tyshawn jones is skateboarding's new superstar
He's the Skater of the Year, the face of Supreme, has a line of signature Adidas trainers and now he's on the cover of i-D. Meet the coolest skateboarder in NYC.
Tyshawn Jones is at a transformative moment in his career. He’s graduating from upstart NYC skate kid to bona fide star. His spot in Supreme’s feature length 2018 skate film, Blessed, felt life-defining. Bumping over rails, rolling knee deep through traffic, running from cops and security guards, ollying over metro station entrances.
It was those scenes in Blessed that earned Tyshawn Thrasher’s coveted Skater Of The Year Award, the most prestigious award a skateboarder can be garlanded with. He’s 20 years old. He’s the face of Supreme. He’s the coolest skateboarder in the world. He’s on the cover of i-D magazine. He’s just opened a restaurant in the Bronx. It’s June 22nd, 2019. He’s sitting in a car outside his flat in New York City, hanging with William Strobeck, the director of Blessed. Tonight he’s launching his signature line of Adidas trainers. Life is good.
William starts: “I’ve seen driven people but not people with your kind of drive. When we were filming Blessed you were getting up at four in the morning to jump down some stairs at Madison Square Garden. You were calling me up to get out and go skate. I find your dedication comparable to that of Michael Jordan. Tell me, what’s your motivation?”
Tyshawn is taken aback by William’s praise. Lost in thought. Trying to come up with something he settles on money. Or at least security. “My motivation comes from the things I want in life. I want to take care of my family, I want to take care of my mum. I wanna buy a crib. A nice car. I wanna take care of my people. The harder I work, the faster I’ll get there.” he says.
“I don’t come from money. If you come from money you don’t care about it,” he continues. “If you’re rich, if you come from a rich family, you don’t want to work, all you want to do is be cool... I don’t know how to explain it but I feel like I was born to set up my family. Who else is going to look after my mom? Who’s gonna look after my kids when I have them? I want to pass the torch on. We want to be good for life. Start the chain.”
Tyshawn is on some old school American dream trip. A young kid from the Bronx propelled to stardom, sponsorships, money and fame on the back nothing more than raw talent and hard work.
He got into skating via Skate, a computer game his friend had. Then his older brother got into actual skating. “I was following him around all the time,” he says. “I wanted to be him. That was it. I was the middle kid. I wanted to do whatever he did and he wanted to skate so I was gonna skate too. So that’s how it happened. In Middle School they asked me what I was going to do with my life, and I was like, I don’t care about school, I’m gonna be a pro-skateboarder, I don’t need a diploma.”
In conversation Tyshawn seems bashful about his fame, a little blunt about it all. He’s uninterested in examining it, or maybe just shy. It also belies his deep confidence in his ability.
“I feel like maybe one day, if I got everything I wanted, maybe the drive will be gone. I’ve achieved a lot, but not everything.”
“You won Skater Of The Year. The highest achievement you can get in skateboarding,” William adds. “Do you feel satisfied now?”
“No,” Tyshawn says. “If I feel satisfied I’m gonna slide. I try to forget I even won that.” He knows he’s good, he knows what he’s worth, he knows what he still needs to do.
Tyshawn first appeared, just a scrawny little kid, in Buddy, alongside Jason Dill, a legendary Supreme skater. In the 50-second long clip, which William also directed, Jason and Tyshawn hang out with some stereotypical NYC street characters (“I used to smoke a little crack every now and then,” a homeless guy says to Jason.“Hey, I used to, too. It’s not a big deal,” Jason replies). You can already see Tyshawn’s God-given talent as he ollies down the NYC Courthouse drop. Something he repeats, to greater emotional effect at the end of Blessed. He’s been making this iconic NYC skate spot his own since he was old enough to skate.
This was followed by Cherry, William’s first feature-length Supreme skate film. There’s a cute bit of Tyshawn hanging with Dylan Reider, his voice not yet broken, looking up admiringly at this older, already famous Supreme skater. Cherry cemented this new generation of Supreme skaters in the brand’s now 25-year long mythology. Tyshawn Jones, Na-Kel Smith, Kevin Bradley, Sage Elsesser and Sean Pablo all made claims for the crown.
“I was like 14 when I did Cherry. I didn’t think anything of being in a Supreme film at the time, I was just living my life, trying to become a pro. I don’t really think anything through, I just do it and then I end up having to talk about it later. People say, ‘You did this! That was crazy!’, but I’m just doing my thing. I like to look to the future, I don’t dwell on things. I always feel like I didn’t do shit, I just want to get better and better.” What advice would he have given himself back then? “Nothing,” he says, after a pause. “I already knew everything.”
There’s a tough freedom to Tyshawn’s skateboarding, a hard earned poetry. He’s also the first skater from NYC to pick up Skater Of The Year, a city that favours the grit and gristle of the streets. It demands the skater see the city differently, bend and break its rules, exist on its edges. Evading cops and security guards.
“Tyshawn ain’t letting no one stop him,” William said to me last year after Blessed came out. “People are putting up barriers, he’s moving them. Call the cops? ‘If the cops come, they ain’t gonna catch me anyways.’ That’s the way he sees it. He don’t care. This shit ain’t easy. We deal with all this shit on the streets.”
Maybe the question isn’t: Is Tyshawn the MJ of skateboarding? But: Should he even want to be? Tyshawn is Tyshawn. A good, driven, sober kid who wants to make a lot of money and buy his mum a house: “What you gonna do with all the cash you make from your sneakers?” William asks him. “Make some investments,” he replies. “You got to make your money work for you. Everyone in my family’s a hustler man, my grandma’s a hustler.”
“You haven’t sold out though, you haven’t got an energy drink named after you. You’re still keeping it real man,” William continues. Tyshawn interrupts to answer a phone call from someone about buying a car.
“You’ve got the best sponsors – Supreme. Fucking Awesome. Adidas. If you could be sponsored by anything in the world though, who would it be?” Lamborghini, Tyshawn answers, deadpan. He needs to go. He’s got stuff to sort out before the launch tonight.
“You got anything else to say?” William asks. “Nah man. We out of here.” “Thanks, yo! Next interview we do is going to be for Forbes.” “Going to be on that Forbes list soon, man.” “Peace.”
Photography Mario Sorrenti
Styling Alastair McKimm
Hair Bob Recine for Rodin
Make-up Kanako Takase at Streeters
Nail technician Honey at Exposure NY using Dior
Photography assistance Lars Beaulieu, Kotaro Kawashima, Javier Villegas and Chad Meyer
Styling assistance Madison Matusich, Milton Dixon III and Yasmin Regisford
Hair assistance Kabuto Okuzawa and Kazuhide Katahira
Make-up assistance Kuma
Production Katie Fash
Production assistance Layla Néméjanksi and Adam Gowan
Creative and casting consultant Ruba Abu-Nimah
Casting director Samuel Ellis Scheinman for DMCASTING
This article originally appeared on i-D UK.