It seems like out of nowhere the skate world came to the consensus that Justin Henry was the shit. I’ll be honest, before he was put on Quasi, I can’t really say I knew much about him. I had caught some clips here and there, but I think you’d be lying if you said you knew he would be a star before the first Quasi video, Mother, dropped. From his tricks, his personal style, and his chill and level-headed demeanor, Justin has the whole package going.
Quasi turned him pro following the release of their latest video Grand Prairie, and now it’s clear Justin is sticking around for the long haul. I figured what better time to get to know him than while he’s at the top of his game, and when everything seems to be going his way.
The military just came out and said “Yeah, there are definitely UFOs, but we’re not going to say they’re aliens.” Did you catch that?
I didn’t catch that, but I do believe in another life. For how big the universe is, us alone, just humans… If we could do this and we’re barely making it to the moon, I’m sure the universe is big enough to house somebody else.
Living in Ohio, we have an Air Force base in the middle of nowhere out by Dayton and rumor has it they are potentially housing aliens and UFO parts. Some Area 51 stuff up in Ohio, just a little smaller and less talked about. For how goofy and middle of nowhere Ohio is, I believe it. Anytime anybody can’t tell you what’s going on, it’s probably real. If they can’t tell you what’s up, it’s what’s up.
It’s funny because that shit happens and we’re all like, “Wow, so weird!” and then we just forget about it.
That’s the thing about it, though. Say right now we’re just chilling and something pops up on the news – “Aliens are real,” dah dah dah. Like, okay, you’re still going to lay in your bed at night. You’re going to wake up in the morning and do what you gotta do. If someone in the government comes out and says it’s true, okay, the next day you still gotta do what you gotta do. People get so hung up on stuff.
Being close to Quasi HQ, does Chad [Quasi owner] ever bring you in for your opinions on designs?
Yeah, all the time. That’s the cool part about being so close. On the business side, I gain so much knowledge that I would never learn without being at the office and talking with Chad and Ryan, dealing with all of the cut and sew, and just seeing how to get things made, trying on samples, and hearing them say what looks wrong and what needs to be tweaked. To the naked eye, you’d just be like “What? There’s nothing wrong.” But they look at it so differently and they can just pinpoint what’s wrong.
You’ve considered starting a brand?
It’s popped in and out of my head. If I ever did, it would be later in life when I’m not skating as hard as I am now. It’s a full-time job so you’ve got to be so committed to that. I would never want to take away from where my mind is at right now. If I ever made a brand, everything I made would have to be something that I fucked with fully. But people go to school for that. It’s a world of its own. Maybe I’ll plug a little, I’ve got some apparel in the works with Vans. That’s as far as I’ll go with me making things right now.
When you go thrifting, is there any method to the madness? I think a lot of people get turned off by the digging process.
I don’t even dig. I’ll go in knowing I want a pair of shorts or whatever. You need to know your style and what you want. I can hold a pair of pants up and I’ll already know if they’re not going to fit me, off rip. Knowing your body type is the key to thrifting.
I see you model for Quasi sometimes. Some people aren’t down with modeling because they don’t like their personal style being compromised.
Yeah, then it wouldn’t be for them. I’ve done a shoot before and it was definitely not what I would ever wear, but also I’m not here to swag out. I’m here to do what they need, so I could care less. Unless it was too crazy then I’d be like, “Nah!” You’ve got to definitely back the company you’re working with.
I feel like the fashion within skateboarding has gotten so much better. The cut and sew is as proper as any clothing brands out there, if not better. You need to present it well and I think companies are starting to realize that, like, “Oh, our shit is actually up to par. We should take it as seriously as they do.”
Have you ever had to learn how to do a model face, like Blue Steel type of shit?
[Laughs] Nah, I’m not that deep in it. I just keep it mellow and try to relax and you’ll look natural. I’ve modeled a few times for non-skate companies and I just remember it being more intense.
How serious was your basketball upbringing? Were you considering taking it to college ever?
Nah, when I was young, I played super heavy, but I also started skating when I was six, so I was always skating even when I was playing sports. Nothing was ever as fun as skating. I never wanted to take away time from skateboarding. When middle school and high school came around, I remember just playing summer league for my high school. That’s as far as it got. I remember being much more into skateboarding and the individual side of it as opposed to being on the team.
But even to this day, I play rec. The way I look at basketball is, it’s just a thing that I do that I don’t need to take seriously, but I love. Skating is a thing that I love, but I also love to take it seriously.
“If you find the games within the games, that’s when it gets really fun.”
What position do you play?
I would always be running that point guard, shooting guard game. I always wanted the rock in my hands. We won our rec championship my senior year of high school. We had to take the championship home [laughs]. I still have the shirt. I was proud of that.
