Jeremy Kovak

I see about 19 of the 20 top wakeboarders in the world pretty regularly. I almost never see Jeremy Kovak. Maybe he doesn't like me. Maybe. But more likely, he just doesn't care anymore. He doesn't care what the new riders say about him, he doesn't care what the water skiers say about him, and he definitely doesn't care what the magazine says about him. Kovak, more than anyone in this sport, is his own man, into his own scene and quite frankly, he couldn't give a damn what anyone thinks of him or his riding. He makes no bones about his background from three-event skiing. He readily admits not knowing all the latest skate styles, bands, punks ... . He hasn't a tattoo or piercing.
Of course, he can afford that luxury. He wins contests. That's what he's about, and he does it as well or better than anyone. When the money was on the line at 1997's two biggest contests, the Worlds and the X-Games, Kovak walked away with both titles. Now, facing the possibility of being sidelined for the 1998 season, our world champ has a few things to get off his chest.

First off, what really happened in Canada this winter('97-'98)?
Well, all the rumors are wrong. I've heard I wasn't down because of drugs. I've heard it was because I didn't pay my taxes. The whole thing had nothing to do with taxes, nothing to do with a green card. It was because of customs. I was under oath and they said I lied about something, but I did not lie to them. They had me in there for seven hours.

Are you serious? Let's back up a second. Why were you being interrogated?
When I signed with Iconn they gave me their standard athlete contract, which was merely something to show both parties that we indeed did have an agreement. But we both knew that particular contract was illegal because it was for an American. But I signed it until they could make me my own contract, which would merely indicate that I would get paid in Canada. Anyhow, when we went across the border, I told the custom guys I was going to Florida to wakeboard. They asked if I was working down there, and I said I wasn't but was going to train for a couple weeks. Still no lies. But my truck was packed full and they wanted to look through it, so they started tearing my truck apart, and they found that initial contract stating that I was employed by Iconn in America.
I tried to explain the whole situation, but they didn't give a s***. That's when it started, and that's why they took me in the room to interrogate me. Everything they could find in my life they just tried to f*** me. And they did. So they gave me a court date that would barr me from the country for ten years.

TEN YEARS!! DAAAAMN! The X-Games would be the
Y-Games by then.
I had two lawyers involved, and they didn't want the court date to happen because that would be about if I deliberately mislead the inspectors, which I didn't, but they can get you to say whatever they want. This one guy was such a dick. He said I lied and I didn't. When I was under oath I was so scared. They were talking about me being barred from the States for life. It was so crazy. So anyhow, if it went to court, all they would have to prove is that I mislead the inspectors and I lied under oath. It wouldn't matter how trivial the matter was, all that would matter is if I lied. And if they proved that, then I definitely would have been banned from the country. Because I admitted that under oath, I might have gotten f*****. The judge just has to obey the law, and the law is if you lie, it's ten years.

So how close were y from really being barred?
Real close. The lawyers were trying to get it thrown out of court and were pleading that the punishment was too severe. Fortunately this one lawyer from Orlando went to bat for me, totally behind the scenes, and got it worked out. Without her, I'd still be back home.

So you missed three whole months of training, finally getting to Florida in April 1998, right?
Yes, and I got screwed, so I've been out for six months and I panicked when I got back. I was training so hard, and my body couldn't hold up. So I went full bore and blew my knee out.

Are you getting too old for as big as you go? Those landings have to start hurting.
They kill. Last year before the Worlds I was really concerned. All the guys who have been in it a while are beaten up. My knees, my back, my elbows are all shot. I jumped my whole life, and that doesn't compare to wakeboarding. I'm 24 and I wake up in the morning like an old man.

So how many more seasons you got left in you?
Probably a few more. These young guys are getting too damn good. I've got my work cut out for me.

You are the defending world champ and defending X-Games champ. Who are you looking out for?
Well, last year ('97) I said Darin, which he was. He is really strong, but a couple weeks ago I watched Parks ride, and he blew my mind. It was the best ride I've ever seen. I think he's going to have an incredible year. Then there's Brannan Johnson; he's incredible. Everyone's riding well. The stuff I was doing - mobe-5s, air mobe-5s, mobe 5-to front, whirly-5 landing blind - is all old stuff now. People are ripping. I saw Parks do a Raley with a 360 on the way down. That blew my mind.

