There’s no holding back the goose bumps when stepping into Scott Byerly’s freshly decorated billiards room in his new Windermere, Florida, home. Neatly displayed are all his pro-model wakeboards, from WakeTech all the way through Hyperlite. A decade’s worth of greatness for all to see — if you’re lucky enough to get an invite to his crib.
Recently, Byerly has been reminiscing about his wakeboarding days and yes, the rumors are true; he’s been strapping on the boots lately. Why is this significant? Because Byerly as a wakeboarder is our sport’s original Legend and is universally known as the godfather of style. And 99.9 percent of you haven’t seen him on anything besides a wakeskate in the last 10 years. Witnessing the 1994 World Wakeboard Champion arise from the glassy water, carve the wake with his signature “hook” arm, then bust a toeside end-over-end front flip sent shivers down our spines. The consensus of our crew in the boat was “This is how wakeboarding should look.”
The ever-so-calm Byerly was surprisingly vivacious during the following interview, and the energy radiating in his billiards room created the perfect setting for a chat. You could see the glimmer in his eye as Byerly reflected on the type of riding he was once so passionate about. Yes, you might have guessed that Byerly would wakeboard again someday, but no one could have guessed what actually inspired him to get back on the horse.
This season, Byerly Boards had a huge year, with Aaron Rathy and Mitch Langfield both taking world titles. Then Mitch started hanging out and riding with you a bunch. How did all of that come together? Last summer, I saw Mitch in contests and heard that he might be available. So I started talking to him and I gave him a board. Then we hit the road for a couple of months. When I came back, Mitch said he loved the board and was ready to ride for Byerly Boards. He switched right before the Worlds and won Junior Pro Men. After that, we did a photo shoot and hung out with Mitch and started to get to know him. His personality is awesome and the way he rides reminds me of taking it to the old school, where simple things are so much fun and look good.
At one of your shoots, we heard Mitch talked you into something you hadn’t focused on in over a decade. For years, everybody has been trying to get me to wakeboard and I’ve just been into the wakeskate thing. I’ve done enough on the wakeboard to where it just hasn’t interested me. Mitch just sort of took it back to the roots and I thought, “Wow, this looks really fun.” Then he came over to ride before he was headed back to Australia and he was just like, “Hey, Scott, why don’t you ride this wakeboard?” The other guys in the boat had been trying to get me to wakeboard for a long time and were saying, “You’re not gonna get him to ride, you’re wasting your breath.” But I said, “You know what, Mitch, throw me that board, I’m gonna check it out.” And it was fun. I took it back to where it was fun. Mitch got me to do it and it was pretty cool.
Do you think all the wakeskating helps you to be a better wakeboarder? For sure. Wakeskating teaches you how to ride a board properly, so you’re not just depending on your boots. It felt different being locked in. I’ve never really worn closed-toe boots before. Your feet don’t even f—in’ hurt. The boards are way different too. It was cool, man, it’s like riding a bike. I think if I rode some more that I would get right back to where I was.
A lot of people will be psyched to see you back on a wakeboard because they’ve appreciated your style from day one. What inspires the way you ride and your style? I don’t know man, just grab everything. It’s been so long since I rode. My style is pretty much the same as when I stopped wakeboarding. Maybe it’s from surfing and skateboarding when I was younger, that’s when I learned to wakeboard. And I just tried to incorporate what I already knew, so I wasn’t
trying to copy anybody’s style, it just came with me.
We see you’re doing a lot of wrapped moves [TS nose grab BS 180, HS indy 3’s]. That was missing from the sport for a while and now it’s back in a huge way. Yeah, that’s stuff we did way back in the day. Randy Harris … I think he came out with the Vandall Handle when he was a little kid. You can hold a grab longer than you can with a handle pass, so it brings in more snowboarding style where you can just grab and spin super slow. You can grab a simple backside 180 the whole time and it looks cool. That was cool to do back in the day because it was different; it wasn’t the skiboard, backside 180 or 360 with a quick little handle pass. You could put some style into it. That’s the simple stuff that’s fun to do. Mitch was doing it and it sorta clicked in the back of my head and made me think, “Wow, that looks really fun. I might want to try and get back on the horse.”
