A few weeks ago we got to know Bryce Wettstein, member and resident skate philosopher for the USA team.
Sorin Abraham: So how did you start, how did this happen?
Bryce Wettstein: My dad, he would always head over to the skate park like five minutes away from our house. And one day he said he was going to skateboard in this pool. And I’m like, “Oh, OK, skateboard in a pool. That sounds terrific.” Except I’m like, how do you skateboard in a pool? I’m trying to imagine, like, water rafts or something. And then he says, “well, this is a different sort of pool. Do you want to come?” And I’m like, I’m going to tag along because this seems like something so intriguing. And as a kid, you know, the smallest things grasp your attention. So I went over there with him and it turns out this pool was turned into a skateboard bowl. They drained the water out of it and people would call this the skateboarding pool, but you skateboarded in it.
I can’t even believe that a piece of wood and four wheels can take me to places I never would have imagined.
“And for me, it seemed like a fish bowl. My first couple of carves in this bowl, I was just waddling around this fishbowl. I was skateboarding in this thing. And I would set my foot down and take some pushes and I would skate around this bowl and say, “What is happening?” Instead of walking I’m in this current of water, it’s just floating around my brain. This is incredible. And he basically says this is what skateboarding is like. And ever since then, we started building this mini ramp and started skateboarding at our house. And I’m just thinking, I can’t even believe that a piece of wood and four wheels can take me to places I never would have imagined.
“And from then on, I called it imagicination instead of imagination, because the word imagicination, I said, is really taking my imagination different places. And the thing about skateboarding is, it infatuated me at first sight. And I think that infatuation leads you to passion. Passion is something that develops. And that’s always what I thought of skateboarding, except instead of just something that you’re curious about, you’re infatuated with it, because there’s so many different faculties in the infatuation about skateboarding. And even as a kid, you could see it at such a young age that that’s what skateboarding was, because it wasn’t a one sided piece of a puzzle. So I was definitely so happy.
Mars Khan: Who did you look up to when you were first starting? Any skateboarders? Older siblings?
BW: I feel like I always looked up to my dad and my mom because they were always the people I first really looked up to in my life. And from there on, if they were skateboarding, I not only wanted to tag along, but I was roped into it and then it took my [attention] away from him to that. And then we were in it together. And I always looked up to my dad, the way he wasn’t afraid to step on a skateboard. And then my mom wasn’t afraid to step on a skateboard either when she was pregnant with my sister, which was incredible. I was about six or seven and she was seven months pregnant with my sister and she was still skateboarding. It was incredible.
“And the few [other] people I looked up to when I was about five and a half, I actually was able to meet these girls part of Silly Girl Skateboard Company. It was Sarah, Jordyn, Nicole, and me. And we were these four silly girls just skateboarding in the midst of everything, and we went everywhere together. I think that was my first initial debut of just skateboarding around these sensational places. And I never really knew what sisterhood was like because before being seven, I didn’t have a sister yet. I didn’t have any siblings. So I didn’t really know what sisterhood was like before that. But when I was with them and a skateboard, you were able to see just this cross beauty between skateboarding and sisterhood and how everything was feathered together. So I really love that.
MK: What does it mean to you now, being in your position, to be that role model for other little girls that are starting to skate or wanting to get into it? Because it’s a pretty big deal, being on the first Olympic skate team.
When I can skateboard on a platform like that, it’s like, wow, suddenly I have this line up of access to be able to reach out my hand to somebody, you know? And that’s something that I really am so grateful for.
BW: Oh my gosh. Honestly, what I think about that is that it’s really one of my dreams in life, is to have that platform to be able to inspire someone, because being able to inspire someone is a whole row of dominoes waiting behind them. If you can just inspire that one person and they have the instant gratification, that instant smile, that instant thing that comes from you, it really spreads everywhere. And that’s really what my heart says a lot of times is to have this platform to reach out to others, because sometimes you feel like you’re buried beneath all of the things people are spray painting and you kind of want to rise up with something you love to then inspire another person. So I think when I can skateboard on a platform like that, it’s like, wow, suddenly I have this line up of access to be able to reach out my hand to somebody, you know? And that’s something that I really am so grateful for.
