© Kenji Haruta/Red Bull Content Pool
There are NO limits to Zion Wright's skateboarding – even physics
Rising skateboarder Zion Wright spoke to us about his sport making its debut in Tokyo, revisiting the Hollywood 16 obstacle steps in Los Angeles and much more – read our interview with him right here.
Zion Wright has always been fuelled by an intense passion for skateboarding. At just 21-years-old (he turns 22 on Febuary 3), Wright has produced some of the gnarliest skate video parts and contest runs to date. It seems there are no limits to his accomplishments.
Wright grew up in Jupiter, Florida, USA and travelled around the state with the Florida Daze crew to hone his craft. "The whole scene gave me that extra drive to skate and do what I wanted to do," he says.
The grom of the group learned just how far the powers of instinct and visualisation could take him. Those two words have propelled Wright from his earliest days to now – a phenom and soon to be Olympian.
Wright found himself in a unique place in 2020; unable to travel abroad, rehabbing from a torn meniscus and relearning the trumpet as he awaited the first-ever Olympics to feature skateboarding.
Since competing at Red Bull Solus in California, the young ripper has found time to reflect and work on previously unshared plans, which include building a skatepark in the backyard of his Jupiter home and two more face-melters for the infamous Hollywood 16.
Get an inside look at how he sees the world of skateboarding, from his earliest influences to the future of the sport, below.
Skating is a feeling you can't really describe
Zion Wright's raw run
You’re from Jupiter, Florida. What do you think growing up there meant for your skating compared to if you would have grown up in a place like Los Angeles?
In California, the skate scene is so vast. You go to the skatepark and everybody is ripping, that's just how it is – it's in the air. Growing up in Jupiter, I learned through the scene. But when you come to a Californian skatepark, everyone is just ripping – from the littlest kid to the older homies.
Then you have parks [like Jupiter], where it could be the littlest stuff, with the weirdest dinky quarter pipe, but that helps creative styles in skating versus that technical stuff. I'm not saying robotic, but every kid at a skatepark in California is trying Kickflip Front Boards or knows how to Front Feeble, Back Over Crook, Front Crook – it's crazy.
You once said you like "to fly" when you skate and that’s why your favourite thing in skate is transition. Can you describe that flying feeling?
Skating is a feeling you can't really describe as far as the average person goes. Being able to bend physics, there’s no other feeling like it and I can't really describe it to you, but 100 per cent skating is the closest you can ever get to flying.
You've spoken about the mental aspects and the visualization with your skating. Was that just always there for you, even as a kid? How did you develop that over time?
I can say, growing up it was something that was talked to me about – really that anything is possible, you just have to visualise it. That's how my dad brought it up for me and once I really tapped into the whole aspect of everything, and everything around me, it's just visualisation. I mean, if you can visualise yourself doing something, or see yourself that way, it's the real deal.
There’s footage of you as a young kid Ollieing off giant roofs and now you're Half Cab Back Smithing Hollywood 16. What inspired you to skate the gnarliest obstacles?
It was the whole motivation around the homies. It all started at the skatepark with me going crazy, but also not knowing what's possible with going street skating and how gnarly I could get. The homies would be like, 'Yo, do this, do that', pointing me towards something. As a little kid, I was like, 'Sure, I’ll try it'.
At that point in time, me growing up skating – I'm not saying I wasn't really into looking up to other skaters or watching videos, but that really wasn't my drive. I would just go off instinct and the moment with everything that was presented to me. You've just got to run with it, I would say. You know when someone has a talent for it, whatever it is.
I put all my energy into this one thing and I stayed focused
Do you remember the first clip you ever filmed? And can you describe what those early days were like skating with Jon Dilo and the Florida Daze crew?
It's crazy. I don’t know if you'll believe me. but the first clip I ever filmed was in Florida Daze 1. The Ender – the big Ollie off the roof – that's what sparked the whole thing. It's funny, actually, my brother was there that day and he got a clip that was in my part. He Heelflipped the gap into the bank below the roof. I just remember my brother and the homies joking about it, like, 'You should Ollie off it'.
They threw me up there and as soon as I got up there I told them to throw me my board. I can't remember how many tries it was before I landed it. Everyone was tripping out when it really hit everyone, like Jon [Dilo] and my homie Mikey. There were so many of us at the time. That's how the part came to be and everything just evolved around it.
You've inspired a lot of young skaters. Who were some of your earliest inspirations and who are some of the skaters inspiring you today?
For sure I would say Karl Watson was a big influence on me growing up. Karl Watson, Manny Santiago, Dave Bachinsky, Brad Cromer. It was the scene that was coming around me and then it was me branching out and learning about other skaters.
Even now, it's the people around me. Being able to skate with Ishod Wair, Alex Sorgente and all the guys. Also, being able to be a part of a team like Real, with a big roster able to hold names for us, and a gnarly team like Red Bull. It's really special. It's sick to see Jagger Eaton’s Switch Back Smith [down the 16]. He's really coming into his own, skating street and all aspects of skating. Stuff like that is sick to see.
You've travelled all around the world thanks to skateboarding. Do you have any cities or places you've skated that stick out to you?
