A 21-year-old in a powder blue fleece onesie sets up his phone in the corner of a garage. He walks back out of frame and re-enters riding a skateboard. The skater attempts a trick, fails, falls, then looks back at his phone that recorded the whole thing. From the ground, a half-cocked grin emerges on the skater’s face beneath a pulled-down red beanie.
Skateboarding was set to make its debut as an Olympic sport in 2020. With the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, that won’t happen this year. The Tokyo Games are postponed. One of the people most affected? Heimana Reynolds, already the best skateboarder Hawaii has ever produced.
“Ah man, I’m really bummed about it just because we’ve been working super hard and looking forward,” he said.
A bold assembler of outfits as an adult, Reynolds lived in Wailua, Kauai until he was seven, then his family moved to Aina Haina in Oahu. That’s where he grew up skating every day, always knowing that his sport had a chance to be in the Olympics.
Reynolds, nor anyone, could have expected what the world faces right now.
“I definitely think they made the right decision postponing it because it’s always better safe than sorry,” said Reynolds.
With two wins in the 2019 season, Reynolds is the No. 1 ranked park skater in the world. That top billing made him a virtual sure thing to qualify for the Tokyo Games. Now, qualification rules are up in the air.
Skate parks have been closed for weeks. Reynolds is stuck skating at his house — and garage — in San Diego.
“I set up tables. I set up benches in the garage, in the living room,” said Reynolds, rocking a pink, blue and turquoise striped cap. “Just trying to keep my body warm. And it’s kinda cool. It’s taking me back to back when I first started skating. I was just getting hyped up, just skating in my garage, all day. It’s kinda cool to feel that feeling again, you know?”
The equation of social media and social distancing has produced viral videos of people inventing new ways to entertain themselves while cooped up inside. Reynolds might have started the next trend.
“It’s helped me get creative and use whatever I have,” he said. “Make do with whatever there is. My coffee table… I’m gonna skate my coffee table right now.”
A living room isn’t exactly an Olympic stage, but it may be a throwback to Reynolds’ youth, dragging his dad to the skate park for a 45-minute session before school on the weekdays.
“Skate, school, skate. And just always thinking about skating,” remembered Reynolds, now with a full-on smile across his face as nostalgia takes hold. “On weekends I remember going Hawaii Kai Skate Park right at 7:00 am. Leaving the house at 7:00 am. Going straight to Hawaii Kai Skate Park. Bring a cooler, bring snacks, bring drinks, everything. We know we’re going to be there all day. If it got too hot we’d just jump in the car, run to Sandy’s (Beach) real quick. Jump in the water, body surf a little bit and then run right back for the afternoon session. Growing up in Hawaii and having skating and surfing as the two loves of my life, it was just a perfect playground for me growing up.”
Surfing, like skateboarding was set to make its Olympic debut in 2020. Also, akin to skating, the water sport invented on the shores of Waikiki was to have strong Hawaiian representation in Tokyo.
The dreams of an Hawaii Kai skater kid will have to wait, likely one more year.
“It’s a little bit of pressure,” said Reynolds. “But at the same time it feels really good. And when it does happen, it’ll feel amazing.”
Until then, the garage will have to do.