Can you come back and catch up?
I believe I can. It's going to take a few hard falls and several hours of practice. But it can be done. I need to see a doctor. There's a good chance I need surgery, in which case I'll be out from nine months to a year. I'm probably going to have to train twice as hard when I come back. I don't know if I can win consistently but I think I can make the top five. Time will tell.

Who do you respect the most? Who's good for the sport?
Parks is still the same good person. I respect that. Darin is powerful and a great rider. He's great for the sport. Jeff Heer does wonders for the sport. I like the guys that train like athletes. Darin trains every day, and I have respect for that. Scott Byerly is another guy I really respect. I really think he's cool. When I first started wakeboarding I'd never seen anyone like him. He was the first wakeboarder with the "board-sport" look. I was a country kid from Canada, and I didn't know what to make of him. But he's always been a really cool guy. I've never heard him talk s*** about anyone. His attitude is "just ride."

Is there one guy in the sport whose ass you'd love to kick? Not on the water, but off.
You got time for a list? I'd start with Thomas Horrell and all those guys that talk s***. I've gotten pretty wound up about it in the past, but I'm at the point now where I just don't give a flying f***. I just don't care. When I got into this sport everyone was happy, everyone was riding well, but then it just deteriorated. I watched BMX at the X-Games, and those guys were cheering each other on, happier than hell that some guy just beat him. But this whole f****** sport of wakeboarding, I don't know why, but no one can give anyone credit for doing anything. Everyone bitches - ski board, wakeboard. All these f*** losers that keep talking ski-boarding, wakeboarder - the reason they talk s*** is because they can't do anything on the water.
So they become hypocrites, tying to put down the guys who do well by saying we just ride for competition and not for soul. These guys ride for soul? Then what the f*** are they doing on the starting dock then? And what the hell are they doing walking around the Expo begging for sponsors? They are the first to accept a sponsor, they are the first to be on the starting dock, they are the first to bitch when they aren't in the finals. But as soon as they walk away: "Tournaments suck.." They are just a bunch of hypocrites.
I've listened to it for too long. The first guy who

opens his mouth, whether it's Thomas Horrell or Chase Heavener or Matt Whatever his Name - any one of these guys ... . I just got into it with Charley Patterson about this PWA. What the f*** is that? That whole scene is f*****. I don't care what they do, but at least they could call me. They jumped all over it. I don't know how Charley became president or whatever, but he got in there and changed the whole sport. So they did it, no big deal. But at least contact me. I'm on the board; hell, I started it after Dean. But instead, I was up there in Canada, and no one called me.
So the whole Orlando gang just stuck together. To make a long story short, I just said, "Screw you." I don't want anything to do with the PWA. It's not organized, and I won't stick behind them. I'm at the point in my life right now where I've been driven out of this sport. For someone who's been at it as long as I have and have done what I've done.... I've tried to make something of the sport, but I don't want to be a part of this sport anymore.
I asked a pro snowboarder if the pro snowboarders act the same way as the wakeboarders. He told me that snowboarders do not like wakeboarders. His exact words were that "snowboarders think wakeboarders are white trash." How right can that be? He's not talking about the average rider just out having fun; he's talking about the guys who are ripping stickers off Isaacson's van and throwing stuff at you when you are skiing. All these guys who are shooting their mouths off and getting publicity for it is bulls***. Snowboarders are stoked for each other, and wakeboarders aren't.

Do you genuinely dislike those people, or do you even worry about it?
I honestly don't like them, and I honestly don't care about it anymore. I've lost more than my share of sleep over this. I'm a guy that, when I get on TV, I try to speak intelligently and with respect and do good for the sport. I try to act mature at the site; I try to be a good role model for wakeboarding. And because of that, I'm portrayed as the loser. But doing dumb s*** ... I guess that's what people like to see. I've tried hard to do the best I can and all I do is get cut down by riders, by magazines, by TV, by everyone. I feel like I'm talking to the wall, and I've given up.

So how should the sport be?
Everyone's supposed to be in it to have fun and ride. If you talk about riding for soul, then ride for soul. Just quit worrying about other people and have fun. You guys (the magazine) are half-responsible for putting that s*** in the limelight. I don't think it's right to publicize it.

