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Striving For Perfection At Ft. Worth Pro Tour

June 12, 2010

Alright, we are down to the final day of stop # 2 on the 2010 Pro Wakeboard Tour in Fort Worth, Texas. I just arrived and here is what I see from the last two days’ results.

Our sport needs all the best riders healthy and competing. Each one of them drives this sport to new levels. Unfortunately, Aaron Rathy was listed as a no show and so we hope that he can get back into action soon, because he has been a great competitor.

Dallas won her heat yesterday but had to go to the hospital to have her knee checked. Everyone send prayers and love out to Dallas, who has been the dominant female rider over the last decade. She is also an ESPY award winner and fellow Fox rider. She has inspired me since I was about 7 when I took a lesson from her in Vermont.

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Andrew Adkison is back on top where he belongs. Andrew was recently fighting with his own injuries, but look out now, as he appears ready to give anyone a run for the money. Of course, I need to root on my fellow MasterCraft rider, especially at this MasterCraft event! Every sport should have an Andrew. Awesome competitor and what’s not to like about Andrew. Andrew has welcomed me into his home, on his boat, and best of all, onto his team at Wake Games. For you history buffs, we won the first-ever Wake Games team event in California. That was the first check I received as a wakeboarder. Yeah!

Ollie Derome is showing that the foot he injured a few weeks back is healing as he stomped a dynamite pass to move on from his tough heat. Right before Wake Games, Ollie hurt his foot and could barely walk. I was at The Projects and wanted to ride rails. He jumped on the PWC and pulled me for the set of lifetime. If you don’t know what I am talking about, pay close attention to Ollie on the rails. One of the best ever! Thanks Ollie! I am rooting for you!

Rusty Malinoski won his heat, which should not come as a surprise to anyone after the last Pro Tour stop. He stomped another 1080 at stop #1 in Acworth, Georgia. Rusty is the only person to have landed a 1080 in tournament. Also Rusty has just landed his first wake-to-wake 1080, joining Steel Lafferty. Steel was the first and only until Rusty joined him. I share with Rusty three top sponsors: MasterCraft Boats, Body Glove and Fox. I hope to soon share a 1080 with Rusty. I am currently working on my 1080 on the trampoline so someday soon I can land one in tournament too. Coming soon to a theatre near you will be the hit wakeboarding video, The Hibernator takes on the Bone Crusher! Sorry Rusty, you will be going down in that movie. But today, how can I not root for the guy who taught me my first invert! Go get em Rusty!

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Meeting in this early round, possibly a glimpse of the finals, were two riders I love because they are both young and incredibly talented riders. Harley Clifford, the 2009 Pro Wakeboard Tour champion, and Bob Soven, the 2009 Jr. Men Pro Wakeboard champion, went head to head. Fortunately for all of us, they took two riders through so we will get to see both these riders again tomorrow. I would not be surprised to see both of them in the finals.

Last year Bob Soven took me out on the water a few times, and I realized Bob wasn’t training for his next 2009 tournament. He was training for the 2010 Pro Tour, despite the fact he was still in Jr. Pro Men’s and it was still 2009. Bob was practicing tricks that he did not throw in his 2009 tournament pass. That just shows you how much hard work, discipline and repetition goes into being a competition rider. Competition riders don’t get to splice or edit. Repetition is their friend.

Competition riders must throw down in two passes before three falls or it’s over technically. Reality is much different. If you fall at all, you are not winning in most big wakeboard tournaments because perfection is what we all train for. Some rider will do what we call a “stand-up pass” — perfection. Every competition rider is faced with the decision to either go for the stand-up pass or take risk and go for gold. Repetition is what takes a trick from risky to consistent. I now realize that Pro Riders practice tricks for years to get them dialed.

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If there is anyone who has exemplifies this in wakeboarding, it is Harley Clifford. I remember hearing that Bill Clifford, Harley’s Dad, was telling another father that a trick is not tournament-ready until over 100, and more like 200, repetitions have been successfully completed. I found this to be amazing information. I have many times added a new trick right before a tournament. They have me rethinking that now. Sometimes it does pay off to take risk and go for the gold. At the first Wake Games, Cooper Swink taught me my first two-wake invert between semis and finals. I landed it the next day in finals to help my team win Wake Games that year with Andrew Adkison!

Harley is like Ray Allen was after game 1 of the 2010 NBA finals. Ray Allen was not happy with his shooting, so he stayed on the court after the game and worked on his shot. This is despite the fact that Ray Allen is one of the best pure shooters ever in the game of basketball. Ray Allen went on a few nights later to break the NBA record for the most 3 pointers in a game with eight from behind the arc. Incredible! Harley will work diligently at perfecting his tricks “so it won’t happen again”. Parks Bonifay in his documentary talked about having a bad tournament and going back to train “so it won’t happen again.” With this attitude instilled in riders from the time they are very young, like me, we are being taught to be perfectionists. My Dad reminds me that this attitude will help me in whatever I do for the rest of my life. So if I have this right, every Dad should go out today and buy their child a new MasterCraft boat so they can do better at everything in life.

I flew down here from NY just to watch today’s finals. I am expecting nothing short of a spectacular wakeboarding event. Historical to be exact. What will it be that makes history? Not sure but I know what I am looking for and I know who can deliver. I would tell you, but then I would have to kill you. No really, there are too many possibilities to list. Bottom line is this sport is headed out of the station and all aboard whoever want to go along for the ride! I will provide you my personal report on what actually transpires at today’s Pro Tour stop.

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One rider I will leave you with a few words about is Harley Clifford. I road a lot with Harley this spring. He is an awesome rider beyond belief. What is even more amazing is the fact that he is an awesome person. I saw someone questioning Dean Smith the other night on Stokemeter about Harley and asking Dean “has Harley’s success gone to his head?” Well, let me throw my two cents into the ring and tell you, no way I think Harley has handled success as well as anyone I have ever met or read about. He is just an unbelievable guy and his success is good for everyone. He is sincerely happy to see others succeed in their own way. He wants everyone to land a new trick and everyone to get better. He doesn’t take your success as a threat he takes it as a challenge. You push him and he will push you. At the end of the day you are both better wakeboarders. So to all the Pros out here, be happy that you have Harley on the dock with you, because with him we are all better wakeboarders. Thanks Harley!

And remember, let’s all root Harley on, because I know he is rooting you on so you can be at your best. At that moment when three dynamite riders have just laid down stand-up passes, that is when you want to get a front row seat to watch Harley Clifford. I was there on the starters dock at the 2010 Wake Games and observed this first hand. It is as though the sound goes off on the lake in Harley’s head, his peripheral vision magnifies, his focus dilates his pupils and everything slows down for him. He congratulates his fellow riders and then he goes out and does what most great riders appreciate — ”Strives for Perfection!”

By Paulie Koch, pauliekoch.com

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