By Joe Roberts @jrobertsjourno
Scroll down for the full story
Videographer / Director: Ariel Martinez
Producer: Joe Roberts, Ruby Coote
Editor: Sonia Estal
The talented youngster’s incredible abilities have caused a stir in his home-town of Miami, where he’s been honing his skills since the age of three.
Now eight, Zion has skated everywhere from Marseille to London and Italy, and has traveled the United States winning numerous competitions around the country.
Zion told Barcroft Media: “I love skateboarding because I can do it for myself and I don’t have to worry about anybody else… I want to continue skating for the rest of my life.”
Zion’s love for skating began at the age of two when he was given a longboard and his dad, Richie Effs, would take him skating on Miami’s South Beach.
Richie said: “This little boy would push for miles. I had to get a long board to keep up with him. You couldn’t get him off the board. He’d skate all night, one o’clock, two o’clock in the night, he’s skating in the house.”
It wasn’t long before Zion, who started watching videos of street skaters online, graduated from longboarding to street skating – learning some of the most difficult technical tricks.
Richie continued: “There was always something about Zion. He never tried to do the regular tricks that other kids learned. He always wanted to do technical tricks, and most technical tricks are done by grown men or seasoned skateboarders.
“Zion’s skill level right now is unbelievable, for an eight year old, you would not believe he would be skating at this level.”
Zion added: “My favourite thing about skateboarding is I get to learn new tricks all the time. And I get to perfect them and be happy when I land them.
"The first tricks that I learned were Ollie and Kicklip, and the hardest tricks I can do are tre flip, varial heelflip, and hard flip... This year I won like four competitions in a row."
Now, having mastered some of the hardest tricks in the sport, Zion is joined at the skate park by his brother, Jax, who, at just two years old, is already proving to be somewhat of a skate prodigy himself.
The youngest Effs brother has been surprising friends and family with his fearlessness, dropping in on quarter pipe ramps – a feat that most adults would find daunting.
Zion said: “Jax is really crazy. He likes to do anything that I do.”
Richie added: “Jax and Zion, they’ve got a really special bond. Jax is two years old and he has been doing some crazy things on his skateboard.”
The two brothers can often be found at Miami’s Omni Park – a temporary skate park set up on vacant land by Richie’s own Skate Free organisation.
Skate Free, which builds free skateboard facilities in underserved areas of Miami, is run by Richie along with skater and artist Nick Katz and pro skater Danny Fuenzalida.
Danny began coaching Zion four years years ago, after Richie approached him at Grand Central skate park in Miami and asked the pro skater to teach a then three-year-old Zion.
Danny explained: “I said, ‘I don’t really teach,’ but Zion’s face when I said that got so depressed that I was like, ‘I’ll roll around with him and try to show him what I know and see if maybe I could teach him’.
“And after 40 minutes I was like, ‘This kid’s awesome.’ I told him, ‘If you want I’ll do a class with you, no problem’.“
Danny has been teaching kids to skate ever since, and after lending his knowledge to Zion for two years, now counts his former student as one of his skate buddies.
He continued: “He’s the best eight-year-old. I’m going to say that for sure. He has the most tricks and I love watching him skate, he’s got style… I have no doubt in my mind that Zion will be a professional if he continues.”
But it’s about more than just skating for Danny, who’s watched Zion overcome his shy nature and develop into a friendly and outgoing young man.
He added: “I’m mostly proud when I hear that he overcomes his nervousness, goes to a contest without me, and wins. And he’s been doing that lately, a lot.”
Just in October this year, Zion won the ‘eight and under’ category at the Harvest Jam in Tampa, and took first place in the ‘nine and under’ division at the Grind for Life event at Bradenton – going on to take first place in the Grind for Life event ’nine and under’ division at Lakeland Street in November.
Zion said: “When I enter a competition and I see all the skaters, I just take a deep breath and I feel way better. I feel very confident when I enter a competition."
And while skateboarding has been a hugely positive experience for Zion, his short career has already included some setbacks and heart-stopping moments.
Richie said: “A guy jumped in on the ramp and hit him... When your kid tells you to take him to the hospital, you know something is wrong.
“I rushed him to urgent care and he got hit so hard one of his lungs moved and a bubble popped out and was just sitting on his chest. And he couldn’t skate for like three or four weeks and it was scary.”
Still, the eight-year-old didn’t let his injury stop him, jumping back on his board and eventually gaining the attention of a host of big skateboarding companies – with the likes of Grizzly Grip, Skatex, and Etnies sending gear to the mini skate star.
Richie added: “The reason I’m proud of Zion is he’s not from a skateboarding background. He’s from Miami, and there’s a lot of skateboarders in Miami, but Miami is not like L.A. or the rest of the country where they’ve got so many parks.
“To skate in Miami you have to be really good… It’s kind of cool, you know my son’s kind of putting Miami on the map.”