Against the Wall

  • Against the Wall w/ Shaun MurrayShawn Perry
  • The tie that binds all wakeboarders together is the joy of being on the water and the rush of doing something new. Whether it's your first wake jump, first invert or a backside 7, when you get on your board and land something for the first time, the feeling is indescribable. That feeling is what motivates us, young and old, rookie and veteran.

  • Even a legendary pro like Shaun Murray is motivated by it, and it continues to push him to do new things on his board. It is that motivation, and that love for continuing to see what's possible, that had Murray in pursuit of the shot you see on the cover of this issue. It was years in the making, full of what-ifs and doubt, but Murray never gave up on it, and ultimately, that passion-fueled pursuit paid off.

  • We figured the best way to tell the story of this cover was to get it straight from the guys who made it happen: Shaun and photographer Rodrigo Donoso. We sat down with them and got a lesson in motivation, fun, and pushing yourself even when you have nothing else to prove.

  • Shaun MurrayRodrigo Donoso
  • Shaun Murray:

  • "The quest for this photo started back at Moomba Masters in 2013. That contest is held in downtown ­Melbourne [Australia], not on an open lake, and you have to go under a bridge to get into the course area, and the boat goes really close to the bridge pilings. As I'm getting pulled to start my pass, the wake hit the cement wall and formed this sort of water quarter pipe like I've never seen before. I saw it, and my mind was supposed to be on the contest, but I couldn't get it out of my head and knew I had to try to hit it sometime. We tried after the contest, but it didn't line up.

  • "Fast forward to later that year, and the Hyperlite team was in Texas shooting and there was a bridge over the water. I took Rodrigo, who was shooting, and drove a boat real close, just like at Moomba, and showed him what the wake did."

  • Rodrigo Donoso:

  • "That was the first time I'd ever seen that. I'd seen wakes crawl up walls or the sides of big ships before, but never to the point where I'd thought somebody would try to ride it. You have to get the boat really close to make it happen, so it's not something you'd typically see or that's easy to do. Leave it to Murray to bring out that kind of surprise though. (laughs) ­Unfortunately, the bridge proved to be harder to get the shot than we anticipated. We got something, but not what either of us had envisioned. We knew looking at the photos that there was potential for something great though."

  • Lake Guntersville, AlabamaRodrigo Donoso
  • Shaun Murray:

  • "Later on that year, I was out in ­Alabama with Wake Guntersville doing some demos and lessons. It's a wake shop that's part of a pool and patio shop, run by an incredible family. As we were headed out onto the lake, which is part of the Tennessee River, we were going by these giant barges, and I asked them, 'How often are these things there and how close can you get to them?' They said all the time and as close as you want.

  • "So I immediately had them drive the boat by to show them the wall of water. As soon as it formed up, I said, 'See that? I'm gonna come back here and ride that.' But that ended up not happening for a while. It took three years for me and Rodrigo to line up our schedules and put all the pieces in place to get back to Lake Guntersville and give it a shot.

  • "It came together immediately after Surf Expo 2016. I rented a van and loaded it up with myself; Shawn Perry, former editor of the mag; Jake Pelot, young ripper who lives on my lake who I trusted to drive the boat; Jake Snider, rad filmmaker; and Rodrigo. So we had two Shauns, two Jakes, and a Rodrigo. We hit the road from Orlando and headed to Alabama."

  • Rodrigo Donoso:

  • "Yeah, no second Rodrigo, which is weird …" (laughs)

  • Jake PelotRodrigo Donoso
  • Shaun Murray:

  • "That was a comical road trip, to say the least. When we got there, there was just enough time in the day to check it out, but when we got out there and did the first drive-by, the wave wasn't forming on the wall. I started freaking out and was thinking maybe we need more weight in the boat, or maybe we need to be even ­closer Rodrigo started tossing out ideas, and we didn't really have a solution, so I actually got on the water and started riding, just thinking that maybe I would see something I wasn't seeing from in the boat. But as we drove by, there was nothing there, no wall of water to hit."

  • Rodrigo Donoso:

  • "At that time, the barges were really high out of the water because they weren't weighed down with cargo. So we started to realize that if there wasn't much boat below the surface of the water, the wake from the tow boat wouldn't have anything to hit to rise up against the wall. So the wake was literally going underneath the barges. Somebody suggested going over to one of the loaded barges to see if we could make it work."

