A good player knows how to get the most from every hand they are dealt. While Randy Harris has shown everyone a few impressive cards, his hand is far from being played out. Randy is biding his time, and it will be quite a while before all his cards are on the table. At only 17, Randy Harris has been around this sport longer than many prominent riders and has put in enough time to be in line for the throne. With this prominence and influence has come a relative maturity that is new to Randy and surprising to those who know him. Nicknames like “Randal the Vandal” don’t come from simply sitting on the sidelines, and if there are shenanigans afoot Randy is likely to be nearby. Randy doesn’t take his riding, his style or those he represents lightly though. The kid everybody used to think was a little punk has a strong vision for where he intends to take the sport, and himself in the future.
Randy has had a penchant for letting people know he’s in the house. Whether it is through his riding, his skating, or his plastic pellet gun you always have this stinging feeling that Randy is close by. At times this has caused people to be a little uncomfortable with Randy’s presence. This discomfort has turned into anger more than once, such as the Troy Navarro incident at Nationals last year. Randy explains it as, “I capped him once at Nationals. He tried to get me fired from every single one of my sponsors. He tried to get me DQ’d and called all my sponsors and told them the whole story. Then I ended up winning that contest so I was pretty stoked. He’s a player hater as far as I am concerned. My sponsors didn’t really say much to him, then they called me up and we all laughed about it. So it’s all good.”
Pushing style and innovation in the sport of wakeboarding seems to be the thing to claim in the past few years. Fortunately Randy can back up that claim with innovations both on and off the water. Putting the handle that he and Ryan Davis invented to use, Randy’s latest creation, the Remix is just the tip of the iceberg. The history of the new handle according to Randy goes like this; “Ryan and I started messing around and coming up with these crazy ideas and we drew it up and faxed it over to Hardline and they fixed it up exactly how we told them to. We started riding it. I’m supposed to make a signature handle with graphics and all that but I have been slacking. Everybody has been jumping on it though, I’ve seen every rope company now has a handle in the line, I just hope people realize where it started. That is, on the west coast.’ For the unknowing, Randy’s new handle has an additional, mini handle in the bridal. The mini handle gives riders something to hold onto during wrap tricks instead of just a knotted line.
The Vandal handle is the first equipment innovation since the twin-tip board to so rapidly effect what riders are doing on the water. Tricks that were once difficult due to a handle pass are now smooth and easily grabbed. This has effectively blown the top off the progression cap once again. All of this progression can be traced back to Randy and Ryan trying to promote creativity and innovation. Randy says, “The thing about the handle is that you can do like a flip off axis and you can grab the whole way around, or if it is a spin or rodeo you can grab it all the way through. It’s way more legit and it’s more like snowboarding or skateboarding if you wrap it up because you can grab the whole way through. If you have to pass the handle you can only grab it for half the trick at the most. I think that’s where the sport is going to be evolving right now. It’s something new, make up some new tricks and keep it real”
Among most riders, innovation and smooth style are more respected than competition results. Randy has had some success in competitions in the past but his notoriety cos more from the perception of Randy as an influential rider in the realm of progression. Though the competition format has changed to Expression, many of the same riders continue to win. This is frustrating for riders like Randy who know that the sport is as much about style as it is technical merit. Discouraged about competitions Randy says, “I guess you have to ride the way they want to see you ride to win. That’s kind of how wakeboarding is right now. It’s all about fancy maneuvering and getting tricky, spinning everything another 180 degrees, whereas skateboarding you just do some sick ass tweak and it looks good. That’s how wakeboarding should be scored.”
Skateboarding has been the predominant influence on Randy as a rider. Growing up in Huntington Beach you are either a surfer, skater or a dealer. Randy chose skating, and fortunately for him, his school was accommodating. “There was a skate park at my old school, it’s real small, it’s got a couple of sick rails, a pyramid, a bank and some benches and stuff. It was sick because before school and at lunches and during tutorial you could just go to the skateboard lockers and go skate and come back to class. It’s bad that they had that stuff, otherwise you would be just hanging out causing trouble.”
