HEIMANA-HERO

High Time For Heimana

Heimana Reynolds may have gotten his first taste as an X Games competitor this summer, but that doesn’t mean the gravity-defying professional skateboarder is satisfied. In fact, he’s already gearing up for another thrilling run.

You can’t stop time, for lost time is never found.

But for professional skateboarder Heimana Reynolds, time recently stood still for just a moment.

It happened in front of an appreciative crowd at U.S. Bank Stadium, site of X Games Minneapolis 2017. The 19-year-old spontaneously turned and faced thousands of screaming fans. His injured left shoulder was wrapped with Kinesio tape, yet he found the strength to stand there — shirtless, with arms wide open, clutching his skateboard — and soak up the experience.

“It’s an indescribable feeling,” explains Heimana while passing a recent day at his home skate park at Kamiloiki Community Park. “I grew up dreaming of being there and to finally make it! I just graduated (from Mid-Pacific Institute), and it’s crazy to think that was me in the X Games when, a few years ago, I was watching it on TV.”

Heimana Reynolds relishes his moment at this summer’s X Games in Minneapolis.
TREVOR BROWN JR./ESPN IMAGES

The moment was special for Heimana, who was billed as “the next big thing from Hawai‘i” since he was 10.

“It was very exciting,” says father Matt. “Heimana has been doing this more than half his life, so it felt good that he was able to compete at such a high level.”

“My dad taught me everything I know, and it’s awesome he was there,” says Heimana. “He can still skate, and it’s awesome when we skate together. He’s always been there, pushing me and telling me, ‘You can do it.’ He’s my No. 1 fan.”

Recognizing his gift

Matt’s first love is the ocean, and he found great joy teaching his 5-year-old son to surf. But something special happened when Heimana jumped on a skateboard.

“You could see the progression right away,” recalls Matt. “He was building a bag of tricks and adding one every day and then before you knew it, he was getting more height, speed and power.”

For Matt and Heimana Reynolds, skateboarding is a family affair.

“I played other sports like soccer, but every time we were finished, I was like, ‘Do I have time to get to the skate park?'” chuckles Heimana. “All I wanted to do was skate, so we dropped the other sports and decided let’s see how far I can go.”

Matt and his wife, Samantha, knew to find that out, Heimana needed to compete on the West Coast.

“To make it, you’ve got to make it there, kind of like the North Shore for surfing,” says Matt. “We took him to compete against kids his age and level, and we started getting results and we were hooked.”

Heimana enjoyed a decorated amateur career. He was Disney XD’s Summer “Next X” winner in 2010 and a force on the King of the Groms circuit. There were many victories along the way, including the 2011 World Cup.

He turned pro shortly thereafter, climbing the charts after taking 11th at the Vans Combi Pool Party in May 2015, his first major pro contest, and improving to sixth in 2016.

Then came the big one: a third-place finish at the Road to X Games Park Qualifiers in Boise in June and, as a result, an automatic berth to skate at X Games Minneapolis 2017.

“I got the license plate that said X Games Boise on it, and that was my ticket to the X Games Minnesota,” says Heimana with an enormous smile. “Having that in my hand, looking at it and thinking, ‘This is incredible!'”

Time to shine

Heimana arrived in Minneapolis with high hopes, knowing this was an opportunity for others back home.

“There was pressure being the only (male qualifier) from Hawai‘i, but it felt good representing the islands,” he says.

“We were proud to be from Hawai‘i,” adds Matt.

“We knew this could open Hawai‘i skateboarding to the world.”

But Heimana’s dream was nearly shattered during a practice run.

“I only had two days to practice when I got injured, and I was nervous, thinking, ‘I came all this way, what am I going to do?'” he recalls. “But after talking to the medical staff, I decided this is my opportunity; I have to take it! Get three runs down and worry about the injury later.”

What he had to push through was an AC joint separation in his left shoulder.

