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The Young Locals Leading the Wave of Next-Gen Athletes

USWNT Olympian Jaedyn Shaw, Olympian Bryce Wettstein, and WSL pro surfer Jake Marshall prove SD is a sports town with a bright future
Young San Diego athletes Bryce Wettstein (olympic skateboarder, Jake Marshall (WSL pro surfer), and Jaedyn Shaw (olympic soccer player) at Balboa Park
Photo Credit: Matt Furman

“I’ve stood on the grass and looked at the ocean, which is almost like surfing,” says 19-year-old San Diego Wave forward Jaedyn Shaw. We’re eating pizza on the lawn at Balboa Park. Next to her is Jake Marshall, 25, the number-six-ranked surfer in the world. They’re shaking hands for the first time today.

When Bryce Wettstein rolls up on her skateboard—her golden locks tied in low pigtails and a pinwheel pen in her pocket—I’m immediately struck by the sheer amount of talent in one place. The 20-year-old Olympic skateboarder hugs Marshall, visibly excited and nervous to be talking with a him.

Nearby, Winyl Club is gearing up for its weekly DJ set, which draws hundreds of San Diegans to a wide expanse of grass overlooked by the park’s iconic tower. Dogs in birthday hats, overflowing picnic baskets, colorful blankets, and plenty of Solo cups checker the lawn. No one is paying attention to us—no one seems to know that the future of San Diego sports is only feet away.

Shaw, Marshall, and Wettstein are three of the city’s youngest talents already on their way to sealing their names in the history books. But today, they’re just young people, playing dress-up for a photo shoot in the center of a city that is helping shape their careers.

Jump to: Jaedyn Shaw (soccer) | Jake Marshall (surfing) | Bryce Wettstein (skateboarding)

San Diego athlete Jaedyn Shaw who plays forward for the San Diego Wave Futbol club and has been selected for the 2024 Paris Olympics
Photo Credit: Matt Furman

Jaedyn Shaw, 19

U.S. Olympian & Wave FC Forward

A week earlier, I sat down with Jaedyn Shaw over a Zoom call. She was in Orlando for a National Women’s Soccer League game. If you’ve been paying attention at all lately, you’ve likely heard her name in the sports world—whether you’re a soccer fan or not. At the very least, you’ve seen her next to other top athletes—such as Wave captain Alex Morgan—on billboards, buses, and social media promos, repping Wave FC.

A forward, Shaw signed to the Wave in 2022 at just 17. She earned her first US Women’s National Team (USWNT) call-up at the age of 18, making her the second-youngest player to compete on the national team. (Though it wasn’t her first time wearing a US jersey abroad—she also played on the under-17, under-19, and under-20 national teams.)

But on that Zoom call, I didn’t see the seemingly unshakable confidence and sharp-beyond-her-years instincts that earned Shaw the distinction of becoming 2022’s US Soccer Young Female Player of the Year.

San Diego soccer player Jaedyn Shaw  who has been selected for the 2024 Paris Olympics as a kid with a trophy

Instead, Shaw sat quietly in front of me in an oversized sweatshirt, battling a cold after coming off six days of travel, training, and a game, with more coming up. It’d be a lot for anyone, but watching her, I was reminded just how much work must go into being the next big thing at such a young age. The Del Mar resident carries the weight of a city’s hopes on her shoulders.

In 2023, the International Olympics Committee asked, “Can Jaedyn Shaw fill the void left by Megan Rapinoe in the USWNT?” At the time, Shaw was 18 to the retiring Rapinoe’s 38, but the term “prodigy” was already making the rounds in the football world.

During that same season, Shaw began to seal her name in history. At age 19, she became the first teenager to score 10 US national women’s league soccer goals and helped the Wave bring home its first-ever NWSL Shield, the annual award given to the team with the best regular-season record. She’s also the first Vietnamese-American to ever represent the USWNT, a banner that she doesn’t carry lightly.

“I am biracial, so making an impact on both communities through my sport is really cool,” she says. “I’ve gotten a lot of messages on social media [from the Asian community]. They’ve backed me. That’s another side of support that I have now.”

