Danny Harf loves wakeboarding videos. Not the three-minute-or-less, one-rider-goes-for-a-single-session Web videos, necessarily. No, Harf loves the kind of feature-length passion projects that have all but disappeared from wakeboarding these days — the Hit It!s, Sprays and MayDays that originally inspired him to go ride. So it wasn’t a huge surprise when Harf and longtime wake producer Sean Kilgus unveiled the trailer for just such a film at TransWorld WAKEBOARDING’s 2009 Wake Awards. The footage from that first trailer for Defy, including Harf’s soaring wrapped nose grab backside 900 in stunning high definition and super slow motion, told us two things: First, Harf would use Defy as a platform to push not only his own riding but wakeboarding as a whole in new and inventive directions. Second, Harf and Kilgus planned to make people excited about wakeboarding videos again. Almost two years later, both expectations have proven true. Harf organized a handful of projects, from a seemingly endless line of double-ups to sprawling kicker-to-pool setups, that allowed him and his teammates from Monster, Ronix, Fox and Nautique to redefine what we think is possible on a wakeboard. All the while, Kilgus faithfully chronicled their endeavors, training as many as six cameras on progression in the making. With Defy just months from release, we talked to Harf about his hopes for the movie, where his riding is headed and why making videos is his favorite part about riding for a living. Words: Luke Woodling Photos: Jason Lee
Where did the concept for Defy come from?
Sean Kilgus and I decided to make a movie that centers on me and some of the guys I ride with. We wanted to come up with some unique ideas and hit on all the different aspects of wakeboarding. Nothing in the movie is standard wakeboarding behind the boat — everything is unique in some fashion. In each section, we’re going to bring different guys together and focus on the stuff that group of guys excels at. We want to push wakeboarding and show people how cool the sport is.
Has the movie gone according to the original script, or has it evolved as you went along?
When we first started talking about the movie, there were two things that instantly came to mind that I wanted to do. Some of it was stuff I’d dreamed up or imagined and some of it was stuff I’d already talked about with some of the other riders. Some of it evolved as we started shooting. Our original idea has definitely morphed into something bigger and, I think, better.
What do you hope to accomplish with Defy?
Ultimately, I just want to make a rad movie that gets everyone excited to go wakeboarding and push their own riding. Hopefully, it inspires everyone to go out and learn a new trick.
Has your name ever been so attached to a project before? After all, we’ve been referring to it as Danny Harf’s Defy all along.
Definitely not. I’ve never had my name attached to a wakeboard film before, although I’ve done a lot of them. Sean’s also made a bunch of movies too, but we’ve never taken on anything like this. It’s definitely a huge project for me, and it’s what I enjoy most about being a pro rider — going out and filming and doing something cool and new. I just really enjoy making movies, and I think it helps grow the sport too.
Anticipation is high for the movie. Does that add pressure to go out and blow minds?
That’s really the goal of the movie: to go out and land big, heavy wakeboard tricks — really big and really unique. We let people know about the project so long ago that there’s been a lot of anticipation. We’re definitely working hard to make a movie that lives up to expectations.
What’s it like working with Kilgus versus other guys you’ve worked with in the past?
I think Sean’s one of the most passionate people about wakeboarding in general and he’s one of the most committed. He’s one of the only guys who is still making movies in this sport. Sean’s definitely a hard worker, and he puts everything into his movies.
What’s been your favorite part about filming Defy?
Really getting to focus on filming. I didn’t do many contests this year, so I really got to focus on creativity and progressing my riding. Filming videos has always been what I enjoy most about being a pro wakeboarder, so this has been perfect for me, and I’m having a lot of fun doing it.
What is it about videos that you like so much?
I think it’s the ability to push yourself and try new tricks and just be creative. I like being competitive and riding in contests too, but I really like the relaxed atmosphere of filming. You can push yourself and fall and it’s not the end of the world. When you’re filming, you’re not just trying to stick the trick — you’re trying to do it perfectly and make it look the best you can.
Does having the camera on you motivate you?
It depends on the camera. When we have a big shoot set up and they’re shooting film and we’re flying helicopters, you definitely want to be on your game. There are definitely times when there’s more pressure.