Heimana Reynolds celebrates with his medal after winning the Men's Skateboard competition during the ANOC World Beach Games on Oct. 15 2019 in Doha, Qatar.
Each Tuesday leading up to the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020, which will be held in the summer of 2021, TeamUSA.org will introduce you to an athlete you should know prior to Tokyo – as part of the “Tokyo Tuesday” series. There’s a lot to learn on your quest to becoming the ultimate fan. Follow along on social media with the hashtag #TokyoTuesday.
Heimana Reynolds has believed that skateboarding is a legitimate sport from the time he was a little kid. There’s even video footage of a precocious 10-year-old Reynolds telling his local news station that he wanted to go to the Olympics years before his sport was even considered for inclusion in the Games.
He knows, however, that not everyone holds the same opinion of the sport often associated with teenage rebellion and counter-culture youth.
“I went to Qatar a few months back for a contest, won the contest and on the way back through LAX we had our USA backpacks and I was with a Team USA manager and another skater who was at the contest,” he said of the World Beach Games in October 2019. “We had our Team USA hats and backpacks and this older couple was like, ‘Oh, Team USA, that’s cool, what sport do you play? Volleyball?’ and we were like, ‘No, we skateboard.’ They were like, ‘Skateboarding? That’s a sport?’ and then they had the audacity to say, ‘Oh our son used to skateboard but he grew up and he’s a lawyer now.’ It just reminded me what the general population knows about skateboarding.”
Reynolds, the 22-year-old Hawaii native who aims to represent the U.S. in park skateboarding at Olympic Games Tokyo 2021, hopes that will change once his sport is displayed on the biggest stage in the world.
“I think being in the Olympics is going to be one of the best things for the sport,” he said. “For the sport to be on this level it’s going to open everyone’s eyes to the beauty of skateboarding. This isn’t just for the drug-headed kids who want to hang out and vandalize places. This is what we do; we train hard and work as hard as any other athlete. I skate six to eight hours a day, after waking up and working out at 6 a.m. This is what I do, and I want people to see this as a sport and for parents to want their kids to do this.”
Reynolds’ parents were crucial to his starting the sport in his native Hawaii just prior to his seventh birthday. His father is an avid surfer and had his young son in the water initially, but Reynolds wasn’t a big fan of cold, windy days and changing conditions.
Skateboarding, however, was a different story.
“I just fell in love with it,” Reynolds said. “I asked to go every day after school, before school and all weekend. This was what I wanted to do.”
Within a year he’d entered his first competition. It was a team challenge, Reynolds said, and it wasn’t quite something he had planned to do.
“I went to the park and there was this contest there, so I was skating around and a couple kids my age were like, ‘Hey, want to be on our team for this contest?’” he said. “I was like, ‘Bro, I’m not that good,’ and they were like, ‘No, we just need another member.’ So I said alright. It was fun. We still talk about it to this day.”
His first real contest came a year later in California. He entered the beginner category in three categories and won all three.
“I was like, ‘Whoa, this is sick being on top of the podium and getting prizes,” he said. “I mean, I’m 8 years old and I remember thinking this is awesome, this is so much fun.”
Reynolds would experience that feeling many more times over the years, but when the first USA Skateboarding national team was announced in March 2019, Reynolds wasn’t included despite winning a silver medal at the world championships in 2018.
“Originally I was a little bummed out about it, just kind of wondering why I wasn’t on it, you know?” he said. “I was like, ‘What the heck is going on?’ But I knew I couldn’t do anything about it at the time. I couldn’t say anything to change their minds, so what I did was I just went to the drawing board and was like, ‘I deserve to be on the team and I’m going to show them. There’s not going to be a single question the next time they announce the team. No question, I’m going to be on it.’”
Four months later, Reynolds scored his first major international victory at an Olympic qualifying event in Nanjing, China, and jumped to the top of the Olympic qualifying rankings. Then in September 2019 he won the world title.
A new national team was announced a month later following the national championships, and this time Reynolds was the headliner.
He hopes to not only make his Olympic debut in 2021 but also his return in 2024.
“This is my life,” he said. “I look at people like Tony Hawk and he’s, what, 50? And he’s still progressing the sport, still learning new tricks, still doing videos. It’s still his life and his career. That’s all I want is to be skating when I’m older and still have my name out there, still doing stuff, still innovating.”
Hawk, for the record, is 52.
When he’s not skating, some of Reynolds’ hobbies include solving Rubik’s Cubes — “My average is a little under a minute but i’ve done it in 40 seconds,” he said — and old-school film photography. He takes a camera everywhere he goes, he said, and takes photos of scenery and people so he’ll have plenty to look back on later in life.
Come this time next year, he could have a whole new batch of photos that would no doubt find their way into frames. Letting his mind wander to what it might be like to not only go to the Olympics but also medal, he said, gives him goosebumps.
“Oh my God, to be a part of the Olympics and be in the Olympics is one thing, and that’s frigging amazing,” he said. “To be on a podium with a medal from the Olympics? That’d be amazing. That would just be a dream come true, honestly. I’m getting kind of worked up thinking about it.”