For a while keeping Randy out of trouble was a full time job for the entire Harris family. Randy has grown up a bit and can now appreciate the amount of support and opportunities his family have afforded him. “I’ve gotten killer support from my family, you know my dad drives that bus around all year. It’s like such a hassle, I don’t even know why he does it. I don’t think I even deserve it. But he has been so great. My mom gets a little bummed when we travel a lot but she supports me and is glad to see me doing something productive. My brother likes to travel with us and helps us all out. I’m stoked on the family scene. I am very fortunate. I also think it’s rad how parents like Conrad (Necrason) and my dad are generations older than most of us doing the sport but they understand, they view the sport the same way we do and can recognize a whack rider, they aren’t all about skiboarding and stuff. They are killer.”
The west coast should be proud to have such a strong representative at the heart of a Florida-based activity. In a sport where it is so easy to move to Florida and become one of the masses, Randy and his family have held strong to the west coast. Living in southern California, Randy represents a culture rooted in boardsports and style. Randy is a staunch supporter of the left coast and it’s riding ideals. In Randy’s words, ‘I like representing the west coast because I want people to know that there are good riders coming from the west coast. You know it is not all Orlando, wakeboarding is worldwide. It’s not strictly east coast Florida. There is a lot of innovative, like snowboarding-style type wakeboarding coming from the west coast. I think it is way better than most of the east coast. I just want to let people know that there is @#$% goin’ down in the west. There are all the skateboards, snowboarders, and surfers and all that in California. Those things are bigger here than anywhere. So I think that wakeboarding has a chance to get the right sponsors and go bigger, you know bring more people into the sport and have the right backing. Everybody here has the right background, not a water-ski background, whatever it is – that three-event crap.’
The Harris’s have made wakeboarding as accessible as possible in southern California. They have one of the few homes with a dock on the back bay of Canyon Lake. Having this access is fortunate because it limits Randy’s need to compete for dock space with the water-skiers. Canyon is a lake you can never really understand until you have witnessed it first hand. Randy tells it as a true local wakeboarder would, “Canyon Lake is pretty crazy. It’s OK for wakeboarding but there is a lot of drama that goes down. You know, we have to deal with all the water skiers that are so player-hatin’ cause we are having way more fun you know, and we are taking over, getting way bigger and getting paid more and they are just hating it. They are trying to shut us down, but we can’t be stopped. The wakeboard dock is held on by one little rope swinging all over the place and they got the full red carpet deal. Actually all the water skiers have been pretty cool to me, I guess they respect what I do or whatever, they haven’t really hassled me as much as some of the other riders that are starting to get recognized. . . I think some gnarly nuclear @#$% is going down in Canyon though. I have been hearing rumors about these crazy big tooth cannibal fish, piranha sort of things that I guess people have been catching in Canyon Lake. I’ve heard reports of them in Irvine Lake also. It’s pretty gnarly because I am thinking that by next year there will be full schools of ’em just ready to gnaw everybody down to the bone. I don’t know what the deal is, I guess stuff is going mutant ninja turtle style and mutating all over the place or something.”
Randy’s age places him in an industry population that’s most prominent forms of expression are hair dye, bodily noises, and the infliction of pain on others. Randy lives up to these expectations in royal form but he also is suprisingly insightful for his pocket change worth of years. The beauty of this combination of youth and wisdom is that he can be outspoken, rude, and opinionated and people will compliment his wit and awareness. “I need to set the record straight about all that New Crew bull crap. All you people that think it is something that is actually involved, The New Crew doesn’t exist, it was pretty much the name of a stupid article. Everybody claiming who should be in it and who shouldn’t and this and that, and all that crap, just ease up off of all that nonsense cause there is nothing to it. There ain’t no New Crew it was just an article. There are a lot more disgruntled wakeboarders these days, everybody talking crap. I see how that happens and all but everybody just needs to chill and ride how they ride and let everybody else ride how they ride and don’t worry about it. Don’t talk crap and no one will talk crap about you is a good rule to go by, I guess. Whatever is going to happen will take place soon enough, no need to claim a bunch of stuff.’
Back in 1995 rumors of a little ripper kid riding for O’Brien filtered out to the industry. The kid was so little that the Double Ender he was riding was literallly bigger than he was. Along with the stories of his riding came the stories of his attitude and antics. It was obvious back then that this punk would be a force to deal with in the future. His last three years have been well spent as an apprentice to Scott Byerly. Fortunately for the west coast, Split, Wake Tech, Correct Craft, Vans, Arnette, Bad Ass, O’Neill, and all those that understand what wakeboarding should be about, Randy is in their corner. Do not be surprised when Randy emerges on the top of this little heap of an industry with guns-a-blazin.