Words: Shawn Perry Photos: Aaron Katen
It may seem a little outlandish to talk about long-term careers in wakeskating. After all, the sport’s only been around for the last 10 years or so. The fact is, though, Brian Grubb has been a staple in wakeskating since it started to grow legs around the turn of the century. Back when everyone was riding wakeskates for fun in between wakeboard sets, Grubb was hanging up his wakeboard for good. At a time when nobody really took wakeskating seriously, he had the vision to see that it wouldn’t be the sideshow to his boot-strapping friends forever.
Ten years later, Grubb has stayed at the top of wakeskating through every ebb and flow. No matter what fad or trend was taking over wakeskating, Grubb went into every season with the same goal: learn new tricks and get them consistent. As a result of that resolve, Grubb is still at the top of the rankings at age 30, despite a wellspring of über-talented up-and-comers. And he has no intentions of letting off the gas anytime soon. Taking his cues from guys like Kelly Slater, who just won another world title at 38, Grubb is primed to push wakeskating well into the coming decade.
Let’s start off with the standard:
State your full name and where you are from. Brian Grubb from Orlando, Florida.
Do you remember the first time you rode a wakeskate?
Yeah, it was with my friend Patrick in high school. It was a waxed-up Flight 69. We saw Scott Byerly and those guys doing it, and Patrick had an extra board so we tried it. Just bare feet and wax out on Lake Butler. We didn’t do any shoves or anything, just carved around.
How old were you?
I was probably a sophomore, so like 15 or 16.
Were you wakeboarding before that?
Yep. The first time I wakeboarded was at a clinic with Darin Shapiro on Lake Ivanhoe. It was when I first moved to Florida when I was like 11. It was right when the Hyperlite Pro came out, which was the second really good compression-molded board. So yeah, I learned how to get up that day and could do one-wake jumps. I had water skied before that, but wakeboarding was the new thing. I got a board that Christmas.
When did you realize you wanted to only wakeskate? Was there a definitive moment or was it gradual?
I guess it was a little bit gradual. I started wakeboarding for Hyperlite in my senior year in high school, so I was super into it and always wanted to ride. I graduated high school and went up to FSU in Tallahassee, but I wound up coming back to Orlando quite a bit because there weren’t too many places to ride up there. After a year of that, I transferred to UCF in Orlando. So this was like ’99, right when Orlando Watersports Complex was opening. I went to X Games for Hyperlite and met Scott Byerly for the first time. He invited me to wakeskate at his house when we got back in town.
Did you wakeskate at the cable before that?
Yeah, back when there were no rails. I was working for Performance (Ski & Surf), so I’d ride every day on my lunch break. We built the first rails out there — the big red kicker and that ride-up flat bar. Once we had those, everyone was hitting them on their wakeboards, but I just started hitting them on my wakeskate. That’s when I really started having fun with it. The whole aspect of trying tricks no one had done before was really cool — just trying to think of new stuff.
Is that when you started riding with Scott?
Yeah, I looked up to him growing up, so to have something in common where he was actually calling me to come ride was the coolest thing ever. I think all of that together is what made me realize I was going to stop wakeboarding and put all my time into wakeskating.
Was that around the time of the john boat rail?
Yeah, exactly. That was one of the first things we built together.
How did it start with the Pointless Crew? First, you wakeboarded with those dudes, right? I remember you wakeboarding in Hype even before all that.
Yeah, Daily Dose was the first movie I ever had a small part in and then Hype. But when I got back into town in ’99 and started wakeskating we all started filming a lot for the Pointless stuff. The rest of the crew was all still in high school.
So that all went down at the same time?
For that whole year, I would pretty much ride with Scott in between classes at UCF during the day, finish up my classes and go to Danny Harf’s parents’ house and ride in the afternoon. In the evening, I’d drive down to Shane or Parks Bonifay’s house and edit for Incomplete or party or whatever. That went on for a while. Those were good times.
What was it like being the only wakeskater in the Pointless Crew?
It never was an issue, really. Those guys were just super into wakeboarding, and I got into wakeskating. They would always push me to do new stuff, and I got them out on wakeskates. They would have little contests to see who could do the first shove indy and stuff. They had fun with it. And guys like Erik Ruck and Parks got into wakeskating for a while too. They were building rails and wakeskating a ton. Everybody liked to do it — I just took it a little more seriously than everybody else.
How do you think riding with those guys shaped your riding?
It definitely helped me progress behind the boat a lot more. I was always riding big wakes and long lines right along with them. I think it really helped me get used to riding setups like that and getting my tricks consistent.
In the course of your career you’ve done some cool things. What sticks out in your head as the most fun thing wakeskating allowed you to do?
Oh, man. I definitely can’t pick one thing. Some of my more memorable trips were filming for the Billabong movie Out of the Pond. It was amazing. We got to go to Tahiti and Australia and the Philippines too. It was just cool because I grew up with everyone on the team, so to go around the world with my best friends was amazing. Wakeskatingwise, I’d have to say the trips to New Zealand that we used to do.
For Red Bull?
Yeah. We did like three of trips in a row. It was pretty much just me and the dudes from Cassette back then, like Danny Hampson, Aaron Reed and Thomas Horrell. The Red Bull guy down there, Ivan, is just super into wakeskating and would set up really cool things for us to do. Those trips were super fun. It was all wakeskating, and those guys had a different style than I did, so I liked riding with them. Before that, I never really got to ride with those guys a whole lot so to be there for 10 days with them was really fun. Especially the Human Trailers trip where we drove from Auckland to Christchurch. It was just all about finding fun stuff to do, winching the whole time. And New Zealand is an amazing place in itself.