By Mickey Shiotani
For many students at New York University, college is the dominant and most prevalent force in their lives. But who are they outside the classroom, when they’re separated from the college environment? “In My Other Life” is a column that intends to explore the intriguing lives of NYU’s students and professors both outside of the classroom and before they arrived here.
It happened one Monday in a 5 p.m. laboratory class. Claiming to me that he hadn’t read the lab instructions prior to this, I was laughing and making conversation, just like I had been doing all of Welcome Week. I said my name is Mickey, and he said Josh.
Josh. It was at that moment it hit me. I’m not sure how it happened, but staring at his face longer than I probably should have, after moments of awkwardly mouthing words, carefully organizing what I was going to say, I nervously blurted out, “Are you Josh Katz?”
Strange as it sounds, I happened to know Josh years before he would know me. I knew him not as the freshman marketing major at Stern, but as Youtube personality and skateboarder “Josh.” When I wasn’t skating with my friends, I was watching skateboarding montages online to motivate myself to go out to the parks more often, his video channel being one of the most popular. Despite being my age, Josh could already do a variety of flips from stairs and ledges of any heights, which left me and many of my friends amazed after every video we watched.
Katz grew up in Virginia, right outside of Washington, DC. Inspired from classic Tony Hawk video games, he started skating about 10 years ago, after his mother bought him a board from K-mart. Since then, Josh has lost count of how many boards he owned, but guesses around 70.
Two years later, he started uploading his videos on Youtube. Though he claimed to have never produced a viral video, his montages often went “skater-viral” (according to Josh, about 100,000 views) as he saw a steady increase in his channel’s popularity. Josh now has more than 190,000 subscribers and 30,000 followers on his Instagram.
His skating career, however, hasn’t been one without trouble. Approximately two years ago, when attempting a trick off a ledge, Katz inadvertently smashed his face on the concrete, resulting in multiple teeth leaving their root canals, which could only be fixed with oral surgery.
Surprisingly, Josh looked back at the experience as “his worst and best skateboarding moment”. Since the accident, Josh came to a realization that substantially changed his perspective on skateboarding. Accidents happen in a dangerous sport like skating, and perhaps smashing his teeth was not the worst that could happen. “A career ending injury could happen at any moment,” Katz said, “and I learned the hard way that life couldn’t be all about skateboarding.”
In the months that he was required to lay off skateboarding, Josh decided to broaden his interests. He first decided on expanded his skateboarding channel to more than simply a compilation of his own tricks, by featuring friends and other talented skaters he knew. On top of helping promote other’s talents, Katz said his decision also helped make editing easier, because of all the help he was getting externally. And by helping film others, Katz grew interested in filmmaking and eventually photography. “I love long exposure photography,” he said. “All the lights turn into lines, and especially in a busy city like New York, the photo can look really nice.” All of these helped him develop and enjoy a life outside of skateboarding. Katz wrote about the accident in his college essays, so he says that without it, he would have likely never been accepted to NYU.
Katz has since returned to skateboarding, and is currently sponsored by companies ReVive Skateboards and Cam Caddie. His greatest experience with sponsors was when he was invited to Woodward West, a well-known action sports camp in California, as a special guest. On top of getting to skate there for a week, Josh got to meet many of his viewers and subscribers. “It’s a really great feeling to know that a lot of people support you,” Josh reflected. “It definitely motivates me to continue skateboarding and [producing] videos.”
As a prolific skater and now a man of many talents, Katz has pushed his limits in pursuing his passions and inspiring others by doing so. There is still much I personally hope to learn from him, but of course, the first thing I plan to ask for is a shoutout on his Instagram.