Not So Crazy After All - How Zane Schwenk went from insane to influential.
There are about a million things I could say about Zane Schwenk. In fact, after his more than two decades of enjoying wakeboarding to the fullest, there are very few things that haven’t been said about him at one time or another. But here’s my favorite: Countless people shared their first experience riding a wakeboard with Zane Schwenk, and he’s helped spawn the careers of so many pros — mine included. From day one, Zane has always been there, offering advice not just to better my career but better me as a person. And I’m not the only one he’s done this for. Zane’s house has an open-door policy for his friends to come ride together, hang out and even learn. He’s kind of the Master Splinter of wakeboarding, and his experiences as a rider and behind the scenes at some of wake’s best companies make him the perfect liaison for the sport. After all, Zane’s been riding since before wakeboarding was even wakeboarding, and he’s been on tour longer than most pros have been riding. Since the start, he has focused on growing the sport on and off the water. These days Zane is still shredding, and his passion for the wakeboarding community is as strong as ever. He’s still at every tour stop working for MasterCraft and CWB, and he still rides all the time like he’s 20 years old. He even still aspires to have a 20-year-old’s haircut. After all these years, Zane has lined life up pretty damn well for himself. He has a house on the lake, a beautiful wife, and a new X-Star he helped design sitting on his lift. Zane has truly earned all the love the fans, riders, companies and I have for him.
Parks: All right, here we go. Question numero uno, let’s start off basic. How did your parents decide on your name, Zane Schwenk?
Zane: My full name is Zane Earl Schwenk after my grandfather, the Earl part.
Parks: Yeah, just leave the Earl part out.
Zane: Really, I do leave the Earl part out. My mom was at work one day and some dude walked in and his name was Zane, and she liked it. And then my parents named my brother Trippy, and they both claim to have never done any psychedelics, which I don’t believe.
Parks: Yeah, that’s kind of hard not to believe. Tell us about your ski background in the early days of old Sarasota, Florida.
Zane: I grew up with Mom and Dad and Trip skiing. I started when I was 3, and we were in a little show ski club and just kind of wanted to do a bit of everything. I saw people jumping, barefooting and doing everything. I was in the circus at the time and thought it would be cool to try to do everything I could on the water.
Parks: How old were you when you were in the circus?
Zane: I was 7 and I got thrown out when I was 14. I did teeter board, and I flew trapeze. I had a regular, a 6-foot and a 12-foot unicycle. And I was a pixie dust spreader on the tilt-a-whirl.
Parks: With this entire double flip craze off kickers, a lot of people don’t realize you did it first — a double flip on skis off of a jump in, what was it, 1993?
Zane: Yeah, that was 1993. I had been trying them for a while. That was like the big thing. No one really made them freestyle jumping, and I wanted to make it. As you know, I think you were running around in spandex around then.
Parks: This is true.
Zane: It was kind of brutal because you would go about 110 feet with two pair of skis on, and the boots were about as tight as sandals you get on a cable park rental board. There’s no frickin’ way I could do it right now, but it was cool.
Parks: I think it’s safe to say no one is ever going to do that again.
Zane: I think somebody may have, but that’s the one trick that launched my ability to get on the tour and stuff.
Parks: 110-foot double front — that’s freaking crazy!
Zane: It was fun. It hurt. God, it hurt.
Parks: Is there any difference between the wakeboarders on tour now and freestyle jumpers back in 1993?
Zane: Essentially, there is no difference. They are just as crazy as all these young little wakeboarders are now, but you know the wakeboarders have done it more stylish. They’ve made it more fun. It’s different because now I have to be a little more responsible, but there are so many nights when I just forget I have to be responsible and I just get to be that kid again. And that’s why I like to get out of the house five weekends a year and go on the Pro Wakeboard Tour.
Parks: What tricks did you actually land first? Like say a slurpee or a cock ‘n balls?
Zane: Uh, the slurpee, the cock ‘n balls, I think I did the first scarecrow, but Brandon Meek named it
Parks: Yeah, Brandon Meek and C.C . Roberts might battle you on that one.
Zane: But it was all like right at the same time. And look at it this way; Al Gore hadn’t invented the Internet yet. It wasn’t like, “Oh cool, let’s put up pictures and talk about what we just did.” There were no forums, none of that. So nobody really knew what anybody was doing, but I did like toeside air front flips.
Parks: Yeah, I think you were the first to do that.
Zane: Like toe front to fakies.
Parks: I think you also got the switch whirly?
Zane: Yeah, I got the switch whirly. That was you and I, buddy. That was fun, you know. Those were the days you’d go out with a buddy and it didn’t matter if somebody was rolling the wake over because the wake was only like 8 inches tall anyway. And so you and I would go ride and, God, that was so much fun, man.