Some guys are pretty easy to sum up in a few pages of a magazine. You know, been here, won that, hurt this, came back, got drunk, woke up, etc. Fortunately for our sport, Mark McNamara will never be one of those guys. He's too complex (and simple at the same time), too spirited, too funny, and way too much more than just another wakeboarder to ever completely define with a couple of photos and paragraphs.
But one thing I can tell you about Mark McNamara is that, apparently, there are two guys carrying around his driver's license.
Subject #1: Turtle - a lanky, droopy-eyed, shorts-constantly-hanging-off-his-ass, salad-out-the-front bundle of Australian comedy who looks to be eternally on the verge of either just falling asleep, just waking up, or getting good and loaded. Turtle's the guy that starts every story with, "So me and me mates were reeeeally drunk and we were with these chicks ..." and ends most every one with, "Yeah, we got home about 3 and I started making up songs about (Matt) Staker's mom."
Subject #2: McNamara - as in "Dude, McNamara's BAD," or "Man, McNamara does the biggest crow mobe I've ever seen," or "Holy s&%$, what was that move McNamara just did?"
And somewhere between these two guys, I suppose we start to skim the surface of who Mark McNamara really is.
At 22, we know that Mark has started to carve a big chunk out of the wakeboarding world, especially in his home town of Leonay, NSW, Australia. Kids stop riding and line the fence of the Penrith Cable Park (where Mark has owned the Aussie Cable Championships almost since they started) to watch him effortlessly pull giant mobes, fronts to blind and Raley 3s on the clubhouse turn. They watch him like hawks as he walks by the dock to get ready for another ride and gaze in awe as he flies off the starting platform - all of which may seem routine to us Americans, hero worship being what it is in this country. But Australian kids strike me as the kind who usually try to keep their envy hidden.
He's definitely started to turn heads in the States too, coming here for the last two seasons to have a go at the tour and making some solid appearances, but not quite finding his feet yet. Many say that 1999 is going to be the year all that ends. Two summers riding with Necrason and some of the other Florida crew have really started pay off: He's going huge with a ton of the style that's expected to be a premium on this year's circuit, which is a little more than the sometimes shy McNamara knows how to handle.
"It's funny, as a rider (pronounced "ROY-duh" in his thick Aussie voice), I'll never see myself as being a professional wakeboarder. I don't compare myself to Gregg or Chase or Scott. They're my friends, but I still idolize them like I did when I was a grom hanging around the cable a few years back."
But he's definitely a professional wakeboarder, controlling his board with the power of a surfer and the finesse of a skater, all the while busting moves that would make a gymnast jealous. Then there's the traveling party that follows him everywhere he goes. Anybody who's been around the sport for the past few years has a good McNamara story.
"Well, there was the time at Worlds when he dropped down on the floor of the hotel lobby and acted like he was passed out," Scotty Mohr of Correct Craft says. "Everybody got a laugh for a while and expected him to get up, but he just stayed there for about a minute until we all started thinking he WAS passed out. As soon as we checked to see if he was alright, he popped up and scared us all. That guy's a riot."
Adds Staker: "He's so funny. We were at this weird party where everybody was doing keg stands and getting held upside down wiith the tap in their mouth, and the people started saying, 'C'mon, you're Australian - do it. Are you scared?' And he just said, 'Mate, we drink our beer, we don't play with it.'"
I can personally attest for that, having spent two weeks with him in Oz this past December. Before you confuse Mark with another of the many inebriated court jesters in wakeboarding, think again. There's a side of him that's wise beyond his years, incredibly curious and totally open to things out of the mainstream. How else do you explain a guy that can watch a whole Pauly Shore movie and then go searching for the three-volume set of Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits? Believe me, it's a bizarre adventure to speed through the Outback listening to a 22-year-old Australian with green hair belt out, "Maggie's Farm." But that's Turtle. His diversity and inquisitive nature are what make him one of the coolest guys in wakeboarding today.
As for this season, Mark says he's already gotten everything he wants out of wakeboarding, even though he's going to compete on all the stops this year. He's at home right now rehabbing a sore knee and working on some new songs to take on the road, hopefully some that will add to his already growing legend. "Coming to America and riding with everyone over there has been the biggest change I've ever gone through. It's been great; anything else on top of that is just going to be a blast for me."
And no doubt for the rest for us, too.