Photo Gallery: Top 2010 King Of Wake Contenders

Those most hungry for the 2010 King of Wake crown got an early jump on the upcoming season. Following the 2009 series, in which five riders were still in the hunt for the title heading into the final event, one thing was clearly apparent — the margin between the best and all the rest would be painfully thin this year. As a result, riders hit the water in January to train. Personal trainers have been hired to work with Adam

Errington and JD Webb, while Rusty Malinoski took a more primal route with his MMA training. Everyone is hunting for that little edge — to make that razor-thin margin go in their favor — because only one can be the King of Wake.

Ready to Defend

The defending King of Wake champion, Aaron Rathy, knows the upcoming season will be unlike anything he’s experienced.

“They say defending a crown is harder than winning it, so that’d explain why only one rider, Phillip Soven, has won the King of Wake title more than once," Rathy says. "But I’m ready for the pressure of people’s expectations of me. It’s motivation for me, and I like it.”

He also thinks there’s a sense of unfinished business. “I feel like I did have some close calls in 2009, maybe got lucky," Rathy says. "I feel that I have to go out there and prove myself every time I’m on the water — that I deserve the King of Wake crown.”

Everyone Wants It

“It’s the biggest deal in wakeboarding,” Errington said. “It’s at least in the back of everyone’s mind all season, and everyone tries to figure out how to rack up points along the way.”

Malinoski echoed Errington’s point. “You’re always thinking about what you need to do at each contest, to be super-consistent, to train hard, to be prepared each and every weekend,” he says.

It’s the kind of award that keeps the best riders motivated. “I’ve been focused on the King of Wake title every year of my pro career,” Webb says. “It’s something that I really want and I use it as the goal I’m working toward.”

The Return of Danny Harf

For the first time in several years, Danny Harf is poised to make a serious charge at the King of Wake title this season. “That’s the goal," Harf says. "I’m gearing up for a full season of going after the King of Wake title. I’ve been riding a bunch lately and doing yoga and core strength exercises to get my body ready.”

Harf is determined to stick by the formula that has brought him success in the past. “I’m definitely trying to be innovative with my riding, bringing the progressive video tricks into competition," he says. "And I’ve been doing this for 10 years, so I know how to put together a run that reflects what I can do. I always try to stay creative, put in something new.”

Renewing Rivalries

Some battles among riders are just inevitable. The pressure of competition creates the environment in which rivalries are born. Some are friendly, some are based on mutual respect, and others are just plain grudges. One such heated King of Wake rivalry is between Malinoski and Phillip Soven.

“It seems that Phil and I are always battling somewhere," Malinoski says. "We’ve been at each others' throats for the last few years, so he’s a guy I enjoy beating.”

Other rivalries bring out the best in each rider. “Jimmy LaRiche and I have been friends since day one, but when we hit the water we both want to step up,” Errington says. “Last year in Oklahoma, when we met in the semifinals at Nationals, we both put up the best contest runs of our lives. It’s good to have that little bit of tension.”

Rathy feeds on the raw energy of being “the guy” whom everyone suddenly wants to knock off. “I like that people watch me ride; that I’m going to get the best shot from whomever I’m riding against,” he says. Rathy and Harley Clifford went back and forth all year in the King of Wake point standings, but other riders, like Andrew Adkison, helped Rathy step up his game. “A guy like Andrew is always hard to ride against," Rathy says. "You know he’s a really good rider, has hard moves and will always stand it up. He’s both very smart and very tough.”

Words: Jeff Barton