It’s not always easy to put a finger on what makes someone a great skateboarder. Sometimes originality, style and character count at least as much as tricks and trophies. Matt Hensley was born in 1970 in Newport Beach, California, and grew up in Vista. Starting in 1977, his mom dropped him off on weekends at Surf de Earth skatepark. The hook was set, and his BMX bike and T&C twin fin started collecting dust. Tony Alva and Doug “Pineapple” Saladino were among his early heroes, but in the 80s, his list of favorites expanded to include Tony Hawk, Christian Hosoi, John Grigley, John Lucero, Neil Blender, Steve Claar, Tommy Guerrero, Natas Kaupas, Mike Vallely, and Mark Gonzales.
Matt rode ramps, ditches, and backyard pools to a punk rock soundtrack. He skated Del Mar Skate Ranch and explored the limitless street terrain of So Cal and beyond. He also played guitar in a ska band called the Spy Kids. Life was skateboarding and music. Vision was Hensley’s first proper sponsor, but in 1988 he turned pro for H-Street–just a dedicated kid with lots of pop and a long-held world record for highest ollie. His skating in H-Street’s pioneering videos Shackle Me Not and Hokus Pokus etched Hensley’s place in skateboarding history before he made the switch to the Plan B team with its collection of future legends.
In 1991 Matt took a break from the industry spotlight and moved to Chicago, where he studied to be a paramedic, worked at Sessions, studied art, played music, and skated under the radar. When his friend, H-Street and Plan B co-founder Mike Ternasky died in a car accident in 1994, Hensley returned to California to help manage and ride for the Plan-B team. In the late 1990s, he joined Black Label and filmed a timeless part for the Label Kills video. Matt still rolls for Black Label, supports H-Street’s re-issue program, and plays music. His primary outlet is playing accordion in Flogging Molly, a band with multiple gold records and international tours to its name. Music and skateboarding–some things never change.