How Skateboarder Nyjah Huston Prepared for Tokyo
We sat down with the most decorated street skater in X-Games history to learn about his training regimen, competition tactics and more
With skateboarding’s much-ballyhooed Olympic debut in the rearview, interest in the sport from casual American fans is perhaps at an all-time high, or at least as as high as it’s been since the heyday of Tony Hawk throwing 900s at the X Games. And with that interest comes questions, like just how athletic skateboarders are (answer: incredibly), and how a skateboarder even trains, beyond the endless rehearsal of highly skillful and frequently painful maneuvers.
The best person to answer that question is 26 year-old Nyjah Huston, who, for the uninitiated, is widely regarded as the best street skateboarder alive, if not of all time.
A native of Davis, CA, Huston began skateboarding at the age of five and turned pro at 11. That year, as the youngest X Games competitor ever, he finished 8th in the street competition. The ensuing years have seen Huston rack up a frankly astonishing number of contest wins and accolades; with 13 gold medals and 19 overall, he is the most decorated street skater in X Games history by some distance, and trails only halfpipe and big air legend Bob Burnquist (18 years Huston’s senior) as the most decorated skateboarder overall. In the 11 years that the World Skateboarding Championship has existed, Huston has won six times and never finished lower than second. The kid is, for lack of a more nuanced description, not messing around.
A generational talent who also happens to be covered in tattoos and boasts 4.6 million Instagram followers, Huston remains an American icon despite a disappointing performance in Tokyo. So we sat down with him to chat about his training regimen, how he stays focused and what he hopes this summer will mean for the world of skateboarding going forward.
InsideHook: So what does the training regimen of a skateboarder getting ready for Tokyo look like?
Nyjah Huston: It varies, it really just depends how my body is feeling. Ideally, I would love to train hard every day, but that’s not really realistic nowadays because my knees and my ankles end up being really sore — especially when we’re out there pushing the limits and practicing these tricks I did in [Tokyo]. Lately I’ve just been skating, I average four days a week, a couple hours each session. Sometimes I’ll go way longer and skate all day if I’m going somewhere mellow, cruising around UCLA with the homies or something. But if I’m really in my skate park training hard, it will normally be a two-hour session.
Are there any other athletes from other disciplines that inspire you, things you’ve learned from watching or knowing them?
I would say the majority of them because they put in so much time, effort, and work. It’s amazing. [Tokyo] for us skaters was more of a random thing that just popped up — we were like, “Wow, we have a chance to be in the Olympics, that’s awesome.” But we have a lot that goes on in our lives and in our careers aside from [Tokyo]. When I think about all the swimmers and all the track and field guys … I used to have some buddies who ran track, and I know how much training and hard work goes into that. So it’s definitely something that gives you inspiration.
So much of what you do is predicated on intense focus — do you have mental techniques you use to clear your mind before a run or just stay in the zone in general?
I wouldn’t say I’ve done any serious meditation — it’s really just spending time by myself outside, skating by myself, going on hikes by myself and throwing in the headphones and listening to music to get me into the zone and hyped up. Those are the things that help me stay mentally good.
Any go-to methods for keeping your energy up while you train?
I’ll normally take B12 drops every day, magnesium for the brain power, and if I’m feeling like I need some extra hype and some extra energy that’s when I’ll throw a Monster Energy Zero Ultra in the mix for the session.
Did you already have an idea of what your run for Tokyo would look like ahead of time, or was there some improvisation there?
I feel like I’m very experienced nowadays after skating so many contests. I can just see the design of the course and have a good idea of what I want to do and what I need to do to have a chance at winning, so I pretty much already knew the tricks I would be doing out there. I [spent those last] few weeks practicing on them and getting them down and being ready.
Who are your top three all-time favorite skaters and why?
That’s a hard question because there’s so many. There’s the legends like Tony Hawk, Eric Koston and Andrew Reynolds, all those guys that really helped pave the way. If I had to pick three of my personal favorites though, I would say Chris Cole, Paul Rodriguez and Ishod Wair.
Last question: Skateboarding just had a chance to attract a whole new pool of fans thanks to the exposure the sport got in Tokyo this summer. What would you tell all those casual viewers who might be interested in continuing to follow the sport going forward?
I would like them to know that skateboarding is very hard to understand with all of the tricks we’re doing — I would advise them not to try so hard at understanding exactly what we’re doing out there, but to take in the different ways that people skate. Because that’s the beautiful thing about skateboarding — everyone has their own style, their own bag of tricks they do, it’s a very individual sport. This makes skateboarding as a whole tight competition. Every one of these contests, with the format they use, it’s always such a close competition. It always comes down to the last trick or two.
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