Today’s podcast guest is professional skateboarder Neen Williams. Neen’s story is a fascinating one. A serious knee injury at 28 years old made him realize he was throwing away his career drinking and partying. Now 33, he hasn’t had a drop in four-and-a-half years, and his career is reaching new heights.
We talk about how he got into skateboarding and when he realized he could become a pro, the changes he made both physically and mentally after tearing his ACL, as well as how he uses WHOOP and the strain skating puts on his body. We also discuss what makes him a high-performance athlete and everything he does to maintain that, plus his goals going forward and how he plans to extend his career as long as possible.
Neen has a positive vibe about him that really makes him a pleasure to talk to, and I think you’ll enjoy listening to him as well.
3:08 – Intro to Skateboarding. “I was 13-14 years old, I was never really good at playing sports and I was kind of like a nerd in school. I mended in with this group of kids that were also kind of nerdish, but they skateboarded.”
4:31 – Becoming a Pro. “Eventually I got good enough that I picked up some sponsors … but I always loved to just skate for fun.”
5:31 – Most “Normal” Job he’s had? “I was a barback for a little bit, cleaning up cups and mopping up drunk people’s messes.”
6:22 – “Cliche Skate Life.” After he turned pro, “The partying started getting more frequent and I started skating less and I was getting to the point where I was kind of throwing away my career. … I ended up tearing my ACL.”
8:55 – Moment of Clarity. “I worked so hard to get to where I am … it’s like winning the lottery.” Neen came to the conclusion that he had to make changes. “If you’re drinking while you’re healing your body is trying to fight two things at once.”
11:21 – Hard to Quit Drinking? “It wasn’t that bad, because at this point I had goals.” He says he got some great advice from one of his bosses, “Whenever you get an urge to drink, wait 10 minutes.” Nearly 5 years later, he hasn’t had a drink since. “My goal is I want longevity, I want to skate forever.”
14:28 – Benefits of WHOOP. “Sometimes I’ll wake up and feel like $#!% and I’ll be like, ‘Why?’ But now I have that data, I can look at the app and be like ‘Oh, I’m only 23% recovered, no wonder.’ I use it everyday, it’s really been helping my performance and my confidence. It’s been an eye-opener.”
16:26 – Full Throttle. “I have a hard time trying to hold myself back everyday, cause I want to go full throttle.” What does that entail? “Wake up, stretch, workout for an hour, maybe stairmaster for half an hour, skate for 4-5 hours or so, maybe kettle bells after dinner.”
17:06 – Strain of Skateboarding? “It’s super gnarly. An hour is close to like 700-800 calories burned. … Skateboarding is full body, it’s explosive, it’s a lot of cardio, you’re using everything.” Neen says his WHOOP strain is higher for skateboarding than his morning workout. “When you’re jumping down stairs and grinding handrails, you’re heart is going, it’s kind of like a make-or-break situation.”
18:35 – Art of Street Skating. “I’m a professional street skater, you don’t really know about us as much [as standard skateboarders], we’re more of the raw culture … the skateboard is our paintbrush and the world is our canvas.”
19:47 – Risk Assessment with Tricks. “90% of the time, even for a professional like me, you’re falling. 10% of the time you’re landing stuff. … The key is knowing you can fall at any time, but putting the confidence in your mind that you’re not going to fall.”
21:54 – Does Low Recovery Affect How he Skates? “If I have a low recovery, I’m going to go out and just kind of push around and have fun. Mellow. … If I’m not recovered enough there’s so much chance for me to injure myself.”
23:03 – Neen’s Diet. “I eat very lean, kinda low carb, higher fat.” He mentions he likes to cook rice in bone broth.
23:53 – Supplements he takes. “Natural supplements like amino acids, vitamin C, vitamin D for my bones, I’m wrestling with the concrete. Nootropics for the brain, I feel a lot sharper.” Neen likes Onnit Alpha Brain.
24:44 – Better Sleep. “Put the phone down, I try to put it down an hour before bed. … I actually do well with noise, something monotone just puts me out. If you have trouble sleeping, it probably means you aren’t doing enough during the day. One way to go to sleep easy is just tire yourself out.”
30:53 – Personal Goals right now. “I’m building a business, I want to make merch and random things that I’m into and I’d like to share with people, stuff that I use day-to-day.” Check out his Instagram @neenwilliams. “Another goal is to just help people. Help my skate community, help people deal with what I dealt with … stuff I wish I knew when I was younger when I was partying super hard. If I woulda learned it earlier I’d probably feel a million times better right now.”
32:34 – Advice for 18-Year-Old Self. “Stretch, and moderation is key. … Just don’t go so hard.”
33:49 – Health & Career Longevity. “That’s what I’m about, longevity in skateboarding. … But it applies to everybody. If you’re just mindful with what you do in life, you can do whatever you love forever.”
34:12 – Social Media and not overdoing it. “I just do a post a day. I think it’s a really awesome tool.” Neen aims to reply to 5-6 people a day with heartfelt responses. “I just try to put positive messages out there.”
35:54 – Positive Outlook. “I always feel like you manifest your own reality, so if you’re happy and you’re positive, positive and happy things are going to come your way.”
37:23 – Embracing the Dark Times. “I’m grateful for the dark period of time that I had because it’s what built me. It was a negative time, but it made me the positive person that I am today.”
40:05 – Mindfulness. What does it mean to him? “Being aware of your surroundings, being present, knowing your body from head to toe. Understanding each person as an individual, being open, let me understand the being that you are.”
42:09 – Lowest WHOOP Recovery? “So I’ve been trying to get to 1%,” he jokes. “I think the lowest was 21? I’m in the red or the yellow normally, just because I go hard every day. … I’ll recover one day, then I’ll do it again.”