Justin Henry: Ohio's Newest Pro Speaks

JustinHenry Title
Against the odds, Justin Henry has carved out a solid skate career without the smooth spots and sunny weather of Southern California. Having lived in Columbus, Ohio, his whole life, Justin’s commitment to the crustier side of the streets puts him in good company with teammates like Jake Johnson, Bobby De Keyzer, Dick Rizzo and the rest of the Q crew. Gilbert recently got on the line with his fellow Quasi pro to dish on Ohio living, basketball, keeping clips off the ‘Gram, fake owls and gear checks. Get familiar with the stylish star of Grand Prairie in this interview from our March, ‘21 mag.

Catch Justin’s first part as an official pro in the new Quasi full-length

Are you in Columbus right now?
Yep, Columbus, Ohio.

Is it getting cold?
Oh, it’s definitely cold. It’s been cold since November. We saw snow early this year, which is always a bad sign. Then we just got hit a couple days ago. Not as bad as New York or other parts of the East Coast, though, but we got a little hit. So we’re in hibernation mode now. Indoor-skatepark mode. Luckily we got an indoor park here in Columbus called Skate Naked, so I just go in there. It’s kinda fun just to go skate the park with the boys anyway.

Is that affiliated with Embassy?
Nah, Embassy used to have a shop in there but not anymore. Embassy just has that one shop over off Hyde street.

JustinHenry BSNosebluntslide ColumbusOh Acosta 05 DZThe Midwest streets are rough but oh… that granite. Backside noseblunt perfection     Photo: Acosta

That’s sick that you still skate for Embassy and have that connection. ’Cause I feel like coming up and having a skateshop—a good shop—is sort of monumental in the way you see skating and the industry and everything.
Yeah, it’s funny you say that ’cause I was tripping on that the other day. You almost get lucky. I’m like, Man, I’m lucky that Embassy is here. If it wasn’t for the guidance of the OGs before me with how well the shop ran, and then doing videos and things like that, I don’t know if I would have maybe pushed myself harder or what. But with the shop being there, it’s just crazy how much of a stepping stone it is. Especially a good one.

Yeah, it gives you the community and shows you like: this is the way it works, this is the way to do things and this is not the way to do things—shit like that.
Exactly. It keeps everything in check; it keeps everything balanced and it keeps everybody happy.

DakotaMullinsColor 0014 DAKOTA MULLINSIf he hadn't picked up a board, he might've had a shot with the Cavs     Photo: Mullins

What inspires you inside or outside of skating?
Probably just the boys in general—anybody doing shit who’s my homie, I’m just gonna get hyped off that by default, just ’cause I like that energy. But off the board I watch a lot of basketball. I just played that a lot growing up, just as much as skateboarding when I was a kid, so that was something I definitely always fucked with heavy.
Let’s talk about the things that you bring into skating from basketball. The last trip we were on you were talking about how you implement the way they practice and the way they’re out there every day. You told me that you were modeling that a little bit. 
Oh, no doubt. For sure. The work ethic that goes into basketball or just any sport is interesting. Skateboarding has always sort of teeter tottered between like, Is it a sport? Is it art? But at the end of the day, the stunts that are going down, you definitely gotta be prepped for those. You can’t just be sleeping and doing those. And it’s funny to watch how an NBA player would go about their work regimen or just staying in tune practicing. You know when you go to the skatepark you’re going to kick it with your boys and stuff, but at the end of the day that’s where you sharpen the blade a little bit and I like that. I like to try and skateboard as much as I possibly can, even if it’s just at a skatepark or something.

JustinHenry NollieNoseslide RichmondVA Mullins DZnewB-ball inspired vertical leap, nollie nose in Richmond       Photo: Mullins

I’ve always thought people who bring outside inspiration into skating, no matter how you’re going about that, I think it brings a level of flavor to me. A lot of my favorite skaters have always been into some other shit or had this other thing that they were really into that they would go do outside of skating. I feel like it also energizes you to get back into skating.
For sure. You definitely gotta keep your mind a little off it. You gotta have something that you enjoy to just purely enjoy it. Sometimes skating can get a lot so you gotta reach outside of skateboarding to maybe get inspired. I’m sure you can attest to that.

Oh yeah. I’ll get hyped off of the most random shit to go skate.
Oh, for sure. I could just be scrolling YouTube and get caught up looking at something that I didn’t even think I would be into and I’m just like, Oh, man, that was kinda fresh. It might just have you sparked for the day to create something cool, so you definitely gotta have outside inspiration for it.

