Words Kari Wilberg Photo Rodrigo Donoso
He’s won the last two stops on the Pro Wakeboard Tour, but Aaron Rathy isn’t letting it go to his head. With four events remaining and riders like Phillip Soven, Rusty Malinoski, Harley Clifford and Andrew Adkison trailing him in the standings, Rathy knows the 2009 King of Wake title is still far from decided. Shortly following his big wins, we talked to Rathy about what it’s like being in the lead, how he plans to stay there and when he’s going to throw that monstrous 1080 we’ve all been waiting for. Oh, and in case you haven’t seen it yet, check out Rathy’s wake-to-wake backside 900 here.
You’ve won the last two stops on the Pro Wakeboard Tour and finished second in the other. What’s been the key to your recent success? Pretty much just confidence. I’ve been feeling pretty good riding in contests, and I came out of last year third on King of Wake, so I had pretty good seeding coming into the last event. Top seed off the dock always helps, and you know what you have to do before you get out there. I’ve been standing my runs up and having fun.
You, Harley Clifford, and Andrew Adkison are 1, 2 and 3 on the current King of Wake standings. Before the start of the season, would you ever have thought that would be the case? Not really. I went over to Australia this winter, so I got to ride with Harley a bunch. He killed it, but I wasn’t sure how he’d make out against the top pros in the states. I never would have thought it would have been me, him and Andrew, 1, 2, and 3 halfway through the year but it’s sick. Andrew is always killing it, and Harley is really figuring out how to ride in contests. He’s definitely a threat and is going to be a threat the next five or 10 years.
Now that you’re in the lead, will you change your strategy at all? No, not really. I’m just kind of trying to keep all my stuff dialed right now. It’s tough to learn new tricks halfway through the year, so I am going to stick to what I have been doing. I just try not to fall a bunch. I’ve been riding really well, especially this week. I feel really good, so I’m looking forward to the next event.
How do you plan to stay on top through the final four King of Wake events? I’m not even going to think about it. I’ve been rolling the dice lately, so I’m just going to do the same and not try to get super hung up on the points. I’m definitely aware that I’m going to have to do something special to stay on top, and I’m not really going to think about it a whole lot.
What’s it like having guys like Phillip Soven and Rusty Malinoski in your rearview mirror? It’s all right. I’d rather they be in my rearview mirror than up ahead of me. I mean, Phillip and Rusty, they obviously kill it. They are who they are because of it. I definitely can’t underestimate them. They’re always going to be there, so I just have to take note.
Aside from those guys, who do you see as your biggest threats? Besides those two guys — Adam Errington and Jimmy LaRiche. They are two of my good friends, and they both obviously kill it on a wakeboard. Any time they’re in a heat with you, you obviously worry about it. Jimmy especially. He’s first-year pro and he got that second place at Wake Games. He hasn’t really done much on the Pro Tour yet, but he definitely wants it and I know it’s going to happen soon, so he’s definitely someone to look out for.
You went for a 1080 at the Wisconsin stop, but had to pull back to 9. How many times have you gone for 10s in contests this year? This year, I’ve only gone for one other. It was at Masters and I tried a switch toeside 10, which is my less consistent one. I’ve been thinking about it a lot, and I just haven’t gotten the right double-up for the heelside, but it will happen eventually. I just have to keep trying.
How important is it for you to be the first guy to pull off a 10 in a contest? It’s really important to me. I have done more than anyone. I feel like I pretty much got it dialed right now, and anytime I go for it, I hit it. But the double-up has to be right. I have to get my pop and a heel 9 is a good trick for contests. It’s easy to bail out, but not as easy to commit. We’ll see. When the time comes and everything kind of comes together, it’s going to go down.
What have been your hammer moves so far this season? I haven’t really had one hammer. I’ve been doing my toe back 5 and my heel back 7 in my run pretty much. It’s more been just standing up. I haven’t really had one big trick that’s been like my go-to trick, but I’ve been hitting toeside backside 5 and heel back 7 pretty much every time in my finals pass. That’s a big line, which I’ve been stoked on, but it’s been more about standing up and staying smooth out there. I feel like I’ve been pretty comfortable and hitting the rails pretty good and just kind of staying well rounded, which is pretty much my main thing when I think about how I am going to ride in a contest. So it has been good. I’m pretty stoked.
Aside from winning the King of Wake title, what are your goals for the rest of the year? A 1080 in a contest is going to be big. It sounds stupid, but I haven’t thought about it a whole lot until Phillip came up and said, “You’re leading for Wakeboarder of the Year.” It’s probably the biggest thing you can win all year. I’m just not going to think about it too much.