Two years into her contract with the Wave, Shaw shows no signs of slowing down. At time of print, she’s made 19 career goals and will don Team USA’s jersey at this year’s 2024 US Olympics in Paris.

Shaw with her mom, Anne, who has been by her daughter’s side every step of the way.

Shaw’s achieved more career-defining moves in her two years of adulthood than some pro athletes do their whole lives. But the accomplishments have, in some ways, taken as much as they’ve given. Being born with exceptional talent is only half of what it takes to truly become great. The rest requires sacrifice.

“I didn’t go to high school,” Shaw says. “I didn’t go to college, and I grew up very independent and knowing that I don’t really have time to have friends. I knew that my journey was going to be different. Everything that I was doing was to get to the next level. And it cost me a lot.”

We pause as she finds the words to encapsulate what she’s given up to don the Wave’s number-11 jersey.

“There was a point where we moved into a one-bedroom apartment so that we could have extra [money] to fund all of my opportunities,” Shaw says. “We consolidated from a three-bedroom house to a one-bedroom apartment. Me and my brother shared a bed in the living room. My parents were in the room, and we had one bathroom for the four of us.”

But the tight quarters weren’t the only reason she’s so close with her family. “[My mom and I] were together all the time,” she says. “She would take me to all my trainings— whatever I needed, she was there with me. Both of [my parents] have sacrificed a lot for me.”

They had made a promise to themselves when they were younger, she tells me, to always support their children and be at as many practices, games, overnight trips, and international experiences as they could.

“Jaedyn has always had a spotlight on her. I think her mom, Anne, was instrumental here and was always the rock for her,” says Derek Missimo, who coached Shaw from age five to eight at Solar soccer club in Allen, Texas. “This is the crux of being great. You’ve got these expectations, and I think her mom balanced her. You got to eventually play for yourself. You can’t play for other people’s expectations.”

He calls Shaw a “pro’s pro,” noticing that even at a young age, she seemed to find her purpose and passion in the game. She was supportive and encouraging of her teammates, he remembers, but with an intensity that was more dialed in.

“She has integrity; she has high character. All the things she learned from the game of soccer and athletics have played well for her in the game of life,” Missimo says. “Soccer is what she does and what she does well, but it epitomizes everything about who she is.”

San Diego athlete Jaedyn Shaw, who plays forward for the San Diego Wave Futbol club and has been selected for the 2024 Paris Olympics, wearing a custom Sew Loka jacket with her number 11
Photo Credit: Matt Furman | Custom Wave FC Jacket: Sew Loka

It was her time on FC Dallas’ youth team, though, that really began to shape her career and attract attention. Whispers of her talent began to circulate.

“She always put her own spin on everything. It was never like, ‘I’m going to copy someone. I’m going to do exactly what they do,’” says FC Dallas coach Matt Grubbs, who mentored Shaw from age 12 to 16. “That’s where I just think she’s such a unique player. And honestly, I think she’s one of the top five players in the world.”

When Shaw got the call that she’d be joining San Diego’s new women’s soccer team, she and her family had already begun the process of moving to Washington DC so that she could pursue an education. Within days, they packed up and made their way to the West Coast.

But things didn’t truly sink in, she says, until two-time World Cup-winner and gold-medal Olympian Alex Morgan said hello to her as a teammate.

“I was like, ‘What is this right now? I don’t understand what’s happening,’” Shaw says. “It was so crazy.”

San Diego athlete Jaedyn Shaw, who plays forward for the San Diego Wave Futbol club and has been selected for the 2024 Paris Olympics, juggling a soccerball
Photo Credit: Matt Furman

But it didn’t take long for the now-record-breaking athlete to get comfortable in her new home. “Once I played at Snapdragon, it was a whole different thing,” Shaw says. “Snapdragon just felt like home.” Finally, the hours of training, missing out on proms, saving every penny to travel for games—all of it began to feel worth it.

“What San Diego has created for us as players—especially as pros playing at a brand-new stadium in this league that’s still growing—it’s such a cool opportunity for young players,” Shaw says. “Averaging 20,000 fans a game last year, that’s not normal. It’s just raising the bar. So it’s so cool being able to play.”

