words Craig Kotilinek pic Spencer Smith
1. How did you become pro? I guess just riding and being in the right place at the right time. Hanging out with Byerly and those guys. I was wakeboarding at the time, and I did a few pro events and made a little money doing that, but that's about the time I started wakeskating too, and I wanted to see where it took me, and that's when I started hanging out with Byerly and he helped me out a lot along the way.
2. What made you switch over from wakeboarding to wakeskating? Probably the biggest thing was riding at the cable park and hitting rails. We'd seen it in the mags growing up, but I only really started hitting rails when I went to the cable park. That's when I really started to fall in love with the sport and I really wanted to start pushing it to the next level.
3. What was your favorite trick when you first turned pro, and what's your favorite now? My first trick that I really got consistent and thought was a hard trick was probably the toeside shove indy. My favorite trick now is a wake-to-wake backside big spin.
4. Who is your favorite rider and why? My favorite rider is Scott Byerly. I watched him growing up since I was really little and then being able to meet him and ride with him and become really good friends with him over the years is really cool. And even to this day he's still ripping. He hasn't lost it a bit.
5. What is the hardest thing about being a professional wakeskater? Probably all the travel, but that's also the best thing. We get to go all over the world and do all these crazy trips just because we're riding our boards. We're away from home a lot and it takes its toll, but it's definitely worth it.
6. What would you be doing if you weren't a pro wakeskater? Oh man I don't even know. I went to college and got a degree, but I haven't had any desire to use it at all. Liberal Studies from UCF; it's pretty much an undecided degree. I'd be living in Orlando, though, and doing something.
7. What is your biggest goal to accomplish this year? This year I really want to win Worlds. I haven't won it for a couple years — or actually about five years — and I really want to win it this year. I've been second for a lot of years, but I really want to win it one more time and I think this will be my year.
8. Is there anything you haven't won as far as competitions? No, I've pretty much won everything at least once. I've only been able to win Worlds once, though, so I really want to get that win once more — at least.
9. What are you most proud of in your career so far? I'm just proud of where wakeskating's going and how big it's gotten in the past 10 years. When we started it wasn't even really a sport, and to see how far it's come and be at the front of it has been really cool.
10. What do you think changed it over from a hobby to a sport? I think it's just more people getting involved and getting support from the magazines and the videos. People could actually see how much like skateboarding it actually is. I know from being a reader of the magazines that it was that sort of thing that got me interested when Scott was doing 360 shoves on wakeboards with surf wax on them. They still had bungee straps on the boards. To see where it's gone; it totally looks like skateboarding now. Not just my riding but a bunch of riders coming up. It has a completely different feel to it now because you have a bunch of guys who didn't come from a wakeboarding background and went directly to wakeskating. I'm just glad to be a part of the whole movement of wakeskating and hopefully I can keep pushing it like I have for the past 10 years.
11. What are your plans for the future? Keep riding and keep progressing. I'm still learning stuff all the time and I just want to keep progressing as a rider. It's cool to have all these new, up-and-coming riders who are doing tricks I can't do. When we were first starting it was just trying to figure out what was possible and new stuff to do, and now there are a lot of riders who are really good and doing tricks I want to do; it really pushes me to learn those tricks and it shows me a little of how to do the tricks when it would probably take forever to learn on my own.
12. What's one thing you couldn't live without on a daily basis? I like riding everyday, so maybe my Malibu.
13. Any pets? Two dogs. Emma and Nina, a lab/pit and a pitbull.
14. Who are your sponsors? Hyperlite, Billabong, Red Bull, Malibu, Von Zipper, Kustom Shoes, Watermans Sunscreen and Performance Ski and Surf.
15. You just hooked up with Kustom, right? Yeah, I just signed with Kustom this year. It's great, they have wakeskate shoes from Europe and just came over to the states, and we're working on a new one that will be my signature shoe. That's really exciting, I've always wanted to have a signature shoe since I started riding, and to finally have that opportunity with Kustom is amazing.
16. What do you do better than most people to stay on top of the podium for so many years? Lots of practice. More than anything it's just being on the water every day. Riding and repetition and learning new stuff; it makes the older stuff you've been doing more consistent. Most of it's just practice and commitment.
17. Do you go out and practice a specific run before a contest? Normally I'm just going out and freeriding, but maybe a week before a contest I try to do tricks I want to do in a contest more. I don't always want to do the same tricks every time and I don't have a set run. I just have about 12 or 15 tricks I want to do in my run and when the wake feels right I'll do those tricks.
18. What's your favorite way to ride? PWC, cable, boat? I like riding behind my Malibu VLX the best. I like going big. I like hitting double ups and hitting big wakes with long ropes. The higher you can go the better. I like hitting rails and stuff too, but if I had to pick one thing to do exclusively, it would be riding behind the boat.
19. Your opening section in Out of the Pond was pretty impressive, how was filming for that? Filming for Out of the Pond was insane. The trips we got to go on were places I've always wanted to go and have never been. I mean I've been to the Phillipines a couple times, but I've always wanted to go to Tahiti and Teahupo'o and all that. And Australia, they have a lot of wakeboarding-related stuff going on in Australia, but for some reason I never made it over there. We went in their summer time and all the Australian riders were home, so we got to hang out with those guys and ride with them in their neighborhoods.
20. What tricks are you working on? I started working on getting wake-to-wake frontside and backside bigger spins. I've been riding with B.T. and Chris Kallas a lot at the house and Chris has really been pushing it and doing a lot of new stuff, so to be able to ride with him and see some of the new tricks he's doing is pretty inspiring. Chris rips, he's crazy. We met him last year and took care of him on the road and got him into some contests, but he was a pretty young kid. He came over from Australia and really only knew Daniel Watkins and a few of the other guys, but they were all wakeboarders, so when we'd go to wakeskate comps we'd take him with us. We became good friends with him and had the opportunity to get him on the Catalyst brand — the new wakeskate brand that's coming out from Hyperlite.
21. What's your involvement with Catalyst? Well all the boards will be branded Catalyst, after my board, so all the entry-level boards and everything in the wakeskate line will all be Catalyst boards. It's going to be a sub-brand. We're in charge of all the design and graphics. This year we'll have our own website and our own booth at Expo, so we're going to try to separate from the wakeboard stuff. I've been trying to do it for a few years ever since Byerly left and started his own brand. It kind of left an opening for me to have the wakeskate side of things at Hyperlite and it worked out this year. It's super exciting for me because I've always wanted to be able to design a whole line of boards and have that kind of creative control.
22. Where do you see wakeskating heading in the next few years? Well hopefully it gets bigger than wakeboarding some day. That's a long-term goal, for sure, but wakeboarding hasn't been around that long either, and with everything that's happening in the world with gas prices and boat sales and everything, it's a lot easier to wakeskate. The equipment's a lot cheaper; you can do it behind a winch or jet ski or boat or cable or whatever. It's a lot more accessible than wakeboarding — especially at a high-end level. To be a really good pro wakeboarder, you really need to ride big wakes with a solid wakeboard boat. With wakeskating being so close to skateboarding, I think some people can relate to it more than doing flips behind a boat. You never know what will happen, but maybe some day it will be as big or bigger than wakeboarding.