Take Flight with Zion Wright
© Kenji Haruta / Red Bull Content Pool
The rising skateboarder leaks his plans to head back to Hollywood 16 as his sport gets set for its Olympic Games debut.
Since his first push onto the skate scene, Zion Wright has always been fueled by an intense passion for skateboarding. At just 21 years old, Zion has produced some of the gnarliest skate video parts and contest runs to date. There are no limits in sight to his accomplishments on and off the board.
For Wright, growing up in Jupiter, Florida, sent him orbiting around the state with the Florida Daze crew. “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 visualization could take him. Two words often heard but seldom understood, these have propelled Wright from his earliest days to now—a first name phenom and an 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 awaits the first-ever Olympics to feature skateboarding. Since competing in Red Bull Solus, the young ripper had 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—everything from his earliest influences to the future of the sport— below.
Zion Wright's LA Skate House Got Flipped Upside Down
You’re from Jupiter, Florida. What do you think growing up in Jupiter meant for your skating versus if you would have grown up in a place like Los Angeles?
I feel like if I would have grown up in California, the skate scene out there is so vast, everything is just normal. 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 and everybody what skateboarding was; verses when you come to a California skatepark and everyone is just ripping—from the littlest kid to the older homies. Then you have parks [like Jupiter], it could be the littlest stuff, with the weirdest dinky quarter pipe, but that molds creative styles in skating versus that technical stuff. 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 said you like “to fly” when you skate and that’s why your favorite thing to skate is transition. Can you describe that flying feeling?
Skating already itself is a feeling you can’t really describe as far as the average person goes. Being able to bend the physics, there’s no other feeling like it and I can’t really describe it to you. But 100 percent, for sure, skating is the closest you can ever get to flying. That hang time, like what? Hell yeah.
You’ve spoken about the mental aspects and the visualization with your skating. Was that just always there for you even as a kid? Or how did you develop that over time?
I can say, growing up it was something that was for sure talked to me about. Really that anything is possible you just have to visualize it. That’s how my dad brought it upon me and once I really tapped into the whole aspect of everything, and everything around me, it’s just visualization. I mean, if you can visualize 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’m like, “Sure, I’ll try it.”
Being pushed by the homies telling me, I could do this, I could do that. Because at that point, at that time, me growing up skating, 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 within with everything that was presented to me. You just got to run with it, I would say. You know when someone has a talent for it, whatever it is. Any aspect: football, running, snowboarding, surfing. People know. Same shit, different toilet type stuff.
Filming clips was what really started to make things happen for you. Do you remember the first clip you ever filmed? Or can you describe what those early days were like skating with Jon Dilo and the Florida Daze crew?
It’s crazy bro. 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. 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 like joking about it. “You should ollie off it.” I started looking at it, just being curious, but yeah, they threw me up there and as soon as I got up there I told them to throw me my board. It was up from there. It was down from there actually [laughs]. I can’t remember how many tries before I landed it. It was everyone tripping out too type deal, when it really hit everyone like Jon [Dilo] and my homie Mikey. There were so many of us at the time. Like he did this? What else is he capable of doing? Let’s keep him skating and keep him in the streets. That’s how the part came to be, and everything just evolved around it.
As a pro skateboarder, you’ve inspired a ton of young skaters. Who were some of your earliest inspirations and who are some of the skaters that are 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, Jaime, 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’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 traveling 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. But, to be honest, I haven't really travelled to that dream place of mine yet. There’s still an undiscovered feeling there.
Skateboarding has changed a ton. What do you think about the current state of skating and what excites you about the future of skateboarding?
What really excites me right now is the younger generation that’s coming up below us. I feel like there [are] more aspects and different lanes now in skating. Obviously, people have always skated for one reason, to have fun and to enjoy themselves and express. But there’s 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. Even half pipes and mini ramps and all that stuff. 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 one day? Something you wish you knew?
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 realized 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 ton of contests since you were a kid. Can you talk about the Red Bull Solus contest versus 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 to link with the homies and create a vibe type deal. Obviously having the whole pandemic going on and 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 Scheckler opening his arms and opening up his park for us, was a pretty sick experience. Very different though, obviously there’s no crowd. You don't 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 [100+] 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 I was for sure going to go in there and put my own little taste on it and get a run down.
You took some gnarly ass slams over the years. Any of them stand out to you personally? How do you keep your body intact with the physical demands of skating?
I learned a lot from when I broke my femur. I mean, it’s the hardest bone to break in your body. The pain level with me dealing with that, I’ve come to a realization 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 their gym with the high performance team—learning the aspects of my body and breaking everything down all the science behind it—I’ve learned 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 and up to par 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 worse? I am prepared for the worse by being able to perform at my best. Your body is a temple, we only get one of these things so you got to be able to treat it accordingly.
You’ve accomplished a ton already as a skateboarder, but are there any personal goals you would 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 has been able to help me throughout my life, being able to stay calm and get away and break out type deal.
You’ve been surfing since you were 8, yeah?
There’s no other feeling, I remember my first wave like it was yesterday. I rode the whole wave into the sand like a bus. You feel me? 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, being a musician, I am 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 park in my backyard here in Florida right now, so trying to deal with HOA and all that.
Can you talk about what it means to potentially be representing the USA in the first Skateboarding Olympics?
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 still got one somewhere laying around.
Half cab crook and half cab bs smith the 16, wallride on the 12. You headed back to Hollywood for a third time?
Most definitely, you already know man, c’mon. I just let y’all know 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 dreamt about that place before. And 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.
Any last words 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.