Justin Henry Interview pullquote There’s not too much of anything at all that goes above family
Let’s talk about family stuff. I’ve met your family and I think you have a really level head and solid morals. It seems like your family has a lot to do with that. Is that something that you consider?
Oh, man, no doubt. When it comes to family, it’s pretty simple—there’s not too much of anything at all that goes above family. I would drop it right there and go if they needed me. I’m there, no matter what. Nothing steps in front of family. So, you know, luckily I got blessed with a good family. We stuck together. They inspire me on the day-to-day activities that they go and do, so without my family I don’t think I would be working as hard as I would be working.

I can see it in you.
You know, it’s like family is the closest of the close. They seen it all. I can’t even really speak on them, man, they’re so special to me.

They’ve kept you straight, right?
Yeah, they definitely keep me straight. They’re great role models—my brother’s a great role model. Growing up, it was always pretty cool. When I’m in the house there’s my parents, but when I would go out and skate I have my older brother Brandon and he would always roll with us. He skates, too, so I always felt really blessed to just be able to ride out with him and be able to practice my craft without really worrying about maybe getting got out there. My big brother was always with me so I was able to maybe tone into my craft a little bit sharper ’cause I knew he had my back and vice versa. It was just a strength-in-numbers type of thing so it was like I had a ride or die with me right there. I got lucky, so I take that to heart for real.

JustinHenry DZPhoto: Acosta

Whatever gives you strength, whatever puts you in the right place, you gotta respect that.
Definitely. And it makes the day so much more fun, too, just riding out with my brother. Even these days I be riding out with my brother, riding out with my mom, my dad or my aunt. That’s another good reason of staying home, too, you know? Can’t leave the family; can’t leave the close friends.

So you’ve only lived in Columbus, right?
Yeah, man. I did a month in New York and I’ve done like three months out in California during the winter. It wasn’t anything crazy, but that was the longest I ever been gone was those three months out in CA. Beside that, nah, I ain’t moved nowhere. It was my parents’ house and then I moved out into a one-bedroom in Columbus.

So what makes you wanna stay in Columbus versus living in a bigger city like NY or LA where there’s a bigger skate scene?
Honestly, I thought about that the other day, too. I was like, Man, it’s really all I know is out here. I don’t wanna move and relearn stuff. Once again, with skateboarding I got lucky enough to be able to travel so it’s like every time I travel I get my little piece of whatever that part is. But every time I travel I’m like, Man, I gotta get back to my home where I know every street, where I don’t need no maps pulled up on my phone. I know where to eat; I know where to go skate; I got all my friends, got my family. It’s just comfortable. It’s just all I know, for real. And you probably feel that same way.

For sure. Do you think it sets you apart from other skaters?
Oh, I think so, for sure. Just the terrain in Ohio is fucking crazy! The spots are just so rough. I know everybody says that but Midwest is beat sometimes, you know?

Justin Henry Thrasher Interview  pullquote When I get a clip out here, noting beats it.
I know.
Ohio in general—I feel like the hunt for tricks and spots out here goes so much deeper than other places. There are just so many other factors that are tied in out here, so I think it makes it a little more fun. When I get a clip out here, nothing beats it.

To me, it’s so much nicer too if you’re in Columbus or if you’re in the surrounding areas and you’re finding something you wanna skate, there’s a pretty decent chance it hasn’t been skated, right?
Oh, yeah. It’s pretty much like anything you’d want is untouched. So if you stumble upon a spot here, you got whatever you want on it. But the key is finding the spot, so it’s kind of a double-edged sword. It’s hard to find them but when you do it’s go time.

That’s what I appreciate a lot about a smaller city that doesn’t have all these pro skaters living in it—if you find something in the cut, it’s not likely that it’s going to get skated or your trick is not gonna be done.
But I’ll tell you what right now, we have some young hitters coming up over here.

Oh shit.
They got me on my toes, I’ll tell you. Nah, I’m playing, but you know how it is. There’s some younger heads who are really chomping some of these spots and it’s blowing my mind. I’m hyped.

That’s actually really cool that there’s a good scene coming up behind you.
Yeah, no doubt. So everybody pay attention to them Columbus heads for real. Or just Ohio in general; the skate scene is so strong. The whole state is pretty locked in together. So what’s going on in Cleveland, we know about it. What’s going on in Cincinnati, we know about it. Dayton, all the other smaller cities, they’re a little bit more on the outskirts of things but even in those cities you still know everybody there and have boys everywhere. So Ohio is interesting. It’s really tight; we’re tied together.

JustinHenry BSFlip CincinnatiOh 2019 Acosta DZBondo and backside flips in the cuts of ‘Nati     Photo: Acosta

We kinda got a similar Virginia thing going on. Everyone in the state is sort of aware of what the spots are in the other cities and maybe what the ABDs are, at least the big ones.
Yeah, true. You got to, though, you know? That’s the fun of it.