“The adrenaline definitely kicked in and helped me get through it,” confesses Heimana. “It was such an awesome experience. I finished eighth out of 12, and I’m stoked. I skated my best and landed my runs. I’m glad I pushed through it.”

“Injuries are part of the game, but I’m very proud of his tenacity to keep fighting and not give up,” says Matt.

‘Risking it for the biscuit’

Injuries are always a risk when it comes to extreme sports.

“There’s always that fear factor, especially skating deep bowls and big ramps,” says the professional athlete. “I’ve had my share of concussions and broken wrists, knees and ankles.”

Heimana knows pain. During the Vans Pool Party event in 2014, he suffered a vicious wipeout.

“On my second run I did a backside air and over-rotated, went straight to the back of my head and I got knocked out,” remembers Heimana. “The medical staff did some tests, and I told them, ‘This is the Vans Pool Party, I’ve waited all year for this.’ So I took my last run, felt good and ended up getting 10th.”

It was voted one of the worst wipeouts of the year and earned him a spot in Thrasher Magazine‘s “Hall of Meat.”

“I ended up with a concussion,” says Heimana. “Risk it for the biscuit, that’s one of my mottos. If you want the biscuit, you’ve to risk it.”

Hey, are you Heimana?

In the middle of MidWeek‘s interview, two young skateboarders approach him.

“What’s up, guys?” “Are you Heimana Reynolds?”

Heimana smiles and flashes a shaka sign at the youths. “Yeah.”

“Wow! That’s so cool!” And with that, they ride off. “I love that, that’s my favorite,” says Heimana. “It’s cool when kids see me and know my name. It’s an incredible feeling because I was once the kid looking up to the older guys. It’s crazy to think the kids are doing what I did!”

Heimana understands his success has thrust him into a role that he humbly embraces.

“I try to be the best role model,” he says. “I come to the skate parks and say hi to everyone, and I stay away from drugs and alcohol.”

Changing the stigma

Heimana wants to change the negative stigma that comes with the sport he loves.

“I know skateboarding has a bad rap, ‘they’re just dumb skaters who sit at the parks and do drugs,’ but I’ve never been into that stuff,” he notes. “Skateboarding has taken me this far, and if I were into that, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

He insists what’s perceived isn’t what he knows.

“Skateboarding is an incredible sport, but I know people talk down on it,” says Heimana. “But this piece of wood with wheels has allowed me to travel and meet people and learn life lessons.”

A family that skates together

Heimana attributes his success to his family’s support and commitment.

“It’s a family affair, and it’s turned into a family business,” says Matt. “We run a youth skateboarding program for the last eight years, and it’s grown into our own company called Proper Ride Shop. We teach skateboarding to people from (age) 5 all the way up to grandparents.”

And it’s not just Matt. When it comes to skateboarding, the entire family is on for the ride.

“My wife quit her job, and my daughter (Raiatea) also works with us,” explains the elder Reynolds. “It’s amazing and we are blessed.”

“My parents have been supportive since day one,” says Heimana. “Our lives revolve around skating and it’s awesome.”

The sky is the limit

Heimana is focused on making another run at the X Games. Only the top three automatically qualify, which means he must re-qualify to return.

“If you play your cards right, skate your best and make podiums, there’s good money to be made,” says Heimana, who is sponsored by VANS, Proper Ride Shop, Pocket Pistols, 187, S1, Spit-fire, Indy, Catchsurf, Speaqua and Stance.

“I remind him not to take this for granted,” says Matt.

“He wants to make podiums and earn prize money, but he just graduated, so it’s hard for him to realize you’ve got to treat it like a job and the rewards will come.”

The high-flying Heimana is staying grounded.

“It might sound cliché, but if you love what you do, work hard and it will take you where you want to go,” says Heimana. “I’ve been skating for 11 years, and I skate every day. I’ve put in so much blood, sweat and tears. I want this.”

Time will tell how far he goes.