Ok so maybe we were stressed on a deadline when we came up with this list, but we decided to have a little fun and put together the top 20 least cool things to happen over the last 20 years. Much like our board graphics top 20, this list is highly subjective and our apologies if anyone is hurt by this. We are also fully aware that some of the things we are pointing out in here had elements of progressive and forward thinking, so rather than get all in a tizzy about it, just read what we have to say, THEN get in a tizzy.
We love what Darin Shapiro has done for the sport during his illustrious competitive and free-riding days, but this April 2000 cover was not one of those things. In fairness, it is not necessarily his fault that this cover came out, nor did he probably pick the pee-yellow background. It is however one of the worst covers we have ever run. We promise we won’t do anything like this again.
Yes, we know that this shot of Dano the Mano in a Reef ad from 2006 was a joke, but there were a few cases where riders posed shots on rails and ledges and tried to get away with it. There isn’t really much to say about it other than it was bad enough to make our list of the worst things in wake.
When flipping through the July 2000 issue of Wakeboarding, it was hard to miss this extreme closeup of Chase Heavener eating. There have been numerous ads worth making fun of throughout the years, but this one is unfortunately burned into our memory no matter how hard we try to forget about it. Chase’s impact on wake is not limited to making this list, although he is guilty of our #18 worst thing in wake right here in this ad. We love you Chase, just not enough to be this close to you around food.
Gath Helmets, while a great advertising partner for this publication 10 years ago, singlehandedly created one of the goofiest things one can put on one’s body. You could be as cool and stylish as Collin Wright was back in the day, but you would still look like a kook as soon as you stood near one of these helmets.
Can we all just agree that unless you have some sort of eye condition or your need for contact lenses was so severe that you required protection and you wore something like this, you were most likely the laughing stock of the boat? Ok, we came up with another scenario. If you just absolutely had to ride during cicada or locust season, then fine, you could wear these bad boys. Ok maybe a hail storm.
No. Just no. We get that the snow industry was turned upside-down when skis went from straight planks to sexy hourglass figured money makers, but Hydroslide’s watersports innovative thinking ceased with retractable kneeboard fins.
Not that this was ever really a wakeboard specific product, but the Kite Tube had one of the most impactful, short-lived stints in the towable water toy market. We decided that we had a good tag line that would have helped to sell pallets with, “Kite Tube: What could possibly go wrong?” Well, a whole lot could and did. They were quickly ripped off of the market after serious injuries were occurring all over the country.
There was a time where it seemed like every rail that was built by anyone OTHER THAN Pat Panakos was a concussion or an impalement waiting to happen. It’s not that the riders weren’t skilled enough to be hitting said rails, it is just that it was so new and exciting it seemed like people stopped planning halfway through the build because it was going to be so cool to hit it for the first time. It took years and possibly many injuries for Pat’s ways to influence builds. The crowd loves the danger factor, but most of the time there was no crowd watching riders flirt with death in a hidden part of the lake where the neighbors wouldn’t complain.
Our expertise lies within all that encompasses wakeboarding. Fashion is not necessarily something that we read up on or care all that much about on a personal level. The flat chain craze of the turn of the millenium is something that we can proudly say as a unified staff that we never took part in. Thank God because think of how embarrassing it would be if there were pictures frozen in time of us wearing those. Then what if someone put them on the internet? Oh man. That would be bad.
Have you thought to yourself, “I love the feeling of catching huge air, but I ALSO love the feeling of dangling from things?” Well then we are sorry that this sport didn’t catch on as were the hopes of wake kite manufacturers and enthusiasts alike. Had it caught on, there could be competitions highlighting unintentional raley after unintentional raley. Wake kiting came up while the economy was still good and people were literally looking for ways to throw away $2,000. Wake kiting filled that demand. We have a sneaking suspicion that it is solely responsible for the economic crisis as well.
The early to mid 90′s were full of offerings from rope/handle companies that were reasonably priced at $175. In fact, had you bought a carbon tennis racquet from your local Sports Authority, removed the strings, and used that as your handle, you may have saved money while still giving yourself the chance to knock out your teeth or render yourself unconscious. The less rock-hard things flying around your person while traveling 25 mph upside-down through the air, the better.