Back in San Diego today, as we snap photos of her on a sunny afternoon, Shaw is once again the athlete you see on your screens. Funny, personable, confident. Kicking around a soccer ball, she commands attention, draws people in.

For the 30,000 or so fans that sell out Snapdragon at Wave games—and, beyond them, a city of more than a million residents—Shaw could be a critical part of the antidote to the curse that’s kept SD sports from a championship for more than 60 years. Under such pressure, even older, wiser players might buckle. But Shaw, her gaze steady as she lobs a soccer ball at our camera, keeps her head high.

San Diego athlete and World Surf League pro surfer Jake Marshall holding his surfboard at Balboa Park
Photo Credit: Matt Furman

Jake Marshall, 25

WSL Pro Surfer

I meet Jake Marshall over the phone just as he’s waking up on the other side of the world. Though he’s currently down under for the Western Australia Margaret River Pro, his Southern California roots show through his slow, drawn-out words, punctuated with a hint of vocal fry. It’s Endless Summer on the other end of the receiver.

In 2021, at age 23, Marshall began his rookie season on the World Surf League Championship Tour, ranking 18th in 2022 and dropping down to 30th last year. But this year, Marshall is putting San Diego back on the map with his sixth-place ranking as he follows in the footsteps of locals like Rob Machado and Taylor Knox.

“When I was maybe 8, Kelly [Slater] signed my backpack at an event and I was like, ‘Oh my God, Kelly!’” Marshall says. “For that kind of stuff to have come full circle, and [for me to] get to compete with him, it’s been super special.”

San Diego athlete and World Surf League pro surfer Jake Marshall as a kid surfing in Florida

Though he was born in Encinitas, Marshall and his family moved to Naples, Florida from 2004 to 2006. Traveling to Newport, Rhode Island in the summers, Marshall caught his first wave in the East Coast city at the age of 7. The next year, he placed second in the 14-and-under division in his first contest, an event hosted by Volcom.

In 2006, the family moved back to San Diego, and, while Marshall loved playing all sports, it was surfing that really stuck. His dad and two younger brothers joined him in the water daily.

“The four of us would head down to the beach super early and surf. [The boys would] go to school, and then, after school, I’d pick them up and we’d go back to the beach,” says his father John Marshall. “He was in kindergarten and first grade and going to school with his hair all wet and the teacher would be like, ‘What have you been doing? You’re surfing before school?’”

At 10, he secured a Hurley sponsorship. By 12, he’d already set his sights on going pro.

“Being in the ocean and reading [it] and dissecting the lineup and figuring out where waves come in—that was really natural for me,” Marshall says. “I had a good connection with lineups no matter where I was in the world.”

He began traveling internationally, switching to homeschool to accommodate his many trips. He’ll graduate from college next year in between global jaunts.

Like Shaw, Marshall had to trade quintessential teenage experiences for the trappings of a pro athlete’s life: long stints on the road, days between heats, sometimes-unglamorous destinations, and lots of alone time. But if he finds the lifestyle hard, he doesn’t show it.

Photo Credit: Ryan Miller
Marshall surfs The Box, a fast right-hand reef break, during the 2023 Margaret River Pro in western Australia

“He has an amazing style. I think that’s why so many people like to watch him,” says his younger brother, Nick Marshall. “He’s so relaxed and everything he does looks so easy and effortless, so it’s really fun to watch.”

This year, the athlete has consistently placed in the top 10 in major events around the globe— especially impressive considering that the number of pro surfers globally hovers around 720,000. But he still radiates that notorious California chill.

“I definitely think, growing up in a place like Encinitas, it’s pretty easy to stay humble and kind of true to where you came from,” Marshall says. “All the older guys who I grew up surfing with at my home break, they always keep you in check and make sure to remind you to not get too full of yourself.”

By the time of print, if Marshall remains healthy, he’ll have competed in the SHISEIDO Tahiti Pro, Surf City El Salvador Pro, and VIVO Rio Pro. Next month, he’ll surf in the Corona Fiji Pro.

Will he keep up his winning streak? Who knows—but maybe it doesn’t matter. “Just being relaxed and accepting of whatever happens is the mental state that I’ve been trying to find this year,” he says.“I’ve really just been trying to have a lot of fun and not be too worried about the results that I’m getting.”

