At 29, Matt Hensley is the missing link. A member of the group of skaters who found themselves floating in limbo between the death of vert and the birth of modern technical skateboarding, Matt became every town’s hometown hero. No flash, no dreads, no neon-pink jumpsuits, Matt was the embodiment of every skater.
As a key figure in H Street’s domination of the skate industry in the late 80s and early 90s, young Matt Hensley’s touring, video parts, and desire paid off. He was transformed from being every skater to being the skater every skater wants to become.
What was your favorite year in skateboarding?
I don’t know if I can pinpoint one year, but maybe the last three years of the 80s. That’s when I had the most fun. I guess it was because none of my friends or I had any major responsibilities–no jobs–and we could skateboard full-time.
Who’s been the biggest inspiration to you?
I’d have to say Mark Gonzales, Natas Kaupas, Steve Claar, and Mike Vallely for sure.
What about Mike was inspiring?
Just the way he runs his program, I guess. He’s always so progressively into skateboarding and constantly going for it.
What’s the stupidest trend you’ve seen skateboarding go through?
From where I was standing, it looked like it got all raved-out for a bit.
You mean the bagginess of the clothes?
It just went to piss. When it started easing away from being associated with the whole punk-rock thing, from where I was living in Chicago at the time it just looked like a lot of ravin’ was going down. For the love of me, I can’t figure out what the hell that has to do with skateboarding. But I guess you could say the same about punk rock.
What do you consider your biggest contribution to skateboarding?
That’s a tough question right there. I would like to think my contribution was that I skated my ass off. If anything, I thought I was a relatively decent person, and I was ready to go to the end of the world to do what I could. And in the end, I think by luck, I may have given kids some hope, by giving them the message that anybody can do anything. I was just a little skateboard guy from this crappy little town, and I guess the message was you can do it if you kill yourself for it. Kids seemed to be able to associate themselves with that, like, “Yeah, sweet.” It made them feel like they were part of the program.
Describe how you see skateboarding currently.
Well, there’s the obvious one–it’s definitely a lot bigger. I see it going more mainstream. I watched Tony Hawk spinning the 900 again on TV this morning. You know there’s a change when you turn to CNN and the sports guy says, “This just in: Hawk spins the 900!” It’s crazy, because they’re taking away hockey scores to give you skateboarding information. That’s big-time to me, and that’s how I find it right now.
What predictions do you have for skateboarding’s future?
Skateboarding’s always progressing, so it will always go different places. I know it goes in cycles, so it’ll get small, go big, get small, go big. I don’t know. When it was going back and forth from big to small back in the day, it was relatively small compared to other things. But now, it’s really big. I just hope it stays good.