What did your mom and Pete do?
Well, that was like their dream, you know? They had a whole farm and were just living the good life and then all of it was gone. They decided to start doing yacht charters. They moved to Spain and then eventually settled in the British Virgin Islands doing yacht charters, while I carried on with my wakeboarding. So that’s the story of both of my parents.
Incredible, man. You’ve had your share hardships too with knee injuries huh?
Yeah, I blew my knee out wakeboarding when I was about 20. I was doing a Pete Rose and I landed with my front leg super heavy and my knee was completely dislocated. My left leg was a couple of inches shorter than my right because the bones were overlapping. It popped out of joint and it stayed out. I could feel that something was wrong, and I could feel the bottom part of my leg had something bulging out and my leg was swaying side to side in the water.
Yeah. So they cut me out of the bindings and took me to the hospital with my knee still dislocated and all over the place. I could feel my tibia bone rubbing against the wooden stretcher. It was horrible. They put a balloon down there just so it wouldn’t rub, gave me morphine and after about two hours they put it back in place at the hospital. I ended up having to stay in the hospital for a week because the blood wasn’t flowing right in my leg.
Then what did you do?
After the knee deal I couldn’t ride like I wanted to and it was really depressing. But this guy had started a wake magazine back home in South Africa called Wake Zone, and he offered me a job doing the graphic design for it. So that kept me busy for a while. But I ended up starting to ride too soon and messed up my knee even more. Ended up having three surgeries on it in the end. So, the whole time my knee was bothering me I started wakeskating more and more. I always had wakeskated, but it was just for fun. I got frustrated with wakeboarding because I couldn’t do the stuff I used to be able to do. I always loved that you could go so big wakeboarding but I couldn’t go as big as I wanted to without my knee hurting. So I started wakeskating more and it just took over.
What made you move to the States?
Well, I ended up staying at home for another two years. Then, at 25, I had a fork in the road and was either going to get a job and be a responsible human being, or try to go for it and ride and do what I’ve always wanted to do. I had broken up with my chick at the time and was in a bit of a quarter-life crisis. I just decided to do it. I gave myself two years. I told myself that if I could just stay in the U.S. for two years that would be enough time for me to know if I could make it. If I didn’t then at least I’d know I tried and that’s all I really needed.
Did you know anyone in the U.S.?
I met Matt Staker during a Wakestock event when I was in Wales. He said I could come and crash on his couch whenever, and I fully took him up on that. So when I came over I was sleeping on his couch in Orlando for the first two weeks. One of his roommates moved out so he offered me the room. I landed with my ass in the butter for sure. It was perfect. I grew up watching Stakes in videos and he was one of my favorite riders. I was stoked. I got to hang out with Stakes a bunch and meet everyone else in the scene. I had been to the States a couple of times before, staying with family. My buddy Nick Burton Moore came over and we rented a house together on Lake Howell in Orlando. We didn’t have a car but Tony Smith gave me a bicycle he had. At that point we had a Jet Ski but we didn’t have a car yet. Nick eventually bought a van. Then more Saffas [South Africans] came over and we rented a bigger place on the Butler chain of lakes. It was an old run-down house on Pocket Lake; it was perfect.
Who all lived there?
Nick Burty, Clay Krause, Brian Loggenberg, Nick Bensch and Marc Rossiter lived there for a bit. People were constantly coming in and out.
A lot of South Africans?
Yeah, mostly Saffas, and English too. I wanted to have a place over here where friends could come stay and ride. I was always the one over at friends’ places staying the night and riding all day. It’s really hard when you don’t know anyone out here. So hopefully by having a little SA base camp we can grow wakeskating and wakeboarding a little more back home.
Do you go back often?
I haven’t been home in five years, eh?
Yeah. Well, here’s the story there. My mom won a green card in the lottery. This was when I was 15, so we decided to give it a go and move to the U.S.
Where did you move?
We had family in Vegas. So we all moved out to Vegas; she bought a house there. We lived there for about six or seven months. I went to school there for a couple of months.
Did you like it?
Kind of. I didn’t like the school. It was crazy. I just felt like everyone had something to prove. I nearly got into fights all the time over nothing. We ended up just going home after a few months. It was a big culture shock for us.
It was kind of like a mini version of Dangerous Minds to me [laughs].
Why haven’t you gone back in five years?
I had to come back to the U.S. every year to keep my green card. I did it for a couple of years. I stayed in Los Angeles with my uncle for nine months when I was around 19. I was going to come over just to renew my green card, but I ended up staying. Kinda like my first trip to get closer to wakeboarding better. I rode with some guys from 118 Boardshop every now and again but I was getting homesick again and decided to head back to Zimbabwe. Where was I going with this?
You haven’t been home in five years.
Oh, right, way off track there. So I didn’t come back to the U.S. one year to renew my card, and if you don’t come back to do it they just cut you off. I was fairly happy living back home and thought that if I ever did come to the U.S. it would just be for contests or something, not to live. So when I decided I did actually want to try to live here I did it with just my German passport and a visa.
Do you have a German passport?
Yep. I’ve got both, German and South African. At one point I had a German passport, South African nationality, Zimbabwean residency and a U.S. green card [laughs].
Did you ever get your green card back?
I was going to try to get a sports visa here when I first got here, but I could never get all the things together, not enough sponsors, etc. It’s also really expensive, like five grand.