Olympic skateboarder Bryce Wettstein donates ramp to YMCA skatepark

Bryce Wettstein shares the love. The Olympian has donated her ramp to the YMCA.
(Karen Billing)

The Magdalena Ecke Family YMCA Skate Park will again have a vert ramp, thanks to a donation from Encinitas’ own Olympic skateboarder Bryce Wettstein. The 10-foot vert ramp is the same that once lived in her backyard, used in her training for the Toyko games this summer.

Last week when she visited the skate park, a group of young skaters lined up to get autographs from the local celebrity. Bryce signed each deck and helmet with thoughtful notes, each one unique: “Keep being who you are,” she wrote on one board, drawing hearts and signing her name with a swirling flourish.

“I’m a big fan,” one kid offered while she signed. “You are? Are you sure?” Bryce asked, tickled. “I’m a fan of everyone.”

Many of the young riders were from Capri Elementary, where Bryce went to school.

“This ramp means so much to the skate park and the community around it. Our skate park primarily serves youth ages 6-13 so having a smaller vert ramp that kids can learn on is perfect for their progression,” said Mike Wilson, skate program director at the YMCA. “With Bryce growing up here at the Y and becoming an Olympian, she has made such an impact on the youth in the community by not only inspiring them to be great skaters but to be a good person also. Now with Bryce donating her ramp, it reaches a whole new level of inspiration because now the kids can train like her as well.”

Now a senior at San Dieguito High School Academy, the 17-year-old Bryce first came to the YMCA skatepark when she was just six years old. Back then there was a mini ramp, mini land, a clover bowl and a street course but it was all different than how it looked now.

“You never take something like this for granted because it becomes your family so easily,” Bryce said of the park. “Kind of like clay it morphed…Every time a person would grow up, the mini land or vert ramp would kind of grow up with them.”

“Everyone had their own museum of glamour and glitter and just what made them them. They throw their own embellishments onto the ramp and that made it change for everyone else, the next generation to come,” Bryce said. “Everyone had a different way of making it into their own and every day it’s different because someone new is on it.”

Bryce had skated the park’s former 13-foot vert ramp nearly every day. After the YMCA cut it down due to disrepair in 2019, the family explored building a ramp in their backyard, allowed on a temporary basis by the homeowners association for her lead-up to the Olympic games.

“We built the backyard ramp because it was sort of the missing piece of furniture in our backyard that we could tamper around on,” said Bryce of her yard that is also home to their blue skate pool named The Iguana Bowl.

Named The Garden Ramp, Bryce said the ramp became a sanctuary where so many people could have the times of their lives on it.

“You find so much meaning in wood and wheels because it was handcrafted for you to craft something else on it,” she said. “The best part of reconstruction is building artwork for an artwork to be presented on it. There’s nothing that’s really consumed in skateboarding…you’re innovating, reincarnating always, never taking something away without giving it back again.”

Bryce Wettstein signs autographs at the skatepark.
(Karen Billing)

The ramp was created originally by Christian Dunn and was disassembled by Aaron Astorga. A team from Jim Bell Skateboarding Ramps is resembling the ramp piece by piece and then it will be finished with a Skatelite top resin. Jim Bell, who has built many ramps for Bryce over the years, estimates it should be skate-able by early November.

Bryce said she could think of no better home for the ramp than the YMCA, where she found an alternative family and grew so much as a person and skater.

“A ramp pertains to so much more than just this hunk of wood,” Bryce said. “It’s more like your whole being slated up from the ground. And when you have a being that’s so beautiful like that, the more that you can give it to a place that made you who you are, the more you can realize it has the power to transform and transmogrify everybody else to find who they are too. It’s the most beautiful thing.”

Bryce is endlessly introspective and plenteously poetic. She is full of wonderings about lollygags and lackadaisical things, picking at the tapestry of her existence, reflecting on how she has changed in the last two years leading up to this summer’s Olympics: “refurbished, varnished and polished.” She is not afraid to be herself.

“What’s changed about me now is I almost have more to say,” she said. “It’s hard for me to not talk, being in this world.”

In her unbelievable Olympic experience, Bryce was the only Team USA member to make it into the women’s park skateboarding finals on Aug. 4. The competition was almost like a reunion for a worldwide skateboarding family—Bryce has known the gold medalist Sakura Yosozumi of Japan since she was 12, silver medalist Kokona Hiraki of Japan since she was 14 and the bronze medalist Sky Brown since she was 9.

She endeared herself to viewers with her creative trick combinations like the body varial disaster and by putting her personality on display. She was a million percent Bryce, strumming a yukelele during her introduction at the finals, cheering for the competitors from every country and memorably helping to lift up Japan’s Okamoto Misugu when she fell on her last run and finished just off the podium.

After falling in her third run, Bryce playfully treated spectators to extra bonus tricks: “She just loves skating,” the announcer said. “It’s hard to get her out of the park now.”

On that hot day, she and one of her best friends, Poppy Olsen from Australia, finished back to back in fifth and sixth place respectively.

Currently, Bryce is playing for the 27-8 San Dieguito Academy volleyball team in the CIF playoffs.

She goes on surf sessions with her mom, dad and 10-year-old little sister, finding a form of meditation out on the ocean.

She is thinking of a return to surfing competition and said she hopes to go for a second skateboarding Olympics in Paris 2024.

Pre-Olympics, Bryce won a bronze medal in park at the Summer X Games and post-Olympics, she won a silver medal at Tony Hawk’s first-ever Vert Alert contest in Salt Lake City, one of her first professional vert contests. Held in partnership with Vans, the contest happened to feature a ramp that traveled all the way to Utah from where else but Hawk’s warehouse in Encinitas.

Encinitas, as the Olympics proved this summer, remains a mecca that skateboarders are drawn to and Bryce is not surprised.

“Almost sort of everywhere you go it’s magic,” Bryce said of her hometown. “Encinitas can complement anybody because there’s so much here that you can start with. There’s a lot of beginnings here.”