Words Jennifer Ross
Dallas Friday is back. After disappointing seasons in 2007 and 2008, the most decorated female wakeboarder ever was back atop the Pro Women’s podium at the Air Nautique Wake Games. The win was Friday’s first since the 2007 Tigé Pro-Am Wakeboard Championships, and she says she has finally fully recovered from the broken femur she suffered in Singapore during the final World Cup event of 2006. We talked to Friday about her return to her winning ways, the chase for the 2009 Queen of Wake and finally being healthy again.
How does it feel to be back on top? It’s awesome to start the year off with a win. It was just motivating, and it just kind of sets the pace for the rest of the year. I’ve actually worked really hard, and it’s a little frustrating sometimes, you know, riding so much and sets not always going as good as planned, but it’s all worth it in the end. It pays off.
How do you think you were able to beat the rest of the girls? Honestly, it was really tight in the finals, the competition. I saw it like six different ways. There were actually other people I thought were entitled to first, second and third, too. But of course, I’m happy to be on top. The other girls were good for the conditions, and I just can’t wait to compete with them the rest of the season. Hopefully, it stays competitive.
You broke your leg back in 2006 right? I broke it in October 2006.
Do you feel like the reason you were able to come back this season was because you’ve finally recovered from that injury? Yeah, that’s the first part of it. But not just recovered from the injury, but to feel even stronger than I was before I broke my leg is just awesome and motivating for me. It’s changed my mindset on being a professional athlete and really taking care of my body. I just got done with physical therapy, almost three years of it, and it was definitely a life-changing experience. I’m better because of it. It’s made me a better rider and has me stretching and just taking care of my body better. I’m not taking things for granted.
Do you feel like the injury is what held you back last season? Yeah, I was just trying to get back too early and pushing it too fast, while I was still battling injuries. I had a surgery last year and sat out three contests, so to finally feel fully recovered — that means no other injury — is just awesome and it makes it so much more fun for me to ride and that’s where the motivation comes in. I feel probably the best I’ve felt going into the season this year than I’ve felt since I was 16 or 17 years old. It feels good.
What did you do in the off season to put you in a position to win the Wake Games? I wouldn’t call it off season. Like I said, I’ve actually worked really hard and just being focused and setting my priorities straight even when I don’t want to do something. I’ve just been riding with Mike Ferraro. He’s been a big impact on this win, and I owe him tons of thanks. I’ve been riding with him at least four days a week, and I’ve actually been going to The Projects and working with those guys out there, who are just amazing, at least three or four times a week. Then I’ve been riding at home every day. And I have a personal trainer that I’ve worked with in rehab. I actually hired them two months ago to come over a few times a week for private rehabilitation sessions to just keep the strength and everything going. It was a lot of time, effort, money and hard work, and a pain in the ass sometimes, to be honest, but in the end it’s kind of what sets top athletes apart from just an average athlete.
So you had some pretty significant changes to your training schedule and your approach to the competition? Yeah, a lot of it has to do with being healthy. Before, I wanted to do it, but that’s what was frustrating. To not be able to ride twice a day and having to ice my knee after every set. That just becomes discouraging and frustrating, but it’s so much easier when your body is working right and you’re feeling good. So hopefully I’ll keep it up, and I’ll probably be the happiest I’ve been in a long time if I have a healthy, injury-free season.
How do you see the women’s division going this year? Who do you feel are your strongest competitors? It’s kind of like the new pack came in, but it’s pretty cool. It’s another motivating thing for me. I see the fire I once had in some of these upcoming girls, and that’s really cool to see. There wasn’t really much of that when I first got on the scene. But getting back from an injury when new and young girls are coming on to the scene is definitely keeping me in gear. It’s cool to see Raimi Merritt just pushing it. Every time she rides she wants it, you can tell, because she’s going to work hard until she gets it. She’s not just going to give up on something and try something else. It’s really cool to see that. Then you’ve got Nicola who just has pure natural talent. So it’s really cool to see and I’m actually stoked about it. It’s changed my outlook on the season and my training schedule, but in a good way. I needed that. Every athlete needs that to get better. They need that extra competitive drive.