Nyjah Huston is your average sixteen-year-old skate rat. Rocking an oversized skate-logo tee over slim-fitted jeans – tied to his waist by way of a white shoelace – he sports adolescent trademarks in spades. Polishing off the look is a disheveled mess of dreadlocks that spill from the confines of his backwards-facing White Sox cap. Then there’s the iPhone — a seemingly permanent fixture fused to his hand — which, like anyone his age, he checks every thirty seconds or so.
At first glance, you wouldn’t guess the kid’s got enough cash in the bank to buy a house with, because, let’s face it, when’s the last time you met a teenager with that kind of loot? Sure, the Olsen twins, Macaulay Culkin and the like amassed millions before they could legally operate a moving vehicle, but Hollywood, with its overproduced and endlessly calculated drama, parallels anything but skateboarding. But, with a tale that rivals any birthed in Hollywood, Nyjah Huston may very well be skateboarding’s firstdocumentary-worthy child star.
While most kids around him were still playing in the mud and eating worms, Nyjah was already toying around with a Tony Hawk Birdhouse board his dad gave him at the age of five. By five-and-three-quarters, he was already hooked.
But his skills didn’t truly blossom until a couple years later, when Nyjah’s dad — an avid skater from yesteryear — opened a private indoor skatepark of his own in the quaint, rural Northern Californian town of Woodland. Nyjah would clock hour after hour inside those four walls, surrounded only by the ramps and rails of Frontline Skatepark. Like a kid in a candy shop, he’d often spend entire nights perfecting his lines.
“When I was eight, there was a skatepark there run by some other people. My dad and oldest brother fully rebuilt and took over the whole park. That’s where I learned everything,” recalls Nyjah, eyes beaming as he recounts his formative years from the comforts of a floral print sofa in Orange County, California. “Every single day, for like four or five hours, I’d just go at it. When I was eight or nine, I had a routine every day. I’d do the same exact thing and the same exact lines. That was all I cared about, just getting better at skating.”
The prodigy’s dedication quickly paid off, and within months he was already garnering the attention of pros all over. “I first got in contact with Element when I was seven,” recalls Nyjah. “[ex-Element pro] Reese Forbes hooked it up. I was skating the Vans Milpitas Skatepark [near San Jose, California] and he noticed my potential. It all grew from there.”
And grow it did. By the time he turned ten, Nyjah had already bagged his first legitimate full-length video part in Element’s Elementality. At age eleven, he was travelling the world and entering the X Games, becoming the youngest skateboarder ever to do so. He held his own, too; placing second against the likes of skating’s most established and talented names, Nyjah proved to be a veritable rising star. His second-place standing at the 2009 X Games the very next year proved it wasn’t just an auspicious instance of beginner’s luck, either.
And with the accolades and contest trophies came fortune and fame — all before the judges could legitimately label him a teenager. Not that Huston cared about much else besides pushing around on his board, though: “I was so young, like twelve, that all I thought about was skating. I wasn’t worried about the money part of it at all.” He chalked up interviews in every major publication, collected big sponsors like éS Footwear, and even made a string of appearances in the Tony Hawk video game franchise. Needless to say, the world loved him.
But things didn’t go as swimmingly as planned. After parting ways with Element, due in part to friction with his dad, and a failed attempt to launch a father-and-son skateboard company, Nyjah began to morph into a dark horse that nobody wanted to touch. Other sponsors, like éS, began to drop him, and he was ostensibly slated for obscurity.
While he was down, he was certainly not out, and now having abandoned the executive duties associated with operating his own board company, and rejoining forces with Element, Nyjah — a kid whose blood boils at the mere thought of skateboarding — can focus on his true passion. “I know Element wants to do the most they can for me, and all I have to do is focus on skateboarding, which is all I should do, and want to do,” explains the teenager with an unrivalled air of humility in his voice. Nyjah Huston’s your average sixteen-year-old skate rat. The only difference is he’s already been through a lifetime of ups and downs before he’s even learned to drive.