words Craig Kotilinek photo Rodrigo Donoso
1. How did you become pro? I started wakeboarding when I was six years old, and I grew up with the Bonifays at their camp — actually waterskiing — I started competing in Boys division when I was 11 years old, and my last year in Boys I won every single contest and JD Webb has stepped up to Junior Mens, but I was too young to ride Junior Mens, so I just went straight up to Pro at age 11.
2. So how’d you do? My first contest ever was the Pro Tour stop in Orlando, and I got fifth in finals. It was pretty cool to come in to Pro and make finals in my first contest ever.
3. What was your favorite trick when you first turned pro, and what’s your favorite now? My favorite trick when I first turned Pro, I’d have to say, was a KGB into the flats. Now? This is a tough one. I really can’t choose a favorite trick now because I really enjoy pushing myself and trying something new all the time.
4. Who is your favorite rider and why? My overall favorite rider would have to be Scott Byerly. I used to look up to him and I have a big poster of me shaking his hand. It’s funny now because I was standing right next to Scott, talking to him and asking him how his daughters were a couple days ago; 14 years ago I was shaking his hand like he was a god.
5. What is the hardest thing about being a professional wakeboarder? Sacrificing the everyday life. It’s completely worth it, but I never got to have a school experience. I went to school, but I wasn’t there that much. I don’t have the chance to go to college. You’re traveling a lot, which is a fair trade because there’s nothing better than going to a new state every weekend and getting to do what you love to do.
6. What would you be doing if you weren’t a pro wakeboarder? I’d be going to college right now, for sure. When I was younger I wanted to be a lawyer, so hopefully that’s what I’d be doing.
7. What is your biggest goal to accomplish this year? To get back up on top. I’ve kind of fallen off on the Tour circuit. I’ve been focusing on shooting and doing stuff besides the competition scene. I’ve been shooting a lot with my roommate, Spencer Smith, and I’m just trying to take all my tricks and make them look good, and not just — as people have said — robotic.
8. So you think 2010 is going to be a big year for you in the contest scene? Right now I’m actually preparing for 2010 more than anything. 2010 I’m hoping to have a good year on the competition and media scenes. I’m trying to push the envelope a little farther than I have in the past.
9. What are you most proud of in your career so far? Of my entire career, I’m most proud of being the first person to ever win every stop of the Pro Tour in a year. The Tour’s been going on for 19 years, and I accomplished my goal to be the first person to go undefeated on it. I really don’t think there’s much more I can do when it comes to goals in the that. But my goals for the future are definitely going to be to win Rider of the Year because that’s the most prestigious thing you can get. It shows the most well-rounded rider in all aspects and it’s something I’ve dreamed of. Every year I don’t get it, it fuels the fire more and more to try harder and cover the aspects I haven’t covered.
10. What’s one thing you couldn’t live without on a daily basis? My cell phone. I live on my cell phone.
11. Any pets? I don’t have any pets right now, but I want a dog. My new house will be done in a month and I want to get a dog when I move in there.
12. How stoked are you on the new house? The new house is unbelievably sick. I can’t wait. It’s so exciting. It’s right on a lake. It’s pretty big. It’s everything I want. It’s as customized as you can make a house.
13. Who are your sponsors? Liquid Force, Rip It, Malibu, New Era and Performance.
14. Who are you going to live with? When Robert finishes high school he’s probably going to move in there. Spencer Smith might move in. I’m not exactly sure. We haven’t made any definite plans yet.
15. Bob’s got a few wins now, is he quiet about it? Robert is the biggest loudmouth in the world. He will not let me live down the fact that he’s doing better than me this year. I don’t think he even realizes we’re in different divisions.
16. What’s he saying? My brother seems to think that because he’s winning the Junior Men’s Tour and I’m not winning Pro Men’s, he’s now the favorite son. Nothing else you’d be able to publish.
17. Where are you flying to next? I’m flying to Oklahoma City for Nationals tomorrow morning.
18. You’re one of the best contest riders in the world, when are you going to make a mark on the free ride world? I’ve done pretty well in contests the past couple years and I haven’t done as well as I’ve wanted to this year, but competition is always going to be my main focus. This year and next year I’m trying to put a lot more focus on my freeriding. Going out and getting shots, and trying to set up some rails, doing some different things that I’ve done in the past but I haven’t really showcased.
19. What tricks are you working on? I’m working on getting a nosegrab whilydick consistent. I’ve landed it a few times, and it’s pretty tough but I’m getting close on it. I’m trying to get back a couple tricks that I haven’t done in a while. I’m trying to get that crow 7 consistent.
20. What’s your middle name? Michael.