Two summers ago, 11-year-old Nyjah Huston arrived at the X-Games as the youngest-ever competitor, and he wasn’t just some dread-locked novelty — he placed eighth in the skateboarding street event. And even that was a bit of a disappointment, considering earlier in the year he’d taken second in competitions against the same group of (mostly) grown-up skaters. Since then, though, Nyjah’s reputation as a badass on a board has only grown. He’s laid-back but seemingly fearless, a street skater who looks like he wandered in from the islands, starting with a head of unruly hair that’s never been cut in his life.
Nyjah was born into a family of skaters that today splits time between Davis, California (his birthplace), and Puerto Rico, where Nyjah’s parents have since bought a home. Home-schooled by his mom and schooled in skating by his dad, Nyjah and his two older brothers basically grew up on wheels. Today, the clan travels together to competitions. This year’s highlight? “Definitely Barcelona,” Nyjah says. “I loved that place.” The Hustons preach a holistic life: They’re all vegans and have been for ages, which means that Nyjah has never tasted meat. “It’s difficult on the road,” he says of maintaining the diet. “But I really like the lifestyle. We do it for health— — I think everyone should want to save the animals and do something positive.”
Nyjah’s father, Adeyemi, put him on a skateboard when he was around four years old, and within just a couple of years he was winning competitions. Now Nyjah is a 13-year-old singled out by Tony Hawk as one of skating’s future superstars (he was in fact the youngest skater ever to appear as a character in Hawk’s popular video game), and he finds himself competing against his childhood idols and the last Next Big Thing on the tween skateboarding circuit, MTV reality star Ryan Sheckler, whose X-Games debut at age 13 now looks a little less impressive.
And yet, Nyjah still isn’t quite ready to call himself a professional. In his view, that status comes down to whether you have a skateboard named after you. “I don’t think you’re pro until you have a signature deck,” he says. “I do pro events, but I don’t have a deck — so I can’t consider myself a pro yet.”
The self-proclaimed amateur is looking for redemption at this summer’s X-Games. “I didn’t do too good last year, but it’s a cool contest,” he says. “I always have fun there.”
And what about the dreadlocks? How long can he possibly let them go?
“As long as I can, man.”