Do you feel any different about the scene—and by the scene I mean the skateboard industry—now that you’ve been around it for going on a few years?
I think I’ve fully been on Quasi for about three years, like fully getting announced and things. To me, getting announced by a board brand would be the start. And it’s funny, it’s like the fastest and longest three years I ever had. I definitely learned a lot about the industry that I thought I knew when I was a little younger but definitely had no clue about it. Thinking back to my first time meeting you I was like, Damn, that’s Gilbert. Just a little nervous ’cause it’s like, Damn, I’m rolling with some big dogs. It’s just interesting how much I learned through these three years to be at this point now. It’s definitely a world of its own once you get in there.

I feel like it’s a better time than ever being a skateboarder, especially doing it for a living.
Yeah. I mean, the coolest part is you can just skateboard—as long as there’s concrete and you can go roll. It’s crazy that we’re seeing all this stuff shut down but we’re able to skate. Even like snowboarding and shit, you need snow. To surf, you gotta go get them waves. But with skateboarding, you’re just right out the door. I feel like that’s why, in my eyes, it seems like it’s booming right now. I’ve seen a lot of new skaters in Columbus this past year. I feel like individual activities like this are kinda taking off with everything being shut down.
JustinHenry Boardslide WashingtonDCStraight out the door with a boardslide through the kinks   Photo: Mullins

For sure. It’s been the same here. I’ve been seeing an overwhelming amount of people in the streets and parks skating.
Richmond’s definitely popping off. Every time I’m there I see people in the street.

There’s a huge scene here, too. I also feel like this is a great time to be entering the skateboarding world, just even the last few years. But right now you have your career and you’re living where you wanna live, which is in Columbus, Ohio. Same thing for me—I’m in Richmond, Virginia, and I don’t know if we could’ve done this the same way ten years ago. I don’t think the skateboarding world was the same as far as being accepting of leaving it so up to us—leaving it up to skaters to just do our thing, you know?
Yeah, I don’t know why that was, though. It’s weird. What do you think made it like that? Was it social media, just being able to see more of the person? Do you think that’s what switched it?

I think it’s probably a lot of stuff. It is for sure way more accepted now, though.
Or maybe just California—just that move out to LA or San Diego thing just got so blown out to where it was like, Alright, you can just do whatever. You have to go find some other places, you know?

justinhenry 2 MULLINS DZPhoto: Mullins

I think people were ready to see a different thing.
A different environment and different spots. It goes back to having a really good skate scene. It’s like if you don’t have good filmers in your city then it might not get showcased. All the pieces need to be there for a city to really thrive. To me, to be able to live in Columbus, the most important role to do this as a career would be just going out with Joe and my buddies Jacob and Andy—all these filmers out here. Just having people around that can point a camera and get a clip with you, ’cause at the end of the day getting a clip—that’s what you do, you know?

Do you think skating is changing as far as video parts and stuff? I know you’re working on a Quasi video right now and the last trip we went on you said we were doing it more of a traditional way compared to what some other folks are doing. How do you feel about that?
It seems like the formula more or less nowadays is just to do an individual part. When you’re talking in those terms it speeds the process up of getting footage out there. Whenever you do a bigger video with multiple people, by default it’s gonna take a little longer. I always liked that, though. It’s kinda like, What’s the rush to create a nice album with your boys type of thing? You shouldn’t rush that. So I think I definitely lean more towards the formula we got over at Quasi, just ’cause I like to have that time to really pinpoint spots and tricks and just try to make it the best of both worlds—just really trying to find different shit and go on trips and things like that. Just being in the van with Quasi, we do that a lot, so it hypes me up for real. I guess that would be the more traditional route you’re thinking about.

Yeah, so you value the video part maybe over some of these newer guys who are just on the scene. Maybe they just post stuff on Instagram or whatever it is instead of making video parts.
To the point of making a video part, yeah, you for sure gotta do that. But on the social-media side, you gotta be careful with social media. To any of these younger heads reading this—maybe it’s changing and maybe I’m the old head or something. I’m not even old, but maybe I have that old thought where I’m like, I don’t wanna show my hand at the table. I don’t wanna show my cards. To me, when you make a video part you’re showcasing, you’re stunting, you’re doing your stunts, you’re gonna go hard. You should do tricks that people have never seen you do. Somebody should watch your part and be like, Damn, I didn’t even know they had that. So sometimes I get bummed when somebody’s like—and don’t get it twisted. I’ve definitely done it so I’m not gonna sit here and say I’m a saint, but I try and definitely watch myself on it. But when somebody’s like, Yo, I learned a new trick today and then it’s straight to the timeline, I’m like, Damn.

