Let’s start off. Tell me where you’re from.
I’m from a small place called Arrowtown. It’s basically a village.
What are you doing right now?
I’m having a minor outfit crisis.
What kicks, what jacket.
Decisions decisions. So how do you even begin to start skating in Arrowtown?
Both of my older brothers skate, they’re both pretty razor actually. I started out BMXing. One day my tyre popped and I ended up playing around on my brother’s and my good friend Hamish’s boards. After that I’d just skate with Hamish every day after school, borrowing my brother’s board or whatever until Christmas came around and I got a Crispy Bam complete. RIP Hamish Bagley!!
And how much time does it take you to get ready before you head out skating?
It all depends on what I’m listening to or the movies I’m watching.
What have you been watching/listening to lately?
Frank Ocean has put out a bunch of new stuff I’m always bumping PND. This new dude A.CHAL, a dude named Bakar from London. I get called out for listening to “light skin” music a bunch [laughs]. I watched Bully the other day, oh and Moonlight, that film is incredible in every aspect. Also Get Out, that movie is messed up. I love mafia films though, that’s my shit, everyone’s infatuated with the bad guy.
You’ve moved around the South Island a lot.
I went from Arrowtown to Dunedin around the age of 14 due to a hasty divorce. That was a big change, going from a really mellow coed school surrounded by picturesque scenery and well-off attractive mums in Range Rovers, to a strict uniform all boys school, full of 14-year-old Māori and Samoan kids that looked 20 [laughs].
That’s a pretty drastic change, yeah.
Yeah, for sure, it wasn’t horrible at all though, just kind of bizarre. I met kids like PJ Wybrow, Niwa Warner and Tu Grace, and we would just skate every day and film clips for YouTube. Shit was real!
Then you moved to Wellington, right?
Correct! Straight to a mufti coed school, late starts and free periods, it was like a typical American high school you see in the movies. I had the prettiest girls in my year group too, I was such a nervous dork at the start.
I remember when I first moved to Wellington I met Jo Whaanga and he was like a hero. I had smoked weed probably to try fit in, be social or whatever, but I ended up being super zooted, like out of control, and he said something like, “making your way up the country, huh? Next stop, Auckland?” Insisting I was trying to become a household name or something. I was too high to say anything [laughs], I just stood there blank. Even though it wasn’t the case, it was just a series of strange events that lead me to live there. I felt bad for some reason.
Why does skating come so easy to you? I think I’ve seen you slam twice ever (and they were brutal; you knocked yourself out and the other one you took most of the skin from your arm off.)
Maybe it’s the tricks I do? I’m not sure. Thinking now you’re probably quite right, I don’t take heaps of falls but when I do, I get worked! I’ve broken my wrist a bunch and my elbow, been knocked out heaps but that’s all a part of it. Maybe I’m agile? Beats me, I’m going to put it down to luck. I’m sore at the moment [laughs].
So if we bring the story up to date you’re now living in Melbourne. What brought on the move and how’s it all going?
It’s great. After that mainland roaming trip I was like, damn, it would be sick to go over there and be a part of that scene. Carter (Jarrad Carlin) had words with me. I originally went over to stay with him for a month and ended up staying there, same deal with Isaac Matz and Elijah Robertson. It’s been sick though, I live way closer to my mum which is really nice too.
Before you moved you got to head to Japan, and since then you’ve been on a bunch of trips. How are you finding them?
Oh man, Japan was insane, huh! You were there! Don’t bring up anything! [Laughs] I need to go back there ASAP, had such a good shopping spree. I love travelling, I think it’s one of the most important things you can do with yourself, and skateboarding makes it way easier to make friends and meet people you can reconnect with and stay in touch with. I was recently in Taiwan on a Nike trip, it was insane. Had an amazing group of people on the trip including Nugget. That was kinda crazy, bit of a name drop. I also had the opportunity to write the article from the tour in a recent Slam which was awesome. I can’t say I’ve had any lowlights, just take it for what it is and don’t lose your passport.
So how was it getting the NZSOTY award?
Everything is different now [laughs]. But seriously, I can’t thank you guys enough for that award. Also shoutouts to Geoff and Midds for organising such a good celebration, very honoured!
Your brother Jake Koia was a pro snowboarder for years. How did that influence you?
Like I said, he got me into it. I grew up watching his video parts, seeing his covers and interviews, so I knew how that worked and how important it is. I’d also see that he was constantly travelling back and forth, in a lot of ways he was a lot like me when he was younger. He would get his bonuses and go buy a chain or a New Era hat, something cool he’d seen in a rap video. I swear, music and sports are so synonymous.
