You kind of had your coming-out party when you won the first Wake Lab event back in 2008. What was that experience like?
That same year, I was doing better and better on Tour, but I never got the breakthrough I wanted. I got fourth at one of the Tour stops and fourth at Worlds, which made me realize I could actually make it behind the boat. There weren’t many rail-only events at that point, so when Wake Lab came around all the guys at The Projects, my brother and I were so stoked. We saw the setup and it was so big and impressive. It looked perfect. We actually helped build it the last week because they were a little late so they needed every hand they could get. When I actually rode the event, I was so pumped to be a part of it. I came out of it a different person.
How did that change things for you?
Until then, I never really knew if I could make it, even though that was what I was always striving for. That day I realized, “OK, this is a possibility and this is my opportunity, so I’m going to take it and make the best of it.” It was almost like I proved it to myself and I proved it to my friends and family and I proved myself to the industry all in one event. It made people realize I was going to stick around — that I wasn’t going to give up and go back to school. It laid a foundation for where I wanted to go.
Did you have that feeling standing on the podium, or was it something you realized later on down the line?
I definitely realized it later because it was overwhelming being up top with JD Webb and Aaron Rathy with a huge crowd all around. I was smiling all the way to the back of my head. I couldn’t believe it.
That was the first-ever System 2.0 event. How do you think it changed wakeboarding in the last couple years?
Eventwise, it brings it to the people. Instead of having people come out to the lake, it brought the event to the people. From the rider’s point of view, it’s amazing because there are so many possibilities. You can have different levels of pools and connect them with down rails and up rails and step-ups and step-downs. Then you have stuff like Kevin Henshaw’s C-rail, which is totally insane. It makes so many things possible to the sport that really weren’t before. It’s intense and it’s very good for progression, not only of the sport but also of up-and-comers. If you spend time riding on the System, you’re definitely going to improve everything about your riding.
How many System 2.0 events have you ridden in?
Two Wake Labs, Wake of Fame, Wake the Line in Germany and FISE in France — so five.
What was it like to ride against Raphael at Wake the Line?
I picked his name out of a bag for the first head-to-head heat of the event. I think it was the ultimate test because I knew exactly what he could do and he knew exactly what I could do.
What was it like to see him win that event?
It was amazing. If I wasn’t going to beat him, I definitely wanted him to win the whole thing. It was crazy to watch it round by round and see who he was up against and see what he would do to move on and win the whole event.
What’s the dynamic like between you guys?
We have a great relationship. Back home, we still share a room. We ride and train together. We travel together. We compete against each other. He’s six years younger than me, so he got started a little younger than I did. He always hung out with us. He never let the age thing stop him. He always kept with it and had big goals, which helped him get to where he is now.
Is there some rivalry there?
There’s definitely a rivalry, but rivalry can be good and bad. When we train together or when we’re just free-riding together, one of us will learn a trick and then the other one obviously wants to learn a trick. That’s good with your friends, but it’s even more intense when it’s your brother because you know so much about one another.
Do you guys still ride together a lot?
Yep. Last year when he came down, he was living at Rathy’s and I was living at Phil’s, which is like 15 minutes away. We tried to ride together every day. We ride together every day back home. I drive him; he drives me. It can get hectic sometimes with all the traveling and nerves at events, but most of the time it’s really good.
Do you see similarities in your riding?
I don’t think we have similar styles at all. If you shot us both backlit so you couldn’t see our faces, I think anyone could tell us apart just because he rides with such a wide stance and wide knees and he’s so low on his board when he rides the wake. We have different riding styles, but at the same time, we’ve been inspired by the same things for so long. In some ways, our riding is on a parallel path. We’re going in the same direction with our riding.
How often do you get back home these days?
I go home every summer from June through early September. I spend the whole summer there because we’re very family-oriented, and it’s the perfect spot to ride and give back to the sport that brought me a lot in the last couple years. We have a school there where we get kids out on the water and just try to give back to the sport what it’s given me. We have a Malibu and a two-tower system right there too.