Words: Luke Woodling | Photos: Aaron Reed, BOK and Lu Le
If cable wakeboarding has a face, it’s the grinning mug of Tom Fooshee. After all, the 26-year-old Texan is the most successful cable rider ever. He has won the Wake Park World Series three times in its three-year history, and when TransWorld WAKEBOARDING added Best Wake Park Rider to the Wake Awards last year, Fooshee was named its first recipient. It was fitting, especially since Fooshee’s riding both in and out of the park helped legitimize cable wakeboarding. In fact, more than any other rider, Fooshee helped transform cable riding from the redheaded stepchild of wake riding to one of the most exciting aspects of modern wakeboarding.
Yet despite all of his success, Fooshee still identifies with his college-age self, the Texas State student who spent almost every waking moment either riding or working at the Texas Ski Ranch. He demonstrates that humble commitment nearly every day, whether he’s helping organize grassroots events at TSR or passing out tips to first-time riders on Liquid Force’s Free for All tour. His tireless support of the sport, combined with the world’s most progressive park riding, make him not only one of the sport’s best all-around riders but also one of its most important. After all, if cable parks represent the sport’s best opportunity for growth, Fooshee might just be wakeboarding’s most powerful proponent.
How did you start riding?
The first time I got on a wakeboard was when the Flight 69 came out and I immediately fell in love with it. So we’re looking at about ’94. I got into it because my parents were always on the water and they had a buddy who brought it out and I rode it behind a ProStar. I just fell in love with it from then on.
How long before you picked up cable?
I rode behind a boat until I was about 19 or 20. I actually got a sponsorship from the Texas Ski Ranch to ride on its pro boat team and that included a pass to the cable. Once I started taking advantage of that, I fell in love with it. I rode both boat and cable from then on, and that is what’s gotten me to where I am today.
How close did you live to TSR?
When I was at Texas State, I was only about 10 minutes away. I took total advantage of the park being so close, and I even got a job there. I started in the board shop, then I ran the cable. I ran the rental room. I gave lessons. I just did anything I could while I was in college to ride and make a little money while I was doing it.
Why did you gravitate to the cable?
I was able to maximize my riding time. I would show up at TSR and shred for two or three hours at a time, then we’d go drop the boat in the lake that’s five minutes away and do that for a bit. I was able to ride all the time and try new things all the time without it costing much. It was just nonstop. On cable, you could try something — even just by yourself — for hours at a time. That definitely led to my progression. Another thing that really helped me progress was all the guys at the cable. There are so many people to ride with and people to stay on you to try new stuff. When you constantly have people pushing you, next thing you know you’re doing new things.
Who inspired you?
Gabe Lucas was there all the time, opening up my riding to a lot of new ideas. There was a cable operator there at the time named Josh Wright who really pushed me and got me to try all sorts of new tricks. My old roommate and still one of my best friends, Bret Little, was always hitting me up to ride with him. Although we were technically doing two different things, we were still pushing each other. It’s been pretty awesome not only to see my progression but to the see the progression of these other guys who I’ve been riding with and how well they’ve turned out.
Who inspired you outside of TSR?
Obviously, Parks Bonifay. That dude was always doing things and still is doing things that changed everything. He’s a dude who I think everyone looks up to. I’ve always had mad amounts of respect for Ben Greenwood too, especially how he concentrates on doing everything right and making it look good. It was always super motivating to watch those guys ride in videos and then take that inspiration to my own riding.
What do you like about riding cable and what do you like about riding the wake?
What I like about riding both is that because they’re different I’m able to keep things fresh, and I never get bored. The thing I like most about cable is the social aspect. You’re going out and riding alongside multiple buddies, and that’s not only more fun but it also helps you progress. You can go out there and jam with 10 of your buddies and everybody gets an equal amount of time on the water. Going out on the lake on a boat just never gets old. That’s how wakeboarding got started, and it will never get stale.
Do you think you’re a better cable rider because you ride the wake and vice versa?
Definitely. It makes learning new things a lot faster. I can learn tricks on the cable so much faster because I can try it so many more times and then it doesn’t take me nearly as long to learn it behind the boat.
When you first started getting recognized, it was for cable. Have you ever felt like you had something to prove when it comes to riding the wake?
In the beginning, I did. I felt like I needed to prove I wasn’t just a cable rat. It was always something I wanted to show I could do, and I definitely had a little bit of a chip on my shoulder. This was when cable just started to take off. I feel like that helped the sport as a whole because it showed that doing one can make you a lot better at the other. I think it worked out for the best that I did have that chip on my shoulder at the time because it helped show that doing one can make you better at the other. Now I feel pretty comfortable with it.
Along those same lines, do you think cable riders are getting more respect these days than they did five years ago?
Most definitely. A lot of guys who made their names behind the boat are recognizing the potential of cable, and they’re giving out that respect. It’s definitely getting a lot more respect on the national and global level.