Nyjah Huston thought he’d spend this spring prepping for his—and his sport’s—breakout moment: the debut of skateboarding as an Olympic sport at the Summer Games in Tokyo. That moment is now on hold because of the coronavirus pandemic, as most things in sports and society are. So Huston, a four-time world champion and skateboarding’s biggest star, is setting his sights on 2021, resetting his career calendar and staying in shape the best in can at his Laguna Beach, Calif., home. He invited SI in to photograph (from an appropriate distance) glimpses of his new daily routine and shared how he’s adjusting to the quarantine life at home.
This interview has been lighted edited and condensed for clarity.
Jamie Lisanti: You’ve been quarantined at your house in Laguna Beach, which you recently bought. When you first moved in, did you have to create it into a space that felt like it was for you?
Nyjah Huston: Yeah, when I first bought the house, it had all these like weird colors and weird themes to it, and this weird green kind of granite, marble stuff. And it was just totally different than what it looks like now. Even when I bought it, my mom was like you just have to picture what it's gonna look like after we make it what it can be. And I listened to her on that and we made it into a good place. I love it.
JL: Now that we've all been quarantined and forced to spend a lot more time in our homes, I'm sure you're happy that you have this place that’s more your style. What do you appreciate the most about your house now?
NH: I definitely appreciate my gym the most because I am totally the type of person that just like has a hard time relaxing. And whenever I don't have anything to do or I'm bored around the house, I'll just be in there for like a couple hours sometimes, just like stretching or working out and just taking care of the body. So I'm really, really stoked on that.
JL: How has your training and fitness routine changed since you've been quarantined at home?
NH: I think I have been in the gym more actually. And I've been I've been better at stretching. I've been stretching a lot more. It's important cause I'm getting up there now, I'm 25 now, not the young one out there anymore. So I have to take care of myself.
JL: I think sometimes people don't understand how you train for your sport, because it is different than more traditional sports, like basketball or football. Are you out there every day on the board?
NH: I don't skate every day. I wish I could. I definitely would if my body could still handle that. But now it's really just whenever I'm feeling good enough to. I've had a ongoing knee injury the past like eight years now. So I'm just always kind of battling with that and trying to try to keep that thing as healthy and painless as possible. But skating is really hard on the body. And I mean, even if you just take a few falls, sometimes it can take you out for a couple days. It's really just about trying to try to stay healthy at this point and skating as much as possible, obviously, but also be strategic about it and not pushing myself too hard to get hurt and stuff because we have important years coming up with the Olympics and stuff. So I have to stay healthy out here.
JL: When the Tokyo 2020 Olympics were still planned as scheduled, were you getting prepared in a different way than you would for Street League?
NH: Well, it's hard with balancing skateboarding, like how I would normally go out and skate with my friends and film stuff for videos for Instagram, and then balancing that with contests, because you always have to keep on your mind like, Oh, like I want to try this trick right now. I want to film this. I want to challenge myself trying this. But is it worth it? Or like, am I gonna get hurt? That's always on the back of your mind. So it's really it's hard sometimes because someone like myself, I always want to be out there like going for big stuff and challenging myself. But lately, starting this year, I have been more careful than ever with the Olympics coming up and stuff. And it sucks that it got pushed back a whole year now, so I kind of have to have another whole year with that same mindset of being strategic and staying safe.
JL: Are you working on certain techniques or incorporating any specific fitness training as you prepare for 2021 now?
NH: No, it's really the same stuff. For me, it's mainly doing good workouts for my knees, strengthening other things around my legs that can keep as much of that pressure off of my injury and just a lot of physical therapy. I have a place I go to down in Newport a couple of times a week. So that helps me out a lot. Just trying to just stay healthy and just practice as much as possible. I'm really thankful in these times, to have my own private skate park. It's like 20, 30 minutes away from my house in San Clemente. So I've been skating there most of the time by myself. I'm so stoked I have that place because skating is something that if you don't skate for like a couple weeks or a couple of months, like you feel completely different when you get back on your board. It takes a couple days to even start feeling normal again. So it's really something you gotta keep up on.
JL: What's your daily routine like now? Is it pretty similar to before, just because you have that private skate park?
NH: I would say it's changed a little, but definitely not as much as I feel like most people have been affected out there, and I'm really thankful for that, for having that skate park. I don't know what I would be doing without it. But I mean, it still sucks not being able to go skating everywhere. I love going to around the public parks and just skating around the kids and stuff with them and obviously going out with my friends and going out and hitting the streets and stuff. So I still have to be cautious.
I normally get up around 8:30. I'll have a little something to eat. Just some avocado toast or some cereal or something. Or sometimes just a protein shake when I get up and then I'll go in my gym. I'll stretch for like 30 minutes to an hour. Then eat like actual breakfast at home or order something, obviously, we all love Postmates in these times. Then, I get a good workout in after that. And then I normally go to my skate park if I'm feeling up for it. And then aside from that, I'm just like chilling at home, hanging out with my roommate, she's one of my best friends. Physical therapy sometimes. And yeah, that's basically it.
JL: What will competing in the Olympics mean for you and for the skateboarding community in general?
NH: It means a lot to me. I've been really excited about it for a while now and it just sucks. I was like just hyping my myself up so much this past year. Like it's finally happening, like skating is finally in the Olympics after so long. I'm stoked. And then, of course, the one year it gets in there it has to get pushed back a year, which is super unfortunate. But of course, I understand the circumstances, but it's just another year now and I'm so excited for it. I've got another year to go out and change and be on top of my game. I think it is I think it's definitely a cool thing for the sport. I think it's going to be a new, exciting thing for people to watch in the Olympics, even for people that don't know about skateboarding, I feel like a lot of people will get to know about it after watching it and kind of get turned on to it just because all those contests are really fun to watch. It always comes down to the last tricks and that's really exciting. So yeah, I'm super stoked for it, stoked to see that skateboarding finally, finally got in there. I feel like we deserve it.
JL: I wanted to ask you about the eBay auction that you have. Tell me a little bit more about that and why that's important to you, especially now.
NH: Yeah, for sure. I'm just so teamed up with eBay for an auction for Feeding America. Obviously, a lot of people are struggling right now. A lot of people are out of work, out of jobs, out of school. So I think keeping everyone fed is obviously the most important thing, you know, keeping people strong and healthy in these times. So 100% of proceeds will benefit Feeding America's COVID-19 response fund and eBay will match dollar for dollar all proceeds with this campaign. It goes through May 7th. And there's some cool items in there. There's my winning board from I guess it's going to be the only contest this year. It was a couple months ago, it's called Tampa Pro, it's a legendary skate contest. And I ended up winning that one a couple months ago. So I threw my winning board in there. There's some other used skateboards, there's some used signature skate shoes of mine with Nike. Yeah, so check it out.