Young world champion proves skateboarding is not just for boys

When Brighton Zeuner told her parents she wanted to skateboard when she was 5, she meant it.

The action sport didn’t become just a hobby for the Cardiff girl who is now 12. It’s essentially become her life.

“I just fell in love with it,” said Brighton, who has been competing — and winning — major competitions since she was 8.

When she first started at 5, Brighton envied her older brother and father, who would ride their boards.

She picked up a board for the first time that year but didn’t “totally get into it” until she was 8 and entered her first competition.

Since then, Brighton — who grew up in Arizona and moved to Encinitas about three years ago with her family — has been participating in what has commonly been thought of as a boys sport.

But there’s plenty of other girls competing, she said, noting pro skateboarder Amelia Brodka’s annual Exposure skateboarding competition for women in Encinitas.

“There’s just way more girls to skate with now,” said Brighton, adding she was one of two female skateboarders in Arizona. 

She added it’s inspiring to skate in Encinitas, which has been known as the home of action sports athletes such as Tony Hawk and Shaun White.

Her family installed a 10-foot-by-40-foot vert ramp in their backyard, and Brighton bought a mini ramp in November.

In August, Brighton was the youngest female to compete — and win — in the Vans Park Series World Championship in Sweden. 

She said she was nervous the day before the competition, but became focused and determined when she heard the crowd cheering.

Knowing the competition also made the event less intimidating, she said.

“I’ve been competing with all these women for quite a long time,” she said. “It was a fun experience.”

She’s also the youngest female competitor to be invited to the X Games.

Now, Brighton has her eyes set on an even bigger feat — the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, which will be the first time skateboarding will be included in the worldwide event.

“I’m really excited and looking forward to it,” Brighton said. “It’s really exciting and great exposure for skateboarding, especially for girls.”

Brighton’s mother, Bridget Zeuner, said she hopes the competition would mean more exposure for female skateboarders.

Outside practicing and competitions, Brighton — who splits her education time between a flexible charter school and tutoring — said she’s a typical “girly girl” who likes hanging out with her friends and going shopping. She also enjoys archery and art.

Bridget Zeuner said she is proud of her daughter and surprised with how far she has already gone. She added Brighton has also picked up business skills like running meetings and organizing her busy schedule.

“She wanted to do a contest with her brother when she was 8 and we were really nervous about putting our little girl in with mostly boys,” Bridget Zeuner said. “We just told her to memorize a little mini- ramp routine but she was on it. We saw what a fierce competitor she was. We don’t get nervous about it anymore. Girls will surprise you.”

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