Olympic skateboarder Bryce Wettstein wins first X Games medal on her way to Tokyo
Just a few years ago, Bryce Wettstein cried on camera when she made her first X Games: “I never thought that would happen.” On July 16, she found herself on the podium realizing another dream after winning her first X Games medal.
Bryce took the bronze medal in women’s park skateboarding at the X Games at the California Training Facility in Vista, a lead-in to next week’s Olympics where the 17-year-old will represent the United States in Tokyo. San Diego 13-year-old Sky Brown, who will represent Great Britain in the Olympics, won gold while Japanese Olympian Mami Tezuka took silver.
“This run I choreographed was a dream run,” said Bryce. “As soon as you land that one trick you’ve been thinking about all day, you feel like you found a dandelion and can finally make a wish and it’s beautiful.”
“It will forever be a dream even when you feel like you’ve lived it a little bit,” she said of her podium finish.
Bryce takes off for Tokyo this week as she prepares to compete in Olympic women’s park on Tuesday, Aug. 3—the fulfillment of another wish, another dream.
“It gives me goosebumps to think about everyone watching at home,” she said. “To have people watching me is almost a shock, it confirms that I’m actually really alive and not dreaming.”
These summer games seem to be filled with endless Encinitans— even the French skateboarder Aurelien Giraud has local connections, having spent time perfecting his tricks at the Encinitas Skate Plaza.
Bryce is a true Encinitas original, skating and surfing around Encinitas since she was 5 years old. One could often find the native on her board at the Encinitas YMCA and Poods or surfing Grandview or Beacons. She attended Capri Elementary, Diegueno Middle School and now, San Dieguito Academy High School.
Bryce was the 2019 USA National Champion and a 2021 podium finisher at USA National Championships in women’s park. She has competed at four world championships with a career-best finish of sixth place in 2018.
After making the USA Olympic skateboarding squad in 2019, Bryce was prepared to compete in summer 2020 until the games were delayed by the pandemic.
Quarantine led to a lot of explorations for Bryce including doing science experiments with her sister, reading books, spray painting and making music on her ukulele. She added a vert ramp to the family’s backyard skate oasis, which already was home to the “Iguana Bowl” a deep, aqua blue skate pool. In the bowl and on the ramp, Bryce looked inward and did a complete trick inventory. With no set schedule, she felt like she could try new tricks just because she wanted to and, in a way, she fell in love with skateboarding all over again.
“For once there was this introspection, it was like someone gave me a flashlight and I could totally see all the stuff behind the surface,” Bryce said. “It was a little treasure chest of a year…I feel like I became some other person.”
On July 24-25, the world was introduced to the new Olympic sport of skateboarding with street skateboarding, the first of two skateboarding disciplines: 13-year old Momiji Nishiya won gold in women’s street and Japan’s Yuto Horigome took gold on the men’s side. Team USA’s Jagger Eaton, another Encinitan by way of Mesa, Arizona, took the bronze.
As the world’s most famous skateboarder Tony Hawk explained it on NBC: street is going down, while park is going up. On the street course, skaters tackled elements like staircases and rails. In park, Bryce and company will take on concrete bowls, transfers and quarterpipes with a chance for a little air.
Bryce has seen the course at the Ariake Skate Park where she will have three 45-second runs, a chance to showcase the final draft of all the trick edits she’s made over the past year. Despite looking at the course online, she doesn’t want to plan out her runs or overthink it, she wants there to be spontaneity.
“I haven’t even thought about the fact that’s a competition, I’ve just been thinking about going to Tokyo and that it’s really happening,” Bryce said.
In competition she wants to be Bryce unbound: “I want my mind to go completely elastic and be elated and erratic….like a meditation. I just want to skateboard.”
While it is a little devastating that her family can’t come with her to Japan, Bryce said she is taking it as a sign that the team can become an even closer, tighter family. From years of competing, she knows many of her USA teammates and her foreign competitors well—some she has known since she was seven years old.
She and USA teammates Brighton Zeuner (an Encinitan at heart now living in Austin) and Jordyn Barratt (born in Hawaii, now living in Oceanside) traveled together to compete in Sweden when they were 12 years old, playing with Polly Pockets in between skateboarding sessions.
She has known Alexis Sablone from the street team for three years and considers her one of her inspirations. She was recently on a panel with USA teammates Nyjah Huston, Heimana Reynolds (a native Hawaiian now living in Carlsbad) and Cory Juneau (San Diego) and found herself a little star-struck.
“Sometimes I look at them and I can’t believe I can say that they’re as close to brothers to me than anyone else,” she said.
Bryce considers Team USA a “beautiful montage” that wouldn’t make sense without any one piece. They are all so different and all express themselves in skateboarding so uniquely. And that is probably her favorite thing about the sport, that every time she is on her board she gets to be her most authentic self.
“Skateboarding is brain and heart waves,” she says. It allows her to look at the world in a new way, bring out the best parts of herself and create her own kind of art in her own fearless way.
With that individuality in mind, Team USA was given a selection of uniform kits that they can choose from to wear at the games—Bryce thinks she will compete in a billowy blue shirt stamped with an American flag paired with gray pants. To make her look more distinctly Bryce, she hopes to put a little bow on it or possibly wear her rainbow suspenders.
Speaking last week, Bryce said she believed a member of Team USA would come away from Toyko with a medal. Her prediction came true with Eaton’s bronze and while there are always hopes for hardware, she said the Olympics won’t define her or skateboarding. She is excited for the experience for her international skate family.
“My first dream was Brighton, Jordyn and I going to the Olympics and suddenly, we’re here,” she said. “If I picture us up there on a podium, that is just insanity.”
She laughs at the thought of that dream podium and wonders aloud: “How do we ever step down?”
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