At that point, you were super young, super formidable and hanging with the big boys. How did that affect you? Well, yeah, there were a lot of great things that came from it. I definitely learned a lot of stuff that people my age weren’t learning and got to experience a lot of crazy stuff, you know? And at the same time, there were probably a few negative things that came from it. I mean, I probably could have done better in my riding than I was doing for a little while.
You were living hard and living fast, Dan. I was definitely partying and got used to that pretty young. You know, it’s no one’s fault. I’m not mad about it. It was fun. For better or for worse, I grew up fast with a bunch of people who were the age I am now and I was just a little kid. They just always looked at me as being older, I guess. They were my big brothers, you know? And I love those guys.
Thomas and Aaron are mentors and people I look up to. But I don’t know, in hindsight, I feel like I missed out on some stuff. Not like Danny Hampson Behind the Music-type shit or anything, but I would go on a trip and get crazy and come home to the Keys and it would be just as crazy there. Coming from where I’m from, I think the partying thing was bound to happen, but that kind of ignited it, you know? Looking back, I was a nightmare for my parents, and I feel bad.
Yeah, but at the same time you were shaping a sport. Yeah, it was awesome. The Cassette thing is something that will never happen again. I think wakeskating would be in a totally different place than it is now if Cassette was still around. It sucks it isn’t, but maybe that’s what it was meant to do, you know? A star can’t burn forever. Not to take anything away from what guys like Scott Byerly and Brian Grubb have done, but it’s amazing to sit back and look at what Cassette did for the sport.
Have you slowed things down? Yeah. I mean I was never that horrible, but I think I’ve slowed down, grown up and matured. You can’t party all the time and ride well. I was just ready to start riding well and have a better day, you know?
What was it like when you made the transition from Cassette to Liquid Force? It was really weird, man. It was really hard for me. I think I was like 18, and at that point I was still living at my parents’. I was making a little money off wakeskating, but for me wakeskating was just this thing I cherished and was obsessed with. I was obsessed with the whole Cassette thing and what Thomas was doing with it, and that made it hard. But I never left Thomas — none of us did. It was one of those things that he told us what was going on and what was going to happen. It’s hard to explain. There’s no other way to explain it than say it was a huge bummer and after that I was just sad. It’s nothing against Liquid Force. I love Liquid Force, and they’ve done so much for me and I love those guys. But just after Cassette died down, it took a lot away; it took the wind out of my sails. I really believed in Cassette and I believed wakeskating needed Cassette to survive, you know? It’s gone on without it, but it’s just a bummer. Let’s move on.
How was Obscura formed? Well, Aaron and I always wanted to kind of take control over what we were riding and pushing.
You wanted full creative control? Yeah, within reason. We wanted to have control over graphics, apparel and art. In a perfect world, we wanted what we did with our video — create a little team and try to recreate the Cassette thing. It’s hard to ever get there, but we’re happy with Obscura. We’re happy with what we’ve done. Liquid Force is an incredible wakeboard company, but we needed a wakeskate-specific deal so we could push wakeskating in our own way. How can we all blossom together, man? They’re a rock and we’re a flower coming off that rock.
Is this something you’ve always wanted? Aaron and I want to promote wakeskating in the best way possible, and we want to grow it to where all the top guys are getting paid. I’m not just talking about our guys either — every single dude who is out there killing it. We’ve always wanted that. Maybe to some of the core guys, it seems like Aaron and I don’t have that in mind with some of the things we do, but at the end of the day all we want is to grow the sport.
We’ve been in this for a long time and we know the channels to do that. I think some people see us as not doing things the most “legit” or “cool” way possible. But c’mon, you’re riding a wakeskate on top of the water, and in order for the sport to survive you have to appeal to the people who are on the water. So we’re trying to do everything we can. We came from winching, we’ve done it all, but we know you have to appeal to everyone.
You and Aaron have a little broader outlook on the industry than some people may realize. That’s the thing: We know that in order to get the sport to where we want it you have to take a few side streets to keep the heart beating. We’ve all dreamed of kids like Ben Horan, Andy Pastura, Travis Doran and Grant Roberts to represent wakeskating the way we want. But the reality is not everyone who is buying a wakeskate is doing that kind of stuff. Liquid gives us the perspective to understand that we’re such a small market, even though we think we’re huge and we live in this bubble.
In order to keep this thing alive we have to feed off wakeboarding in different ways to keep momentum. I know that might make some of those core dudes mad, but that’s the honest truth. I love wakeboarding; I’m not against it. I’m a product of wakeboarding and some of the new guys aren’t, so I just don’t think they understand. Yeah, we can all go and just say “screw you” to water sports and try to split wakeskating from it, but where does that leave us in the future? It’s a long-term plan for us, and Liquid helps us along with that plan. I’m trying hard. I’m at every event I can go to no matter what just so it exposes people to the sport. In the long term, regardless of whether you like every person who rides a wakeskate, the more people riding means the core group of dudes doing their thing can support themselves.