Encinitas local named to first USA Olympic skateboarding team

Bryce Wettstein, 15, was named a member of the USA Olympic skateboarding team.
(Karen Billing)

Bryce Wettstein’s happy place is expressing herself on a skateboard, wearing her signature bright pink Converse with the decorated soles, laced with multi-colored shoelaces. Whether riding in the “Iguana Bowl” pool in her backyard, “Poods,” or the bowl at the Magdalena Ecke Family YMCA, the 15-year old loves the endless explorations, variations and that crazy moment when she’s in the air and she’s not falling but also not rising.

Skateboarding is like art or music to Bryce Wettstein. Karen Billing

“You’re just doing you, what you want to do. Skating makes you who you are and brings out the best in you,” said Bryce, an Encinitas native. “You can just be fearless.”

Recently, her risks were rewarded as she was named to the first-ever USA Olympic Skateboarding team.The 16 skaters named to the national team qualified based on performance in international level events during the past year—men’s and women’s skateboard park and street events are set to make their Olympic debut at the Tokyo 2020 Games.

Considered one of the top transition skaters in the world by the time she hit 14, Bryce has been skating and surfing since she was 5 and is also a full-time honor student at San Dieguito High School Academy.

Competing in the Vans Park Series for the past three years, Bryce podiumed once and qualified for the World Championships every year, traveling to compete in China. In 2018, Bryce placed second in Dew Tour Women’s Pro Park and has been competing in the World Cup Skateboarding tour for the past seven years. She skated in the Nitro World Games during its women’s skateboarding debut.

Bryce was on her way to Crack Shack with her mom when she got the email that she made the USA team, a concept so new she wasn’t sure what it all meant.

“We couldn’t be more excited to finally take the wraps off the first-ever USA Skateboarding National Team,” said Josh Friedberg, CEO of USA Skateboarding. “We’re honored to have partners like Toyota and Nike that understand the intrinsic value of the sport we love and appreciate all they’ve done to get USA Skateboarding up and running. It’s a historic moment in the history of skateboarding, and we’re looking forward to doing all we can to support these amazing skateboarders on their road to Tokyo.”

Bryce and the other skateboarders will have the opportunity to qualify for the Olympics based on their three best results in World Skate sanctioned events during the upcoming qualifying season that runs from September 2019 to May 2020. The 2020 World Championships will also be a direct qualifier for the games for the top three podium spots at each event.

Along with Bryce, other skateboarders on the U.S. team with local ties include 19-year-old Tom Schaar, the first skater to land a 1080 and Brighton Zeuner, the youngest gold medalist in X Games history.

Bryce’s dad, Max, says she is a true Encinitas original: She went to school at Capri Elementary, Diegueno Middle School and now San Dieguito. She plays volleyball for the Moonlight Beach Crashers, skated in the Encinitas Exposure event every year and is a Skate Rising volunteer—she rides for Encinitas Surfboards, McGills Skateshop and Lazy Acres.

“She surfs Grandview and Beacons every week, does Encinitas beach cleanups, walks in the Encinitas Christmas parade, loves Leucadia Donuts, Pannikin and Moonlight Yogurt and Leucadia Pizza and gets her haircut at Detour Salon,” Max said. “She’s also a team rider with Rusty and Rob Machado with Encinitas Boardriders surf team.”

It was Max that ignited Bryce’s passion for skateboarding, building a mini ramp in their backyard (which eventually evolved into the Iguana Bowl) and taking her to ride her first pool before she even knew what that meant. She first skated in the Vans Girls Combi Pool contest in 2010, a 6-year-old in those trademark pink shoes paired with rainbow socks.

She found a real passion for it, discovering more about the sport every time she got on a board. Right away she loved to compete—“I have always liked to go out and perform…to have the bowl to myself and the spotlight on me,” she said.

Her first big podium finish came at the 2017 Vans Park Series Global Qualifiers in Huntington Beach where she earned her trip to compete at the World Championships in Shanghai, China.“The best part was I wasn’t expecting to get second because everyone was so good.”

The next year at Huntington she placed first in the Vans Park World Championships Qualifiers which sent her back to China where she finished in sixth place.

Beyond competition, she loves the camaraderie, traveling and adventure that come with these high-caliber contests. Through skateboarding she has made some lifelong friends from all over the world—among her best friends she lists Brazilian and Australian skateboarders. She is close with the other girls on Team USA and while they are all “super competitive” when they come together, they tend to have a lot of fun.

Looking ahead to competing in a bunch of stops and events this year, Bryce’s goal is to just keep constantly getting better and not being afraid to try new and different things on park.

“I try not to put too much pressure on myself, just skate and do what I want to do and not let external factors get to me,” she said.

Bryce has many passions in addition to skateboarding—she loves music and plays the guitar and ukulele, writing her own songs.

“Skating is just being unique and exploring and experimenting with things, it’s being able to think outside the box. Writing songs and skateboarding are a lot similar, dissecting your subconscious and taking all the thoughts that you don’t talk about and personalizing it into your own style. I’m realizing how skateboarding influences you as a person in every way,” Bryce said. “You start not to care about what people think, you think about things differently and flip things upside down and maneuver and move things around. I think that I would definitely not be who I am without skating. It’s led me to music, writing and all different things, even the way I dress, talk and think.

“Skateboarding is a lot more than what it seems.”