  • Shaun Murray:

  • "So the wall of the barge is either 15 feet high when it's empty or like 5 or 6 feet when loaded. It's so much lower that the wave would literally spill over onto the deck, which was almost impossible to hit — and way ­gnarlier, because imagine if you edged up too hard and ended up falling down into the barge. Bad news. We called it for the day, and I was seriously freaking out. I had trouble sleeping that night."

  • Rodrigo Donoso:

  • "In all my years of knowing Shaun and doing shoots with him, I've never seen him that anxious. He was stressing."

  • Against the Wall w/ Shaun MurrayRodrigo Donoso
  • Shaun Murray:

  • "I was just feeling bad that I got all these people together to help me pull this off — and I'd been waiting years with Rodrigo to try — and I was potentially wasting all their time for nothing. We got back on the water first thing in the morning and tried all the way to 10 a.m. to make this wave happen, and we couldn't get it to work, so we said screw it, let's just go ride."

  • Rodrigo Donoso:

  • "That was a good call because the conditions were epic, and it got our minds off hitting the barge. We got some killer action photos. That's where Jake's cover shot from the June issue came from, which wasn't planned at all but totally awesome in how it worked out."

  • Jake PelotRodrigo Donoso
  • Shaun Murray:

  • "Yeah, we were feeling a lot better after riding and getting some solid photos, and as we were heading back in, we saw one of the barges that was half-loaded. So it was super tall in the back and super low in the front. It was the middle of the day though, so we came back at 5 p.m. hoping to have some good evening light for the best photos and video.

  • "When we got back though, the wave still wasn't forming up how I'd seen it before, and I started feeling the anxiety again. But I knew I needed to try it. The turning point for me was right then. I ask people all the time, who are you riding for and why are you riding? Are you riding for other people and some kind of high-five or check or reward? Or are you riding because it's fun and you like the challenge and the feeling? I reminded myself that I was trying to go for a feeling. Forget everybody else. Even if it doesn't work, I just had a fun trip with my friends, some great photos, and that's awesome. So I let all the pressure and anxiety go and just went for it. On that first try, the water formed up, and I spotted it and I ripped into it, rode up it and connected with the wall, and it was awesome. Everybody was excited, like 'It's really happening!'

  • "We got the rope, speed and distance more dialed in, but the sun was setting fast, and Rod was shooting straight into it, so he had to pull out some flashes, and it was getting too dark for video. I got a couple of solid hits there where I got up on it, and it felt like hitting coping. It felt awesome because you're going up so high, hitting metal, and then riding down water. You can't get that feeling anywhere else."

  • Against the Wall w/ Shaun MurrayRodrigo Donoso
  • Rodrigo Donoso:

  • "What was funny was leading up to it and sort of getting everything dialed and wondering if it would work or not — at one point, I just look at Murray and go, 'Dude, you're just gonna have to go for it.' And that first hit he gets up there and you hear his board grinding the metal, and I think to myself, 'Sometimes all they need is a little shove!' (laughs) I knew we were out of light though, and that to truly do it right — and to get good video — we'd have to come back in the morning. We knew the sun would come up and hit the barge perfectly, which would give us the best opportunity to get the shot we'd been envisioning for years."

  • Shaun Murray:

  • "Yeah, so we got out there the next morning before sunrise and it was perfect. Bluebird day, and just after the sun came up over the mountains, I hopped in the water and Jake pulled me next to the barge. The water quarter pipe formed up perfectly, I rode up it, hit the barge and rode away. Rodrigo was giving his signature cheers, so I knew it was good. We stop the boat, and Rodrigo's telling me that we got it, we got it. My heart was racing, I was so excited. It had been so much time and thought and energy going into it. But I look at him and go, 'That's way too fun to not do again.' (laughs) So we went back for another crack. I got another really good one where I felt like I had really good contact with the barge and snapped back down into the water quarter pipe. It was the best feeling. It's a feeling - in all my years being on the water - I've never felt on a wakeboard, and I don't know if I could ever truly describe it. I whipped back into the boat, Rodrigo's ­grinning from ear to ear, showing me the photo and saying we got it. I couldn't believe it. It had been such a journey, but it was so worth it. Rod tackled me into the water, and everybody's laughing at what we were just able to finally pull off.

  • "It was definitely worth the wait and all the ­anxiety. In all my years of riding, it was one of the ­cooler things to pull off and be a part of. I can't thank everybody enough from the area and from Wake Guntersville that helped make it happen, not to mention the team of Shawn, two Jakes and Rod."