“So I always want to inspire girls to never try to break through what they have originally been born to do. It’s like everyone’s born with that unique fingerprint and in skateboarding, you’re able to seek out that fingerprint. It’s like you can implement everything you are into skateboarding. And some girls, when they start, they don’t realize that it’s just them being themselves. They think they have to shape shift into something that skateboarding calls for. But the thing is, skateboarding calls for you. So I think as long as people know that, it’s just so incredible to see that.
SA: Did you always have other girls around you or were you surrounded by boys?
BW: I feel like I was around a lot of boys, but I feel like that just made the girls stand out that much more, because when I had my sisterhood around me, like the silly girls, we were all around each other. And for some reason, we would all glow around each other. Like I remember always seeing them glow. And even though I was around all those boys, they were still my friends. But these girls really glowed for me. And they were the ones that I really stuck close to.
“And you never forget them, too. Like people you love, you never forget those people. So I think that’s the best part about it. Because we don’t realize how many people we meet in our lifetime, we meet a lot of people. So when we’re skateboarding, I feel like I’ve met so many boy skateboarders, but sometimes groups collectively blend together. But I think growing up around a lot of boys, we always were friends with boys and girls. But yeah, you always stuck close to that little tribe that you had sometimes.
MK: What’s it like with the other girls on the team? Is it still like that sisterhood kind of bond?
BW: Yeah, so the USA team is, oh my gosh, those girls I grew up with. Like just around when I met the Silly Girls, I met Arianna, Brighton, Jordyn and all of them. And I say the bond is, it’s almost the same sort of beautiful resonance that you’d see when you’re growing up. But it’s like you’ve been around these girls for so long that every time you see them, you’re just, you’re hit with all of the things that you’ve done before. And you have these memory relapses. You’re like, wow, this is incredible being able to skateboard at these competitions for so long, skateboarding all around the world, that’s what skateboarding does. It’s really a mirror to everybody. It’s like mirror, mirror on the wall. You hold your skateboard up and everything comes back, you know? Like with all of us and being on the team together now, it’s like we’re almost new people. We’ve changed so much. But we have all these other assets now. It’s almost like the flower with all the petals. Now I think we’ve all grown our petals, but we’re all still in this, like, plentiful place together in the field. We’re just growing a little bit. And I think being with our skateboards and each other again, it’s like it’s just so luminescent with something.
SA: What’s the difference between skating at home and skating with the team?
BW: I think when you’re with yourself, you’re that much more introspective and when I’m skateboarding with myself, I see all these introspective things. It’s almost like I’m trying to turn my shirt inside out. I’m like, OK, here I go. When I’m skateboarding, I can see everything. What I want to be. I’m self reflective and independent, like I see all the amazing things and then much more innovative.
“But then it’s weird when I’m with girls from the team, girls I grew up with, girls that I love, or boys but especially girls from the team, because we’re like sisters. I see all of the things that they want too and when all that happens with us together. I mean, it’s almost like a feeling that you’ve never felt before, it’s like when time really does stop because we’re all skateboarding together and I just don’t even realize where we are anymore. I think what’s happening is we’re creating so many different worlds together that we don’t even know where we are anymore. Because there’s so many things that you could do in skateboarding, so many possibilities everywhere, that when you have all of these people that you’re connected to and that you’re connected with, you see triple the amount of possibilities that there could be, and it’s like shelves of innovation everywhere and to each other I think we have much more motivation. We’re right there next to each other. We’re right there picking up the pedestals everywhere. It’s like what we are.
SA: You guys don’t really sound like you’re competitive with each other. It’s more like you’re trying to help each other get to the next level.
BW: Yeah. I think the competitive roots- sometimes you’ll see it, like a little expression, or you’ll feel it a little bit because I think it’s inevitable for us to be a little bit competitive with each other. But it always comes out in such a non-harsh, diplomatic way. It always comes out in a way that we can understand each other. It’s weird how it works because I’ll always feel like we want to be competitive, like should we put up barriers, but we don’t want to put up barriers because those barriers are going to blockade even ourselves from doing things. Like we’re the mirrors to each other and that’s what makes it incredible. I don’t know, do you ever feel like you’re in a fight with your sister or brother and you just realize how much you don’t want to be in the fight with them? It’s just I know sometimes it’s weird. I feel like we have different versions of ourselves and it takes other people to resurface those versions of us sometimes.
SA: There was a lot of stuff that couldn’t happen this year because of the whole lockdown and all that. So what have you done instead to keep yourself busy?