Some people are like “I hate sports. It’s too much. All these cocky people.” Nah, if you find the games within the games, that’s when it gets really fun. You have to figure out your position and what role you play for the team. It’s fun to be competitive, but obviously to a certain point.
Are you a driving point guard or are you throwing out dimes?
I do it all, man. If I could base my game off anybody, it would be Lebron James [laughs]. I dish it. You want me to rise up and dunk on somebody? I’ll rise up and dunk. You want me to hit the three in the corner? I’ll hit the three in the corner. I’ll bag somebody. I’ll do anything. Whatever coach needs me to do to win the game, I’m doing it. I’ll guard anybody too. Anybody out there, I’ll guard you right now. One-on-one.
What other skaters are pretty good at basketball?
One time I was over at Biebel’s park in LA before it all got taken out. It was me and Kyle Walker versus Nakel and Caleb Barnett. We were hooping pretty hard. Nak is good. He got his shot. Caleb, he’s tall. He got his shit going. I’ll see Ish on Instagram and he’s balling. I’ll see Ishod balling on Instagram and we’ll always be DMing each other.
One time we were on a Vans trip and we had this basketball court at the hotel. It was such a good court. It was me, Kyle Walker, Tyson Peterson versus the TMs. I remember we spanked the shit out of them.
That dude Cephas from The Bunt challenged you to a one-on-one on the show.
Did you guys ever get to play?
No. He’s been talking the most shit. I haven’t seen him yet. I’ve been in cities with him and he hasn’t pulled the ball out. He knows what’s good. He’s the one who slides into my DMs the most. But, he’s good, I’m not going to lie. He plays rec ball too. He’ll post some videos and I’m like “Aight, he’s in the league.” I haven’t been to Toronto but hopefully I’ll get up there this year and maybe Cephas won’t be scared to face me one-on-one.
When did you first start coming to New York? You have clips at spots here that don’t even exist anymore.
There’s definitely a few spots that have come and gone. You were probably watching it thinking “Oh he’s been here, been here!” [Laughs] I’m only a nine hours bus ride from New York and I would take the bus there all the time. It’s probably been about eight years. I feel like I was 17 or 18.
From my first time going there, I fell in love with that city, so I watch it really closely, I guess, as much as a person who lives there would. I have a little piece of New York in my heart. Whoever put that strip [of bondo] in front of the Columbus Park rail, I’m like, “What are you doing?”
That nollie over the top to lipslide that you did was fucked up.
I remember too. I’m not trying to brag, but nobody nollied over the top. I swear. I got it with my friend, Andy Helvey. We got off the bus and it was like eight in the morning. Our ride that was supposed to pick us up wasn’t there. They got called into work or something. We had all of our bags with us and I just did that.
Do you think Grand Prairie will be remembered as your opus or is your best yet to come?
I love every part that I’ve ever come out with in its own way. This one will obviously always be a little better because it’s the pro debut, so it will be that milestone in my life where I can look back.
But when it comes to progression, I feel like I’m only just getting comfortable. In my head, each part will just keep getting better and better. That’s how I’ve always looked at skating. That’s why I like skating, to progress. I always told myself that if I stop pushing myself then I might as well stop skating.
“That’s why I like skating, to progress. I always told myself that if I stop pushing myself then I might as well stop skating.”
It seems like pros’ careers are lasting longer and longer, too.
That’s the thing about skateboarding. It’s not a sport where you’re tracking numbers. If a ballplayer used to score 50 a game and now he’s scoring 20, something’s wrong. But in skating, you can manipulate your skating and change it up. Maybe you’re a rail skater so you’re going to do a lot of ledges or a lot of lines in your next part. You can just tweak it.
There are no rules, so it’s cool to see how their mind changes as people get older. I think that’s why peoples’ careers are lasting longer. They’re going to be doing a different type of skating than when they were younger.
Are you at the point where you have to do certain things to stay healthy and fit?
Nah. I don’t do shit [laughs]. I really should start. I don’t really stretch. I’ve been jumping rope for a year or two, but that’s as much as I’ll do before a session.
Besides that, I just warm up the appropriate way. You pull up to the park and you’re not just gonna start going hard. You’re gonna go do some 50s, dap everybody up, skate around, do some 5-0s. Get loose and maybe when you start sweating, then you start cranking it up. I think there’s an appropriate way to warm up without stretching. Maybe I’m just talking young or something.
There’s a video online of you talking about eating a duck head in China. That’s for real?
Yeah [laughs]. That was the craziest thing I ever ate.
