The sport of skateboarding has just entered the largest arena in the world, the 2021 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan. Team USA’s Heimana Reynolds is coming off a Gold Medal in the 2019 World Championship and is arguably a favorite for his sick skills during competition and his laid-back attitude and model good looks. We caught up with Heimana just before the games to talk about growing up in Hawaii, falling in love with skateboarding, his first trip to New York City with Polo Ralph Lauren, and what advice he has for young athletes who want to airwalk and alley-oop their way into the sport. Listen to our full conversation on our NEW Podcast, Man of Metropolis with Seth Travis. Spotify, Apple Podcast
ST: What was life like for you growing up in Hawaii as you discovered skateboarding, competing, and attending camps like Woodward?
HR: So it all started with my dad. He was a board sports lover all through his entire life. He mainly stuck to surfing. He was like a pro surfer when he was younger and stuff. So he wanted me to be surfing first. So he threw me on a surfboard at such a young age, but you know, when you’re young, you’re kinda like, oh, this is cold. It’s windy, all the variables. So I didn’t really like it at first. So my dad was like, all right, what’s the next best thing? Let’s try skateboarding. So he gave me a skateboard and I just instantly fell in love with it. My dad would take me to the skate park all day, every day, before school, after school, and all day on weekends. And it just kind of turned into just this cycle on weekends. We’d just go jump in the water, surf, and then go skate. Just back and forth to the beach and skateboarding, living on a small island. Everything’s so close. We’ll do that a lot in one day, you know. So my entire life growing up in Hawaii was literally a playground for me, loving surfing and loving skating.
ST: A lot of people grow up on the “mainland” in the United States, where sports like surfing are a foreign idea. Can you talk more about what it was like growing up in Hawaii and how surfing lead you to skateboard?
HR: Yeah, absolutely. I mean you love what you grow up around and like you find out what you like as a young man, And luckily for me, my backyard and my playground was the ocean. It was the skate park. It was these things that, not like a normal kid would have the opportunity to do, you know, so I’m lucky enough that my dad was super supportive and super, just into helping me in doing what I wanted to do a lot as a kid. So if I wanted to skate, he’d be like, all right, let’s go skate. Let’s go hit this skate park. We get in the car with like buddies and meet me and wake up early and go hit as many skate bars as we could. And, um, we were able to probably hit like six in one day because the island was so small and we had time to go surfing. So my dad was super awesome growing up, I was super lucky.
ST: It sounds like it got serious really young, was there an age and a time where you knew this was going to be your focus, a career, and even thinking about being an Olympic athlete?
Honestly, man, it happened at a very young age. Like I started skating when I was about six or seven and I wanted my first real skate competition when I was about eight years old. We actually got a plane ticket and traveled out to Simi Valley, California, and competed in the called groms event. So when I was eight, my dad and I, decided like, let’s go try and see, like see if we can compete. See, see what happens, you know? And I ended up doing really well competing in all three events. I won two of the events and as a beginner, of course, I’m really young at this point. But, yeah, from there, I was like, wow, this was amazing. This was super fun. The first time traveling for an event and I just, I fell in love with them and I just, I fell in love with the competing aspect. The fact that the crowd is cheering you on, everybody’s watching you. And you’re like feeding off of all these other kids that are super good at skating. And it was just that. I fell in love with competitive skating when I was like eight years old. So I knew I wanted to do it.
ST: Do you have a lot of friends around you doing the same thing or was this kind of something that was sort of your own?
HR: I did have a lot of friends who liked to skate, but not so much in the seriousness that I wanted to take it, you know? So, um, a lot of times I would go skate with them when I wanted to skate for fun. But most of the time, my training at a young age in Hawaii was done by myself or just me and my dad. Because I wanted to, I knew that to be an athlete, you have to take it super seriously. And like, if I wanted to make this my profession, I couldn’t just hang out at the skate park and just kinda have fun. Or, you know what I mean? Like, of course, this is my, I love to do this, but like, I can’t. Just do that, you know, I needed to train, I needed to work on tricks and you work on runs. I needed it. And my dad was really good at helping me stay focused and stay motivated and, and remind me that this is what I want to do, you know?
ST: This is the first time skateboarding is in the summer Olympic games, and you have been tapped as the face of Team USA, not just as an Olympic athlete, but also for Polo Ralph Lauren, which is an Iconic American brand! What does all of this mean to you?