Photo Credit: Matt Furman

Bryce Wettstein, 20

U.S. Olympian & Pro Skateboarder

Bryce Wettstein’s phone goes straight to voicemail the first few times I call. It’s a Tuesday afternoon. I text her with no response.

“Hi Nicolle… are you on with Bryce right now?” reads a message on my phone. The texter doesn’t introduce themselves. I ask who I’m speaking with. “This is her mom,” comes the reply. “She is charging her phone.”

When Wettstein finally jumps on the line, she’s scattered, sitting in her car in the parking lot of a gym in North County. “I just got done skateboarding,” she says, in a kind of laissez-faire voice that suggests schedules have no business being in her calendar.

She speaks in a soft, whimsical, sing-songy way. It’s only been five minutes, and the 20-year-old has already given me a snapshot into her life as a young athlete.

Unburdened and carefree, she’s still very much learning how to navigate the world—her mom at her side ensuring she keeps her appointments. Watch Wettstein skate, though, and you see a fierce competitor able to hold her own among the top skateboarders in the world.

San Diego athlete and olympic skateboarder Bryce Wettstein skating bowls at a young age

“[Her skating style is] really poetic,” says 34-year-old Amelia Brodka, an Olympian and pro skateboarder who has known the athlete since Wettstein was 7. “You can tell that she’s skating from the heart, you know? She’s doing these things that typically you’d associate with but it looks really effortless.”

At the age of 15, Wettstein was named to the first-ever USA Olympic Skateboarding team. In 2019 and 2022, she won the women’s park national championships. She finished sixth in the women’s park finals in the 2021 Tokyo Summer Olympics (the first time the sport was introduced into the Olympics), was a member of the 2023 USA Skateboarding team, and will make an appearance at this year’s Paris Olympics in July.

An amateur surfer, volleyball player, gymnast, singer, ukulele player, and future ballerina (she’s taking classes at her local YMCA), Wettstein is the picture of a true SoCal native. Like many kids from Encinitas, she was paddling out on a surfboard and clambering onto a skateboard at just 5 years old. By seven—the same year she secured her first sponsorship—she decided to focus on skating, allowing the water to become a place of respite instead. But the two remain interconnected for her.

“Skateboarding and surfing meet each other,” she says. “They still hold hands with each other.”

She speaks constantly in romantic phrases and vivid metaphors like this. The city, she says, reminds her of poetry. “I just know that if I didn’t live here, I’d feel like a different person— changed a little bit,” she adds. “And I think the most amazing part is [that you feel a sort of] otherworldliness in skateboarding already, but when you’re at a park in San Diego, you feel this warm kind of haze over you.”

Being with her, you sense the same warm haze.

Even the grueling grind of developing Olympic-level skills—practicing two to three hours a day on a ramp in her family’s backyard—sounds like a fun hobby through her rosy lens.

“I feel like sometimes I have this part of me that comes out and I feel competitive,” she says. “It’s almost like fire in the ocean. You only see it for a second.”

Ranked number nine in the world, the regular-footed skateboarder makes her success seem like an afterthought. She’d much rather talk about her music-writing and ukulele-playing. Or ask you what makes you happy in life.

“Getting to skate with her in a contest is really kind of nourishing,” Brodka says. “She kind of calms everybody down. You know, it doesn’t feel competitive.”

This is the beauty of Wettstein. There’s no ego here. No reminding you that you’re talking with an Olympian. She skates like a kid having fun doing the sport they love. Medals, titles, rankings—nothing seems to phase her, and maybe that’s the key to her accomplishments.

“Her skateboarding is something else. She’s weaving a web. She’s writing a poem,” Brodka continues. “And she’s the only skater that I’ve seen that skates that way.”

As we bid one another goodbye, Wettstein lets me know that, if the magazine would ever like a volunteer for our events, she’s happy to come help. “I’m a big fan,” she says.

By Nicolle Monico

Nicolle Monico is an award-winning writer and the managing digital editor for San Diego Magazine with more than 15 years of experience in media including Outside Run, JustLuxe and The San Francisco Chronicle.

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