I was able to kind of bend backwards a little bit and kind of replenish myself in skateboarding and realize, wow, like what made me really, really love skateboarding when I was just falling in love with it for the first time?
BW: I’ve done so many things that I wouldn’t have done. I think everybody’s done that. Like these confined walls have totally made us really rethink and reinstitute ourselves just a little bit. And for me, that’s been a lot of writing music. I love writing music a lot. I think one of my biggest motives in life is like sometimes I want to just sit down at a chair and take out a piece of paper and just completely- like there’s another part of our minds that we keep locked sometimes. It’s like as soon as we just can unlock it, all these things come dazzling out. It’s like, whoa, what even happened? And that happened to me a lot during the whole quarantine, I would suddenly be able to write things or just think about things that have been stored away or things that weren’t so gradient. And I was able to make gradients out of things that have been locked away and things that I was dealing with. And I was able to make that great. And that’s what I really loved about it.
“Because you could do that in skateboarding, too. Like for me, I was able to kind of bend backwards a little bit and kind of replenish myself in skateboarding and realize, wow, like what made me really, really love skateboarding when I was just falling in love with it for the first time? And I think the fact that I was kind of just able to not overthink. As soon as you’re not, you don’t overthink when you’re just skateboarding and loving it, all these things just come out and let loose. And I think sometimes we would overthink it. We would think that we had to have things a certain way when it was a team, but we were finally able to unleash and I was able to like bend these tricks that I didn’t think would happen, like I would try handstands on my skateboard and I would do flips with my hands. Or maybe try to spin around a little bit. Why not spin the other way? Why don’t I just try to move? Why don’t I try to do this and completely, like, spin the world a little differently, you know? And as soon as I did that, so many other things came with a spin, like just being in a tornado and seeing all these things whirling around you.
“And then you find that instant where everything’s still, even in the midst of a crisis, and that there’s so much that is still because you were able to take shelter from those things that were behind you for so long, and you’re able to put them in front of you. And especially with skateboarding, that’s such a necessity to me to be able to take the things that just look so even on the playing field and dig it up. Because if you’re not really doing that, then you’re kind of just left envisioning what could be. And as soon as you realize what skateboarding has to offer, how much it has. And the only way we can do that is, I think, to have that moment where we can do that and captivate ourselves, you know? So I love that. That’s what I was doing a lot.
SA: You’re like the philosopher skater!
BW: Thank you! And I think my sister and I did a lot of spray painting, and we did a lot of painting, too, and we also reorganized a lot of our rooms and we took a lot of pictures. We fixed our Polaroid cameras and we played a lot of piano. That’s another thing.
MK: What’s something you want the world to know about skateboarding now that it’s an Olympic sport?
BW: I think the world should know that skateboarding never has to be assigned to any role of one thing or one characteristic, because I think skateboarding can be assigned to everything. And I think that’s why it’s an Olympic sport now. And if you’ve seen the origins of where it’s kind of come about, you see that a lot of people wouldn’t have ever thought it would be an Olympic sport. But I think that’s what makes skateboarding so beautiful and that’s what makes people want to dedicate their lives to it. It’s that, like you said, it encompasses a lifetime because it’s everything in your life really, it’s such an art, it’s such an outline. And now it’s kind of like we’re filling in everything, we’re coloring in everything. Now it’s in the Olympics.
And I think that’s what the world should know, is that if you are a poet, if you’re a musician, if you’re a mathematician, if you’re an astronaut, you can skateboard on the moon if you want, you can skateboard in space, you can go anywhere and the skateboard will follow you.
“But the thing I think people need to know is that skateboarding is intertwined with the Olympics, and skateboarding is intertwined with the little sandy beaches of surfing. And I think making it on a platform where it’s one of the highest sports levels is only adding this asset to this art. You’re combining a beautiful art with a sport and sports are arts and arts are sports. And I think a lot of times there’s this category of things that happen with a lot of skateboarding or other things and how things have come about. People want to retrace it and find where it ends. People want to put punctuation marks. But skateboarding is something that is so exclamatory. It could be punctual. It could have a different font, it could have anything. The Olympics are a platform to showcase how beautiful it is to everybody and how everybody can step on a skateboard because it is for everyone, like there’s not anything that skateboarding can’t encompass. That’s just the realms of what it is. And I think that’s what the world should know, is that if you are a poet, if you’re a musician, if you’re a mathematician, if you’re an astronaut, you can skateboard on the moon if you want, you can skateboard in space, you can go anywhere and the skateboard will follow you. And I think people are going to be so gratified when it’s in the Olympics. And I think this is such a tremendous, amazing opportunity for people to see what skateboarding is and everything that is engulfed by skateboarding.