Not all of these were terrible, but this is a good example of something that had a long term, progressive influence on the sport, but many of the manifestations of the parking lot rail jam were painful on many levels. Physically, they were painful to both the riders hitting, at times, sketchy set-ups as well as the builders putting in insane man-hours to get these monstrosities up in time for the 2 hour show. Although this was the first time the crowd could feel the splash of the riders competing, the 2 second run followed by the 2 minute rope-run-back left something to be desired. The addition of two-tower cable systems and properly built set-ups have drastically changed what was in the beginning a bit of a shit show.
Again, let us remind you that we are doing this for fun and in no way are we taking credit away from anyone and their impact on the sport. Unfortunately the half back lip nicknamed the Aussie Back Lip was something that would be better forgotten. Here Josh Sanders, who has won a King of Wake title and scored numerous magazine covers and spreads, gives a good example of what the term embodied. Bad rail hits were a trend back in the day and Josh was not nearly the only one failing to square up their back lips in the early 2000′s, nor was this trick solely done by Australians. But like the Front Mobe 540, the boys from down under seemed to do this trick more frequently than most.
We had to think for a second on this one. Wasn’t wakeboarding invented because in the words of Tony Finn, “Skiiers are lame?” Well in the words of our Art Director, “Wake Slalom doesn’t make any f*#&!ng sense!” There were actual wakeboard slalom events that make us actually wonder what the point was. Certainly the point wasn’t to separate from skiing by running through the courses that were in place for them. It would be as ridiculous as skateboarders playing baseball while on their boards or snowboarders racing through slalom gates on the hill. Oh wait.
Chris Bischoff has been at the receiving end of countless rider protests over the years and for that we feel extremely sorry for him. Bisch himself is one of the best things in wake’s history, but the trend of riders being salty that they didn’t win that weekend will never go away. Everyone at the top level is very competitive, as they should be. Losing gracefully was something that seemed to be rare at times when riders figured, “I didn’t get the result that I wanted? I’m filing a protest.” The tour judges have no reason to judge anyone with bias and if they did, they would lose their spot. They also have no problem discussing with riders why they made the decision they did. Firing off an emotional voice-raising protest on the other hand gives off the vibe of a sore loser more than anything else.
In our August issue we have a piece coming out on the origins of off-axis spinning; an integral part of the progression of wakeboarding. However, there was this strange thought that the more off-axis you could get, the better. This was not the case. Going WAY off-axis was not cool, nor would it ever be. Keith Lyman, who knows a thing or two about style, refers to it as Taco-off-axis where you resemble a yummy Mexican delicacy. Tacos are in fact yummy, but not a food to strive to look like while wakeboarding.
While the argument could be made that young Froggy’s haircut was one of the worst things in wakeboarding, we chose the image for the whirlybird. The whirlybird is one in an endless list of trick names that we consider quite terrible. Outsiders would say “backflip”, wakers say “tantrum.” We could go on and on, but the point is, the early generation of wakeboarders got a little crazy with naming tricks that they landed first.
Now we can’t claim that our publication has been the “grab police” from day 1, but we can make fun of what were the ridiculous photos that have run over the years. As with any sport, the idea of grabbing “properly” needed time to evolve and work its way into wake, but some of the shots that ran in both ads and editorial were just plain terrible. It makes you wonder what everyone was thinking at the time. It might have gone something like, “yeah I know he meant to grab this trick, but his face looks really intense there. Let’s run it.”
Now we highlighted Shaun Murray in this photo because we feel the inventor and initial trendsetter Shane Bonifay has taken a bit too much flak for his wake pants. In reality, wasn’t it a bit worse to follow this silly trend invented by a young 15-year-old boy? Isn’t it Shaun? Parks, care to chime in? We can sigh in relief that the baggy wet pants with a tight rash guard look is no longer, can we not?
We will turn down the funny for a second and come right out and say that the trend of not wearing a vest in the late 90′s was THE worst thing in wakeboarding history. Sure riders wanted to show off their sun-soaked bods, but after we lost Cordell Kraut in a vestless wake crash, the pros smartened up. Today you will rarely find a rider promoting the bare-chested vibe, and we think that is one of the best things to happen in wake.