Randall Harris hasn’t been this hot since 2007 when he returned to wakeboarding after a two-year absence and won Best Wake Rider and Best Video Performance at WAKEBOARDING magazine’s Wake Awards. In the past couple weeks, The Vandall was signed by Vans and won his first contest since ’95. He also started filming for the first-ever Company Wakeboards team video, and his brand-new pro model will soon hit dealer shelves across the country. We recently talked to Harris about all those things as well as the rejuvenated West Side Riders.
You just won the Rio Bravo Pro by beating some of wake’s best contest riders, including Phillip Soven, Rusty Malinoski and Aaron Rathy. How did you pull that off? I just did my thang. I didn’t even legitimately make it through the qualifying round. The only reason I got to move to the next round was because Shane Bonifay bowed out to catch his flight and get home. I didn’t do any super-difficult maneuvers, and I by no means went out and totally killed it or anything. Rathy, Rusty, and Phillip did more tricks and more technical tricks. I guess the judges just appreciated my style a little more than the usual panel. I know they took some heat for puttin’ me ahead of those other dudes, but they held their ground and went to bat for what they believed was the best wakeboarding that day. Bold move dudes. Thanks judges!
Before Rio Bravo, when was the last contest you’d won? The last contest I won was the Expression Session at the 1995 Nationals. It was held at the site of my first contest ever the previous year where I took second to Parks Bonifay. It was some mud hole in the boonies out in Texas. I don’t think there were divisions for Expression Session, so I rode against everybody that wakeboarded back in ’95. Actually, that might have been the first Expression Session.
You’re definitely considered a free rider, but you ride in more contests than a lot of the other free-ride guys. What’s your take on contests? My response to this question could develop into a novel, so I’ll do my best to keep it short. I don’t really want to perpetuate all that free rider vs. contest rider hype. The sport is too small to not support it in its entirety. Contests grow the sport, and contests are a necessary part of the sport. Some of my sponsors support contests, and I want to be there to support them. I meet a lot of dope people at contests and get to mingle with the enthusiasts of the sport. Those interactions are the best part of my job and are the main reason I go to contests. I want people to know that I am a fan of the sport, and I support every aspect of the sport. Contests don’t suck — I suck at contests! Since the beginning, I have been turned off by the standard format for contests and thus never acquired an interest in developing my competition skills. In my opinion, the majority of contest formats evolved from water ski/trick ski contests and are an inaccurate, archaic and extremely limited portrayal of a sport that is already severely limited.
We hear West Side Riders is a lot more focused these days. What have you guys been up to of late? WSR has been riding. We have all been spending time at WSR HQ, staying focused, getting on each other about how to improve our riding, and getting creative. We have been taking photo/film trips, logging content. We’ve been throwin’ a few parties, and we are all in recruit mode looking for talented prospects. We all have the best times when we get to work hard together and not have to be far from home.
What do you guys have planned for the future? Getting’ tatted, Cadillac turnin’, and water dancin’. Ha ha! We just plan on riding and making sure everybody is aware of our riding. As always, we want to put out a video and put out clothes. Those of us that are more established and seasoned are going to be putting time into developing some of the youngsters’ careers. There are a lot of dos and don’ts in this world of action sports that aren’t always easily identified. We want to help shed light on the right path.
How would you sum up the current state of West Coast wakeboarding? What’s the vibe like over there right now? It’s harder for people to participate these days. Most people can’t afford a boat and gas right now. I know people that have been riding for years that are being forced to throw in the towel. Kids that had dreams of being pro or were pro are getting 9-to-5ers because there aren’t as many opportunities in wakeboarding.
That’s a nationwide dilemma, but I think it hits the West Coast harder than areas with lots of water and lots of boats. To clarify what I mean, take a look at the Canyon Lake/Lake Eslinore area. If I wanted to go ride in that area right now, I couldn’t. None of the homies have boats anymore! They either couldn’t afford them, left the neighborhood for cheaper housing, or they had their promo boat revoked by the boat company. You gotta realize that not only is the person that was in possession of the boat not riding, but the 12 people that person took out on the regular are not riding either. That’s how we do it out here. We pile in, because we have to get it where the getting is good.