Justin Henry Thrasher Interview pullquote Social media is a slippery slope but I love it so I can’t even say anything
I think there’s a lot of value in exactly what you’re talking about—filtering what you’re gonna show on Instagram.
For sure. I mean, you don’t gotta do anything but in my eyes I like when somebody’s a little filtered. But who knows where it’s going. Social media is a slippery slope but I love it so I can’t even say anything. I be on it; I don’t even care.

We’re all on it. It’s dark, but we’re all in there.
It’s fun.

What was the first video you saw?
The DC Video. Greg Hunt made it. Dude, it’s crazy. Did I ever tell you the story about that?

I don’t know, but tell me again either way.
We were in Vancouver and I was sitting there and you were filming for Alright, OK. It was early as fuck, though. But you guys invited me on a trip and we were out to dinner. In my head I was like, Yo, Greg made my first skate video I ever saw, The DC Video. Now I’m on a trip with him and Gilbert. What the fuck? It was crazy. But you know what, When Alright, OK came out I sent Greg a text and I was like, “I never told you this but you made the first skate video I ever saw.” And I sent him a photo of The DC Video. So yeah, that’s the first skate video I ever saw. That AVE part in it, huh?

Dude, the AVE part is insane.
AVE, Stevie, also Ryan Smith’s part for some reason. That was the first time that I saw someone really chomping handrails like crazy and I was like, Oh, man. That’s wild. The whole thing was shocking.

I love that video. All those dudes’ parts are so good.
I was pretty young. That thing came out in 2003. I was eight and that was the first time I ever saw skateboarding presented in that way, past just dorking around with your friends. 

Justin Henry switch heel fifty hubba UMASS ODONNELL DZSwitch heel 50-50. Double tap!      Photo: O’Donnell

That’s a really good video to start you off, I think. How old are you?
I’m 25.

I feel like you’re kinda the last generation to come up watching full skate videos like that. That definitely has to have an effect on what you wanna make when it comes to making a video part.
Yeah, I guess I’ve never thought about that, but that’s a crazy thought. Maybe we are the last generation. I mean, if you came up skating during social media you’re definitely gonna be influenced by it.

Yeah, if you’re past the full-length-video era and you start skating, your perception has to be totally different.
Yeah, definitely. It’s all I know so I can’t even speak on it. Like, I can’t even see the other side or what somebody would think not growing up like that. But having a full-length, pop it in—it was VHS, too. You pop that thing in and you watched it.

And then you watched it again and watched it again and again…
Exactly. That was the only vid we had. We definitely watched The DC Video ’til we couldn’t anymore.

Well, that’s awesome. So how’s the Quasi video coming? Are you guys still filming?
Yeah, we’re still filming. It’s definitely crunch time. It’s been fun filming for it but when you get to this point you’re like, Whoo, alright, I gotta get these last ones to get this thing going.
Justin Henry Thrasher Interview pullquote I never thought in a million years I’d go buy a fake owl
I got a funny one to ask you here: tell me about the fake owl.
Oh my God. So at my apartment—I never had this problem until this summer. For no reason a bird just kept shitting on everybody’s mirror on the side of their car. I’m not talking just one little drop on the hood, I’m talking OD amount, a crazy amount on the side of all of our cars. So I was like, Alright, I’ll let it slide. I’ll wash it off. Whatever. It was time for a car wash anyway. But a couple weeks went by and I was like, Man, this is out of hand. This is out of pocket. So I went and I looked up fake owls. I was like, I guess it’s a bird deterrent. I don’t know the history behind that. I mean, an owl is a bird, but I don’t know if they’re bodying smaller birds or something. I don’t know what’s going on. But cardinals, in general, are super scared of the owl. And that’s what was shitting on our cars. So I went out and bought this fake owl, I threw it up on this one corner of the parking lot and the cardinal didn’t flinch from it. So I was like, Oh, man. I had this little roof thing right above my car so I put it right up there. Yo, that bird and his whole family packed up and moved. They were gone. They got so spooked by the owl, it was crazy. So that story is always funny to me because I never thought in a million years I’d go buy a fake owl for any reason at all. It’s funny ’cause I’d always see fake owls and I’d be like, I wonder what people are doing with those things?

