When Hurricane Dorian and then COVID-19 forces the HOF to have three years of 1990s inductions in one night at a Church Street Bar in downtown Orlando, things are gonna get ROWDY!
This year’s induction ceremony was ALL TIME! Let me start by saying, I can’t imagine the grass can, or ever will be greener than if you were a wakeboarder, or for that matter, in boardsports in the 1990s. After all the 90s is accepted as the heyday of action sports. For most of us riding in the early years of Wake, it wasn’t a job, it truly was a LIFESTYLE, one of many played, but our terms I’ll unapologetically revisit here. Yes, we had sponsors that helped us to get by, but largely we were compensated with often well-meaning empty promises and sometimes shoddy products we could promote them with, or trade for provisions…we weren’t getting paid, not really. We were doing this because we loved it, wanted to share the fun, the purity of the art, and the community of riders and innovators we had. I know the newer generations can claim the same, but I don’t see it, at least not from afar, or from talking with friends still in the game.
We were true rebels, doing it our way because there was no formula, no coaches, at least not wakeboard coaches, (Well Goforth maybe, if you could dysfunctionally call him that then, lol) creating everything we had, every day. Everyone was just figuring it out, deciding what to call it (’91 World’s – Skurfer, waterskiboard, waterboard, wakeboard), what it was, (towed-surfing, snowboarding, waterskiing, skateboarding, all of that combined as one, or all separate acts), learning to understand the physics, (Jeremy Kovak), what was possible, (any of our chosen creations), what was acceptable, (dock slides, Boardstock, wakepants, diversity), what was the best equipment and features, (bungie ropes, or Hardlines, poles-towers, ballast, hulls, PWCs, ramps, waves, buoys, cables, winches, straps, boots) and who was our voice in action (Scott Byerly or Darin Shapiro, competitive acrobats, or freeriding purists).
In the beginning, the waterski Industry attempted to loop it in with tubes and kneeboards. They had their three events and had no intention of letting these crazy artists change their sensical, but finite way of life, until our passion gave them no other choice…
Here we are thirtyish years later. Wakeboarding is an established sport. There are facilities worldwide, photographers, magazines, podcasts, boats, engineers, and industries dedicated to wakesports. Water-skiers still don’t run it, not all of it at least. Yet in my humble opinion, the industry still doesn’t quite capture the essence of what we did in the nineties, where we built it with our sweat, blood, and tears, not for the evil root, but for the love of a community, diversity and an activity that let everyone be a winner.
This was all encapsulated in the people, inside one Harry Buffalo building, on one night in 2021, (Thank you Ryan Davis, we happily stressed the seams and your servers). The nostalgia was palpable, the love inescapable. Every time anyone turned around, there was another brother or sister you hadn’t seen in a decade or more with heartfelt questions, compliments, and embraces. This is something I can honestly say I have sorely missed, especially on this COVID-19 track of late, and is concerning to a proud father, of a twenty-twenty teen and the social fabric for which she presently lives. I have a personal experience and at least one story for every single wakeboarding inductee on this amazing list – that’s saying something, coming from an outcast, West Coast “bad kid” of the industry. I’ll save these stories for another time.
- Leslie Kent – Athlete
- Josh Smith – Athlete
- Gregg Necrason – Athlete
- Thomas Horrell – Athlete
- Pat Panakos – Innovator
- Josh Letchworth – Innovator
- Bruno Rixen – Innovator
- Tommy Phillips – Lifetime Achievement
- Greg Nelson – Athlete
- Zane Schwenk – Athlete
- Shannon Best – Athlete
- Mike Weddington – Athlete
- Buster Lutgert – Athlete
- Brannon Meek – Innovator
- Rich Goforth – Innovator
- Scott Harwood – Lifetime Achievement
- Walt Meloon – Lifetime Achievement
- Shane Bonifay – Athlete
- Emily Copeland Durham – Athlete
- Jeff Heer – Athlete
- Jeremy Kovak – Athlete
- Rick Lee – Innovator
- Tom James – Innovator
- Doug Dukane – Innovator
- Greg Warren – Innovator
- Tom Carter – Innovator
- Cathy Williams – Lifetime Achievement
- Todd Weatherill – Lifetime Achievement
Fortunately for all, I spoke in the early round, as most know I’m a rambling turtle. Although the noise cancelling tech on YouTube, was successful for home viewers, when on stage with the party in swing, I couldn’t hear myself think. I loved all of it though, left the stage and with no disrespect intended, relayed the same challenges to the following inductees, “Sorry bout that”. Thanks, Murray and Dano for your mostly fruitless attempts to quiet the crowd, and support these tech challenged geezers transported back to the 1900s – speaking within a noise bubble and now forever captured on the interwebs. The feels were real and a few of the late I LOVE YOU MANs, may have been slightly party enhanced, but this wasn’t for the internet, cameras, mics, crowd, or even the Hall, it truly was for the love and I mean that, a phrase coined in our century. Thank you, Wakesports Hall of Fame, for bringing us all together, I know it was a logistical feat, and in these times quite a gamble…Jackpot!!!
Interestingly this level of camaraderie is something I’ve only felt from my families in boardsports, but as I’ve learned now from half a lifetime in wakesports, and from other pursuits in my a-dolt years, this is not as uncommon as I once felt, at least not in our generation. This is something that is often built during the roots of many athletic, “extreme” disciplines – where there is a common community thread among the enthusiasts. I poke fun at the water-skiers of our sport, but they truly are my brothers and sisters in Wake as well. As Jeremy Kovak so eloquently stated, “the wake nineties was a family”, or at least a village and wakesports the offspring we’ve raised together. We have shot the arrow into the future and will always possess great interest in its success. We all paid our dues, played our part, and forever claim our piece in this wake ecosystem and as many stated on this night, we are all grateful for the lessons in life and experiences we’ve had. I maintain hope and best wishes for our present and future generations, that they too can experience the same or more from life and towed boardsports.
This trip will go down with a handful of instrumental experiences in my life. In proper Surf Expo Fashion the party unfolded days before and after the induction ceremony, with events like Alliance’s Team Challenge, Park’s Double or Nothing, OWC’s Cable Championships and more. I was fortunate to ride with and kick it with many lifelong friends. Scott Davis who’s name you may not know unless you’re a snowboarder, (had a cameo in Gravity Sucks), who’s name, and maybe a touch of profiling got him detained, (long, funny story), but was later reparated with a complimentary room at the event hotel AC, (Thanks babe). I was blessed to Hydrofoil, Wakesurf and Onewheel with Danny Harf, Derek Cook and Laz. This was epic for me! Andy’s hospitality remains heroic, and if you’re a rider, I’d keep your eyes peeled, as Cook and Danny are still strapped innovating, inspiring me to ride, dropping hammers on water, parenting their own children and passing the torch to a new generation. If you haven’t been behind a Paragon yet, add it to the bucket. I’d like to thank all the inductees and everyone who loves and has given themselves to wakesports. Remember kids, wakesports is our baby, so take care of it and continue to raise it well, we’ll be watching and cheering you all on. ”Wakeboarding has made me a better person.” Ride for yourself.
Find out if you made John Lipscomb’s Gallery of OG’s at the 2021 Wake Sports Hall of Fame inductions wild night at Harry Buffalo: