Am Scramble 2018: Justin Henry Interview

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How much has your life changed in the last year of so?
For the past year it seems like it’s changed a good amount. It seems like the trips have definitely amped up a lot. We dropped the Quasi video so it seems like a lot of exposure on myself and some of the other dudes have came out a lot more since our footage has dropped. So for me it definitely seems like the traveling has amped up. But I enjoy it.

One of the first things I ever shot of you was that wallie noseblunt slide in the Quasi video. People just went crazy about that thing.
I was thinking about that. It seemed like that was one of the first clips I got for the video because it was like the most talked about. But that was a good one. Just the spot and the crew, I guess all worked out, you know?

It was the first thing you filmed but ended up being your last trick.
Yeah. I remember we were rolling up to that, too, I think it was before a demo and I was like why are we going to that random school in New Jersey? You know what I mean? And it ended up being the best spot so far that I’ve skated.

Have people treated you differently since you put out the video and you got a little bit of public exposure? Has that been weird at all?
Yeah, a little bit. Now that the footage came out it’s kind of cool because that was one of my first things I put out in the industry. Before that happens usually people only know what they’ve seen in person, which is cool, but now it definitely, you know, the video gets played all over the world. It seemed like it got a good reaction, so it’s kind of wild. Like, I was in Montreal for the Dime event and I’d be walking around and I’d just hear people yell out, “Yo, wallie noseblunt!” They didn’t even know my name, they just yelled out “Wallie noseblunt.” I’m, like, What? What’s up? It was pretty funny, but yeah, it’s been cool.

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You get any hate or jealousy from anyone back home? Because I know that sometimes happens too.
Not at all, actually. Columbus and more or less Ohio it’s like, I feel like it’s the forgotten state, you know? Real low-key, blue collar, like you go to high school, you work a job right after high school or you go to college. You know what I mean? So any time somebody can break free from that life everybody backs you. It’s all love in Ohio. Nobody at all has ever said anything negative about me here. It’s a real loving community.

Justin Henry Photo2 750pxYou’ll never skate alone on a Scramble. Justin sails a nollie heel up, over and out at this must-shred spot in Fort Worth

How old are you Justin?
Twenty-three.

Nice. So now it seems like things are going your way, you’re getting to go on some trips, maybe getting a little bit of cash. What’s been the hardest thing to get to this point? What’s been most difficult?
Like I said, getting your name out of Ohio has always been a little bit harder. So coming up a little bit younger, a few years ago I just realized it was a real struggle to really get your name out there. You just have to travel so much more. I don’t think that somebody that lives in California or New York realize, I have to travel to those places. I have to travel to the industry. I think it was just breaking out of that Ohio spell, that Midwest spell, you know? Just not too many people can see you when you’re here. So that seemed like it was the hardest struggle, but after that, like we did that first Vans trip and after that it was pretty smooth sailing, you know? The industry takes care of you.

Did you ever come close to quitting skating at any time?
I mean, not quitting, for sure, but like after this Quasi part—I really worked hard. And I’ll be truthful, I worked real hard for it, just getting completely broke off but I kept going ’cause it was my first project. I would try tricks, and I mean everybody does this, but I’d try tricks at midnight with lights and generators. I remember I tried a trick ’til four in the morning and didn’t get it, then the next night, midnight, lights and generator ’til like three in the morning. You know what I mean? So stuff like that. I remember I was in Florida trying a trick, lights and generator again, like 2am just trying something scary. I was the only one skating and I’d be back there just thinking to myself, like, Is this really even what I want to be doing? But then you do the trick and you’re, like, Hell yeah, this is exactly what I wanted. It’s just right there, so it’s more or less when you’re battling stuff and maybe after a project you’re so exhausted. But then the project comes out and you’re ready for it again. It’s weird. It’s like a weird addiction, you know?

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On this trip I noticed that everybody had their different approach. It seemed like Jaakko would just roll in and get a trick in three tries and then you had Gabbers—he’s one of those guys that loses his mind at every spot and has a very emotional time. What I’ve noticed about you is that you maybe don’t get the trick as fast as a Jaakko but, man, you never give up. Has that always been your approach?
Yeah. It’s weird, I always had this weird thought that I never believed in getting a trick first try. I know it happens, for sure, but I always thought if you do it first try you maybe didn’t push it as hard as you could have. I don’t know if that’s a weird thought, but I just try and think of the trick that will be the hardest thing in order to push myself. So it usually takes a little bit longer. But yeah, I usually try to stick with a trick for a while. Not even to get that deep, but watching my dad growing up, he would work real hard through some family money struggles and things like that so I’d always watch him and he would always preach for me to get past things in life and always keep trying until you can’t walk anymore. So I always try and run that. That’s for anything, too, not even just skateboarding.

Justin Henry Photo3 750pxOn a trip like this you gotta get resourceful. Bank bash to Smith up a warehouse double-set

Was there anybody on the trip that really surprised you?
Simon. Just like every spot doing the most mind-blowing thing, for sure.

That’s what I was gonna ask, too—is it good energy when people are chomping that hard? Do you like it like that or do you like it a little bit more relaxed?
It can go either way. Like, sometimes I would see them do stuff real quick and it’s a little intimidating. I’m just, like, Oh, man, they’re already back in the van sitting. But it’s sick, it’s good energy because you see them do something and it really motivates you to try and get something sick as well. So it’s good.

A little pressure’s okay?
Yeah, it’s a good pressure. There’s no jealousy or nothing, it’s just good pressure, for sure.

So I gotta ask you about that video. Chad Bowers said that Pops would have taken you out.
Hell no. I was ready to rip his head off but I kept it mellow ’cause he’s a little bit older, you know?

I’ve never seen you be anything but very polite and friendly. What set you off with Pops?
So we were in San Francisco skating a house spot and everybody that’s skated San Francisco already knows you’re gonna have some sort of run in with a person, like one of the people that live there. So I was skating this house spot, it’s like a wallie to front wallride, the one you shot the sequence of, and it was the first time I had tried it. The dude that lived there came home and he came home out so aggro. Like, he saw us and he has this big Ford F150 and he comes down and he almost hit Josh Wilson who was watching for cars. He tried to hit Josh with his truck, so right there we all knew this dude is heated, we should just pack up and get out of there. So he gets out, he’s cussing us out screaming at us. I’m, like, “I feel bad for skating your house. I’ll come back and paint it.” He’s just, like, “Fuck, no. Don’t even try and come paint it. Just get out of here.” So after that we’re packing up. So we’re loading the car up and it’s around the corner and I’m sitting shotgun and I see him coming around with his phone to film the license plate, so I told my friend Drake Johnson to go stand in front of the back license plate I’m gonna stand in the front license plate. So he comes up and he’s, like, “Move!” and I was, like, “Nah, man, we’re packing up. We’re about to leave,” and he literally takes me and throws me to the ground. At that point I kind of blacked out, just so upset. Just because we were being extremely polite to him. So I got real mad and I was yelling at him, screaming at him in his face and he was filming me with his phone and I snatched his phone out of his hands and at that point he kind of took a step back. I took his phone and just threw it in some bushes so he would have to go retrieve it and we could get out of there without him being able to take a photo. When I threw it in the bushes he really got upset, he was, like, “I’ll be right back, y’all. I’ma go get something real quick. I’ma get something for y’all!” and I was like, “Yeah, I think he’s gonna get a gun so we should just get out of here. Just split.” But then we went back a couple months later and it was smooth sailing.

Shit. Yeah, I didn’t know it was that hectic the first time. I’d have been scared.
I know, I was trying to warn you guys, like, “Hey, it can get kind of tricky over here.”

Justin Henry Photo4 750pxFront nose flyover near George Bush International Airport (RIP)

So you’ve gotten a taste of some SF action. There’s so many things influencing skating right now. What are the biggest ones to you? To me there’s so much exciting stuff going on the East Coast and then there’s the GX stuff. What’s really inspiring and influencing you these days?
Definitely all my boys in the GX crew kill it ’cause they’re just straight skate rats. I just like skate rats. Those dudes go out every day, handle the work and just kick it. They’re always skateboarding. So I love the GX crew. I like the dudes over on the East Coast. I love the Bronze boys, in the same way they just go out and skateboard every single day. I love Gilbert Crockett. He’s always kept me extremely motivated. Man, pretty much just all my friends, all the Quasi boys, all the Vans dudes like Pedro, he’s keeping me motivated. Going out on trips and skating with dudes—I always come home and it’s like watching them skate I’m just like a little kid again.

Do you think skating’s rad right now? Do you like the way it’s going? Do you like the trends?
It’s pretty cool. It seems like it’s real separated right now in this weird way. It just seems like there’s so many different little niches. There’s the whole underground movement where it’s like, Yeah, we’re the underground dudes and nobody knows what’s up with this, and then you got the more big-time mainstream dudes that have managers and some bigger, questionable sponsors. But you have the middle ground where—it’s hard to explain. I remember I was talking to this one dude and he’s like. “Yo, whose board is this?” I was, like, “It’s my board,” and he’s like, “What company is this?” and I was, like, “What are you talking about? It’s Quasi. I ride for Quasi,” and he was, like, “Who’s Jake Johnson?” I was just, like, Woah. That’s when I knew skating is in a weird spot right now. Because, to me, Jake is like—when I saw his Mindfield part it was like right there Jake was one of my biggest influences and this person out in California doesn’t even know who he is. You could go and say like Jake is one of the greatest ever to do it, you know? But it’s just separated. I guess that’s just how it is.