HR: I mean to have Ralph Lauren, just backing me, and to have them helping me and supporting me through this it’s pretty amazing. It’s super humbling. I went out to New York for the first time, just two weeks ago and went out to see the big store and like to do the Today show. And it is so surreal to me, honestly. It was my first New York experience. I even, uh, talked to them that we were only supposed to be there for two days and do the Today Show and I’m supposed to head back and. I talked to the guys that Polo and I were like, Hey, like, can I just stay a couple of extra days here? They extended everything for me. That was super awesome.
ST: What was your favorite part about New York?
HR: Oh my God. There’s so much. I got to go visit the 9 11 Memorial, which was super, super interesting, and cool to go and like actually go inside the museum and see everything around it. Give my respects to it. Another thing I love about New York was the fact that everything was so close. It was just skating distance. Pretty much everything that I wanted to do in the East Village area and stuff. It was all skating distance and stuff. That was really cool to me. Yeah. I mean the skateboarding culture in New York’s pretty incredible.
ST: What was it like shooting with Polo Ralph Lauren for this summer Olympics?
HR: It was amazing. The uniforms, first of all, are so beautiful. You know, the uniforms of the village, what you’re wearing right now, the eco fast clothes and the closing ceremony gear, everything is so amazing. And we’re lucky to have Polo, as the sponsor for the Olympics and to make such beautiful designs and clothing. I loved it. I loved everything about it. Being able to wear them around and shoot photos on the street. It was super cool.
ST: Do you have a specific personal style and does skateboarder culture impact that or influence the way you dress?
HR: So my style is kind of crazy because I don’t have a specific style. I don’t wake up every morning and say, all right, I’m going to wear this thing every single day for the rest of my life. You know, I wake up every morning and I’m like, what should I wear today? When I go to Polo, I’m lucky enough that they have such a diverse style that I can be like, all right, I have t-shirts I can wear t-shirts today. I can wear Polo shirts, I can wear rugby shirts. I can do anything I want, you know. Well, the way I like to dress, my style is I just wake up and I’m like, what do I feel like wearing today? You know, like some days I’ll go and be like, all right, it’s a little chilly today. I’ll wear a full rugby shirt with pants. Some days I’ll wake up and wear like the short, like super short shorts that polo makes and, and like just a t-shirt or something, you know, it’s very, diverse and I’m lucky enough to have Polo backing me with that and how they really pushed to let me dress how I want to dress, you know, so it’s really cool. I think that has a lot to do with skateboarding, fashion stuff is like everybody dresses different, you know, there’s no specific, like this is skateboard wear, you know, and I think that’s super cool about the sport is that there’s so much diversity and the people that skate and in them, in the fashion industry as well, you know, so yeah.
ST: Can you talk more about the athleticism of the sport, the training, and what goes into being a skateboarder?
HR: So a lot of people don’t see this because we only post a lot of things like skating or YouTube, like skate videos, skate edits, and it’s not, but a lot of it goes into my training schedule. Everything I do off the board, for instance, like I wake up every morning and like before this interview, I woke up about 45 minutes before this interview, I just started stretching, you know, just wanting to get my bones and like all my muscles loose and stuff. A normal day in my life for me is I wake up every morning and I’ll stretch for a little while and go straight to working out at the gym. That’s only like 10 minutes away. I have a personal trainer named Brandon. Instead of muscle building and gaining big muscles and huge weights, we like to focus on building muscle around my joints and everything to prevent injury. So like ballistic stuff and, and like lightweight stuff in specific areas so that I’m able to fall from a gnarly fall and be able to roll out a bit with only a couple scratches, you know? So like, that’s like the main goal is because we want to prevent injury from happening because in skateboarding nothing had happened, you know, it’s such a dangerous sport that we want to be prepared. I do a lot of physical training. I like to eat super healthy. I like to, when I’m off the board, I’m always trying to stay active with either surfing or hiking or anything like that. A lot more goes into it than just jumping on board in the morning and going to skate, you know?!
ST: Do you do cardio or is it just more about movement and strength training to avoid injury?
HR: I don’t do too much cardio as in like running and stuff. I get on the bike, personally running for me isn’t so good on my knees and ankles, like jumping off of the stuff for a living, you know? I definitely like to get on the bike and stuff, but a lot of my cardio workout comes from actually skating. Because running, like taking lines and stuff it’s a lot. It really brings my stamina up.
