You’re known as somewhat of a contest rider, and you’re a judge on the Pro Tour, but you’ve never put on your own event. Do you ever want to organize your own contest like Scott, Aaron or Ben has done?
Yeah, I’ve always talked about it, and I’ve always had my own ideas on format and how I would do it. Some of those ideas have actually transferred over to the Pro Wakeboard Tour this year, just because I’ve been a wakeboard judge for so long and we always have meetings in the offseason about how we think it should run and what would work. I always said if I did a contest it would be a multirun format, kind of like what we’re doing on the PWT with no falls. So when you fall you’re done, but you can go out there and try to link some tricks together, like a vert or super-pipe run. You could go out and fall and pump back up to the top, but you’re not going to win the event. It would really just boost consistent good runs but still have the difficulty to win with the two runs. I don’t know, I’ve helped Scott with Toe Jam over the years, and he puts a ton of time into it. It’s not just showing up and getting a few people to judge. It’s a ton of work. He’s already been at The Projects for 10 days, and the Toe Jam is in two weeks, you know? You have to build the site and line up the sponsors. Scott has a lot of help, but you see him on Toe Jam weekend and he’s done at that point. He’s been working so hard to make it happen, it’s his time to sit back and enjoy. Right now, I’m just so busy with riding and trips and judging a lot. It would be really hard for me to plan an event at this point in my career.
What are your biggest influences outside of wakeskating?
My biggest influence from another board sport would probably be surfing. I like to surf, but I look up to guys like Kelly Slater and Andy Irons. I think some of the things you can do on a wakeskate are surf-based, a lot are skateboard-based too, but just being fluid and linking stuff together, I think you can learn a lot from surfing. I also admire the mental toughness of those guys. Watching their tour, I feel like they have to surf a ton of heats in so many different conditions. You can throw them in any wave, and they’re going to do well. I’ve always looked up to that, especially since I’m getting older. Watching Slater get better and better in his late-30s is inspiring. It just proves you can be in your prime and hit your stride when you want to. I feel like that too. I’ve been doing it for 10 years or whatever, and the equipment has gotten better, I’ve gotten stronger and more consistent and the wakes are better than ever. I couldn’t do nearly the tricks I used to all because our boards were too light. The whole industry has learned a lot about what boards work in different situations. I no longer ride the same board in everything I do. Before, I had one board for everything. Now, I ride a wood deck behind the ski and the cable because I feel like it has better swing weight and sits deeper in the water. My model G is obviously what I ride on the wake and sometimes on rails.
What about within the sport? Who do you think is currently on the forefront of making wakeskating what it is?
I’ve looked up to a lot of people over the years. Obviously, watching Scott wakeboard and wakeskate motivates me even to this day. Brandon Thomas has been living with me for about five years now, and we ride together on a regular basis. Before that, he didn’t really ride boat a whole lot, but now he’s one of the best boat riders in the world. So it’s been really fun to have him to ride with, and we have a great time pushing each other. I really enjoy watching Ben ride. He just has a real skate style and a real unique style and does super-hard tricks. He skateboards really well, and for him it just translates straight to the water. He doesn’t come from a wakeboard or water ski background at all, and I think that’s pretty cool. Andrew Pastura and his brother Austin too, seeing what they did with their pool setup at the house, it’s really cool and now they’re so consistent. Reed Hansen is probably the most consistent with contest and free-riding. He’s kind of the guy who does it all: super-good behind the boat, on the cable, rails, anything. He’s fun to watch but tough to ride against. He’s been doing some cool stuff this year too. It’s going to be interesting to see Move of the Year at Wake Awards this year to see what everyone does. It’s always amazing. You just sit there with your jaw dropped, watching tricks you didn’t even know they were doing. I mean, there are a ton of guys who I look up to in wakeskating. Those are just some of the guys who are pushing it and out there doing different stuff and doing their thing, but it all helps wakeskating.
What do you like to do when you’re not on the water?
I try to enjoy my time off the water as much as I can. Here in Florida, we golf quite a bit. A few of us all skydive pretty frequently — Parks, Adam Errington, Aaron Rathy and a couple others. We all got certified.
How long have you been certified?
About three years. I really just got into skydiving through bungee jumping, though. I’ve been jumping with the Vertigo guys out in Washington for about 10 years. Scott introduced me to them. I love it; it’s super fun. You go out and jump in the middle of the night, and it just gets you in the zone. Half of it is the adrenaline of jumping and the other half is knowing you’re not supposed to be there. It’s just this crazy feeling. You’re on a bridge that’s 300 feet off the ground and just waiting is exciting because you’re not strapped in or anything. You’re always watching your step. Obviously, jumping is the best part, but the entire experience is really cool and addicting. Any time those guys do a jump trip, I do whatever I can to get out there. I’ve been lucky enough to do some amazing jumps on some amazing bridges with those guys.
At one point didn’t you have the world record, for like a day?
Well, it’s an unofficial world record. But yeah, back in ’07 we went to the Royal Gorge in Colorado. It’s the biggest bridge in the Untied States. It’s almost 1,000 feet tall. I flew out there for a day to do it, right before Surf Expo and Wake Awards. It was weird, though. It was getting toward the end of the day, and there was this truck there that can drive on the train tracks in case anyone got hurt. It was supposed to be there until 5 p.m., but at 3 p.m. they said it needed to leave. I was so bummed. I flew all the way out there and I wasn’t going to jump. But they talked the truck into staying for another jump, and I was standing over the edge. We were trying to go as deep as we could; it’s like 950 feet or something. Normally I would do some squirrel or something with my arms and legs out, but I said to myself, “I’m just going to point it” and went down headfirst with my arms back. That was the first time I really ever felt a total free fall. I was pointing straight down and carving back and forth through the air. I was like, “This is insane.”
How long is the free fall?
It was like nine seconds until the cords start tightening up. There is a river on one side and a train track that’s raised on one side. We had some spotters down below, and I went to about the train track level, which is about 20 feet off the river bottom. Obviously, the rebounds were massive and it was the best jump ever, but I went deeper than anyone had gone off that bridge. So yeah, for like a day I had the unofficial world record. There are bigger bridges in China, but no one has jumped them. We figured it was the highest bungee jump someone has done off a stationary object. People have gone bigger out of like helicopters and hot air balloons, but off a stationary object, it was the highest one. The next day, though, my friend from Vertigo went out and went deeper, so I only had the record for a second. After that is when I started looking into getting certified for skydiving. That feeling was crazy.
So that was like a gateway drug.
Yeah, pretty much. There are no bridges in Florida, and that was a pretty cool feeling so I knew I needed to get certified.
If you weren’t wakeskating for a living, what would you be doing?
I don’t know. I might be flying like my Dad did. I’ve never had any desire to go into the military like he did, but I’ve always loved flying.
Would you ever get your pilot’s license just for fun?
Yeah, I’ve thought about doing it. I’ve had the chance to get my license when my Dad was teaching but just never did. I think down the road I could get into that. I don’t know what I’d be doing if I wasn’t wakeskating. I got my degree from UCF. I stayed in school in the anticipation that if something didn’t happen with wakeskating I’d have something to fall back on. Who knows if I’ll ever use it, but we’ll see.