The Ten Most Influential Riders of the Decade

There’s something about the beginning of a new decade that makes you reminisce about the past. That and the fact that everybody and their mother (literally) have been posting their personal highlights/changes from the past ten years. In that vein we decided to take it one step further (and therefore with more potential controversy) and come up with a list of the ten most influential riders of the decade. The key word here is “influential.” Influential does not necessarily mean the best or most successful. We’re talking about influence - and the riders who had the biggest impact on the sport. Of course, wakeboarding continued to progress at an unbelievable pace the last ten years, and there have been tons of changes and evolutions to how riders ride and where. So who helped sculpt some of that change and push wakeboarding to where it’s currently at? Take a look at our list below.

10. Bob Soven

From reality TV star to one of the best riders in the game, Bob Soven’s arc through the decade was unlike any other rider, and his influence can’t be denied. Whether you loved him for harassing his older brother Phil on TV (and online), his semi-serious-yet-light-hearted approach to new tricks like the “billion dollar baby” (tantrum to frontside 360), or pushing the limits with double ups and big stunts, chances are you were influenced by Bob in some way, shape or form over the last ten years. While Bob the personality sometimes overshadowed Bob the wakeboarder, there’s no denying just how good he was the last ten years. He was featured on multiple magazine covers and became known for going huge and riding with his own legit style. And if you think his influence fizzled the last couple years, think again. Without Bob’s viral antics, you wouldn’t have things like the Wakeskating World Championships or some of the funniest “wake beef” ever seen on social media.

Quick Hits:

  • 2012 - Wake Brothers
  • 2013 - Alliance Rider of the Year
  • 2016 - LF’n Awesome

Video Links:

9. Steel Lafferty

Known now for going viral with videos like a wakeboarding bottle cap challenge and chip-shotting over a golf-course-cruising alligator, Steel burst onto the scene in 2009 by becoming the first rider to ever land a 1080 off the wake. He kicked off the decade by winning both the 2010 Check Out Award and the Trick of the Year for his toeside backside 900 off the double up. That same year he also became the first rider to ever land a handle pass backside 1080 (Aaron Rathy landed a backside 10 first, his was wrapped). While Steel’s approach to and presence on social media has changed over the decade, his approach to riding has not. In fact, he’s one of the big reasons double ups are still a thing. Look to his Real Wake parts the last few years, his second Trick of the Year win in 2017 with the mute double back mobe, or his viral “Rusty vs. Steel” backyard bet for proof. Steel charges like few others these days, and does tricks that even less can pull off. At the same time, he’s shed light on how to approach social media and bring eyeballs to wakeboarders in entirely new ways.

Quick Hits:

  • 2010 - Wake Awards - Trick of the Year
  • 2017 - Alliance Rider of the Year
  • 2017 - Wake Awards - Trick of the Year

Video Links:

8. Josh Twelker & Trever Maur

Is it kind of a copout to put two guys in one spot? Yes. But do two guys go together and have as much of an impact on wakeboarding over the past decade as Josh Twelker and Trever Maur? Nope. The two Delta kids went from local groms to style icons in the last ten years, and continued to make riders around the world think about how their own riding looked when they were on the water. Josh has had more magazine covers this decade than any other rider, and when you add Trever’s to the mix, you’ve got a whole lot of editorial influence. Then you get into the video parts, both shorter web pieces and full length parts. Twelker could make the most technical tricks look stylish with his ability to grab and poke everything - even adding grabs to tricks most riders had never thought of or been able to do. Maur added his own unique twist with tuck knee craziness and never-been-done wrapped maneuvers. And for even more influence, in the middle part of the decade Trever got behind the camera and started putting together some of the biggest video pieces in the game like Al Sur and Dog Dayz, not to mention parts like Real Wake for Twelker and Tyler Higham, as well as the award-winning Insight series with Graeme Burress this past year.

