The 14-year-old skateboarder from California frequently wears outfits inspired by 1990s pop music videos. She’s a budding songwriter and jots down lyrics based on life experiences, which she points out have been rather limited so far.
That’s changing fast. The world of Brighton Zeuner keeps getting bigger and broader with more notice and exposure.
Zeuner figures to be one of the favorites when skateboarding makes its Olympic debut at the 2020 Tokyo Games. Not that the pressure flusters her.
Nope, she just skates.
Her ability and affable nature have led to comparisons to another California teen: Chloe Kim , the Olympic champion snowboarder who became one of the faces of the Pyeongchang Games last February.
Now that’s high praise.
“She’s so good,” Zeuner said . “I saw Chloe compete in the Olympics and she’s really talented.”
The tandem crossed paths in July, when Kim put a gold medal around Zeuner’s neck after Zeuner won the skateboarding vert competition at the Summer X Games.
“This is all crazy,” said Zeuner , who won the Vans Park Series final this weekend in China. “I’m just having fun.”
Because really that’s what it’s always been about.
Zeuner grew up following her older brother to the skate park, where they’d spend hours filming new tricks. These days, Zeuner has a vert ramp in her backyard in San Diego that her father had built. Some of the biggest names in skateboarding are known to drop by, even the skateboarding legend himself, Tony Hawk .
“She’s really consistent and she likes to challenge herself, which is exactly what it takes at her age to keep progressing and to stay relevant in competition,” Hawk said. “Her consistency is pretty rare in terms of her making hard tricks over and over. That’s going to help her in competition.”
Perhaps in Tokyo, where she will have just turned 16 should she earn a spot. Although skateboarding has two disciplines making an appearance at the Olympics — park and street — her priority remains park, which takes place in a dome-shaped bowl and features different jumps.
Ask her about the qualifying process and she goes silent. She really doesn’t know. She leaves that to her family. The rider sponsored by Red Bull and Vans just trains after finding a sport that finally suits her.
“I was trying so many different things, dancing, softball, Girl Scouts. Didn’t click,” explained Zeuner, who took up skateboarding around 4 and began competing at 8. “I looked at skateboarding and saw something I could be different in. There are so many outlets I can express through skateboarding. That’s what I was drawn to.”
She’s known for her consistency in the park, along with her progressive tricks, which are always trending upward.
Same with her fashion sense. She frequently scours thrift stores for just the right outfits — a little baggy, with a little ’90s flair. She even started her own business, where she will post vintage clothes online and ship them off to customers.
“My mom would show me all this ’90s music and I’d look at the music videos and remember loving the New York scene and the girls in the music videos, how they had all these funky outfits,” Zeuner said . “I just absolutely was so drawn to that.”
The same applies to music. She will write down thoughts for songs and send them to her friends in New York, who will set them to a beat.
“Because they have all these cool jazzy beats,” she explained.
Mostly, her lyrics are about life and skateboarding. As for specific examples, well, wait until they’re finished.
“I just write about, about … I don’t know. I don’t know,” she said, laughing . “I’m still like working on them, developing them.”
These days, she’s been crushing contests, winning events from Huntington Beach, California, to Boise, Idaho, to ones held overseas. In 2016, she captured a big event in Malmo, Sweden, and a year later gold at the X Games — a day after her 13th birthday, which made her the youngest winner of the action sports event.
This weekend, she won in Suzhou, China, by holding off Yndiara Asp of Brazil and American Jordyn Barratt .
In the lead-up to Tokyo, her biggest rivals happen to be some of her friends, such as 18-year-old Alana Smith, who earned silver in women’s park at the 2013 X Games in Barcelona, and 25-year-old Lizzie Armanto , a highly decorated competitor.
They’ve been known to drop by her backyard ramp.
“Alana and I grew up in the same place. She was a little older than me and was so gnarly and would skate with all the guys,” said Zeuner, who attends a school that customizes lessons to accommodate her hectic schedule. “I think that made me want to do that. She’s my biggest inspiration.”
Zeuner insisted nothing has changed despite all of her success.
“I’m that little skate rat — I’d go in the van with all the skate dads and my brother and go skate and film for six hours a day,” Zeuner said. “I’m still the same girl I’ve always been. I’m just a little bit busier.”
Source: The Associated Press