“My passion for wakeboarding changed my life,” Rusty Malinoski says while we fly down his winding driveway in his golf cart. It really stuck with me. Rusty and I are binaries when it comes to our place in the industry, but this passion is a shared feeling, a common ground we both stand upon, appreciating where the rope and handle have taken us. No matter what type of rider you are, this passion is something you can relate to — the consuming desire to get out on the water. I will admit to having preconceptions about Rusty going into this interview. We’ve always been friendly toward each other, but having never spent time one-on-one, I didn’t know what to expect. After all, the guy’s body exemplifies the term “beefcake,” and Rusty himself will admit if you see him before a Pro Tour final he gives an impression that is less than accommodating. But after spending a day at the Malinoski compound in Clermont, Florida, I was surprised to have these preconceptions reversed. I’m not saying the things I’d seen and heard weren’t true, because they are. Rusty does love to win wakeboarding contests; Rusty does have an aggressive approach to his riding; and Rusty does have an unwavering focus to carry his vision out on his terms. (I like how he turned the tables at one point and started interviewing me.) The thing that changed my perspective was seeing his motivation for these aspects of his personality. I realized that the passion runs so deep within Rusty that it can become misconstrued for a different meaning than a pure love for the sport and simply being the best he can be. Read the full interview.