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Zion Wright on expectations, pressure and mental wellness

Zion Wright shares his personal journey with mental health and hosts a wellness camp in the serene hills with Tyler Bereman, Zeb Powell, Jagger Eaton, Will Claye and more.
By Vivian Tang
7 min readPublished on
Welcome to Zion's House.
Zion Wright is a professional skateboarder who knows a thing or two about pressure. With the outside world constantly setting expectations for him, whether it's the Olympics or local competitions, and a career always on the rise, mental health is paramount to Wright. "I feel like as far as us being professional athletes and at the level we perform at, there's a lot that we go through and a lot that goes on that either gets pushed to the side or it's very undercover," Wright shared.
With the help of Red Bull, he put a mental wellness camp together and invited his athlete friends to simply have open discussions about mental health. "It's in its birth stage right now, as far as where it sits in action sports," said Wright. "We need to speak out and have these conversations and make it a thing so people aren't shy and aren't in the shadows about what they're going through."
Athletes who attended Zion's House included Alex Sorgente, CJ Collins, Jagger Eaton, Luke Winkelmann, Zeb Powell, Benny Milam, Jake Canter, Will Claye, Brian Grubb, Jaxson Riddle and Tyler Bereman. The guys spent the day in the hills of Malibu at the most tranquil venue. Leveraging his influence, Zion wanted to bring athletes together for deeper discussions and real-time activities to raise awareness of mental wellness and mental performance.

What has your mental health journey been like?

Zion Wright: I feel like there's a lot of expectations, either I put on myself or whatever it is. You're curious, you wonder why you feel like this or why these things are the way they are. I would say definitely anxiety building up to it and just making sure you're prepped and you have everything in order, I feel like proper planning prevents poor performance. But sometimes not everything goes your way. So in that manner you got to look at it from a bigger perspective.

Is there a moment you can recall where you felt like you were on the verge of breaking?

My early stages of really getting emotional was the whole Olympic stuff. I was going into that and really getting on board as far as with my skating, with my health, with my nutrition and all that to really go to the next level and take myself where I needed to be. So I feel like once I got all that stuff lined up in order, it was so good.

Was there ever an actual breaking point?

One morning I woke up to go train, but I had just got back from a short trip. I flew out of town for the weekend, came back and then was just kind of exhausted, but I was just like, fuck it. I'm going to get up, I'm going to go do this stuff do my workout and all this stuff. But it was weird. It was like I had knew I was going to win or just, I don't know. I just had this feeling and dude, I just broke down, started crying, got in the car, started crying.

Then I got to my workout and then just broke down and my trainer started crying. And it was like, I had a breakthrough. I was telling him, 'Yo, I'm not upset or sad or anything. I'm just having a breakthrough. I feel like at this moment in my life, I'm actually breaking through to something and just something I'm working towards and it actually feels like it's paying off.'

How do you bounce back when things don't go your way? What helps you?

Being able to go to someone like my dad or my brother and have that conversation, open up and just express how you feel. I feel like if you keep stuff bottled in, it'll build up and then it'll get to a point where it's just all out.

It's not really a thing as far as us men, but this is why we're here. This is why I want to be able to speak up on it.

Do you feel like men have a harder time opening up for conversations around mental health?

We're trying to put this role on and us being this tough. Trying to keep this role of not knowing that it's okay to feel those ways and it's okay to go through those type of things and speak about it. They're not the only ones, there's other people that's going through it. It's not really a thing as far as us men, but this is why we're here. This is why I want to be able to speak up on it.

When it comes to Black men and mental health:

There is a taboo of us just being like, 'Oh, we're going to see a therapist' or this and that. It's like at the end of the day, who cares what that person thinks of that? If you need to go speak to someone so you can be able to break through and get to that... to where you need to go as far as you feeling better, that shouldn't matter what someone thinks. It's about your wellbeing and you being okay and being able to be in your own skin.

Why is mental health important to you?

Mental health is number one. If I'm not functioning good up here — up top — then I can't really function around other people or I feel like people shouldn't be around me in that manner because it's just not good. Our minds are a very powerful thing. We have tools now to help train our minds, to move and go to other places where it's light for us and it doesn't get dark.

How has skateboarding helped you?

I'm my own worst critic. When it comes to skateboarding, I feel like this is why skateboarding helps me be able to look at stuff differently. So it's like I'm envisioning and I'm knowing how I want to do stuff and break stuff down to the aspects or to where it's like if it doesn't work out or if it doesn't go the way I want it, I've just got to be able to pick myself up and be like, well, I can't control everything, I don't have superpowers.

At the end of the day, having fun is what got me to where I am now. I feel like there's a lot of stuff that gets put into where it's like, now this is a job, this is my profession, and it's like I want to be able to perform at the highest level and keep elevating. There's always stuff that's going to come up and block you and stop you from getting through to that, to where you want to go. It's just about you overcoming those obstacles.

What makes you the happiest?

Dude, when I'm just out skating or surfing with my homies. Just not even thinking about anything, just out there having fun, that's I feel like when I'm the most happy. No one's controlling me and telling me 'This is how I had to do this.' I go on my own freedom and push.

Lastly, words of advice to those who might be going through tough times?

Don't wait. You can't wait. You can't hold it all in that long. You got to just speak up. Don't be scared to open up. No one's going to hurt you or look at you some type of way, because you have these feelings that you need to get out.

While Zion's House was Zion's idea, in no way does he consider himself a leader in the skating/action sport community for mental health. "I feel like it wouldn't be my goal," Wright said. "Be more so my role. Just being a part of helping."

3 min

Zion's House

Welcome to Zion’s House, a day of education, shared conversation and experiences around mental wellness.

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Zion Wright

Zion Wright from Florida, USA, is a genuine all-terrain skater and one of the biggest names in the skateboarding game today.

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