SA: So basically the siren’s call of skateboarding allowed it to be amplified to the world through the Olympics.
BW: Yeah, it is a huge amplification. I mean, I don’t know how long it took speakers to be invented, but you’ll see, like speakers don’t change the music. Speakers amplify the music, right? People are like, whoa, this is the music I’ve been listening to. The Olympics are the speaker. We’re all picturing about what it would be like and what it’s going to be like. It’s always weird to have a dream in mind and then one day know that that dream could come true, and if it does, how will you react? You always think about this reaction, like how you’re going to portray it, what you do. And we’re always thinking about what it could be like. But when it comes, it’s like wow. It’s not going to ever go. It just doesn’t come and go, it stays.
MK: Within the culture, what do you see skateboarding being in the Olympics doing for it? Because I also feel like even from East Coast to West Coast, skating is so different just between those two coasts. So on a grander scale for the culture overall, what do you see Olympic skateboarding doing for it?
BW: With all of the cultures like intermixed, I see finally- this is weird to use the pandemic as an example, but how it was global, I think skateboarding is going to really intermix all these cultures for the first time. And once again, there’s always this paradigm that it’s like around here maybe a culture has its limits and its boundaries. But I think, like when you look at the Olympics, people don’t want to think of a boundary because finally it’s the break of the barricade. It’s like, wow, there is no boundary and the Olympics are completely uncapped. But with a culture, sometimes people think of a limit and a bottle cap. And as soon as people understand that just because you’re from a culture doesn’t mean you can’t mingle with another culture. That’s kind of what skateboarding is for. It’s to make all these cultures intertwine with each other.
“And I think that’s what the Olympics is definitely going to do. It’s going to make cultures come together and realize that if you’re on a skateboard and you’re also being yourself, that any culture can mingle and also just be so happy all around, everywhere. And I think it’s definitely amazing to make all these predictions because you never know what’s going to be the outcome. How is it going to happen? But I think cultures speak for themselves. That’s what culture is. People sometimes make up things on the spot. Sometimes there’s epiphanies that people come to and they’re afraid to share it with other people. But I think the Olympics will make it that people won’t be so afraid anymore.
SA: Was there a moment in your career so far that you were like “Oh my god I really made it?” Or like “Damn I can’t believe I just did this?”
BW: You know what? I remember when I was like seven thinking I made it. I was skateboarding in this contest, there were like a hundred girls and I was seven and I did this little baby frontside air over the drainpipe. And I thought, that’s it. That’s the one. That’s the golden ticket. And then I got like 17th and I was like, oh, that’s all right!
“And then I remember when I was 12, I got third place at this amateur event, which was my dream. I was like, wow. Oh my gosh. For me, whenever I could podium, it’s like, wow, this is incredible. Sometimes I didn’t even want to come first because I was so excited about third, because three was my favorite number. And it still is.
“Then there was this moment two years ago where I really did live my dream. I was in Idaho at the X Games qualifiers. But I remember like all years before, the top four are able to go to X Games, and I’d always wanted to go into top four, but I’d always end up having like eighth. I planned and choreographed, and then it ended up happening. I got into the finals by getting second. But I didn’t know I was in the X Games until I was just sitting down about to go to finals. I’m like, does that mean I’m in? I don’t know if this is true. Are you sure? Like not believing anybody that told me anything.
“But then all of a sudden I was in and I was like, oh no, because I knew I was going to cry, obviously. And then all of a sudden, I’m just crying tears of joy, and I start hugging one of my best friends. And then the camera comes over and [the guy is] interviewing me. He’s like, “How does it feel, you’ve lived a dream?” And I was crying and my friends were watching me, filming this and laughing from back home. I was like, “yeah, this has just always been my dream, I can’t believe this is happening!” And my dad was watching, he was like, “I can’t believe she’s crying.” Making the X Games was definitely this empowerment to myself.