always been supported by my mom and dad. My dad was a little bit over-strict on skating all the time as a kid and wanting me to be as good as possible, but at the same time I'm thankful for that because I think that's a big reason for why I'm here where I'm at right now. I grew up skating with older brothers, too. Learning new tricks and feeding off of each other—all of that was really important. So yeah, I owe it all to them.

Did you grow up emulating any skaters in particular?

I used to watch every skate video and read every magazine growing up. Basically anything that had to do with skating, that's what I wanted to do. It was interesting because I was so young by the time I started skating professionally I didn't know the difference between the pro aspect and just skating for the love of it, so they kind of became one and the same early on. I grew up on P-Rod (Paul Rodriguez) and Chris Cole and even to this day when I'm out there skating with them, I still can't believe I get to skate with these guys I've always looked up to.

What else is going on for the rest of 2014?

I have a couple of contests left. Street League New Jersey is coming up, so I’m very focused on getting some new tricks ready for that. Then, skating and filming as always. I don't have any specific parts lined up, but I do hopefully want to put one out by the end of the year. Also, I’m working on a signature line with Asphalt, which should drop later in August.

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