Quick Hits:

  • 7 combined covers
  • 2016 - Twelker named Alliance Rider of the Year
  • Wake Awards - Best Video - Dog Dayz
  • Wake Awards - Best Video Part - Josh - Dog Dayz

Video Links:

7. Kevin Henshaw

Long before Kevin Henshaw became famous for dreaming up and then building Area 52, he was making a huge impact on the sport for creating unique rails and pushing the limits of what was possible with a System 2.0. Henshaw’s backyard in Clermont, Florida was a revolving door of floating craziness that he and other pros would push the sport with. To top it off, his home became known as Hotel Henny because he was constantly playing host to riders from around the world, which gave them a front-row seat to Kevin’s creativity (and fun-loving ways), not to mention access to all the media who were regularly out there shooting photos and videos. Of course, the biggest influence from Kevin Henshaw, and what cemented his legacy in the sport, is Area 52. The site played host to some of the best riders and most progressive riding in the world, and multiple iconic sections were filmed there.

Quick Hits:

  • 2011 - FISE World Series (1st)
  • 2012 - Wake the Line (2nd), Defy video part
  • 2013 - Wake the Line (2nd)

Video Links:

6. Dylan Miller / Wakezeach

View this post on Instagram

Log jibbing 101 with @krakenboardsports

A post shared by Wake Zeach (@wakezeach) on Dec 19, 2019 at 6:26am PST

The Wakezeach Instagram page: the most infamous account of the decade.

While Dylan made a name for himself on the water throughout the past decade, namely through his creative riding with any pull - boat, park or winch, his influence on the sport was felt anonymously and without anybody knowing it. For years Dylan manned the infamous @wakezeach account, which originally started as a website/blog before Instagram became a thing. The account regularly called out “improper” and “not-so-stylish” riding, especially amongst the pros. It slowly grew over time, as riders from all corners caught on to its ultra-blunt call-outs. Some people loved it and plenty hated it, but there is no denying that it brought about influence and change in the sport. The term zeach became common language in wake parks around the world, and ultimately getting featured in a Wakezeach post became a badge of honor. Over the last few years the Wakezeach account has become more of a comedy one, centered around the whacky and ridiculous things people are doing on the water today - and crashes. It’s more popular than ever, and still an honor if you happen to get called out/featured. But because of its troll-like origins, pro riders did change their ways - especially with how they hit rails and grabbed certain tricks - all of which had a ripple effect down to hardcore fans and even weekend warriors.

5. Danny Harf

While most of Danny’s unbelievable success came in the later 2000s, much of that carried over well into the next decade. Danny’s influence can be felt well into 2010 and beyond, thanks in large part to just how big he had become in the sport by that point. Aside from riders emulating his style throughout wakeboarding, kids around the world (and other top pros) were riding his Ronix One setup. To top it off, he released Defy in 2012, which won Best Video and Best Video Performance Wake Awards, and then Prime in 2015. And don’t think of Defy as a killer section that won an award. It changed the perception of what was possible on a wakeboard and put double flips back on the map in a big way. Without Danny Harf and Defy, wakeboarding’s progression would have been immeasurably slower.

Quick Hits:

  • 2010 - BROstock win
  • 2012 - Defy (Wake Awards - Best Video & Best Video Performance)
  • 2015 - Prime (Wake Awards - Best Video)
  • 2019 - Wake Awards Legend Award

Video Links:

4. Daniel Grant

Daniel Grant may just go down as one of the best riders ever, on either a wakeboard or a wakeskate. If that doesn’t say something, we don’t know what does. The kid from Thailand dominated the world of wake park riding on a global scale for most of the past decade and pushed that aspect of the sport to places most never thought possible. His insane abilities not only won him countless contests and awards, but regularly pushed his peers (who were often years older than him) to push themselves. Growing up at Thai Wake Park, it’s easy to see how it affected Daniel. He’s as natural on the water as a guy like Parks Bonifay because of all the time he’s spent on it - and he can see lines and manipulate his board and body unlike anybody else. One big influence he’s had on every rider today: rewind tricks. Daniel started doing them way back in 2012, and not only blew minds, but made every other pro rider (both at the park and behind the boat) think about their riding in a new way.

