JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, VA -- "I guess they thought it was just a phase," said U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Nicholas Whitehurst, thinking back to how wrong his parents were when they bought him his first skateboard as a Christmas gift.
Fast forward seven years, and Whitehurst, a client systems technician with the 633rd Communications Squadron, is not only still skateboarding, but he's also in the Guinness Book of World Records for completing the most Ollie 180s in one minute.
The Ollie 180, which involves popping the board completely into the air, then turning 180 degrees and landing, is a trick Whitehurst knew he could dominate within a minute, checking off his personal bucket list item of making a world record.
Whitehurst completed the record in his hometown of Hampton, which is also home to his duty station, Joint Base Langley-Eustis. However, he didn't have witnesses or enough footage to prove he actually beat the record.
For Whitehurst trying again and again is an integral part of skateboarding, and to others like his mom, Amy, and dad, Bill, that never-give-up attitude is a defining characteristic of their son. It came as no surprise to her when Nick gathered a few of his friends to help document the second attempt and send it to Guinness.
"Nick is straight-forward; he knows what he wants to do and just does it," said Bill. "He always sets goals."
Months after sending the footage in to Guinness, Whitehurst's mom received the plaque in a package while Nick was skating in Richmond for Go Skate Day, June 21, 2014.
"I opened it up and was like 'by-God there you go; this is just crazy all in itself,'" said Amy. "He and his buddies had a grocery list of things they wanted to do: sky diving, Guinness Book of World Records and so on, and damn if he didn't hit them. I mean it's awesome; he sets out goals, and he reaches for them and he does them."
For Whitehurst, the practice of not only reattempting the record, but retrying other tricks, is something he feels he can relay to everyday life; now, specifically to his job in the U.S. Air Force.
A welder by trade, Whitehurst had no formal training in information technology before joining the Air Force, and as a newer Airman, he still finds that he is learning new things about being a client systems technician every day.
"I'm not a computer guy; I'm a welder and then a skateboarder," said Whitehurst. "But, when I have something in front of me that I want to get better at, (I) have to strive to be the best; I'll never be the best, but you just have to have a goal and a mindset to do well at things."
Constantly striving to beat his own records, Whitehurst has found that he always has to make adjustments in each attempt until he finally accomplishes his goals, both at work and on the concrete.
"There's one time I was skating a stair set, and I kept falling on this shoulder, and there's a scar of scar tissue so it will never heal right. So, you got to learn to fall and learn how to adjust yourself when you're trying a new trick. It's like anything in life, sometimes you just have to adjust," said Whitehurst.
However, there is an upcoming adjustment Whitehurst admits he's nervous about.
"When I first learned I was deploying, I wasn't afraid of the heat or the bugs, or getting attacked, I was more dead-set on, 'how am I going to skateboard?'" said Whitehurst. "That's so much time away from skateboarding. At basic training, I was basically pulling my hair out because of it, and that was only two months."
His mom echoed that not having his board would be the largest concern for her son, acknowledging half-jokingly that he may miss gliding across the concrete more than he's going to miss having family close.
"When I go skating I pretty much let go of the world completely, not just work, but home stressors," said Whitehurst. "I go skate (and) that's all I am is just skateboarding. It's nice to get away from everything and be in my own little paradise."
Aside from two months in basic military training, since getting his first board, the sport has provided a daily escape from frustrations, and something to work toward improving upon.
"It's always learning and it's always perfecting, so you're never going to be the best, but I guess that's what I like about (skateboarding)," said Whitehurst. "The fact that nobody can be perfect at anything should attract them to be good at something."
With his deployment in motion, Whitehurst said that if he can't skate, he'll have to find a slab of wood to use as a faux skateboard, so that he can at least imagine dropping-in on a half-pipe.
"I envision probably by the 15th of April, Nick saying, 'yeah mom, put it in the box and send it to me,' said Amy. "He will find a stairwell, an empty hand-rail; he will find a piece of wood, he'll find something."
Regardless of having a real board or a block of wood, Whitehurst is also planning to focus on other areas of his life like fitness, education and saving money to buy a house.
"I think everyone should be motivated to keep growing; I don't want to sit around and just let life pass me by because that's boring and it's pointless," he said. "With the skate scene, it's so broad, there are so many different styles to learn, so you can pick up so much from other people and teach others along the way; it's never boring."