Nyjah Huston: "Winning is a brand-new feeling"
Nyjah Huston won every contest he entered this year, from Tampa Pro to X Games to all four Street League stops, but it hasn't been easy or without drama.
In 2014, it seemed like Huston was unstoppable at times, even when the stakes were up against him. Some of the Street League courses were even designed to not favor his skill set, which happens to be skating rails, and he still won. At the Los Angeles USC Street League in July, he injured himself during practice, and wasn't expected to compete, but did so anyway and won with a wrist injury. On Sunday, he needed his last attempt to win the Street League Super Crown Championship, and he completed the first Street League sweep since the creation of the series.
After doing a signing in New York City for clothing sponsor Asphalt Yacht Club, Huston spoke with XGames.com about sweeping all the Street League stops, dealing with neighbors who want a quieter neighborhood and his new signature line of clothing from Asphalt Yacht Club.
XGames.com: In 2012, I asked you if not sweeping all the stops would be acceptable to you and you said that it would just make you hungrier to win them all next time. Now that you've swept, where do you go from here and is this going to be your goal from now on?
Huston: No, I wouldn't say that would be my goal from now on. Honestly it's the ideal situation throughout the year but it's not something I tell myself I have to do. I tell myself I have to win one or two contests. I can't be that hard on myself because it is skateboarding and things can happen [negatively] very easily. I'm really stoked on this year. I think it was my best year yet and next year I'm going to go into it with the same mentality and just go out there and have a good time.
In the Super Crown Championships this past Sunday at the start of the last section, it was a very real possibility that you could lose. Walk us through how you won.
The start of the control section in general didn't go how I wanted. I fell on my first trick which was very unfortunate and I was really pissed off -- probably the most I'd ever been in my life. But it has happened to me plenty of times before, falling on the first trick. I knew all the other guys would be out there killing it, so I knew I had to step it up and land big stuff. So I went out there trying to land all my tricks in a row. I did that up to the Cab flip which was my fifth and second-to-last attempt. I was also very bummed that I fell on that one and I put myself in a pretty risky situation there, but somehow pulled it off.
In 2012, I also asked you how you go about learning tricks, but this time around after seeing you win three times by buzzer-beaters since then, how do you learn how to land a hard trick when it counts?
With me, I'm such a competitive person and I want to win so bad that I do everything in my will to make it happen. As far as doing the tricks in a contest, it is pretty cool when you think about it because you have to land the trick your first try in the contest. When I'm doing one of those tricks back at home practicing, I'm not normally landing those tricks first try every time. It takes at least a few tries. When it's the contest, you have to pull off whatever you can pull off and with a lot of money on the line, it's always a plus in my mind.
Do you keep a mental list of tricks and categorize them by the score you think they'd get, and then select them depending on how the contest is progressing?
Absolutely. I think one of the main reasons I've been successful in Street League and the reason I have won so many before is just picking out the right tricks to do at the right time. It's so much of a mind game that you have to have so much strategy. During practice you have to practice the tricks you want to do and then you have to practice harder tricks in case you fall and you need to do harder tricks or if everyone else is killing it. You also have to have some easier backup tricks if everyone isn't doing so good, because then you don't have to do such hard tricks. So it's really about going about it the right way and giving it a lot of thought during the contest.
Throughout the contest, when it wasn't your turn, I'd see you standing next to the scoreboard staring at the screen. While you're there that's when you're strategizing and plotting everything out?
Yeah absolutely. It really helps out that you can look at the screen and really see what scores people already got and then what scores they'd need to win. When I'm looking at the screen I'm adding up people's scores to see what I need to do to take it home.
You've now won over $2 million in Street League prize money. What are you going to buy this time around to treat yourself?
I'll probably take a majority of the money and be smart with it and put it towards my house that I just bought about a year ago. I might be buying myself a new car at the end of the year or next year. I'm looking forward to that.
Do you invest your money?
Yeah I definitely invest my money. I have really really good people behind me and my mom helps me out so much with that stuff. I have a good accountant and a good financial adviser, so I stay on point.
Tell us about your private park.
It came out really good. I've been wanting one my whole life, it's been one of my dreams. I'm super stoked to finally have one, thanks to California Skateparks. They built an awesome place for me and it's just cool to have your own park you can go to any hour you want. Let's say I'm laying in bed and I think of a new trick, I can head over there and start learning it. It's definitely a plus and I'm really stoked.
You had an Asphalt Yacht Club shirt on during your win Sunday night from your line that came out this week. Tell us why you started riding for them.
I started riding for Asphalt because the company was started by my friend Stevie Williams who is obviously a legend himself. It all sounded like a really good idea. I didn't have a full-on clothing sponsor at the time and they put together a really cool and diverse team. It just sounded like a cool, new idea. I'm also part owner of the company myself. It's cool to be part owner and be involved in the lines and stuff. It's fun.
Tell us about that shirt you wore during the Street League finals and the significance of the double zeroes throughout your line.
The double zeroes throughout the line were just kind of random. In this case I thought they looked really cool on the back of the shirt. The one I was wearing during the contest is my favorite shirt out of my new line. I like the graphics and I think it was put together well and I like the zeroes on the back.
Your AYC line is kind of a remix of what the brand currently had out. Considering this is your first line you've ever worked on, did you go into it thinking about making products that suited you or were you trying to appeal to the kids out there as well?
I would say I was aiming for a good balance between both. Obviously I wanted to make stuff that I'm actually going to wear but I want the kids out there to wear it also. I think we found a good balance of that and I'm hoping a bunch of kids out there are stoked on it.
A lot of the backlash from your wins sounds very similar to what people would say about Tiger Woods when he was in his prime. It was to the point with Woods that they wouldn't watch the PGA Tour or they'd watch just to see him lose. On the Internet, people say they are done with Street League or they watch hoping to see you lose. That idea came to life when [fans in] New Jersey booed you at the podium. I've never seen a skateboarder get booed like that and enjoy it. Is that the way you deal with all the negativity that comes your way?
Oh yeah. I'm honestly so used to it. That was the first time I had ever heard the crowd boo like that. It's nothing I was surprised about whatsoever because there are so many haters on Instagram and social media and just life in general. So it's definitely nothing I was surprised about and I think the best thing when you have haters is to show them you don't care so I just gave them a nice thumbs-up.
Something else about you that is similar to athletes in the NBA and NFL is that you get to live in really nice neighborhoods at such a young age. Meanwhile your neighbors are typically three times your age. All the noise complaints you've received is commonplace for the lifestyles of most young pro athletes and entertainers. How do you work through those situations?
That was a pretty annoying situation but it has kind of mellowed down now. It's interesting because I didn't think that would happen when I bought my house because my house is actually a bit secluded from my other neighbors. I just happen to live next to that one old mean person who doesn't like any type of noise. It's probably that they didn't like the fact that someone 19 years old lives in their neighborhood. I don't know if it's a jealousy thing or whatever but me and my friends are being mellow about it and I try to be nice to my neighbors but that whole situation was super annoying. Honestly the reason it's been more mellow lately is because it was never really crazy in the first place. I'm 19 years old, obviously I'm going to have friends over at my place and have a good time, but I think most people don't realize maybe that they have positivity in their lives. I'm just trying to have a good time and they need to realize that too.
People think you should quit Street League or you should feel like winning is getting old to you. Any chance of either of these things happening?
No. I would say that winning is a brand-new and great feeling I'm so glad to have happen and all the people who want me to quit or feel that winning is getting old they'll have to wait hopefully another 10 years. It's going to be a while.