The Wake Games Interview: Jimmy LaRiche

Words Jennifer Ross

Jimmy LaRiche made the most of his official move into the Pro Men's division, scoring a second place finish behind Hyperlite and Fox teammate Rusty Malinoski at the Air Nautique Wake Games. We talked to last year's Jr. Men's champ about his role in the new Hyperlite team video, ReWritten, what it takes to compete against the pros, and his new more-mature handle.

People have been talking about you going pro for a while now. How much pressure did you feel coming into your first official pro event? It wasn't so much pressure. It was kind of less pressure, because I don't really have anything to prove to these guys. It's my first year and it's fun to just be able to ride with them. To do well was just unreal. It's really cool having some excitement behind me coming into this year. It's made me more excited to ride.

Can you walk me through your finals run? What did you know you had to do to win? Well, just to be in that top five was really cool, but I wanted to try and put some pressure on Rusty for sure. I knew Adam , JD and Andrew were riding really well too, so I knew I had to ride the best I could. I went out there with a really hard pass in mind, but I went down a couple times because it was really windy. It just wasn't that great of conditions, so everyone except Rusty had a couple falls. I went off the dock first and I just did as much as I could, trying to get on the podium.

What did you do this off-season to get ready for your jump to Pro Men's? Well, I was filming a lot for the Hyperlite video and I think that helped a lot. I was able to get a lot of riding in and getting to ride with everyone from the team really helped my riding out a lot. It was real cool for me to be able to do that. I haven't really been able to film a proper video section, so this was my first real video. All the riding helped a lot for this upcoming season.

There are a lot of guys who have a legitimate shot at the King of Wake title this season. Who do you think will stay in the thick of it, and how will you set yourself apart from them? It's kind of crazy, because if you look back a couple years this cool new face appeared on the tour. You've got Adam, the "young gun," killing it. JD is pretty much in every final and Rusty is everywhere. There are all kinds of guys who can really do well this year, so setting myself apart from them is going to be really hard. It's going to come down to every round, and I'm going to try to go after them the best I can. I'll be making sure everything is grabbed perfect and big, so I make every contest count.

You won the Wake Games last year in Junior Men's and finished second in Pro Men's this year. Why do you think you do so well in this particular event? First off, riding behind the boat I have at home makes it incredible. The Air Nautique 230 is my favorite wake by far. Being behind that boat makes me feel the most comfortable. Not to mention being at OWC. I've ridden there a bunch and that helps a lot. So putting those two together just makes a fun competition.

You were also on the winning Wake Games team. Do you like that aspect of the contest? Yeah, it's really cool. Rusty picked me for his team and it was awesome. We just had a killer team. Erik Ruck, Grubby, everyone just rode really well. But it was awesome to be able to hang out with the little kids on the team and go out there and root them on. They were sitting there waiting for us to ride and rooting us on, so it was just a good camaraderie between riders. We got to meet the newer guys and the younger girls and the younger wakeskaters. We got the whole vibe and that really sets this contest apart from any other one.

So is it officially Jim now? I don't know. I don't think I'm ever going to be able to introduce myself to someone as Jim. Supposedly since I moved up to Pro Men's this year, I'm more mature and the Jim is coming out in me. So if that's it then I'm going to let Dano roll with it, but I think I'll always introduce myself as Jimmy. It kind of makes the autograph easier though. Less letters.

How did you make the decision to start going by Jim in the first place? That wasn't me. It was funny: I walked up this weekend and I was looking at the heat and I was like, "Where am I?" and then I see Jim LaRiche and I was like, "What's that all about, Perry?" Shawn Perry was like, "Yeah, we just tried to put your name in as Jimmy and it came up as Jim." So I said, "All right." Then Dano kind of took it and started introducing me as the new and more-mature Jim LaRiche. So it was kind of just a funny thing going on all week. It might keep going. It might roll out, but whatever, I'm cool with everything. Maybe once I hit Veterans they'll call me James.