What other riders, besides Mitch and Randall Harris, do you see at the top of the sport and respect their style? Man, there are a lot of people. You’ve got Rathy, for sure. And Randy. I still like watching Randy Harris ride. I also like watching Danny Harf. He’s on top of his game, and he’s probably the best wakeboarder out there, in my opinion. And he’s somewhat old school. He’s been around for a while but he’s hanging with all these new guys and he’s been through injuries too. PB [Parks Bonifay] is one of my favorites for sure. With the whole System 2.0 and rail thing, he could be around for a long time. He’s a super-talented guy, he’s had some misfortune too with injuries, but he’s old school. He’s been around forever. Those are the guys for sure. Those are the top dogs.
Dock sliding was something you always had fun with back in the day. And you made it a point to go on a scouting mission for this shoot. Explain its importance to wakeboarding. For me, dock sliding was always the most fun part of wakeboarding. I always look at what you can hit, whether it’s a dock, a rock, buoy, whatever. The first people I ever saw hit docks were Greg Nelson on the old K2 board and Erich Schmaltz. Then Josh Smith also. It pisses the owners off; I’ve had people pound nails into their docks and leave ’em halfway up so that we’d clip ’em and almost kill ourselves. But that stuff led to the design for all the rails at The Projects and rails in contests. But you don’t see a lot of people hitting docks anymore.
At your new house, you’ve been working real hard on this room we are sitting in. What’s going on in here? It takes me back through memory lane. I put up all my pro-model boards from Wake Tech to Hyperlite [pre-Byerly Boards]. There’s one Jimmy Redmon shape, from my first pro model, the Wake Tech Flight 69, to all the Scott Bouchard shapes. He’s still shaping for me now with Byerly Boards and he’s been around forever. All of this wouldn’t be possible without him. Also me and Brannon Meek’s shaped board, Big Blue for WakeTech; I think those are the only ones that aren’t blunt shapes. We’ve got artists like Chris Mack to Gregg Morris, who still does all my boards now, to Son Duong. Just a lot of years and memories up on the ceiling.
Since 1993, you’ve had an instinct for working with the media, and it seems like it’s even more important to you today. What importance do you put on doing photo shoots as a pro rider? It means a lot. That’s how you get out and get publicity, get into magazines … it’s been that way for a long time. I know things are kinda changing with people going on the computer a lot, but I think doing something for a magazine that you actually have in your hands is real. It’s always the same feeling; you can’t wait to get that mag that you’re in and check it out and for everyone to see it. You’re going through the grocery store and see WBM on the shelf with everything else, it’s a pretty cool feeling. Looking through the ads, checking out who’s on the cover, it’s just awesome. Just shooting photos is way different than filming. It’s like capturing time. If you don’t have the grab, you’re going to see that in a photo. I always like to be grabbing my board and just trying to do something different. That’s what I’ve always done, just try to put some style on it.
You are the rider who has been on the most WBM covers, seven now. What does that mean to you? It’s been a long time, you know? I remember when WBM was “the word in ski and kneeboarding.” That was just the coolest feeling back then, being in the magazine. It’s funny looking back at my first cover, I’ve got a skullet haircut and my mouth’s wide open screaming. It’s pretty funny to see where it came from. A lot of people don’t know and they should take a little history lesson on it. It’s awesome having this long-term relationship with WBM and all the people who work for them. We’re always trying to help each other out, with whatever. I’m always going to be available for whatever they need.
Looking forward to 2010, what kind of responses have you been getting about the new Byerly products? At Surf Expo, everybody was digging the stuff. We’ve got new colors, and it’s a different look than other boards. Our line doubled from last year. And we’ve added two wood wakeskates for George Daniels. We’ve got a new wakesurfer and we’ve got two new boots. Rathy’s been working with Bouchard on the new Conspiracy, which is a really sick board. And we’re already working on new wakeboards right now, and changing the bi-level wakeskate for 2011. I think it’s going to be a really good year, for sure.
For your fans out there, what can they expect? Is there any way they can meet you guys and try out your boards in 2010? Yeah, we plan on doing the Byerly Bus tour again. You can keep checking the websites byerlywakeboards.com or scottbyerly.com and look for dates when we’ll be at a shop near you. You can try the boards before you buy them. We’ll have my Byerly edition Nautique and all the products. And you get to meet all the riders and get lessons. It’s a win-win situation.
Words: Kevco Photos: Matt Maloy