Saying that Harley Clifford is poised for a breakout 2010 isn’t exactly a revelatory statement. The 16-year-old rider from Brisbane, Australia, is coming off his best season ever and is already tearing up the 2010 King of Wake, winning Wake Games and the first stop of the 2010 Pro Wakeboard Tour. He also scored his first major video section in Body Glove’s first-ever wakeboarding team film, Slick City, which premiered in May. But Clifford’s just getting started. We recently caught up with the Aussie phenom to find out how he plans to make his mark on wakeboarding in 2010. — Becky Jackson
Hometown: Brisbane, Australia
Sponsors: Liquid Force, Body Glove, MasterCraft Boats, Oakley, Watermans Applied Science and Monster Energy.
When and how did you get into wakeboarding? Probably when I was about five. My dad introduced me to it. I used to [water] ski and we used to go on camping trips all the time with the boat on the lake. One time we just started wakeboarding together as a family.
When did you know wakeboarding was what you wanted to do? Probably around 13 or 14 it hit me that I could make this my life. When I was growing up, it was kind of the sport that I did. We just went wakeboarding every afternoon pretty much as a family because we lived on the water. I just loved it a lot, and I wanted to do it all the time.
When did you feel that you’d arrived in wakeboarding? Last year when I won the Pro Wakeboard Tour.
Outside the contest scene, what are your biggest goals for 2010? Try to get another [WAKEBOARDING magazine] cover, get a couple more movie sections, get a couple of new sponsors and promote myself more.
You and Aaron Rathy really battled back and forth last year. With Rathy dealing with a knee injury, what guys are your main competition now? Rusty Malinoski, Bob Soven and JD Webb.
Do you think your riding has improved from last year to this year? Yeah, definitely. Last year, I could do all the similar tricks, but I couldn’t do all my really high tricks in contests. Now I can do them. Last year, sometimes I’d have good rides and other times I’d ride bad because I just wasn’t as consistent as I am this year.
What’s it like riding against your friend and teammate Bob Soven in the pro division this year? It’s good. He’s killing it. He got second at Wake Games and did really good there. He’s hard to beat, but it’s definitely always fun to ride with him.
Have we seen your best contest run yet this season? No. I want to try to start doing a toeside 9, switch toeside 9 and switch heelside 9 in my run. I want to do those in a row in the competition. I can do a nose grab backside 5 every time, but for some reason I haven’t done it in the competition, so hopefully I’ll put that in the next run.
You landed a handle-pass, wake-to-wake KGB 5 at the first Pro Wakeboard Tour stop, which was the first time that trick has been landed in competition. Working on any new tricks? I’ve been working on a KGB 7, which is a trick I’ll land and hopefully will get recognize for Move of the Year at Wake Awards at the end of the year. I just recently landed a 1080, so I also want to land a 1260.
You had a major section in Body Glove’s Slick City. Was that your first big video part? Pretty much. It was definitely my first big international video part. I’ve done a bunch of different movie parts in Australia.
What was your favorite part about filming Slick City? It was cool that Bob [Soven] and Rusty [Malinoski] got to come to my house and hang out and ride where I ride while I’m in Australia.
What should readers who haven’t seen the video yet expect from your section? A couple of new tricks that I put in there that people probably haven’t seen before. It’s a fun movie.
So you have a big video part out now, you won last year’s Pro Tour and you’ve won the first two King of Wake events this year. When is Liquid Force going to give you a pro model? Actually, I just finished it. I should get it in a week or two.
Any ideas for a name? I really have no idea. We haven’t really discussed it yet. That’s what we’re going to do within the next two weeks for it to be finished.
What do you when you’re not riding? Hang out with my friends, play ping pong, play the Xbox and go skateboarding.
If you weren’t wakeboarding, what other sport would you be doing? Probably surfing. I usually surf about two to three times a week when I’m in Australia.
What are your least favorite clichés associated with Australians? People always ask about kangaroos and ask if you see them. They think they’re everywhere. I also hate when Americans call [Australia] the “land down under.” It’s just a weird name.