Can anyone beat Nyjah Huston? With three Street League wins in a row leading into X Games followed up by a resounding, dominant win here in Skateboard Street, Huston has established a competitive resume that's virtually unparalleled.
In the past 12 months, Huston has won four Street League contests (one in 2010 and three in 2011) against the most elite skaters in the world including Ryan Sheckler, Luan Oliveira and Chris Cole, for a total payday of $600,000, not including victory incentives and other sponsor bonuses. Huston bested all of them Saturday at X Games and did it with ease.
Greg Lutzka, who made the finals here but couldn't hold it together to earn a spot in the five-man super final, is perhaps the closest comparison to Huston. Lutzka won the Tampa Pro contest in 2006, 2008 and 2009. He has more wins overall in his career to date than Huston, the most recent being at Maloof Money Cup NYC this past June. But Lutkza has never put together a streak like Huston's and has never won an X Games gold or a Street League contest.
Also comparable to Huston is Cole, the two-time Thrasher magazine Skater of the Year. Cole won X Games gold in 2006 and 2007; he also won two Maloof Money Cup events in 2009 and one in 2010. But Cole, still a force to be reckoned with, hasn't won a contest since the Maloof Money Cup Orange County last summer. He has yet to win a Street League contest and failed to make the super final here.
Heading into X Games, skate nerds (this writer included) were wondering if Nyjah could win outside the trick-by-trick format of Street League. Saturday's X Games win, in a more traditional, run-based jam format, answered that question with a resounding yes. Simply put, Huston dominated the field.
Up until the final minutes of the super final, Sheckler seemed to have an edge on Huston. Sheckler hasn't won a contest since last summer's X Games Street comp, which he won despite a nagging ankle injury. But he was healthy and aggressive in his approach Saturday. Lacking some of the technical acumen that Huston, Cole and Oliveira possess, Sheckler went with big tricks and consistency. Huston watched how Sheckler approached the course, saw how his big tricks were being scored, and proceeded to emulate aspects of Sheckler's run but with slightly harder tricks. Sheckler earned points and applause with kickflips off the course's roof onto the big stair staging area. So Huston eyed up the same gap and threw a hardflip down it in his final run, never having tried it before.
Watching Huston's runs in the super final, Girl skateboards, Etnies shoes pro and fellow Street League competitor Sean Malto was candid in his appraisal. "He can't be beaten," Malto said. "He's unbeatable."
Huston has the ability to read his opponents, calculate what he needs to do win, and execute his runs meticulously while remaining calm under the pressure. That kind of emotional control and uncanny skill hasn't really been seen in competitive street skating before -- possibly ever.
Huston is still only 16 years old. His career could last another two decades (Eric Koston, a legend in street skating and one of Huston's Street League peers, is 36 and still going) or more. How long will this hot streak last? We will one day look back and realize we're watching the beginning of the best competitive skateboarding career of all time? Could be; and I'll be paying careful attention to the Street League Championship on Aug. 28 to see how the story continues to unfold.