Have you done something similar?
To an extent.
Hootie or Nicholas?
Nicholas for certain things. I never order under the name Hootie, it takes five times for them to grasp it and it ends up spelt ‘Hoodie’ anyways. I wish I had some cool alter ego thing going on.
I only found out this year that your name was Nicholas.
[Laughs] Yeah, some people kind of freak out. Some people almost feel betrayed [laughs]. It’s not something I’ve tried to hide obviously, and I didn’t run with Hootie because it’s marketable, (I have been asked if that was the reason) but it’s just what I’ve been called by everyone around me for as long as I can remember. I barely respond when someone calls me Nick.
I can’t believe someone asked you if it was marketable!
On a few different occasions. I’m not trying to be a household name! At least not until my mix tape drops.
Is there anything you miss about Wellington?
[Laughs] Yes! I miss all of my friends, certain food spots, a good pie from the Z, miss my old man, miss Treetops, miss Vogels! That’s about it though. Oh and the bouncers letting me straight to the front of the line without ID because we’re both Māori [laughs].
Being Māori, have you noticed racism within skateboarding or do you think it’s overly welcoming?
I think it’s welcoming, skateboarding is just like that. There are times when I don’t like the way Māori people are portrayed in the media, just embarrassing things on Police Ten 7 that go viral, that shit sucks, but we’re fortunate to be taught and have information about our heritage so easily accessible.
For you, how important is it to be Māori?
I didn’t think much of it when I was younger. The more I’ve aged the more intrigued I’ve become. I’m definitely proud to be Māori.
From knee length tie dye shirts, to bleached blond hair, you’ve tried some different combos out. What’s been your favourite and what would you bring back?
[Laughs] I wish I could be one of those OG dudes that never changed up their gimmick, I just can’t! I’ve always loved that you can do that. One day I want to look like Pharrell in his early stages. Other days I might even feel hesh [laughs], maybe not hesh, but one day? Anything is possible. Wellington has that effect on people too. You’ve seen it first hand. There are a few gems I would reconsider running these days.
Hey, variety is the spice of life.
My shawty thinks I dress cool [laughs].
Colin Evans once made a rap happy birthday song to you with the music video being you fingerboarding (still on YouTube I believe). Do you think this is what launched you into stardom? And how hard are Cologne’s bars?
Stardom?! [Laughs] I remember I went to Oamaru with Greg Timms and Mike Hall, and Cologne burnt me a copy of that track (I hadn’t even heard it at this stage) and those two got a copy of this old skate film called This ‘N’ That (watch it if you haven’t). Anyways we got the discs mixed up so they ended up with it. They were the hype men at first, then I don’t know, I just woke up and saw that clip. That feels like a lifetime ago, for me anyways. I was living in Arrowtown, being a puppy, as for Cologne, he’s always been a madman. Oh yes, and I’ve heard him bar out a few times, he’s got some brutal punchlines, shit I’m not going to write them down [laughs]. My bars though, let’s talk about them…sick!
I remember seeing a photo Andrew Bevin took of you on stage rapping, with what looked like your neck about to explode. Could this be a career path or are you just dabbling?
[Laughs] I’m not dabbling, I can’t call it though! No heel bruises, no shin bashes! I won’t make music until music needs me [laughs]. Dude, I wish that photo was the portrait for this interview!
You recently dipped from Element to Daylight. What brought on the change?
There was nothing personal, no issues with Element whatsoever. They were really hooking me up over here, I’ll always be grateful for that. Leigh is the man! I just feel more satisfied being a part of something I really back. Luke’s a great friend of mine and one of my favourite skaters to watch in the flesh. That first ad you guys ran on the back cover is one of my favourite ads of all time, and having people like Gunter and Nick Holder behind the scenes, who are also good friends of mine, damn… Luke even asks me to put ideas forward. It’s really exciting.
So back to Melbourne, what’s the plan?
Travel, put out work I’m proud of, keep it interesting. More life; I’ve slipped two Drizzy quotes in this interview.
Thank you! My mum, my dad, my brothers. Thanks Geoff and Middsy, Luke, everyone that shot these photos, my shawty Wuzy, DS2K, The H0use, my friends and anyone else that has helped along the way. xxxxxx.
Interview by Jake Mein
Photography by Jason Morey
Published in Issue #65