Professional skateboarder Nyjah Huston talks to Yahoo Finance's Jen Rogers about the booming business of skateboarding, and about representing the United States at the Olympics this year. It will be the first time skateboarding will be included in the Olympic Games. Huston is part of Yahoo Finance's exclusive list, THE NEXT: 21 to watch in 2021.
NYJAH HUSTON: I'm not a Houston. I'm a professional skateboarder, and this year I'm working hard and practicing for the Olympics, first year for skateboarding. Let's go.
JEN ROGERS: You're the world's highest-paid skateboarder. You're making your Olympic debut this year as skateboarding joins the Olympics for the first time. You've already won every award out there. It's pretty crazy that skateboarding is going to be an Olympic sport. Did you ever think you'd see the day?
NYJAH HUSTON: I never-- I really never even thought about it too much until it started getting talked about a few years ago, but I remember, like, I was always confused why something like snowboarding was in the Olympics but not skateboarding. It just always seemed just weird and kind of unfair because skateboarding, if anything, is bigger than snowboarding. Way more people are accessible to do it all around the world. So why wouldn't you want it on the big stage like the Olympics?
But, you know, at least it's in there now. I wish I was in there skating it when I was, like, 14 or 18 or something, but at leas I'll have a good chance to go out there and still be good.
JEN ROGERS: So do you change your training at all for the Olympics? Do you do anything different? Do you get more nervous?
NYJAH HUSTON: Yeah, I mean, that's the only part about it that actually sucks because I kind of have to limit myself from all the stuff I would normally want to be out there doing like the stuff you see me posting on Instagram or, like, filming gnarly tricks out in the streets and stuff. I got to take it easy this year and just stay safe and be healthy and make sure I'm at my best when the time comes.
JEN ROGERS: So what does that mean to you staying safe and being healthy? Because I'm watching you on Instagram all the time. I'm like, what is this guy doing?
NYJAH HUSTON: I know. It's hard. It's hard. That's the only thing about skateboarding, it's just always such a mess. And it's just annoying little injuries all the time. Like right now I'm just coming off a bad heel bruise and a lot of ankle sprains. But, you know, it's part of the game, so I've just got to do my best to stay healthy this year and just probably going to be spending a lot of time skating my own-- I have my own skate park in San Clemente. It's like 20 minutes away from my house. So I'll probably just be skating there a lot and practicing and getting ready.
JEN ROGERS: So skateboarding seems more popular than ever. We have seen a huge surge in sales of boards amid the coronavirus pandemic with the lockdowns, of course. Is skateboarding mainstream, dare I say, now?
NYJAH HUSTON: I would never-- I would never call skateboarding mainstream in that way. I think in the-- just within the past couple years and the Olympics being a big part of that is the first time that people actually see it as a sport. Us skateboarders don't really-- still don't really even like to see it that way because there is so much to skateboarding aside from Olympics and aside from competing in general. There's all-- I mean, really skateboarding is just going out and having fun with your friends and filming cool tricks and challenging yourself and just really just having a good time. That's what skateboarding really is.
But I'm stoked that it's coming to a bigger stage, and I'm stoked that it's going to be in the Olympics. I think it's-- I think it's good for us, and I think it's good for skateboarding as a whole. I think it'll bring some more money into the sport, which is good. I mean, I'm one of the fortunate ones to be making a good living for myself off of being a professional skateboarder, but there's hundreds and hundreds of pro skateboarders out there that are professional and they are so good at what they do, but there's just not that much money in skateboarding, so they're kind of just getting by. So I think it's good in a lot of ways like that.
JEN ROGERS: Let's talk about the money side because, as you say, you are one of the lucky ones. You have been able to make money doing this. In fact, you've made money for a long time, since you were basically a kid doing this. So you have-- you're not just a skateboarder. You're an entrepreneur. You're a philanthropist. How do you find the time for this other gear?
NYJAH HUSTON: I mean, sometimes it gets hectic, and sometimes it sucks to have to feel like I actually have a job. But that's just how it is sometimes because I think back to when I was a kid, like a teenager, literally all I did was just go out and skate with my friends and just focus on that.
But I'm 26 years old now, so I'm trying to think about my future and be smart in the way I'm using my money and saving my money and making money outside of skateboarding. So I'm stoked that I'm taking that next step in life and actually having my future in mind because that's important.
JEN ROGERS: So what does that next step look like for you? I mean, how do you decide what kind of brands to partner with or startups to partner with? What's important to you when you make that decision?
NYJAH HUSTON: Yeah, I'm definitely not the type of person that just partners with anyone. I mean, obviously I get hit up about doing partnerships with brands all the time, but I try to be specific about who I want to partner with, and I definitely want it to be someone that fits me well and fits my vibe well and just try to be with people who create, like, good content and stuff.
And as for stuff that I've invested in, kind of the same thing, just people that have a mindset like outside of just normal stuff, you know, people that are trying to do things in a different way and really stand out from normal brands out there.
JEN ROGERS: Do you have somebody's career, not necessarily in skateboarding, but either an athlete or a CEO that you watch that inspires you on the business side, I mean, comes to mind like Michael Jordan? Like, do you want that kind of a brand out there?
NYJAH HUSTON: Yeah, I mean, I would have to say-- I would have to say LeBron because I know he's really successful outside of basketball, and he's invested and started a lot of companies and stuff. And he's also just one of my favorite athletes and someone to look up to because especially he's showing this year and the past couple years that, like, he is still at such a high level even though he is older and his body's been through so much. And that's just an inspiration to me because I'm on like 20 years of-- 21 years of skating now, and my body goes through it all the time. So that's just-- I want to be out there doing what I can do and competing and stuff for as long as possible.