Brighton Zeuner is just like any other 17-year-old girl, minus the fact that she’s also a professional skateboarder. Some notable accolades (just to mention a few, and trust us, there’s more): She was the youngest X Games competitor, having competed at age 11 in 2016, and now she already has two X Games gold medals — one of which she won when she was 13, crowning her the then youngest champion in the X Games, and the second crowning her the youngest back-to-back gold medalist.
She has long been a frequent participant and champion in skateboarding competitions all over the world and even competed in the Tokyo Olympics this past summer — a part of the historical, inaugural team of skateboarders in the Olympic games. So, it’s easy to see she’s the real deal, even though talking with her, you’re struck by her humble and authentic love for the sport and those around her.
Though skateboarding has been a big part of her life, she says the training and devotion hasn’t stopped her from experiencing some of the “normal” teenage life. In her free time, she says she spends it hanging out with friends and family, thrift shopping and playing music — and dealing with the nerves that come with being a pro skater.
Originally from Arizona, now living in both California and Austin, Texas, Zeuner caught up with AFM after she got back from the Olympics to chat about her life, career and goals for the future.
AFM: You started skateboarding when you were pretty young, how did you first get into it all?
BZ: Well, my dad was a skate nerd growing up, so we were always around it. And so, when my brother wanted a skateboard, our dad naturally just became a skate dad.
So, really, I started skateboarding because I would just get dragged to our local skatepark, and my brother would be skating, and eventually, I got really bored of just playing in the dirt. Of course, I had ridden one before, around the house or just messing around on one, but I didn’t get my first real skateboard until I was like seven.
After I mentioned I wanted to get into skating, too, I just came home after school one day and my mom had a skateboard waiting for me — she had even made the grip tape all cool for me. Then, once I started skating the mini ramp we had in our backyard, that’s when I fell in love with it.
AFM: It sounds like your family is super supportive! What is it like to have such a strong support system backing you up?
BZ: My dad is always there for me with skating stuff, and he really helps me get through the pre-competition anxieties and even just reminds me to eat food when I’m nervous to eat.
It was really hard not having them there when I was in Tokyo, because athletes weren’t allowed to bring family. I was so frustrated by that, because they are a big part of my support and working through the nerves. I was even dreading the whole thing at first because of the nerves, and I was worried about being in enough shape and putting all this pressure on myself, since it’s the first Olympic skateboarding event and the Olympics is the biggest platform. I didn’t think I could do it or would want to do it without my dad there to help me.
But my dad, he again just worked through those worries with me, and he said to me, “You’re going to miss the Olympics when it’s all over.” And he was right.
AFM: What was that like, being there without your main support system?
BZ: It wasn’t as bad as I had worked it up to be. It was hard obviously and I still wished he was there, but, you know, the women’s skating world is pretty close — a lot of us had known each other for years, and I even got to room with one of my best friends, Bryce Wettstein. And you know, we were all in the same boat — we were all there without our families and had to work through anxiety and everything together.
I think it really made us all even closer, and it made me become more independent — but I still called home every chance I got, of course!
AFM: Tell us about what it meant to you to be able to see the sport of skateboarding make it to the Olympic level finally, and to be a part of the inaugural competition.
BZ: Yeah, when we found out that it was going to be in the Olympics, everyone got so excited. Especially for women’s skateboarding — it has changed the game in terms of how serious girl’s or women’s competitions are.
I am so excited, too, because I think this is really going to open the door to skateboarding to younger girls. They’ve seen it in the Olympics, and it’s now seen as a much more professional option — you could make a career out of it. It feels really cool to be a part of that.
AFM: Your family goes back and forth between Austin and the coast. How would you describe Austin’s skate scene compared with California’s?
BZ: When I was first in Austin, I went to this cool skate shop I heard about called No Comply and I met this girl named Stevie — she works there — and she was just so great. Everyone is really nice, and I met a ton of people — pretty much everyone that works there — and Stevie took me skating. She took me to all these DIY ditches, which is cool because that takes a lot of upkeep, but they are super taken care of.
There’s just a lot of creativity there, and the people are so welcoming. There’s a lot of funky skaters down there but every one is so nice. In California, sometimes you have skaters with big egos and they aren’t very into new people, but that just hasn’t been my experience in Austin. I’ve had to be in California for a lot of my training before the Olympics, so I’m excited to get back down there and see Stevie and all the other guys at No Comply.
AFM: What’s next for you? Do you have any big plans in the works that you’re excited about outside of the world of competitive skateboarding?
BZ: Yeah, I want to go to college for fashion design, actually. I think one of my goals is to work with a brand or have a clothing brand or something that I can have a little bit of freedom to create stuff that is designed with the woman skater in mind. That’s been my goal in my collabs with brands like Vans, and I’ve really loved it. I want to make clothes that are actually comfortable for women to skate in — something that’s a stretchy material and nice to skate in, but it’s also really cool and makes you feel confident.