Yeah, there’s lots of information and people are latching on to different things and totally ignoring other things. That’s wild to me too because I have the same kind of conversations where it’s like somebody in Long Beach may not know who Justin Henry is and then I was on a trip in New York this fall and nobody in the van had heard of Corey Glick and I’m just, like, What?!
It’s pretty wild.

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Then there’s those crazy Instagram and YouTube kids and I have no idea who the fuck they are. But who knows?! That’s a whole other universe. Nobody’s right or wrong, but you’re right, it’s all over the place.
Yeah, that’s the way I feel, it’s nobody’s right or wrong, at the end of the day it’s kind of just like you fall into what you like. I mean, I guess in my head I think I follow the right thing but you know I’m biased. I’ve always stuck with that raw side of skateboarding.

Justin Henry Photo5 750pxIf your were nose grinding dumpsters all day you’d carry a tote bag full of fresh shit, too! Stay clean, Justin!

That’s what I try to get with the Scramblers but at the same time it’s like I want to get guys that are invested in the world that Thrasher’s invested in and that’s kind of the old stuff of getting sponsored, making videos and going on trips. I can’t be dipping into mysterious YouTube guys at this point, you know?
Yeah that’s kind of the coolest thing about Thrasher. At the end of the day I feel like that’s where I look to see the true industry to me. You know, like who’s dropping video parts and who’s in the mag? So I kinda just go based off of that. I don’t rock with anybody that’s just doing it off of Instagram.

I think everybody should do whatever they want, but yeah, it’s like you gotta kinda draw the line at what you wanna pay attention to.
Yo, for real. It’s getting hectic, man.

Skate fashion seems like it’s the biggest it’s been in a long time. How important is the right gear to you? Are you thinking about gear? ’Cause I don’t think Pedro’s thinking about gear.
Yeah, I’m for sure thinking about gear. Sometimes I’ll see a skate clip and I’m literally just over here tripping on how the dude looks with how the city looks behind him and what his clothes look like and then I’m, like, Damn, his push is sick too and I don’t even remember what trick he did. It’s, like, Yo, have you seen this video? This clip is fresh. I can’t remember what he did but his outfit was real good. It matters to me, for sure. You should look good.


Yeah, I think people are thinking about that a lot more lately which is totally interesting too. Speaking of fashion, I know I’ve asked you about this before, but you’re one of the only dudes I know who regularly carries a purse. What’s up with the purse? What’s in the purse?
It’s a tote bag! We’ll call it a tote.

Okay, cool. But if I didn’t know it was a tote bag, I would swear it was a purse.
Yeah, maybe. People give me heat for it but that thing is sick. I got it from my aunt. It was her old sewing bag. Number one, I keep a phone charger and my headphones. That’s for sure. And then third most important I keep my brush for my hair. You know what I mean? You get a fresh cut you gotta keep it nice. Everybody know that. Then I keep some hand sanitizer, ChapStick, I keep this lavender oil I got from Whole Foods. You know, you never know when you’re done skating you might go to a dinner or something. You might go hang out with a girl or something so you gotta keep that on deck. What else do I keep in there? Oh, I’ll keep my camera in there, for sure. I’ll keep my phone. I’ll keep an apple or something in there. It’s just a good bag, you know? All the essential stuff throughout the day. Nothin’ crazy, though. Not as crazy as Gilbert’s tote bag.

 

I can’t even imagine what’s in that thing.
Yeah, for real.

Last year all the Scramblers, they’re pro now. Do you think this class of 2018, do you think they got it? Do you think all these guys are gonna have a board this time next year?
After this trip, for sure. I felt like we all did pretty well. At the end of the day it’s up to your sponsors but, man, all those dudes, you know, I was, like, Wow. They seemed like they were already pro.

Is that definitely a goal of yours, personally?
Yeah, for sure. You know, it’s not the end goal but it’s like when you’re a kid having a name on the board, that means everything. It’s like the holy grail having your name on a board. Especially for a company that you back, you really worked hard.

That’s sick. Alright, last question: who’s your 2018 Skater of the Year pick?
Tyshawn Jones.

How come?
I just saw him nollie flip over a trash can standing up and that’s all I needed to see.

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