While there was a lot of progression and craziness that highlighted the 2018 season of wakeboarding, the name that might be remembered the most when we all look back is that of Guenther Oka. Here’s a quick recap:
- Full section in the Wake Awards Best Video – Formats
- Wake Awards Best Park & Rail Rider
- Wake Awards Full Scope Award (awarded to best all-around rider each year, Guenther also won last year)
- 2nd @ FISE park event
- 2nd @ Munich Mash park event
- 1st @ Tomar Pro park/urban event
- 3rd @ Nautique Wakeboard Nationals boat event
- 1st @ Nautique Wake Park Nationals (traditional)
- 2nd @ Nautique Wake Park Nationals (features only)
- Launch of new pro model Liquid Force Rhyme (boat board), Rhythm (park board), and Pulse boots at Surf Expo
Pretty good, right? Yeah, we’d say so. Then Guenther went and put the icing on the cake yesterday by taking home the gold medal in the X-Games Real Wake contest. Arguably the biggest contest of the year, and definitely one of the most unique, the rider and videographer teams go all-out to showcase their best in a mere 90 seconds. To say Guenther’s part, filmed and edited by Taylor Hanley (of Formats creation), was good, would be a severe understatement. It was mind-blowing in that it was one of the most well-rounded pieces of video ever compiled. Big air, insane tricks, unique locations, precision, control, and style with every hit… Guenther had it all and was more than deserving of the Real Wake win. We sat down with the Ohio native to find out what went into making his part, what it feels like to have an X-Games gold medal hanging around his neck, and what 2018 has been like as a whole.
What was your strategy going into filming?
As soon as I got the invite I called up Taylor Hanley to film/edit, and in his mind he was already involved. That was Step 1, and he was totally game, which was awesome. Step 2 was lining up some winch spots and then looking for new ones. That can take some time and research, so I started scouting spots I knew of and looking all over for new ones. Step 3 was trying to find time in both of our schedules to to make it all work. It was tough for both of us because Taylor had just finished Formats but was trying to set up a premiere in Orlando and I was just getting started with the contest season, along with demos, clinics and everything else that comes with summer.
How much did it help going from Formats straight into Real Wake with Taylor?
It helped a ton. We knew we worked really well together and how to get the most out of each other. We actually learned a lot from our very first filming session in Formats. The whole crew was in Orlando together to film and it didn’t go well. Taylor and I learned what the bottom looked like and how to work together to make something out of nothing.
How long did you film together to get your part complete?
We ended up having close to a month to film together. We started out filming three weeks straight, and that’s where we knocked out the majority of our winch stuff. I think nine of the 12 tricks in my section were done over that stretch. That ended up being really nice because we had a solid part already built in the early days of filming. We knew if something went south we had a lot of solid things to fall back on and build around. It was a good foundation, for sure. The hard part with winching is that some days you can get two or three tricks and then you can go three or four days getting nothing. To come away with what we did in those first three weeks helped a ton. After those three weeks I had four weekends in a row of contests. Then Taylor came back to town and we spent nine days filming my boat stuff.
What was your strategy for building your section? How did you balance boat, winch, and park?
It was a tough call on how to build the section. We looked at a lot of the sections from previous years to get ideas on how some were put together. I really wanted to focus on winch and boat, just because winch is so crazy and creative these days. It really gets a good response, but I didn’t want to limit myself. I wanted to showcase what I can do on my wakeboard. We didn’t do any park stuff because it’s a similar skill set to winching but with setups or spots that aren’t as unique visually.
Did you only film in Florida?
Yep. All of the winch stuff was around central Florida, from coast to coast. That just made it easier based on our time constraints.
Were there any spots or tricks that didn’t work out?
There were a couple winch spots that didn’t work out. One had a huge change in the water level from when I first scoped it over the winter, so it wasn’t hittable anymore. And there was another that we went to two or three times and got busted, but it was a ton of work and might not have been worth the reward, so I wasn’t that bummed on not having it my section – more just bummed on the time wasted trying to get something and coming up empty. Ultimately I think we got everything we set out to, and that felt really good.
When you watched all the sections, did you think you had a chance at winning?
I definitely didn’t know! All the sections were so good this year, and to me Felix Georgii’s and Tyler Higham’s really stood out. I knew going into it just how creative Felix was as a rider, and he’d won gold the year before. When I saw what he and Steffen created this year I was floored. It was so cool.
I’ve spent a lot of time hanging out and riding with Ty over the past few years, so I know what he’s capable of, but I don’t think anybody knew what to expect from him when it came to winching. And he killed it. My jaw dropped watching his section. Everything he was able to come up with, both winching and boat, was really, really impressive.
What did it feel like to win gold?
I got so locked up! I didn’t even know what to say. To have Parks there holding the gold medal for me was unbelievable. Felix was there with his silver and Ty with his bronze, too, so it was just really cool moment to have happen and celebrate together. It’s still hard to believe to this day. It’s a wild accomplishment that I’ve only dreamed of. It means so much to me, but it’s hard to put into words.
2018 has been pretty good so far. You now have an X Games gold medal, you got your second consecutive Full Scope Award at Wake Awards, and you also won Best Park & Rail Rider at Wake Awards. Plus you continue to do well at contests and you just got your first pro model setups from Liquid Force. How would you describe this year?
I can’t. It’s been an unreal year. When you put it all like that it’s pretty crazy. I was really happy with how everything went last year. I got a cover of Wakeboarding, I got a chance to do Real Wake, I won the Full Scope Award, and I had a lot of good contest results – not to mention getting on the Red Bull team. I really just wanted to build off of that and keep pushing myself this year. It’s gone really well, I’m stoked. I’ll definitely chill over the winter some, especially because I still two Wake Park Worlds events to attend in Asia, but I’m already looking forward to keeping the momentum going and pushing myself and the sport.
Click to watch Guenther’s gold-medal winning part here: