Meet Sky Brown: Team GB's young skateboarding sensation

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  • Sky Brown
    British-Japanese skateboarder and surfer
Photo credit: Courtesy
Photo credit: Courtesy

Sky Brown has jet-lag, but you wouldn't know it. The 13-year-old is alive with bright-eyed enthusiasm, eager to discuss her Olympic triumphs, her fresh accolade as BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year and, yes, her great love: skateboarding. The world's youngest professional skateboarder is also pretty enthused to be in the UK. "It's just so nice to be back in London and hear British voices," she says. " It feels like being home."

Though she lives in both Miyazaki, Japan and the US, her father is British and the reason she competes as part of Team GB. She made headlines last year as, not only the youngest British Olympic medallist, but the biggest star to come from skateboarding's Olympic debut. "It was so exciting to put skateboarding on the map," she says. "I feel like people loved watching it. You know, everyone was ripping it so hard. And now it's so nice to see little girls skating and lots of people at the skate park."

Her vernacular is riddled with skate terms. Brown is as cool as her sport, but is not infected with distant haughtiness so much as excited, smiling eagerness. She is passionate about what she does, and is already conscious of the impact she has on a global scale. "One of the reasons I wanted to go to the Olympics was because I knew people from all around the world would be watching," she says. "Even if just one little girl watches, I wanted to inspire her."

Photo credit: Courtesy
Photo credit: Courtesy

There is still a 'boys-only' feel to skateboarding, but figures like Brown are changing that. For her, getting into it was a no-brainer. The perceived gender boundaries are there, she says, to be torn down. "I saw my dad skate every day and I just thought, 'I want to do that,' so I did," she remembers. "I was very little and didn't really think about it. But as I got older I just wanted to show the boys what's up, you know?"

"I want to inspire girls to get into skateboarding but also other sports," she continues. "I think we can do anything boys can do. Sometimes maybe a bit better. We need to not overthink it and just do what we want, get into whatever sport interests us."

Brown's performance at the Tokyo Olympics was astounding. Her park event saw her fall twice on the same manoeuvre, nailing it on the third attempt to bring her a bronze medal and make her the youngest ever British medallist. Her determination to pull herself back from falls took immense motivation, made even more astonishing due to her age. Yet Brown is refreshingly nonplussed about it.

"I guess everybody's gonna fall sometimes and it was quite a risky trick," she says, laughing. "It just made it feel even better when I landed it. No contest will define you, you're going to land it sometimes, you're going to fall sometimes, that's just the nature of it." Her relaxed approach to her sport may well be the key to her success. "My board is still my favourite toy," she says. "Every time I play with it, it just gets better and better."

Brown never formally trained to be a skateboarder. She watched her dad and picked up tricks – like any good member of Gen Z – from YouTube videos. She places value on being able to enjoy what she does, and her hobbies include surfing and dancing (she won the US show Dancing With the Stars: Juniors). Having fun is what spurs her on to win competitions, whilst also reducing the pressure she feels. (Pressure heightened, no doubt, by the fact her age attracts attention.)

Photo credit: Ezra Shaw - Getty Images
Photo credit: Ezra Shaw - Getty Images

"To me, it's still my playground. I try and ignore the pressure and just focus on that," she says. "I actually enjoy being the youngest. I feel like my message is that it doesn't matter how young or how old you are, you can do anything. Plus there are people who think young girls can't do it. I love proving them wrong."

Her success at the 2020 Olympics led to her latest accolade as BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year. It is a title she is extremely proud of, particularly after the unique difficulties of the Tokyo games. "They were hard, of course, because everything was uncertain and scary during Covid. But any time I felt disappointed, I thought about people's lives. When the games were postponed, I just thought, my dreams are very small compared to people's lives."

Photo credit: Adam Pretty - Getty Images
Photo credit: Adam Pretty - Getty Images

With her countless awards, it's easy to forget that Brown is a young teen, and that her life beyond skateboarding is filled with parties, friends, dancing, surfing and BMX biking. She never passes up an opportunity to have fun or try something new, and her days are filled with boundless energy. "We only have one life and it's way too short," she says. "That's why I love getting into different kinds of things and live as much as I can."

And with that, Sky Brown signs off. Only 13, wise beyond her years, and cool – very, very cool.

Sky Brown is the ambassador for Plum Play’s Bowl Trampoline.


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