JustinHenry BSTS CincinattiOH Acosta DZ Changing leaves and long back tails, the Midwest delivers      Photo: Acosta

I actually just saw one right before Chad told me about your fake-owl story. I was staring at this owl and it took me so long to realize it was a fake owl, and then I was like, Oh well, I guess they’re using that to scare birds away.
Yeah, that’s exactly what it’s for. So if you ever see a fake owl out there, that’s what it’s there for.

That’s some funny shit. How much do you think about your gear or your clothing when you’re going out skating?
Alright, the gear and clothing, it’s just every day. You know, for real. It doesn’t even matter if I’m going out skating or not ’cause I’m gonna wear the same clothes anyways. What I skate in I kick it in, as long as it’s not dirty or anything. So I think a lot about getting dressed, though. I just think it’s fun. It’s a cool little thing to do.

Justin Henry pull quote if you’re hyped on your outfit you’ll just be hyped on the day
Yeah, it’s a way to express yourself. I mean, I can tell you’re into it, that’s why I asked you about it.
For sure. I guess I never really thought about it too in depth but that’s definitely a way to express yourself. Also, if you’re hyped on your outfit you’ll just be hyped on the day. And if it’s a good day you might have an even better day skating. So I definitely try and keep it all balanced out and keep the energy as high as I possibly can. I get hyped on clothing.

Yeah, I’m the same.
Yeah, I see you out there, too, man. Big inspiration. It’s funny how much skateboarders look at that, though, you know?

justinhenry 4Keepin' the fit fresh     Photo: Mullins
Dude, you’re looking down at your pants. You see your shirt, your pants and your shoes when you look at your board.
Well, even just when you’re watching videos it’s like half of it is gear talk, half of it is skating. It’s so funny. It really is. I feel like it’s such a part of skateboarding. I mean, maybe it’s not and somebody’s gonna clown me for saying that, but I fuck with it heavy so I don’t care.

Yeah, dude, it’s a fashion show.
Yeah, you go to the skatepark and everybody’s got new shoes and shit. 
How about when you go to the park and you see the dude who looks so dope and you’re like, Wow, he’s gonna rip, and then they don’t even know how to skate?
Yeah, I got homies who don’t even skate at all and they be running it. That’s what really trips me out—seeing it worn on people who don’t skate but they just fuck with it. They’re just like, Man, this gear is fresh. You see so much of it that I’m like, Man, maybe skateboarding is really producing good-ass gear. So I definitely think we’re the forerunner of fashion.

I agree. I think skaters are in the streets and so conscious of everything when it comes to gear that a lot of the time trends will start in skating and then it will trickle over into fashion and mainstream stuff.
Oh yeah, no doubt. Then once that happens we flip it and start the new.
justinhenry kickflipcrook ColumbusOhio Mullins DZnewKeep your spots close and your bangers closer. Kickflip crooks back home      Photo: Mullins 
Skaters rule the world.
I guess so, man. You know, seems really popular right now so hopefully everybody just lays off our ass in the street.

That’s right. Well, you’ve got a lot of shit going for you right now. I know you got a second colorway coming out for Vans and you guys are working on some stuff other than just shoe colorways, too, right?
Yeah, we have some things in the works. I’ve been really fortunate and I’m really grateful to work with them. Even to produce that first colorway, I was hyped. So next year should be a good year to go and try to drop some shit. I’m just trying to keep it going; that’s all I can do.
JustinHenry Heelflip CincinnatiOH Mullins DZnewAn Ohio 12 is like an Orange County 20. Heelflip floater      Photo: Mullins

That’s right. I’m proud of you. I’m stoked to see you getting some shine these days and I know it’s just gonna go up from here.
I appreciate that for real, man. Like I said, it’s like the three years went by really quick. You know, you have your head down so much just doing the craft that sometimes you don’t even look up to see what’s going on.

Anything you wanna say to some younger readers out there, some advice or anything?
Yeah, to all the younger readers out there, if you’re reading this, don’t let anybody tell you what you can or can’t do. If you wanna do something, just go out, put your head down and work as hard as you can. It won’t be fun sometimes, but when you look back on it, it’s the best time of your life. Just enjoy it. It’ll move quick, but just master the craft. Enjoy life. That’s about it.

That’s good advice, solid advice.
It’s funny, I’m just learning it all right now, you know? So it’s like, anything I can pass on, that’s all I really do it for. I do it for my family and do it to pass on to the younger cats that might not know just like I didn’t know. Lucky for me I got taken under your wing and a couple other people. You guys have been guiding me and I just try to pass it right down. It’s all you can do.

That’s right, man. Mad respect.
Thanks, Gilbert, for real.

JustinHenry gap5050 richmond Mullins DZnew Wave cap and World Peace on a Richmond gap to grind. Dress for the job you want     Photo: Mullins