ST: What does your weekly training schedule look like?
So my daily schedule is I’ll wake up in the morning. Just stretching, go work out for about an hour with Brandon, come back. I will jump in my car. Drive down the coast and check the waves first. So I usually like to, if there are good enough waves here. I like to jump in the water for about an hour. If there’s not, I’ll go straight to the training facility. I’ll get out of the water and go straight to the training facility in Vista. It’s where I do most of my skating. I’ll skate for about three, four hours. Just working on tricks, specific tricks that I want to work on. Grab some lunch, go straight back to the training facility. I like working on lines and putting the tricks that I learned together in specific spots. I’ll escape for about another three hours. Probably go grab some more food and then go hit another skate park that has lights like Linda Vista. My days consist of just skating all day, pretty much and working on tricks, working on lines, and hopefully getting in the water a little bit.
ST: How many skateboards do you own right now? Do you have a favorite and do you name them?
HR: I have two main skateboards that I ride like fully with trucks and everything, but then I have like a big old stack of just decks, just the straight decks because if I do go through, I will break a board every two weeks. So I just keep switching them out when they break and, um, I don’t really name them. Luckily enough, from my sponsor heart supply, they continue to get me boards and I’ll always be prepared with boards, you know?
ST: You are about to be a household name, thanks to your hard work, skills, the artwork with Ralph Lauren, and your performance in Tokyo. How does that feel?
HR: First off, I think it’s extremely humbling to be able to be where I am and have kids that are just skateboarding and kids to look up to me and stuff because I was there too, you know, I look up to big names. Tony Hawk, Christian Hosoi, Bob Burnquist, and when I would see them, I’d be like, oh my God this is insane. For me to kind of (not be as legendary as them) but like, have my own sense of where I am and have kids looking up to me. It’s super humbling and amazing. I mean, it’s so crazy to think about, and what I want for the next generation to know about skateboarding is that, and what I want Olympics to bring out is that I want for people to know that skateboarding can be a career. It can be something that is available to the next generation too, if they love it and want to pursue it, that they can. You know, I think that a lot of people look down on skateboarding because there is no real kind of outlet on where it ends up, you know, like let’s say they want their kid to be in basketball. They want to be in the NBA one day. Like, that’s their goal. They can look to that goal. I think a skateboard and they’re like, alright, X games, maybe something, you know what I mean? So they’re like, no, like let’s get, let’s get our kid into basketball, football. If their child doesn’t want to do that and they want a skateboard. I want them to know that this is something they can do. You know, it’s an Olympic sport. They can strive to be in the Olympics one day, you know, as long as they work hard and, and like, love it as much as I do, or as much as, Tom Schaar or Alex Magenta and all these other guys on team USA. Love it so much. They can make it, you know, they just have to work hard and do it. So I think that the Olympics is going to be an amazing outlet to kind of show the world that this is a real sport. This is what we do. This is what we love. You can do it too. I love it.
ST: Can you talk to us about the tricks you do and what a new fan should know going into watching skateboarding in Tokyo?
HR: One of the main kinds of tricks that I’m known for is it’s called a front side, invert, or a hand plant. It’s where I go up to the top of the ramp, grab my board, plant my hand on the top of the deck. And I’ll actually do like a one-handed handstand sort of thing. That’s kind of like what a lot of people know me for. Like a lot of people can do that trick, but I like to throw in a little bit of an extra, like a tweak that not a lot of people usually do. That’s kinda the main trick that I love to do. I have a tattoo of it on my leg. I love that trick. A lot of other tricks you guys will see I probably just kinda, well, my style is a lot to do like going really fast, doing long grinds, and try to go as high as I can on it. So that’s kind of a trick, to devise what you’re going to see a lot of.
ST: Words to live by?
HR: I know it’s going to sound cheesy and probably everybody is going to say. Do what you love to do and don’t let anybody else tell you otherwise. I’ve always lived by that. Just coming from living in Hawaii, going to private school and stuff. Everybody was like, no, go get a real job. When are you going to start thinking about your future? Why are you still skateboarding? Like your senior year in high school? Like, come on, dude. And I would just look at it as almost fuel, you know, to be like, look this is what I love to do. I’m not going to let you tell me otherwise, I’m going to make it to the Olympics one day and I’m going to try my hardest to medal. So the kids that want this to happen, want their career to be skateboarding, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Do it. If you love it, as much as we do, keep pushing for it.