Dean Smith's life has been defined by wakeboarding for the better part of two decades. In that time he has gone from a young Australian buck with unknown potential to one of the best and most-liked riders on the planet, known for going bigger than anyone. For the past 14 years, Smith was a staple on the PWT, always charging and most certainly keeping everybody around him entertained. Last year marked his last, though, so we decided to sit down with the one-and-only "Dean-O" to talk about his legacy on tour and his new venture with Supra back in his hometown of Sydney.
Fourteen years makes for a lot of contests, travel and general craziness. Do you remember your first run/event as a rookie? Where did you finish overall that year?
Yeah, I do remember it actually. It was at OWC in 2004, and I never made it out of qualifying. It was back when we had a couple of gnarly fun boxes on tour, and I'd never really hit rails before. I remember being in JD Webb's heat; it was his rookie year too. I can't remember how I finished the season. I think top 20.
What was your best year overall?
I finished third one year but can't remember which season. I think it was 2011.
Do you have one favorite memory from all the PWT stops you competed in?
Probably seeing Daniel [Watkins], Josh [Sanders] and Ike [Bret Eisenhauer] finish first, second and third. It was just crazy, considering the history of those boys in the sport, that they managed to all end up on the overall podium. They were at the end of their careers too, which made it even more special. The party that night was hectic! I remember Ike trying to breakdance on the dance floor and doing a front-flip-and-a-half straight to his face.
Kelowna [British Columbia] for the location … and the level of comedy in the riding. No one truly understands rough water until they've ridden there.
What has changed the most about the PWT in all those years?
Obviously the faces. I really liked riding in my early years, riding against so many different people. There were guys like Shane, Danny, Watson, Ruck, and so many others. We would have 60 competitors to the opening stop! I think it was because the level of riding was so much more even. If you had a 9 and a 7, you were good! There were literally 20 riders who could win an event, but now it's a little different. The level has gotten so high in contests that it's probably too intimidating for new guys to enter. There's also a smaller number of riders who can realistically win.
What did it mean to you to get the PWT guitar as a goodbye gift at the PWT Awards before Wake Awards?
Man, it was emotional! I had no idea I was receiving it. When Mark [Heger, PWT announcer] was talking, it took a moment to realize that he was talking about me. Then I'm pretty sure I turned into a mess. It was a goofy moment. It has just been such a central part of my life that it all hit me at once — the realization, from some of my best friends, that I was moving on with my life. It was a special moment, for sure.
What do you think is in store for the PWT in the next few years?
Well, for sure, the riding is going to keep improving, which is a crazy thought. The other thing I see happening is that a greater number of top-level elite riders will be on tour. As I said, there are realistically six riders at the moment who can win a tour stop (Harley, Dowdy, Cory, Nic, Massi and Noah), but I think with guys like Tyler Higham and Elliot Digney coming into pro, we will start seeing more elite riders competing at once. I'd also like to see an increase in the number of entrants to the Pro Tour. It is capped at 16 at the moment, but I think 24 would be better.
What is your new gig back home in Sydney?
Since November I've been running a new boat dealership called Marina Bayside. We were brought on as Supra's newest dealer in Australia. There are big plans in the works with the dealership, so keep an eye out.
What exactly does it entail? How is it working for Supra now after getting to know the company a bit better through the PWT the past few years?
I'm wearing a few different hats with the business, encompassing both sales and marketing. I've been back in online university for the past year, so it has been good to learn on the run. I've known everyone at Supra for a while now, so I never really had to familiarize myself with the company and product. Obviously I've known Josh and Justin Sanders for a long time, so it has been good working with them here.
It's going well. It has been a steep learning curve, as I started late in the season, so I had to juggle a few balls at once. As I said, though, Josh and Justin have been unreal.
Do you see yourself doing any competing in the future?
Not professionally. I might show up at Nationals this year if the timing is right. Amber and I will be over for a few weeks to sort out our stuff. She is going to compete in all the events she can, so I might roll along in the Masters division at some point.