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Thursday, July 26, 2012
Nyjah with a Twist

By Joel Rice
ESPN.com

Tyler Van Twist

If HBO ever produces a television series based on Nyjah Huston's life, "the Tyler Van Twist character" will surely be a large and choice role. If you study competition footage of Huston, notice what happens after he lands a particularly hard trick, or secures victory. Tyler Van Twist is often among the first to receive Huston's hug or high-five. At contests Van Twist is never far from Huston, always filming or photographing him, like a concerned coach running onto the course if Huston falls and appears injured.

Who is he?

Van Twist's official title is Nyjah Huston's "media manager." In that capacity, he is responsible for updating Huston's website, YouTube Channel and Facebook page with new content -- a photograph of the young skate-star with rapper WakaFlaka Flame, Kobe Bryant or celebrity jeweler Ben Baller. But Van Twist's duties hardly stop there. It would be more accurate to call 19-year-old Tyler Van Twist his deputy, trusted advisor and second-in-command.

Whether he's piloting Huston's Chevy Tahoe with an adolescent entourage, filming Huston's latest death-defying feat or negotiating with incensed police officers, Van Twist is always in the thick of things. We recently spoke to Van Twist about the inner-workings of his relationship with Huston and his life in media management. On a personal note: I have met Van Twist several times at various skateboard events. He strikes me as smooth but sincere, enterprising but endearing. Van Twist will frequently end our conversations with his catchphrase, "Always a pleasure." That definitely belongs in the HBO script.

ESPN.com: Every time I see Nyjah he always has you and this whole posse with him. It looks like a pretty fun lifestyle. I picture a bunch of kids flying around the country having wild adventures every day. Is this accurate?
Van Twist: It's pretty accurate. We go to some pretty crazy spots in Long Beach and LA. When we go out at night, we have to run away from security guards, the whole nine yards. I am usually one of the people who have to reason with the cops. We have definitely had some adventures.

David Loy, Gary Johnson, Tyler Van Twist and Nyjah Huston scouring the streets for spots.

For his "Rise & Shine" video part we had two hours to film the kickflip backside noseblunt down the Hollywood twelve. The sun was going down and he was really rushing to get it done. He kickfliped and locked into a noseblunt, and I guess his wheel or something stuck. He totally fell on his stomach and he got the wind knocked out of him. That was a pretty hard slam. We actually had to come back and get the trick the next morning. But he got up the next day and went back at it.

I was on the ground with the long lens. They used that clip, which is pretty awesome. It was great to be a part of that. He made history.

So if your little group could be defined as "a posse", do you have nicknames for each other? I feel like if you have a posse, you need nicknames.
We call Nyjah "The Jah" or "Jah." Chase Webb [Element flow rider], we call him "Young Needy". He's the youngest one of the group. Little Chase is the funniest kid. He has braces& he just looks like this total mischievous kid. I remember one time at a party he was talking to this girl -- trying to get her number or whatever -- and he started drooling. We were laughing so hard we almost cried. He's a good kid. He loves his family. But, every time we go out he always says or does the greatest stuff. He's always trying to be wild.

Does your group itself have a name? If you have a posse you need a name.
Well, if you know the artist Waka Flaka Flame, his group is called "The Brick Squad." So we entered the Berrics United Nations video contest and we didn't have a name. And I said we should call ourselves, "The Trick Squad." It's not something we take seriously. But some people might know us as that.

What is a typical day like as Nyjah Huston's media manager?
I'm just really like his assistant. It's just kind of whatever he needs. So if he wants me to drive out to the skate spot, I'm there. I give him feedback. I'm just his right hand man, completely.

We update his Facebook page at 11:00 in the morning. That's when it's really key to write something down. It's when the East Coast is on their break and when the West Coast is waking up. I try and get a couple good photos of him practicing on the website. We'll make quick little videos of him warming up, maybe 30 seconds, so his audience gets to see him. It's a whole fan base. If I looked up to somebody I would want to see something that's very current. I think that's so key. To know what somebody does on and off a skateboard.

We usually start out the day at Wahoo's Tacos or Boston Market. We're such a family. We do everything together. A lot of people are starting to recognize Nyjah. So he's always signing autographs. He's always giving back to his fans. People are even starting to recognize us. Which is crazy, because I'm just a normal kid but I got blessed with meeting Nyjah and getting a decent job out of it.

What prepared you for your role as media manager?
I took classes in web design and stuff. Then Nyjah's mom kind of turned to us as friends, and said, "If you ever have any interest in keeping his website updated..." Before this I was always helping people make Facebook pages and always staying current with computers and phones. So I was so ready to do it. Once they gave me the opportunity, I took full charge of it. It's a lot of work.

The thing with Nyjah is, pretty much anytime he goes out, he gets a trick. A lot of pros have difficulty doing that. So working with him is such a blessing. He just really gets it done.

What do you do when you're not skating?
I have a PlayStation. We all play Skate 3. And it's so funny because I am so much better than Nyjah. It's crazy. I can do all these tricks. [laughs] I beat him all the time. Then in real life, he's obviously a lot better than me.

He's going to be a character in the next Tony Hawk Pro Skater game. You can beat him while playing his character.
That'd be funny.

Where do you want to be in 10 years?
Gosh... If my buddy Edgar Barrera and Chase turn pro, I'd love to be their assistant managers. Help them get the right sponsors. I really feel like I could see myself being that kind of figure in the skateboard industry -- where I'd be managing a group of kids who just really rip. I think that'd be really fun.