Somebody ordered a duck head because that was the first time Pedro Delfino and I were ever in China, so they were like, “Aight, we gotta get a duck head for y’all.” I didn’t think it was going to be presented the way it was, but it was literally a duck head completely cut in half and the two halves were just laid out so you could see the insides and you just ate it. I ate the eyeball and Pedro ate the other one.
I’m not going to lie, the duck head did taste like chicken. If it wasn’t presented the way it was, I think more people would eat it.
In Mexico, some street taco vendors have meats like cow brain, cow eyeball, and cow tongue.
… You said cow tongue?
I don’t know about that. Did you try the tongue?
Yeah, it’s not bad. They cut it up into long strips, then you dress it up like a regular taco. Onions, cilantro, salsa. But sometimes you’ll eat it and feel bumps and you’re just like, “Oh fuck, those are taste buds…”
Oh, please. Nah! I can’t do calamari and squid cause all those tentacles have those suction cups on them. Like, what? No! That’s a no.
Would you say you’re a pretty picky eater?
Nah, I’m not picky, but growing up we just ate fast food and stuff like that. When I’m at a restaurant, I don’t even know too much stuff. When I’m on a trip, I open my eyes. Skateboarding is the one thing I will always be so grateful for. It gave me the opportunity to try so many things I never thought about.
Yeah, you’ve literally seen the world because of it.
Yeah, and I swear, it’s not that I was ever a bad person, but it’s made me a better person. When I see a foreigner in America, my respect for them is so much higher. When I’m in Shanghai I literally can’t do anything without someone being there translating for me. Culture shock is a real thing. So anybody who navigates outside of their country, good for them. It’s hard.
If you had to go to college, is there something you would have studied?
I mean, there was never one thought in my entire mind about college. Never one. I didn’t take any of the APs, SATs.
When I travel to other places, I love to look at the buildings and see how a city is set up. Any unique buildings always catch my attention. So if I were to take a guess as to where my mind would have gone, maybe architecture.
Out of all the cities you’ve been to, aside from New York, is there any with architecture that really stands out?
The one that really stood out to me was Vancouver. It was less about the buildings and more about how they incorporated all their city into nature. I fell in love with how Vancouver looks. I haven’t been to the North West of America, so I haven’t been to Portland or Washington or anything like that. The farthest northwest I went was San Francisco.
Vancouver was the only city I’ve ever been to where it seems like they built to please nature instead of being like “Fucking level the ground! Let’s go! Build it up!” They just built around it. You’ll be in the city and then you drive three to five minutes over a bridge and you can’t see the city cause you’re in the wilderness. You can’t see anything. You go up to North Vancouver you can’t see anything but you’re not even ten minutes away from the city.
I remember going to a swimming spot and the water was so clear and pure. I was like “What’s up with this water?” They were like “This is glacier runoff.” What? We were swimming in the purest water.
I heard you can’t grip a board without air bubbles. Have you learned how to do it now?
I’m just going to say this. When I worked at the shop [Embassy], I was the GOAT [laughs]. One time he challenged me. He said I couldn’t put together a board in five minutes. I did it in four. Don’t try me on gripping. I’ve gripped so many boards. I’m on point.
If someone asks for a stripe can you give them that?
I can give a stripe, but some of these requests… People will be like, “Draw Michael Jordan on my grip,” or something crazy. I can’t! I can’t even draw that on paper. People are wild when you’re working at a shop. I’ll give you a line but that’s it.
Do you do anything with your grip or is it just a flat sheet?
I just do this little thing where it’s straight black and then I’ll leave a little bit of the wood grain on the nose exposed. Not enough that it affects nollie or switch, but just enough that you can pretty much fit your thumb. I saw someone do it before and I was like “Oh, that’s kind of fresh,” and then I started doing it, and I realized that I haven’t had grip thumb since. It’s the greatest little hack. I don’t bleed anymore.
“Whatever cards you’re dealt, just live your career to the fullest because when you’re old, you don’t want to regret anything.”
Did you have other jobs growing up?
Yeah, I worked at an Italian restaurant. I worked at Walgreens for a little bit. I sold product. I mowed lawns. I had a paper route when I was really young. It pretty much paid nothing. I was young and to see my name on a check was big for me.
Some people in skating start getting checks at 15 and never really have to work, and then they hit 40 and they’re like, “Fuck! What do I do?”
It’s tough. Everybody in life will get dealt different cards, but that’s the cool thing about life. Maybe something that happened to me in life would be the lone reason why I work so hard. But, somebody else who got on when they were young might try and work so hard to maintain it forever. So whatever cards you’re dealt, just live your career to the fullest because when you’re old, you don’t want to regret anything.
Would you say you’re pretty good with finances?
Yeah, I’m good with money. Maybe you sold something to someone at school, then it’s like “Aight, what are you going to do with the money? Do you want to bite the bullet and not eat today to save up for a new board?” From a young age, I had to learn to maximize the money I had.