I realize that was a bleak summary of West Coast wakeboarding, but that’s how it feels lately. It feels smaller. It feels like there are fewer up-and-comers. It’s always been hard to make it as a wakeboarder on the West Coast — it’s harder than ever now. We didn’t start WSR because we were buddies and we liked spending time together. We did it because we depend on each other. That’s why WSR is important. We serve a purpose.
Overcoming the obstacles makes us appreciate the actual riding so much. When we get to ride we give it all we got. That’s why there are so many unique styles out here. The passion can be seen in our riding. It’s like the starving artist effect. The vibe is the same as always as it relates to those of us fortunate enough to be on a lake riding. Most ride for the fun, passion, and beauty of it all. Everybody has their own style — their own version of what wakeboarding should look like. It’s a real personal thing. We all take our board sports very seriously out here. There are always heated disputes. Talking about someone’s view of riding is like dissin’ his mama! It’s great! I love it!
You have a new pro model wakeboard from Company dropping in 2010. Tell us about it. I’m real excited about this board man! The culmination of strengths from my previous pro models is propelled by greater construction. Company Wakeboards’ Vandall 2010 Pro Model! Yeeuh! It comes in a 136, 140, and 144. The colored urethane sidewalls look dope and make it more resistant to wear and tear. The graphics are simple, clean and sharp, and the core ingredients give the board a live, powerful feeling. The board is bombproof. I ride them so hard and they don’t break. I most definitely cannot take all the credit on this one. I was honored to have wakeboard legend Gregg Necrason and film legend Justin Stephens collaborate with me on the design. To top it off, legend Erich Schmaltz, whom much of my riding style was derived from, helped on the design and actually built the dang thang! Oh, and the bindings? Don’t get me started. The new plate system is bananas. No laces!
What’s up with the Company team video? What have you guys filmed so far and what do you have planned? The name of the Company video is Good Company. We are just starting the filming process. The concept is simple: Extraordinary athletes riding extraordinary boards.
What’s the game plan for your section? The game plan for my section is go all in. Nothin’ or no one is going to stop me from working with Justin to create my best riding section ever.
Company just signed Chris O’Shea. Were you pumped to have another big-time free rider on the team? We are so honored to have Chris O riding our boards and flying the Company flag. Owning a board brand has always been a dream of mine. Building a team of riders that can put together a video section and wakeboard in a fashion that is parallel to my beliefs of how a board should be ridden has been another dream of mine. Chris O plays a big role in fulfilling that dream. Chris O has more than proven himself to be worthy of rockin’ the Co. logo. We aim to be equally as worthy of him.
You just signed with Vans. Tell us about how that came about. It’s kind of like winning the Rio Bravo Pro — I’m not sure how it happened but I’m glad it did. I have a close friend that has been keeping us in contact for a couple of years now, trying to make the deal happen and bring Vans back to wakeboarding. Vans is one of the originals, if not the original, action sports brand. Having Vans support wakeboarding adds legitimacy to our sport. It’s a beautiful thing to be representing such an iconic brand. I’m very grateful to be considered a member of the Vans family.
You’ve been riding for Axis Boats for about a year now. How is that working out? Working with Axis has been awesome. Everybody involved is great. Adam McCall, the managing director of Axis, is one of the coolest guys to work with. He’s exceptionally smart and he goes the extra mile to have my back. Axis appreciates input from the people that are in the boat six days a week, and they have an open mind and are open to new things. I’m very grateful to have been included on this project since the beginning. It’s great to see a favorable reception of the brand and product. There is now quite a demand for the A22. It’s the perfect product at the perfect time. Who wouldn’t want a better boat for half the price? Adam and everyone at Axis designed an amazing boat. I’m being honest when I say the Axis is definitely the best boat I’ve ever had. I love the simpleness of the A22. It outperforms every other boat, and the wake is phenomenal. True story. Plus, the Vandall Edition of the 2010 Axis A22 is now available.
What’s your game plan for 2010? Kill and destroy! Just playin’. Divide and conquer! Still playin’. Take over the world! I ain’t playin’! 2010 will be a monumental year for me. I’m going to do what I can to push Company to the top along with all my sponsors. I will give wakeboarding all I have and keep my eyes on God.
Anything that we didn’t talk about that you want WBM readers to know about? In order to devote all my time and energy to Good Company and providing beautiful pages in your magazine, I am not going to compete in contests for a year.
Photo: Spencer Smith