I love travelling to Sydney, Australia. It’s a really cool city to skate – and also to skate around the outskirts. I also really like Europe, Barcelona specifically. To be honest, I haven't really travelled to that dream place of mine yet. There's still an undiscovered feeling there.
When you skate, you're going to get hurt
What do you think about the current state of skating and what excites you about the future?
What really excites me right now is the younger generation that's coming up. I feel like there are more aspects and different lanes now in skating. Obviously, people have always skated to have fun and to enjoy themselves and express, but there are people out there that skate contest, street skate, or operate in their own lanes. There's really a lane for everyone now in skating.
The younger generation has it back to where skating started: skating down the street, cruising, finding little transitions and stuff, or coming to the streets building ramps, kickers and stuff like that. The boards start to be flipped in different variations into rails and everything just keeps evolving. It's crazy.
Do you have any advice for the young kids out there hoping to make their mark on skateboarding?
Just don't give up on what you have a passion for and what you love to do. Don't take no for an answer. Keep going on, don't stop. When I was young and realised what was going on, how I could really do it, I did it because it was the only thing I did. I put all my energy into this one thing [skating] and I stayed focused. Remember anything is possible. You can do anything you put your mind to.
You’ve been in a lot of contests since you were a kid. Can you compare the Red Bull Solus contest to some of the other contests you've been in?
It was a totally different contest aspect, for sure. You have traditional contests, where people obviously skate the contest, but also link with the homies and create a vibe type deal. Obviously having the whole pandemic going on meant us not having that reunion opportunity, but still having a stage to show people that we're out here skating, having fun and doing what we do. Being able to have Red Bull provide that for us and Ryan Sheckler opening up his park for us was a pretty sick experience.
It was very different, though – obviously there's no crowd. You don'' have people looking at you and this and that. The whole mental battle is just with yourself. You're just in there skating. Whether it was hot when you were skating, or you were skating at night, you're worrying about what this person might have done versus what that person might have done.
What people don’t know is that I skated the contest with a torn meniscus. I actually now just had my surgery. I'm three weeks out. I wasn't expecting to go in there and beast it on a torn meniscus, but for sure I was going to go in there and put my own little taste on it and get a run down.
How do you keep your body intact with the physical demands of skating?
I learned a lot from when I broke my femur – it's the hardest bone to break in your body. The pain level with me dealing with that, I've come to a realisation that how you take care of your body is no joke.
You’re bound to get hurt in skating and I would say me getting with Red Bull and being in the gym with the High Performance team, I've learned that being able to take care of your body means you're going to be able to do what you want to do as long as you stay up to date with your body.
Falling is inevitable. When you skate, you're going to get hurt. You got to pay to play. It's just going to happen, but I just look at it like, how can I prepare for the worst? I'm prepared for the worst by being able to perform at my best. Your body is a temple, we only get one of these things, so you've got to be able to treat it accordingly.
You've accomplished a lot already, but are there any personal goals you'd like to share?
I would like to show the world I could be a really good surfer one day. I feel like people don't really know I surf like that. A lot of people are maybe afraid, or not comfortable with the act of getting in the ocean. People shouldn't be afraid of that aspect of life. That's one thing that's been able to help me throughout my life, being able to stay calm, get away and break out.
I remember my first wave like it was yesterday. I rode the whole wave into the sand like a bus. I'm just hooked on that feeling and being able to have that.
What's something you feel people don’t know about you?
I've been around music my whole life. My dad is a musician and I'm always learning from him from seeing him in the percussion world. Me playing trumpet, growing up and being able to listen to good music, from that and developing a taste for it. I'm trying to pick up the horn again. I dropped it for a while, but my dad gave me one for one for my birthday last year to pick it back up. Just like skating, with music and surfing I'm just trying to perfect the craft and get to the next level.
I'm also building a skatepark in my backyard here in Florida right now, so I'm trying to deal with all that.
Can you talk about what it means to potentially be representing the USA in Japan?
It means a lot. It's a very big opportunity to be able to represent myself, the country and skateboarding on that type of level. The whole opportunity to be at the top like that and cause more people to fall in love with skateboarding by bringing it to that platform. Man, to be able to represent skating with the best, it's going to be crazy to be able to do that.
Are we going to see Zion rocking a USA visor when you skate?
If they make one, I'll definitely be rocking it. [Laughs.] I've still got one somewhere laying around.
Half Cab Crook and Half Cab BS Smith the 16, Wallride on the 12 – you went back to Hollywood for a third time?
Most definitely. I'll just let y'all know that I got two more things I have to do at Hollywood and then that'll be my end of Hollywood, unless I skate the stairs or something. I don't know if it's like a perfect rail, I literally slept and dreamed about that place before. Let's just say it's been good for my family's success, so I’m just going to keep being respectful to it and give it my taste on it.
Anything else you'd like to mention, Zion?
I would like to thank Red Bull for all the support they show me and all the people there. I want to thank skateboarding and my family and everyone out there rolling with me. For everyone out there, I'll be back soon. Anything you see me posting on Instagram right now, until I say I'm back on my board, is all from the vault.