Words by Nic Dobija-Nootens
In a time when skate media is oversaturated with coverage and many skateboarders themselves share a little too much of their personal lives online, it’s surprisingly hard to find out anything about Justin Henry.
Before talking with him, I didn’t know if he’s into juicing tumeric or if he has a cute dog or even what his go-to tricks are. All I knew before talking with him is that he lives in Ohio. So I started there and followed wherever he led me, peering into the life of a promising skater who I have no doubt will blow up with his part in the upcoming Quasi video. Read about Justin here first then go bug his sponsors to release his footage ASAP. The world needs it.
Since you live in Columbus, Ohio, have you ever met LeBron James?
Me and my three buddies bought Cavaliers tickets, and the night before the game we went to the casino. We’re riding the escalator down and this random dude, it looked like he was looking at me dead in my eyes, he goes, “LeBron James!” I was like, ‘Why is he calling me LeBron James?’ I looked over my shoulder and I see one of the biggest humans I have ever seen in my life. It’s actually LeBron James walking past me in the casino.
We straight fanned out. We got on the escalator to follow him and you could tell LeBron didn’t want to be seen. He had headphones in, hat was real low, we were on the escalator shooting all these photos to get proof for people when they say they don’t believe us. He has his little entourage with him and he’s walking super fast. The funniest part about it was when he was walking past all the people, since they’re gambling and so invested in what they were doing, nobody looked up and saw this man. We were one of the only people following LeBron. I felt like a stalker but I didn’t care. So we follow this man straight to the high stakes room and he goes into this backroom, shuts the door, and sits at the table. We didn’t go in there ’cause I’m not trying to blow $500 on one game of blackjack.
Night before the game, you would think he would be with his family at his house chilling. But nah, LeBron James at 2 am is at the casino, playing like $1,000 a hand on blackjack.
What about Rob Dyrdek, ever seen him around Ohio?
No, never met Rob Dyrdek. But the DC skate plaza is in Kettering, Ohio and if you go there you’ll probably meet his parents. I’ve met them before because they’ll occasionally come through and hang out.
Do Rob’s parents just come to watch skaters?
I guess they’re just extremely proud of their son. There was a time when you could go there and see any pro you wanted to see. Just any pro would be there, training and skating the park. But now the plaza’s kind of trash. There’s just better parks. California has like, every block has a park that’s better than the plaza.
If Rob invited you to party with him and some strippers at the Fantasy Factory, would you go?
I’d definitely bring a few homies with me to make sure something crazy didn’t happen but maybe I’d go check it out. I don’t know about all the strippers and stuff but I’d go kick it at the Fantasy Factory. With Rob. Go in the foam pit with that mini dirt bike.
I only added in the strippers because I know Rob used to date strippers.
Yeah he used to date strippers. All his girls were strippers or something. Now dude has a family.
What’s one of the biggest misconceptions about life in the Midwest?
Jesus, that everybody’s hick. Don’t get it twisted, in between the cities it’s all farmland, but the cities are huge and thriving. People don’t come through here ’cause they think it’s all hicks but when they do, they realize these cities are actually popping off. We’re not hick at all. Nobody’s farming.
How crusty are skate spots in Ohio?
You will never in your entire life come to Ohio and find a good spot. East coast is crusty, but at least it’s a crusty ill spot. Our spots are crusty and then you’re like, ‘Damn this spot is sketchy’. You can die on everything. So I’m gonna go ahead and say Ohio and the other neighboring midwest cities have the gnarliest spots in America.
Like that Pappalardo rail in Cincinnati.
That is the perfect example of Ohio spots. There’s mellow stuff but most of the time it’ll be a crazy handrail that you have never seen before in your life and the run-up is some sketchy blacktop.
Has anyone else skated it?
Yeah, this dude Zach Kincaid crooked it in the rain, which is pretty gnarly. I think Elijah Berle nose grinded it when he was younger. My friend Kris Bachtel noseslid it a couple years ago. I thought that was tight because he just went for it and got it. No matter what trick you try, it’s death-defying.
Did growing up with crusty spots make you a better skater?
I truly think so. I’ll go out to LA and somebody will say a spot is a little hard to skate, and I get there I’m like ‘What’s wrong with it?’ Everything seems fresh. When I skate the spots out there my mind is more at peace and it’s so much easier to skate. But out here when I’m trying a trick you’re either bodo-ing a crack or powering through it. Growing up in Ohio and making do with what we had makes it easier when I travel to spots in nicer parts of America. I haven’t been out of the country yet but if I ever get to Barcelona, those spots have to be glorious.
It’s cool that Chad Bowers, the owner of Quasi, doesn’t expect the riders to live in central skate hubs.
He’s real supportive about. If you force me to move to LA I would be unhappy and he knows that, so that allows me to live in Ohio, Tyler [Bledsoe] to live in Portland, Gilbert [Crockett] in Virginia. I think Jake [Johnson] is posted up in State College, he travels a lot so nobody knows. Chad wants the best out of you so if my best is living in Columbus and filming with my boys, then that’s what it is.
Is that attitude something that drew you to Quasi as a sponsor?
Nah. The thing that drew me personally was that he’s in Dayton, Ohio. If you’re not from Ohio you will never know the bond that people have from living and growing up in Ohio. It’s this unspoken thing. So him being in Dayton was like, this company is really ill and it’s an hour away from me. I want to ride for that.
Quasi’s a little mysterious to me because it’s maybe the one brand in skating right now that no one hates on. Do you feel that too?
I guess I never thought about it but it seems like I’ve never seen too much hate on it. I’m a part of the company so I’m really biased, but I think we’re killing it. It’s a cool company. I don’t read SLAP message boards so I don’t really pay attention to that.
What do you think is the secret to Quasi’s success?
Chad is just an extremely smart human. He just knows how to run a company. Then getting a group of guys that are like-minded but at the same time we skate extremely different, that’s key. I think Chad living in Dayton and having a clear mind has a big thing to do with it as well. He has nobody in his ear, he’s just out here chilling.
Quasi’s graphics are interesting too. One board will have an artsy photograph, then another will look like a motocross bike. I can’t tell what the direction is.
I’ll think the same, like what’s up with this board? I’ll ask Chad and there’s always some sort of story tied to each board so even though it looks random, there’s actually a meaning behind all the boards. That’s why I like Quasi. Every drop is completely different than the last.
How would you describe the image of Quasi?
Some graphics are so clean you’d hang them on your wall. Like they could be in MoMA. And then you have a graphic that is so funny, like a deformed Disney head, and you’ll be like damn this graphic is hilarious. Then you’ll have a graphic that’s real hardbody, just ill. Quasi is Quasi and that’s why it’s sick.
My favorite graphic is the one with the Earth putting a gun in its mouth.
That came out on Earth Day which is so sick.
Quasi’s approach to social media seems really minimal but still effective. Do you guys know some secret to winning at Instagram?
Hell yeah. Every Wednesday night in Dayton we go to Rooster’s Wings and have a social media marketing meeting. Nah, I’m joking. We’re not that serious at all. Chad tells us nothing to do. We just skateboard. If I wanted to make my account blasted with Quasi products, Chad wouldn’t care. And then if I never posted any Quasi products… like Jake doesn’t even have an Instagram.
So how’s the Quasi video coming along?
It’s good, we’re in the final stretch.
When’s it gonna come out?
Is it gonna be a full-length?
It’s not gonna be an edit. It’s definitely gonna be a full video. Everybody should have clips in it. I don’t know everybody’s footage but we’ve worked on it for the past year or so so it should be pretty long. It will be the perfect length for anybody out there.