Well, we try to publicize all views, especially if they are coming from top riders, whether it's Thomas Horrell or ... .
Hey! Put this in the magazine. Thomas Horrell, the big mouth. He'sn't know why, but no one can give anyone credit for doing anything. Everyone bitches - ski board, wakeboard. All these f*** losers that keep talking ski-boarding, wakeboarder - the reason they talk s*** is because they can't do anything on the water.
So they become hypocrites, tying to put down the guys who do well by saying we just ride for competition and not for soul. These guys ride for soul? Then what the f*** are they doing on the starting dock then? And what the hell are they doing walking around the Expo begging for sponsors? They are the first to accept a sponsor, they are the first to be on the starting dock, they are the first to bitch when they aren't in the finals. But as soon as they walk away: "Tournaments suck.." They are just a bunch of hypocrites.
I've listened to it for too long. The first guy who opens his mouth, whether it's Thomas Horrell or Chase Heavener or Matt Whatever his Name - any one of these guys ... . I just got into it with Charley Patterson about this PWA. What the f*** is that? That whole scene is f*****. I don't care what they do, but at least they could call me. They jumped all over it. I don't know how Charley became president or whatever, but he got in there and changed the whole sport. So they did it, no big deal. But at least contact me. I'm on the board; hell, I started it after Dean. But instead, I was up there in Canada, and no one called me.
So the whole Orlando gang just stuck together. To make a long story short, I just said, "Screw you." I don't want anything to do with the PWA. It's not organized, and I won't stick behind them. I'm at the point in my life right now where I've been driven out of this sport. For someone who's been at it as long as I have and have done what I've done.... I've tried to make something of the sport, but I don't want to be a part of this sport anymore.
I asked a pro snowboarder if the pro snowboarders act the same way as the wakeboarders. He told me that snowboarders do not like wakeboarders. His exact words were that "snowboarders think wakeboarders are white trash." How right can that be? He's not talking about the average rider just out having fun; he's talking about the guys who are ripping stickers off Isaacson's van and throwing stuff at you when you are skiing. All these guys who are shooting their mouths off and getting publicity for it is bulls***. Snowboarders are stoked for each other, and wakeboarders aren't.

Do you genuinely dislike those people, or do you even worry about it?
I honestly don't like them, and I honestly don't care about it anymore. I've lost more than my share of sleep over this. I'm a guy that, when I get on TV, I try to speak intelligently and with respect and do good for the sport. I try to act mature at the site; I try to be a good role model for wakeboarding. And because of that, I'm portrayed as the loser. But doing dumb s*** ... I guess that's what people like to see. I've tried hard to do the best I can and all I do is get cut down by riders, by magazines, by TV, by everyone. I feel like I'm talking to the wall, and I've given up.

So how should the sport be?
Everyone's supposed to be in it to have fun and ride. If you talk about riding for soul, then ride for soul. Just quit worrying about other people and have fun. You guys (the magazine) are half-responsible for putting that s*** in the limelight. I don't think it's right to publicize it.

Well, we try to publicize all views, especially if they are coming from top riders, whether it's Thomas Horrell or ... .
Hey! Put this in the magazine. Thomas Horrell, the big mouth. He's the guy talking s***: "Raley's suck." Does he forget that he used to be a traditional skier? Does he forget that he used to be a trick skier? Does he forget me being at Parks' place with Parks, Hunter Brown and him? And I taught Thomas Horrell his first air Raley. When he was in the boat he sat there like a good kid and didn't say a word. He was totally polite - a great kid. He was proud that a recognized wakeboarder was in the boat with him, and when it was his turn I asked him, "What would you like to work on?" Word for word, Thomas Horrell answered, "I want to learn an air Raley." So write that in your magazine. I taught him his first Raley. Does he forget? He was on the college ski team, was he not?

You say it like it's a bad thing
I'm not saying it like it's a bad thing; he's saying it like it's a bad thing. He's saying we're ski boarders and he's a wakeboarder just because we're ex-skiers. I mean, what the f*** is he talking about? He did it all too. But he woke up one morning and decided he's not a wakeboarder, he's a loser.

