Skateboarding may be making its Olympic debut at the Summer Games in Tokyo, but the sport enters the fray with a ready-made superstar leading the charge. Nyjah Huston is the winningest skater of all time and he headlines an American team with big-time medal aspirations into Japan.
Huston has been at the top of his field for some time. He began skating at the age of five and, by the time he was seven years old, he had already picked up his first sponsor in Element.
Since then, he has continued to elevate his game, maintaining a spot at the top of the skating pecking order and persevering through adversity behind the scenes.
Here is everything you need to know about the US Olympic skater…
1. Nyjah Had an Eventful Childhood
Born in 1994 in Davis, California, Huston lived a strict Rastafarian lifestyle along with his parents, Adeyemi and Kelle Huston, as well as three brothers and a sister. They were also strict vegans and the children were home-schooled by their mother.
Per ESPN: The Magazine (via XGames.com) Adeyemi wouldn’t allow his kids to play team sports; they were too “codependent.” However, the individual nature of skateboarding fit with his interpretations of Rastafarianism — and he had done it himself as a young man — so he shared the sport with his family.
Although Nyjah was naturally skilled as a skater, his father was very controlling and forced him to do it on a daily basis. Adeyemi also forced his family to move to Puerto Rico on a whim in 2006.
There, they lived a life of “tropical fruits and livestock, reggae music and marijuana, dirt bikes and board games” on a mountain farm, per Texas News Today.
2. Huston’s Mother Returned Stateside With Nyjah’s Siblings, Leaving Him With His Father
While Nyjah and his father were in Barcelona, Spain for a skating event, his mother took the opportunity to move herself and her other children back to California. Unfortunately, as Adeyemi filmed his skate videos, handled his finances and managed his budding career, Nyjah found himself stuck in Puerto Rico.
“Because my dad was my manager, I was kind of the one child out of all my brothers and sisters who didn’t kind of have a choice,” he told ESPN. “I was forced to live with my dad, so that was really unfortunate.”
When Huston’s parents finally divorced and Kelle gained custody of Nyjah in 2010, his father retained possession of the skating footage that had made him a star. The footage remains in his possession even now.
3. A Skate Competition Saved His Life
Huston and his family were in a rough spot after the big split. As relayed by Rolling Stone, his skateboarding earnings had been misappropriated by his father. That left his family in dire straits financially.
Nevertheless, when Huston was invited to the first-ever Street League skate competition in Glendale, Arizona, his mother got him there from Orange County knowing full well that they couldn’t pay for the trip. That gamble paid off — Street League founder Rob Dyrdek ultimately footed the bill and Nyjah was ready to roll.
And roll he did, taking first place and netting $150,000 for his efforts. Huston described it as a life-saving event.
“That was the most important and best feeling I’ve ever had in a contest,” he told Rolling Stone. “It saved our lives.”
4. Huston Gave Up His Rastafarian Lifestyle But Credits It for His Durability
Since the break from his father, Huston has forged his own path in life. He shaved off his dreadlocks, listens to his own music and no longer adheres to Adeyemi’s strict interpretation of Rastafarianism. However, some of the lifestyle choices that were thrust upon him have stuck.
Namely, the idea of healthy living and excluding certain things from one’s diet. According to Huston, those principles have kept him in tip-top shape in circumstances where most skaters might struggle with injuries.
“I grew up very strict vegan,” he told GQ. “My dad didn’t allow me or any of my siblings to eat any meat, no cheese, no candy even. He was super strict about that sort of stuff. I think that’s one of the reasons I manage to be so healthy and take all these gnarly slams without breaking any bones: I think the main thing is being raised without drinking any soda.”
“Every one of my friends who skates has broken a ton of bones before.”
5. He Has Made Millions as a Skating Superstar
After years of winning competitions, collecting sponsors and appearing in video games (like the Tony Hawk series) and skate videos, Huston’s net worth has ballooned. By 2013, he had already won more prize money than any skater in history, per Transworld Skateboarding.
He is sponsored by Nike SB, Doritos, Mountain Dew, Monster Energy, Diamond Supply Co., Ricta Wheels, Social CBD, Mob Grip, flatbread Neapolitan pizzeria and Adapt Technology as of January of 2021.
Huston has utilized his wealth to make positive changes in the world. Along with his mother, the skating star founded Let It Flow in 2008, an organization that aims to provide clean, safe and accessible water to the communities that need it.