Before Worlds, did you feel like your career was a little underrated? We do, and maybe it’s the media that’s to blame.
I’m not sure. Was it? To date, I am happy with the direction my career has taken. I don’t seek recognition from people, but it is certainly gratifying to hear you stoked someone out or helped someone stick his first toeside air or simply helped get him into the sport. If people feel I’m underrated, then for sure I would take it as a compliment, but for now I’m just going to keep doing what I do!
You seem really positive 100 percent of the time. Why is it so easy for you to keep a good attitude?
I love wakeboarding! I could be a poor sucker sitting in traffic at 6 a.m. on the way to the office, but I’m not! Wakeboarding has given me a lifestyle that I would feel guilty taking for granted. Maybe I would be a little different if I didn’t have wakeboarding, but I don’t see a reason to be anything except positive. Being paid to stand behind a boat is pretty damn cool. As Bruce Robson says, “Could be worse!”
You have always respected your roots and the Aussies who came before you. Why is that so important?
If I had to say what the biggest impact on my career was, I would say the people in my early years. I began riding with some of the most influential people to ever strap on a board, including Reece Jordan (original Double-Up team with Greg Nelson) and Marshall Harrington (originator of off-axis spins). Then I was taken under the wing of Watkins, Sanders and Ike. Other Aussies less known in the United States, like Paul Boyd, also helped keep my head straight, and their outlook on the sport kept me from taking it too seriously. Watkins, Sanders and Ike basically fast-tracked me to where I am. I respect these guys because they helped me shape my career. The old cliché of “I wouldn’t be here without them” often gets thrown around, but if these guys never helped me, I wouldn’t have had anywhere to live in my rookie season. Ike took in myself, Broome and a couple other young grommets for two seasons. We would be snuck into nightclubs, get “rookie slaps” for anything stupid and were basically shown the ropes. Looking back on my rookie season, I don’t think I realized at the time how utterly useless I was! I think Aussie grommets owe a lot to the lads who came before them because they can now simply follow in footsteps rather than start their own to careers in Florida.
Give a quick description of the Hacko as it applies to wakeboarding and what it means to be a rider from there.
The Hacko in southern Sydney, or Port Hacking, is the birthplace of wakeboarding in Australia. It is a river that is synonymous with style, and I guess it is Australia’s equivalent of the West Coast. The riders who came from the Hacko, such as Jordan, Grant “Chief” Gettins, Harrington and Boyd always put emphasis on making sure the trick they were doing was done “right.” I feel lucky to have come from a river with such rich history. It saw the first twin-tip wakeboard shaped and ridden by Jordan and Chief in 1991 called a Cordial. It was a completely finless board resembling today’s flex boards with snowboard bindings that you would use shoes with. It would be the basis for some board shapes 10 years later from mainstream companies. They were developing different rocker patterns, both continuous and three-stage, which wouldn’t really be seen for another few years. Riding with these guys had a huge impact on my riding. I have never been recognized as a “style” rider, but I have always tried to make sure I stick to my roots and do everything right. I think riding with Jordan and Boyd helped my creative side in the sport and brought the fun aspect to my riding. I could go out and be stressed from a long contest weekend, but as soon as I’m back riding with the Hackos, I remember why I started! I came onto the Australian scene in 2000, right around the time the second wave of Hackos came through, including Broome, Amber Wing and my sister Hayley. We would go out riding every afternoon with up to eight people every day. We would ride doubles, see how big we could drive and hit starter-roller triple-ups and live and breathe wakeboarding. I have great memories on the Hacko; it’s home.
You ride the boat and cable really well. Where do you want to improve as a rider?
Definitely on the cable! I have been into riding cable for 18 months now, and I even went to Turkey this year for the Worlds. It sucked that I had a busted ankle from Parks’ Double or Nothing, so I couldn’t really push myself. I like riding cable because there are no expectations of me, so it has become a sort of “serious hobby.” I guess the way I ride behind the boat complements my cable riding, where loading the line is key. There are a lot of cable critics, and I guess I used to be one. I should use this moment to publicly say “you were right” to Mitch Langfield. I used to give him shit for riding at Orlando Watersports Complex all the time, and now I froth on it! It actually helps my boat riding too. I learned switch front mobes on the corner at OWC, then took it to the wake. I have learned a huge portion of my wake tricks from kickers at cable parks.
Wasn’t there a point where you threw in the towel? How did you rebound?
I definitely reached a breaking point where I was convinced I would never make it as a professional. In 2006 I “retired” and went back to uni [college]. It was the culmination of not getting contest results and lack of financial backing. During the semester I was at uni, I had an epiphany and decided I’d made the wrong decision to retire and came back to the sport I love. I’d say it was the biggest turning point of my career. I decided I would get fit and put everything I could into making sure I would succeed. That included my fitness and how I would carry myself as a professional. I used Watkins as my blueprint. I ended up winning the Australian Pro Tour.
I was impressed by the spontaneous shout-out you got at the Wake Awards this year. What was the deal with that?
Yeah, right? Jeff Barton totally caught me of guard! It gets back to what I was saying about how well my World title was received. To look back and see everyone standing and clapping put me back into that Disneyland mode again where I kept thinking, “Is this really happening?” I’ve been friends with JB for my whole career, so it was cool that it came from him.
At this point in your career, what kinds of things inspire you to keep charging?
I have always thought of wakeboarding as an art rather than a sport. It’s a way to express yourself on the water. You can always tell someone’s mood and personality from the way they ride. It is this reason I am always looking for different ways to charge. Having something in your head and translating it onto the water must surely be the reason we all ride. It certainly is for me, anyway. I think that could be the appeal of contests for me, the stoke of stomping a run I mapped out in my head. As long as my body holds up, I don’t see why I would stop charging because my mind is constantly ticking over. Nobody can watch Chris O’Shea ride then look me in the eye and tell me they aren’t inspired to try something. If you aren’t, then you must not have a pulse — or you are riding for different reasons than me.