Mike called Costa Mesa, CA his stomping grounds until a little after he could walk. At 6, he moved inland over by Canyon Lake. “Back in the day,” he was introduced to water skiing and getting pulls behind the boat on his surfboard. At 14, he moved to Sonoma, and after traveling the country on the pro tour, knows he’s there to stay. In Sonoma, there’s good water, good people and good wine, though Rogers prefers beer. His wife Shannon also loves to ride and Maisie (their new baby) loves to go for boat rides.
“Back in ’89, Josh and Chris got me out on my first real wakeboard, and come to think of it, it was a Thruster. Funny how everything came full circle.” At 28, the “old dog’s still learning new tricks.” Maybe it’s because he was born on the cusp of Aries, the same day his daughter Maisie was born.
After picking up super-grom and ripper J.T. at the bus station, we loaded up the slider and slipped the Brendella into beautiful Lake Sonoma. After an impressive array of spins and inverts, Rogers busted out a super-huge switch tantrum and landed clean.
“I used to have a lot more style,” Mike apologizes as he paddles over to the swim step. “But in order to fill my quota of inverted tricks for the tour, I lost sight of my style.” Call it modest or call it denial, but Mike’s combinations of 540 spins, slides and grabbing everything in the book looked pretty stylish to me. His favorite moves – a switch blind krypt or a blind half-cab Raley (“I’m not really sure what we’re calling it these days,” he says.) – are simply huge and stylie. He also throws half-cab front flips like they are somersaults in P.E.
Don’t tell me you were brought up being spoon-fed trampolines and diving boards.
No. I rode for a few years, and then somewhere around my third year, I landed a frontside roll. After that, I learned a toeside back roll and a Raley, and shortly after my first contest, I learned a bunch more new tricks. I’ve put together a 20,000-point run, but I just keep falling at the crux. The trick is to pull it out during a contest!
Speaking of contests, you kind of show up here and there, quietly ripping along the way. How come we haven’t seen more of you?
I did the tour for, like, two years, but it kills you. I’d much rather just ride. When you do the tour, you travel for days and then ride for a minute. Then you get back home, maybe ride a little if you’re lucky, and then you’re off again. It’s hell. There’s not much family time on tour either, and I’m totally stoked on that right now. I’ll still do some contests, though; I’m not sure which stops I’m going to do yet, probably Boardstock, Cincinnati Open, Worlds and Nationals – all the fun stuff. The tour’s all right, but everything is too regimented. It’s only cool because you get to hook up with your bros, and it’s a different party scene in every city. Last year in Hawaii we had a blast. There were, like, 20 guys out surfing Waikiki beach on 10-footers. That was the best (laughs.)
What’s your feeling about how the contests are scored?
I think point values are OK for now; they help establish some kind of standard for judging. Maybe later we can change the system. One thing’s for sure – a backside roll is easier than a 540, and eventually the points will reflect this. Some say there was a conference about the point values, but there’s always a “conference” going on about this and that. Let’s see ’em change it rather than just talk about it. Mostly tricks are scored fairly, but spins need to go up (I think they have), and scores on tricks with no handle pass need to come down. As for style, the judging is starting to reflect more style, which is kind of the same difference, but at this early stage in the sport, the point values for tricks should be set at how difficult they really are. It’s up to all of us to get more organized and just work it out. It’ll get there, just like every other sport.
What’s your involvement with Thruster?
I kinda do modge-podge for Thruster. I ride one, I get stuff going, manage the team and so on. Jack of many, master of none (laughs). Mainly I like doing board and binding design, and keeping the grassroots movement strong. It gets kinda crazy. Thruster’s manufacturing is up in Seattle, and the offices of ABC (American Boardsport Company) are down in Southern California.
Tell me a little about Solbound, the bindings you’ve designed.
Solbound offers several different designs including high-wraps, but I ride with Shackles, my custom strap binding. I prefer Shackles over boots because of the extra flexibility they provide. They also hold my feet firmly in place and isolate the pressure points just where I want them. I had some guys riding them, and they were totally stoked, but along came the high-wrap hype, and people didn’t want straps, even if they work great. My ratcheting Shackles don’t release as easy as boots, which is ideal for going big, but you still come out when you really eat it. I can see where some people might think they’re hard on your ankles, but come on, don’t be such a baby! (Laughs.)
It’s great to see you juggling so successfully. You are ripping out on the water, working and designing for Thruster, and now, you’re a dad.
(Maisie screams in the background. “AaAaaoohah.”) What do you have to say, little monkey?… Oh you’re a pooper you’re going with your mama.”
Do you have any props for the ones that help you get so happily dialed?
Yeah, I love the boat that Thruster bought for me. Now all I need is a truck to pull it. And thanks to T.C. (Tom Carter), my boss – he has really done a lot to keep me motivated. He’s been like a dad to me, for sure. He listened to me, believed in me, believed in my designs and what I had to say about wakeboarding. He basically let me roll with my ideas.
Is there anything else you want to go down on the record about Mike Rogers?
1) I love peanut butter and chocolate from 31 Flavors. When I’m really feelin’ crazy, I get two scoops, bananas, hot fudge, extra nuts, double cherry
2) My worst crash knocked out my teeth. I was doing a front roll, and when I landed, the bindings sheared off the bolt attached to the board, and when my front foot went into the water, my board smacked me square on my front teeth.
3) I’ll listen to anything. You’ve heard the crap I listen to. Whatever … I’ll even listen to country. You got some? (Laughs.)
4) The grassroots thing really gets me going. I love to turn new riders onto the sport, it’s great to see them get the fever. With so many different sports influencing wakeboarding, how can’t you get stoked on it if you just give it a try? Chalk another one up for sideways-stance fun.
5) And talking about roots, whoever helped change the name from skiboard to wakeboard, thank you. Oh yeah, and my philosophy of the day is, “Ouch – don’t hit your tailbone on the rocks.”