Brighton Zeuner says she loves skateboarding because it sets you free. “It’s a world of creativity. There are no rules,” she says. “It helps you to see the world differently and makes you who you are as a person.”
It’s a refreshing point of view. Zeuner, who is possibly the coolest, most fearless (and most honest) 13-year-old you’re ever likely to meet, became the youngest woman to compete at an X Games at just 11 years old in 2016. She then won the Vans Park Series Women’s World Championships a month later before becoming the youngest-ever X Games champion last July.
Juggling skateboarding commitments and school work, Zeuner says she has her eyes set only on her next competition. But, even with the Olympics still two years away, she is already being spoken of as a potential gold medalist at Tokyo 2020, a feat that would come as no surprise to fans of her skate clips on Instagram.
We got the chance to speak with Zeuner ahead of the Red Bull Music Festival in New York, discussing everything from her first skateboard and school life to cooking for Tyler, the Creator and more. Check out the interview below.
Hey, Brighton! So how old are you exactly and where are you from?
[Laughs] I’m 13 years old and I’m from San Diego.
When and how did you first get into skateboarding?
I’ve always been around skateboarding. My brother and dad were the two skaters in the family. And I think I just wanted to be different. I thought that it was really cool, and I started skating and just developed a true passion for it.
It started when I was six, but I fell and I took a break from it. I really got back into it seriously when I was eight.
Tell me about when you got your first skateboard.
I think I came back from a Girl Scout sleepover and my mom had got me one. We set it up and we went to a skate park with my brother. I was so excited.
You were 11 when you competed in the X Games for the first time, right?
Yes, I was 11.
How was that? Were you nervous at all?
I always get nervous. It doesn’t have to be an X Games competition. I always get nervous no matter what contest. I was more nervous about the press and the interviews because I hadn’t done that before.
And two years later you were a gold medalist.
That was life-changing. I was just in shock for, like, three days after that. I still can’t explain the feeling. I was just riding my skateboard and doing what I usually do — and I won. I just freaked out.
Did you take your medal back to school to show everyone?
No. I just put it in my room and I will cherish it.
Fair enough. How is it with school? How much time can you spend practicing?
I have a school that’s flexible with my skating schedule. It’s a one-on-one program, so I go to school every day except for Friday, and it’s just me and the teacher. I just get my work done, and then after that, I usually just go skate.
What’s your favorite subject?
I like English a lot. I like writing because there’s a lot of creativity. You write what you want to write about and you get to pick your topics, and I like doing that. It’s fun.
What are your plans for the future? Are you already looking ahead to the 2022 Olympics in Tokyo?
I’m just skating and trying to learn tricks to bring to the Olympics or the X Games or any contest. I definitely set goals, but really I’m just focusing on skating and keeping a passion for it. I think that’s what’s really important.
How do you feel when people say that you’re the future of women’s skateboarding?
I don’t really feel pressure, because when I skate if I ever get stressed, it all goes away — because I’m doing what I truly want to do. I’m up for doing interviews or going to contests because it’s just skateboarding for me, and I don’t feel any pressure. I just go out and skate and do my best.
How would you describe your skating style?
I definitely went through a lot of phases. I think this year I really just found out the true meaning of why I skateboard. I’m very colorful and I look up to all the New York guys, like Aidan Mackey and Ben Kadow.
You spend a lot of time in New York now, right? How are you finding it?
Yeah, I just started hanging out with New York kids that are my age. I have more friends here than back home because I relate to them all here more than back home, I think. They are so different. So it’s fun getting their perspective on everything. I keep my circle small at home.
I think this summer I’m going to be in New York a lot. I want to live here one day. I think that this is just where I would want to be and all the skaters I look up to are here. It’s a beautiful place.
I hear that, away from school and skateboarding, you’re quite into cooking? If you could cook for anybody, who would it be and what would you make them?
[Laughs] Yeah, cooking’s fun. But I just go through a lot of phases. Right now I’m into art and making jazzy beats. But I’d want to hang out with Tyler, the Creator, for sure. I like his view on the world and I would want to ask questions about his lyrics. He loves waffles, so I’d have to make him waffles!
What’s your favorite brand?
Vans. Definitely Vans. I’ve been customizing mine lately and I just make them super colorful, like my style. Tyler, the Creator did a collab with Vans and they’re super-colorful, and I’m like, “Oh, I want to do that.” So I was inspired by that. I just do yellow and all these crazy colors and patterns and, yeah, they’re crazy.
Tyler, the Creator, Kali Uchis, Steve Lacy — those are the three that I always listen to.
Finally, what’s next for you?
I just go with the flow. I’m just excited for it all. I wouldn’t be here without skateboarding, so I’m down for it all. I have Brazil right after this New York trip. Then I have the Vans Park Series, X Games, Dew Tour. It’s hectic but I’m very excited.
Next up, just how much money do influencers make?