Skateboarder Nyjah Huston has had quite the year. Starting off by reuniting with his original board sponsor, Element, in January going into contest season, Huston dominated, winning all three of the exclusive and highly competitive Street League events in the league's regular season. Then he won X Games gold.
At the end of August, Huston headed into the Street League Championship event as the man to beat. In a weird weekend marked by bad weather and strange occurrences, Huston fell short of the big win to dark horse Sean Malto. Though he took second, Huston, 16, was clearly the story of the season. He hasn't slowed down since.
Next month, on the auspicious date of Nov. 11, 2011 (11/11/11), Huston will debut his first full-length video part as a pro. Premiering on iTunes, "Rise and Shine" is anticipated to be one of the standout parts of the year. We caught up with Huston to talk about the video, Street League and what comes next.
ESPN.com: Let's go back since this is the first time you've done an interview with ESPN since the Street League Championship. That had to have been a lot of pressure and the weather [Hurricane Irene] made it a crazy experience.
Huston: Going into the last Street League of the year, there was a lot of pressure. It made it hard on me, having won all the contests that came before. Going into the first contest of the year back in May, I was really concentrated on winning that, but there wasn't really a lot of pressure. I was able to win that one, and then the next two contests I approached pretty mellow. I didn't feel like I had to win, but then I ended up winning those next two. I got to the last contest, the championship, and there was so much pressure. It was hard to handle it. Also, I wasn't able to get much practice because of the switch of the contest day because of the hurricane. So it didn't work out perfect, but I was still really hyped to be able to get second, and I was also really hyped with how the whole year went. I didn't expect to win three contests out of the year; I expected to win one or two. My goal was to make $300,000 off of Street League this year, and I ended up making a little over $500,000. I couldn't be happier with how I did.
Did the hurricane add to the drama or did that detract from the experience since the contest had to be moved up a day and not all the fans could make it out?
Well, there was less practice. Normally you get a whole day of practice before the event, but since they switched the day, I had to do an autograph signing on the day that practice was actually held. So I only got two or three hours of practice. But it was all good.
With Malto coming through for the win, were you bummed, relieved or a little bit of both?
There was so much relief actually from the feeling of finally not winning. Even if I had won that contest, the next event I would have had that same pressure where people just expected me to win. I never wanted it to be that way. I never expect myself to win. I know anything can happen. I got so lucky winning three in a row, so that had to stop some time.
Does it seem strange that Malto is technically the 2011 champ even though you won every event in the regular season?
It is really interesting. There was a big difference between this year and last year. Last year, the winner of the overall points was the winner [Huston was the overall winner in 2010], and this year, it was that one contest and anyone's chance out of the people who did the best in the first three contests. It was different. But honestly, I'm way more psyched on winning the first three contests than if I'd just won the championship.
Is taking down the Street League Championship event a goal you have in mind for 2012?
For sure. The championship will always be goal of mine. Mainly, I just need to feel confident. Coming out of this year, with winning all those contests, I feel really confident with myself, and I feel like I've progressed enough to where I'm on top of my game. I think now I have a good chance of winning at any contest. As long as I know that feeling is there, I'm going to be doing OK.
Your video, "Rise and Shine," is dropping on Nov. 11. How is that coming along?
It's coming along great. I've been working on it pretty much since I first got back on Element back in January of this year. I've been focused on doing the best I can and having this video part be my best video part yet. I know it will be, because this is my first pro part. People are expecting certain stuff, certain tricks. I've got to live up to those expectations. I have a little bit of a feeling of something I need to prove just as far as people looking at me, not just as a contest skater but as a street skater too. But it's coming along great. It's going to be tight.
That premiere date is creeping up quick.
I've always wanted the video to come out around that time. I know I have the ability to get it done. I'm down to skate and film every day, so I want the video to come out as soon as possible.
Will you go full speed, filming for your part right up until the premiere, or do you have a deadline for yourself some time before the premiere date?
There is a deadline. You have to pretty much turn it in to iTunes a while before it comes out. I think my deadline is around Oct. 21. It's coming up. I've filmed most of the stuff I wanted to. There's a couple more things I need to do. Now I'm down to the tricks I've been saving to the end, those bangers I want to try that I've been saving in case they get me hurt. I save those until the end, so that if I do get hurt, I'll still have enough footage to pull the part together.
What will we see more of: footage pre-haircut with dreads or after the haircut, with short hair?
It should be a really good balance. It should be almost equal with pre-haircut and post-haircut. It's not going to be two separate video parts, but the footage is going to be fully separated, so it should be sick.
What gets you motivated to film right now? Are there friends or teammates you skate with that get you hyped?
For sure. Honestly, since getting back on Element at the beginning of the year, I've been so much more motivated. When you're on a company like Element, the marketing for you, the magazines, the interviews, that's all right there for you. So that's motivation. And then going out skating with my homies too. Every time I go skate, I'm out with my homies. We're usually out together till so late at night. Most of the time it's around Los Angeles, and almost all of it is night skating. My homie Nathan Groff, he's pretty much training to be my filmer right now. He should have some tricks in my part too.
Once your video drops, do you have another project to work on right away or are you going to get a breather?
There'll probably be a little bit of chilling time but not too much. There's always another project, and even if I don't have a project, I'm still out there skating and filming. That's how it has always been. It's fun at the same time. I don't go out street skating thinking it's work. When you roll away from a trick, there's no feeling like it.
Which of your Element teammates gets you the most hyped when you skate together?
I'd say Darrell Stanton. And out of the ams, Julian Davidson gets me really hyped too.
When the video finally drops, what are you going to do to celebrate?
Celebration is going to be great. There will definitely be some premieres. It'd be great to have a premiere at The Berrics or the Fantasy Factory or something like that. Then maybe we'll probably have a homie premiere and maybe rent out a house for the weekend or something like that. My birthday is at the end of November too. Nov. 30. November's going to be a good month.