You come from an aeronautical family. Your dad was a fighter pilot. Did that have a lot to do with shaping who you are?
Yeah, I think so. I think my background has helped me follow my dreams; that’s for sure. Ever since I was little I wanted to be the best at whatever I did. I think I saw that drive in my dad because he was a fighter pilot in the Navy. Growing up, seeing the crazy photos and hearing the stories, I just always wanted to do something that was really exciting and on the edge of being gnarly. When he was growing up, being a fighter pilot was the craziest thing you could do, and he was one of the best in the country at it. He flew at Top Gun and was a great pilot. So I’ve just always wanted to be the best at everything I did, whether it was skiing, wakeboarding or wakeskating. I think it made me a really competitive person. I’m still like that now. My parents didn’t do the strict military upbringing or anything — they were supportive. But they taught me that if I’m going to put all this time into something, then I should try to be the best at it.
Inside the sport, wakeskating grows a lot on a regular basis. But from the outside looking in, the sport as a whole doesn’t seem to grow rapidly. More wakesurfers sell than wakeskates year after year, the number of contests stays the same and prize money has flattened out. What do you think it’s going to take to keep wakeskating growing?
That’s a really good question. I’ve been seeing all those things happening recently and ask myself that. I think wakeskating at its core level doesn’t really hit a huge demographic. It takes a lot of time to even learn how to do basic tricks and be consistent. Even with a skateboard or wakeboard background, it takes a little bit to just be comfortable riding. I just think a lot of people don’t want to put the time in, especially when they can go wakesurf and learn it in 15 minutes and go out in bad water with fewer consequences. I think that’s a barrier for wakeskating, but there are people like me and all the other serious guys who can’t get enough of it. We’re seriously obsessed with it and don’t think about anything else. It just takes a little more time to get past that first initial learning curve. Every trick just builds off one another. From a spectator sport perspective, the more people who see wakeskating will be interested in trying it. A lot of people don’t event know what it is. I mean, you’re at an airport and you can explain what wakeboarding is to some people and they are like, “Oh, that’s that thing behind the boat.” But you talk about wakeskating and they have no idea what you’re talking about. So I just don’t think that many people have seen it. And even when people do watch someone doing flip tricks or anything, they have no idea how hard it actually is. Wakeskating has so much potential. It’s just all about getting people to see it in a way that makes them want to try it.
Yeah, that’s the challenge.
You watch what those guys do on Street League, and they make it look so easy and so fun, but those guys are machines. What they are doing is so hard. I think from the outside looking in, that’s what wakeskating looks like on a much, much smaller scale. It’s super-technical, but if you put the time into it you can get really good at it. Hopefully more and more people just see it and get into it, like old guys who just want to cruise around without being strapped in, if they have bad knees or whatever. It’s fun.
You’ve had longevity with the majority of your sponsors — Hyperlite, Billabong, Malibu, Performance and Red Bull. What have you done right to keep these guys constantly happy to support you?
Well, I think the biggest thing is I try to do better and do more every year. Obviously, I’ve had the best opportunities with my sponsors because they’ve been so supportive even when wakeskating wasn’t a sport. I mean, Red Bull has been there for 10 years, starting when wakeskating was nothing. But I think doing well at contests is important to them, being on the podium and getting coverage on TV and in the magazines and just getting exposure for them, you know? I also think a big thing that helps a lot is just being readily available to my sponsors, whether it be for clinics, boat shows or trips. I’ve tried to never turn down an opportunity I’ve had from my sponsors. You never know what that could lead to in the future. You could do that trip and something later comes down the road that you would never have known about. I’ve always just tried to take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves. I think I’ve been able to build off those relationships so when something else comes up, they think of me. Most of all, my sponsors enable me to live my dream of riding all year and all over the world, so for me to go do a boat show for a weekend or teach kids how to ride is great. It’s just a big opportunity to make wakeskating grow and to help the brand I’m working for accomplish what it needs to.
You’re one of the few wakeskaters with a boat sponsor and a free boat. In a world where a lot of kids are learning and riding behind PWCs and winches, where do you see boats fitting in for the future?
I think wakeskating’s roots are always going to be behind the boat. That’s where it started. But, riding behind a PWC and winching and stuff is like a totally different style.
Yeah, and cable too. I think boat is the most different, though. I don’t want to make the analogy of riding boat and comparing it to vert skating, but it’s just a different style. When you ride boat, you’re going faster and going higher in the air, whereas behind the PWC and cable is just more technical. There’s always going to be both. Wakeskating is wakeskating, whether you’re behind a boat, cable or winch. You’re going to ride what you like and what’s more accessible. I mean, in wakeboarding, you have to have a huge boat with a big wake. One of the major benefits to wakeskating is you can go behind anything with minimal horsepower and have fun. It’s just more accessible. Cable is great because it helps your consistency. I remember growing up and being at OWC and just doing lap after lap. It’s getting your consistency down. As fast as you can get back to the dock, you’re back on the water. I think that’s where wakeskating is going to see serious growth with all the new parks opening. If you have good rails, it’s just like a skate park, and you can have a ton of fun riding with your friends.
Where do you want to get better?
I’ve always wanted to get better at flip tricks. I can do a few of them, and some days I can be consistent with them. But some days I go out and can hardly do any of them. It’s frustrating because behind the boat I’ve always been pretty consistent. I can usually do a lot of my tricks. Riding behind the PWC, I’m consistent with all my shove and big spin stuff, but flip tricks I’m just so hit or miss. I watch videos of guys riding like Ben Horan and Andrew Pastura and Reed Hansen just doing sick lines behind the ski and getting really tech on rails and stuff. It’s just so fun to watch. It’s a totally different style to how I ride, but I look up to it. It’s cool to see those guys take it to a whole new level. We all knew it would happen. Scott and I used to talk about where wakeskating is gonna go and a lot of it is already there and it’s only 10 years old.
Yeah, we joke about people 3 flipping the wake.
I know, and heel flipping consistently and doing them down drops! It’s gotten to a level now that is just so insane to watch. I don’t know how a skateboarder or anyone who wants to hate on wakeskating could say anything after seeing that.