Working on a trademark silhouette with their shoe sponsor and releasing a product that expresses who they are and what they stand for is one of the greatest achievements a professional skateboarder can make. It serves as a concrete reminder of their effect on the sport to see others wearing the sneaker.
For Zion Wright, 24, who joined the Vans skate team two years ago, that moment has arrived with the Zahba by Zion Wright, his new silhouette that launched globally on March 16. It’s a project Wright says he went “straight to work on” when he signed with the action sports heavyweight.
There’s no doubt that in the world of skateboarding, shoe sponsors are everything. So it was a big deal when Wright left Nike in March 2021, arriving at that year’s Dew Tour—a Tokyo Olympics qualifier—with no shoe sponsor.
Of course, plans had been in motion for months beforehand to bring Wright onto the Vans team, and the move was officially announced just before the Tokyo Games began in July 2021.
As soon as Wright joined Vans, it felt like his career shifted into hyperdrive. He came into Dew Tour in May 2021 ranked 16th among the American men competing for the three Olympic bids in men’s skateboarding park, and his statement win earned him the third and final spot.
Competing in skateboarding’s Olympic debut is no doubt a cornerstone achievement. But for Wright, who came up in the sport skating everything he could find in Jupiter, Florida—he’s one of few professional skateboarders equally at home in street, vert, or park—it’s far from his defining one.
Though he’s no grizzled veteran at 24, Wright is already focused on helping develop and mentor the next generation of skaters, and he never loses sight of the forces that got him here—his friends in Jupiter, his supporters, and, largely, his father.
Wright delves deeper into those themes in the short film We’re From Here, created in concert with the development of the Zahba.
“The documentary we made for this project was to give perspective on where we’re from and how it shaped me into the person I am today,” Wright told me. “My father was the one that sacrificed to get me to where I am today. He’s still a part of the journey and part of the ride.”
The Zahba boasts lots of little details that pay homage to Wright’s background and values. Crucially, Wright wanted to design something that he would want to wear.
The shoe’s muted earth tones recall the beaches of Jupiter, Florida, while the space-dust speckle on the black sole and the embroidered planet Jupiter are more overt space themes. The lighthouse from Wright’s hometown appears on the sole, and the heel features a deco stitch of his area code (561, but in Roman numerals, which are eminently more stylish).
The shoe is built using Vans’ ImpactWaffle™ technology, which aims to provide an ideal combination of impact protection and board feel. The Zhaba also follows strict sustainability material guidelines; regenerative, responsibly sourced renewable and recycled materials make at least 30% of the product.
“It means the world to me, to have my own representation and taste and swag as a part of something new and to be a part of the Vans family,” Wright said. “I was really hands-on all through the process from the design and the inspiration, from the Jupiter motif, the Galaxy sole, that go back to my hometown, Jupiter, Florida.”
Wright also finds inspiration in the next generation of skaters and how they continue to push the sport, as well as in music.
“Seeing the younger generation coming up and the aspect of the grind—one skater, Daiko Hoshino, who I met recently, has been killing it,” Wright said. “And then, there’s all my friends at home in Florida. Music is always an inspiration for what I do, how I move… it drives me.”
To celebrate the release, Wright and Vans hosted a skate session with the Harold Hunter Foundation, which aims to promote access to skateboarding for underserved youth, at Vans’ Skate Space 198 in Brooklyn, New York.
The Zahba by Zion Wright retails for $100 and is available as of March 16 on Vans’ website and at select retail locations.