Well, I suppose people change. But let's move on to something more interesting. I hear you've opened a ski school?
I just bought a house on the beautiful Lake Osborne canal, and I'm going to do a wakeboarding school with my two cousins. They will run the school, but I'm going to be there on a daily basis to help people ride. It's something that interests me and something I've been wanting to do.

When's the last time

time you water skied on the tour? Didn't you make the finals in slalom once?
I think it was two years ago ('96). I made the finals, and that was the last time. I basically don't ski anymore. I do it because I love it, but I won't get into competitive skiing anymore. Why train so hard for something like that? Two of the best water skiers in the world, Jarret Llewellyn and Patrice Martin can't make any money on the ski tour.

That's not why you started, is it?
Obviously not. The first few years of wakeboarding I didn't make any money. I just loved being upside down. Wakeboarding was just like screwing around. I quit trick skiing as soon as I started wakeboarding.

I'm looking at your Post Honeycomb box. Does that freak you out? Do you hang out in the cereal aisle much? If you work it right, you could pull a lot of housewives.
It's pretty weird. I hooked up with IMG, and they set it up. I heard they are going to sell two million boxes.

Are you going to totally remove yourself from the fun and games of the tour?
No, there's a difference between having fun and being a jerk. The majority of the people are cool, and that is who I will hang around. All these guys who talk s***, I don't want anything to do with them.

It must give you satisfaction to beat them.
Well, it gives me satisfaction to see them talk s*** and then f*** up.

Are you thinking, "Why can't we all get along?" or "Screw you guys."
Both. Six months ago I did wish everyone could just ride, but now I just say "f*** them." The people that are good people and real people - that's great. But those other guys, they can go their own way. I don't care.He's the guy talking s***: "Raley's suck." Does he forget that he used to be a traditional skier? Does he forget that he used to be a trick skier? Does he forget me being at Parks' place with Parks, Hunter Brown and him? And I taught Thomas Horrell his first air Raley. When he was in the boat he sat there like a good kid and didn't say a word. He was totally polite - a great kid. He was proud that a recognized wakeboarder was in the boat with him, and when it was his turn I asked him, "What would you like to work on?" Word for word, Thomas Horrell answered, "I want to learn an air Raley." So write that in your magazine. I taught him his first Raley. Does he forget? He was on the college ski team, was he not?

You say it like it's a bad thing
I'm not saying it like it's a bad thing; he's saying it like it's a bad thing. He's saying we're ski boarders and he's a wakeboarder just because we're ex-skiers. I mean, what the f*** is he talking about? He did it all too. But he woke up one morning and decided he's not a wakeboarder, he's a loser.

Well, I suppose people change. But let's move on to something more interesting. I hear you've opened a ski school?
I just bought a house on the beautiful Lake Osborne canal, and I'm going to do a wakeboarding school with my two cousins. They will run the school, but I'm going to be there on a daily basis to help people ride. It's something that interests me and something I've been wanting to do.

When's the last time time you water skied on the tour? Didn't you make the finals in slalom once?
I think it was two years ago ('96). I made the finals, and that was the last time. I basically don't ski anymore. I do it because I love it, but I won't get into competitive skiing anymore. Why train so hard for something like that? Two of the best water skiers in the world, Jarret Llewellyn and Patrice Martin can't make any money on the ski tour.

That's not why you started, is it?
Obviously not. The first few years of wakeboarding I didn't make any money. I just loved being upside down. Wakeboarding was just like screwing around. I quit trick skiing as soon as I started wakeboarding.

I'm looking at your Post Honeycomb box. Does that freak you out? Do you hang out in the cereal aisle much? If you work it right, you could pull a lot of housewives.
It's pretty weird. I hooked up with IMG, and they set it up. I heard they are going to sell two million boxes.

Are you going to totally remove yourself from the fun and games of the tour?
No, there's a difference between having fun and being a jerk. The majority of the people are cool, and that is who I will hang around. All these guys who talk s***, I don't want anything to do with them.

It must give you satisfaction to beat them.
Well, it gives me satisfaction to see them talk s*** and then f*** up.

Are you thinking, "Why can't we all get along?" or "Screw you guys."
Both. Six months ago I did wish everyone could just ride, but now I just say "f*** them." The people that are good people and real people - that's great. But those other guys, they can go their own way. I don't care.