Do you put money aside for retirement and have investments and stuff?
Yeah, in my eyes, I’m dialed. I’m checking on my money multiple times a day. You have to though. That’s how you’re able to do everything in life so I check up on it. You never know. If somebody stole your card, you gotta go cancel that. It’s easy. You’ve gotta bring in more money every month than you bring out.
I save as much as I possibly can. A lot of it is put away. I worked jobs growing up and I saved a lot of money. Thinking back on it now I’m like, “Oh, that’s why I can do a lot of things right now. It’s because I saved when I was working and hustling without skate money.” Then skate money came and it got easier.
To anybody reading this, stay on point with money because as quick as you can get it, you can lose it. It’s very important. I think people will downplay it and they’ll be like, “He’s obsessed with money.” I’m just obsessed with trying to elevate in life and be on point. Maybe one day I’ll have a family. I want my little boy to go to college and do whatever he wants.
“I’m just obsessed with trying to elevate in life and be on point.”
I feel like everyone I know has something that they’re into these days, whether it’s funding a retirement account or buying stocks or cryptos.
Oh yeah, I’m into it all. That to me is just what comes with growing up. You can have money sitting in a savings account, that’s fine, but, if you think about it, it’s just money sitting there. It’s not doing anything at all. Those banks will give you the tiniest little percent on it. It barely grows, so the smart man wants it to grow.
Whatever you invest in, if you do it correctly, that money that used to be sitting there stale can grow.
What era of skate fashion was your favorite?
I used to be like, “I’m going to get the Ryan Gallant shoes!” in 2003 when some of those videos came out. I would get his shoes, then throw on the bigger tee and things like that. In my head, I was dressing like him and in reality, it was a big blank T-shirt and some Gallant shoes [laughs].
I thought everything looked really clean in Hot Chocolate. The shoes kind of slimmed up a bit. It looked good. But that was also when my brother and I finally started getting skate videos, so I think it stands out more to me.
I was surprised to hear you say Ryan Gallant. I wouldn’t have guessed that.
He was one of my favorites growing up. I never told people that really. If you were my close friend you probably knew, but Ryan Gallant, to this day, his kickflip back noseblunts and back noseblunts…
His style has never changed. He has extremely good style and he would land all of his tricks extremely sturdy, like bolts. I always liked that about him. He skated everything.
Do you have any other cutty, secret favorite skaters?
This isn’t cutty, but I always loved P-Rod. Super heavy. Like Yeah Right!, just watching him and younger Jereme Rogers when he and P-Rod were the new kids on the block and wanted to prove themselves. I really enjoyed watching those two skate. I had a friend out here and we were super young and just like that. It’s like a friendly competition. You could see it in their skating when they’d be skating together.
I see you post a lot of flat ground tricks on IG. Is that part of your approach to getting a trick you’re working on?
Nah, there’s no real approach. At the most, it’s always good to try the trick on something smaller before, but if that can’t happen I just look at flat ground as the basics of skateboarding. If you can master the flat ground tricks then you’re pretty much straight. I’ll skate flat every time I go skate. It’s a good judgment to see where you’re at for the day.
When you’re having a tough time with kickflips early on, you know it’s not going to be your day.
We always played games of SKATE growing up. Some people look at SKATE like, “Oh, it’s too competitive, I don’t want to play,” but in my head, it’s the greatest tool to learn. Whatever letter you got out on, if you’re upset that someone got you on that letter, learn the trick [laughs].
It’s like when someone goes “I can’t do this,” or “I’ve never tried this,” and they get close, like “Oh my god, why haven’t I tried that.” It’s a good way to open the mind to new tricks and to stay on point. Win or lose, it’s all about staying on point.
Do you have a sneaky back pocket trick for SKATE? You know there’s always the one kid who whips out fakie double flip or something.
Yeah, if you do a double flip in a game of SKATE, I’m like, “Dude, that’s too much work right now.” You need to try so hard to get those. I’m chilling. I’ll take a letter. Just kidding [laughs].
I’ve been doing pressure flips as a joke when people are at “T” just because not too many people can get that one off rip.
Unless you’re playing someone who is over 35.
[Laughs] Exactly. Dude, it’s so funny. If they’re a little older you can’t get them on that one. You hit an age when you finally just learn it.
I saw you posted that photo of OJ Simpson getting trailed by the cops on IG. You captioned it “This day was probably hype.”
Yeah [laughs], I had that up for a little second.
Do you think OJ did it?
Shit [laughs]. The boy looked nervous. He was found not guilty, but the boy looked a little nervous [laughs]. He beat the case though, and that’s all that matters. But that day probably was hype!