Words Kari Wilberg Photos Spencer Smith
Halfway through the King of Wake season, Andrew Adkison is off to one of his best starts in years. The two-time world champ has ridden in the finals of all four King of Wake events this season and has finished on the podium twice. That consistency has Adkison in third place behind Aaron Rathy and Harley Clifford in the King of Wake standings. But Adkison isn’t content with third place, and he plans to dish out some harder tricks during the second half of the season. We recently talked to Adkison about how he’s done so well this season, how he plans to keep it up and what it’s like being up against such a tough group of riders.
You’ve been Mr. Consistency so far this season, riding in all four Pro Men finals. How have you managed to turn in such consistently solid performances? Basically just the riding I’ve been doing leading up to the season and during the season. I moved down to Auburndale [Florida], and I am just a few houses down from JD Webb, Kyle Alberts and Shawn Perry. Being close to those guys and riding with those guys on a daily basis, and the Winterhaven crew too, has served me well. I’ve only added a little bit of wake riding into my weekly riding schedule, but I’ve been riding six or eight hours on the cable a week, because I live halfway between McCormicks and OWC. I tend to end up at one of the two a few times a week.
You’ve turned in two third-place finishes and two fourths, what do you need to do to finish on top of the podium? I know exactly what I need to do. I need to take the same confidence and consistency I carry into the quarterfinals and semifinals into that finals round. I need to add a little bit harder tricks to my run with the confidence to ride away from them. I did that at Masters and it worked out. I know I can take a win, and I really just have to go after it.
Any tricks up your sleeve that you’ve been working on? Well, that’s one of those things that I’d rather do it at a tournament, because if I go out there and fall on it, they’ll say, “He was talking that up in the interview.” I’ve been going after some mobe 5s off the wake again, and when you add a trick like that, it really catapults you into that category.
You’ve been riding a lot of cable lately. Do you think it has played a role in your success this season? In a few ways. It’s more water time. If you’re sore from riding the boat, you can go ride cable and you’re riding cable differently — where you’re sore from the boat maybe doesn’t affect you on the cable and vice versa. It has helped me log a lot more water time, but it also broke me out of my shell a little bit, because there are things on the cable I wouldn’t necessarily try behind the boat for the first time. I’ve been able to learn them on the cable, and I think it has helped my consistency and my confidence.
You’re also an X-Star man. How big of an advantage is it riding behind the same boat in contests that you ride behind at home? Well, it is a tremendous advantage. When I get the X-Star wake, I know exactly what to expect every time. In a way, everybody has that advantage, because the wake is just so consistent and so precise that you know what you’re getting. The other guys that I am competing against have that same advantage, too. Even if they don’t log 500 hours a year behind one like I do, the wake is just dependable.
What’s it like having guys like Phillip Soven and Rusty Malinoski behind you at this point in the King of Wake season standings? I don’t look at it like that. Just like last year when they were ahead of me, I didn’t look at it as though I was chasing them. I focused on what I was doing, and I know they were focusing on what they were doing. Those guys are capable of winning any and every single tournament — either of those guys could sweep the rest of the series. They’ve had to come through some really tough heats and some uncharacteristic water conditions. I’m excited with how it’s going so far, but I am just going to try to focus on what I am doing and know those guys are doing the same.
You’re one of the tour veterans these days. Have you ever been up against a tougher group of riders? No, I have not been up against a tougher group of riders. The seed I came through that I was part of in the semifinals in Knoxville, Tennessee, in the last tour stop was the hardest seed I’ve ever seen on paper. It was myself, Rusty, Harley [Clifford], Phil and Troy [Mackey]. To have made it through that was a pretty exciting moment. And part of that is just because the level of riding has stepped up every year. It used to be two, three, or four guys who would step up to that level of riding and now it’s 15 to 20. This is just a group of about 10 guys who can win every tour stop and I know Harley and [Aaron] Rathy have traded back and forth so far. But there are quite a few events left, and there are 10 guys who could easily win this. It’s very competitive this year.
Who has surprised you this season? I think Harley surprised some people, but I was prepared for it. I think the guys who watched him ride Junior Men’s last year knew he was going to do the same thing on the Pro Tour, so it wasn’t a surprise. The one thing I was pretty impressed with was how quickly he picked it up. It takes most guys four or five tournaments or even a season to ride at such a high level when they first come on the Pro Tour. Harley did it his first tour stop and that was the most impressive. Although I knew he was very capable of doing it, for him to do it right out of the gate was pretty impressive.
What are your goals for the rest of the season — both in contests and outside of them? I enjoy contests, because I think they are fun to be a part of, win or lose. You can catch up with friends in that area you may have not seen since that time last year. So it’s the whole atmosphere. But I expect a lot of myself and I train pretty hard to do well when I am there, so if I can finish the tour in the top three that would be a better MasterCraft Pro Tour standing than I’ve yet had. But that’s the goal right now and that’s what I’m shooting for. But also third and fourth place is a bittersweet place. I mean it’s definitely sweet in that I made the four-man final, which is insanely hard, but it’s also bittersweet to be just off the podium or barely on the podium and you definitely get a taste for the top two spots. That’s the competitive side of things.
On the free riding side, once the tournament is over and we wrap this year in August, I want to focus on the other side of my riding and get with somebody and start really, really focusing on the other part going into the off season and get the other side of my riding out there as apposed to the competitive side.