Quick Hits:

  • Wake Park World Series Champ (Features) - 2011, 2012, 2013
  • Wake Park Worlds Champ (Features) - 2011, 2013, 2014
  • Red Bull Wake of Steel Champ - 2012, 2014, 2016
  • Wake Park Triple Crown Overall Champ (Features) - 2012
  • FISE Champion - 2014, 2017
  • Wake Park World Series Cable Champ - 2014
  • Wake the Line Champion - 2016
  • Wake the Line Champion - 2012 (wakeskate)
  • Readers Poll - Favorite Wakeskater - 2019
  • Wake Awards - Best Wake Park Rider: 2012-2017

Video Links:

3. Shredtown

Late in the 2000s the Texas trio known as Shredtown started making noise in wakeboarding with their blog and self-produced videos, most of which consisted of them winching very unique spots. That noise turned into a full-fledged impact on the sport that ushered in a new era of creative riding. There was a two year period (before Instagram was everywhere) where nobody could wait for the next Shredtown edit to drop because everybody wanted to see what they’d come up with next. Andrew Adams, Chris Abadie and Davis Griffin went on to create award winning projects like “Drop the Gun,” and Abadie’s gold-medal winning Real Wake part, as well as the infamous Shredtown ranch that hosted the Jamboree in 2015 and 2016. For a five year period, the Shredtown model board for Slingshot was a fan favorite. Without Shredtown’s impact on the sport, we wouldn’t have events like the Valdosta Yard Sale and riders like Wes Jacobsen wouldn’t have the opportunities they do.

Quick Hits:

  • 2012 - “Lipsmack”2014 - “Drop the Gun” wins Wake Awards for Best Video and Best Video Performance (Chris Abadie), the trio wins Alliance Rider of the Year award
  • 2015 - Real Wake (gold), Shredtown Jamboree
  • 2016 - Real Wake (bronze), Shredtown Jamboree

Video Links:

2. Harley Clifford

All you have to do is look at Harley’s list of accolades over the last decade to see just how dominant he was. But this article isn’t about dominance, it’s about influence. If anybody influenced fellow pros and fans alike in a big way from 2010 through 2019, it was Harley Clifford. Simply put, Harley was landing tricks consistently years before his peers, and everybody else spent much of the decade trying to catch him. He was the first ever rider to land a double indy tantrum wake-to-wake, the first rider to score a perfect 100 in a pro contest, the first to land a crow mobe 900, and the first to do a lot of other crazy things. Multiple 900s and double flips behind the wake in a single contest run? That’s all thanks to Harley, and every pro has to have them on lock now in order to win an event. When you push a sport to the heights like Harley has the impact and influence is undeniable. Then when you factor in the worldwide fan base, the pro model boards, and everything else it’s that much more obvious just how much Harley has meant to the sport as a whole.

Quick Hits:

  • 2010 - Double or Nothin’ - nose grab back mobe 720
  • PWT Champ - 2012, 2014, 2015, 2017Prime - 2015 (Wake Awards - Best Video Performance)
  • LF’n Awesome - 2016
  • Wake Awards - Best Boat Rider - 2017
  • Wake Awards - Best Wakeboarder - 2010, 2011, 2014, 2015

Video Links:

1. Raph Derome

The most influential rider of the 2010s may also be the quietest, which suits Raph Derome just fine. The mild-mannered French Canadian kid dominated unlike any other in the decade by letting his riding speak for itself. And it didn’t just speak. It screamed at the loudest levels, influencing riders everywhere in terms of style, creativity, fluidity and all-around bad-assery. There are boat riders whose favorite rider is Raph Derome. The same can be said for park riders. And the same with winch/urban riders, too. Nobody encompassed all facets of the sport with the style and success of Raph. Whether it was winning an all-around title at the most complete event ever assembled (Red Bull Wake Open, 2012), ruling over park contests around the globe, or dropping video parts that created frenzies throughout the sport, Raph did it all, and he did it in a way nobody else could. Not only did he make it look ridiculously easy, but he did it in relative secrecy, preferring to do his own thing on his own time, as opposed to being in the mix of Orlando.

Quick Hits:

  • 2012 - Wake the Line (1st), Red Bull Wake Open (overall champ), Red Bull Art of Wake (1st), FISE World Series (overall champ), “Raph”
  • 2013 - Wake the Line (1st), Red Bull Wake Open (1st), Red Bull Rising High (1st), Red Bull Wake of Steel
  • 2014 - “Beyond Perception”
  • 2015 - Real Wake (2nd)
  • 2016 - “LF’n Awesome”2018 - “Formats”
  • Wake Awards - Best Rail Rider: 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015
  • Wake Awards - Best Wakeboarder: 2012
  • Wake Awards - Best Video Part: 2013
  • Wake Awards - Best Web Video: 2015

Video Links:

Honorable Mentions

Aaron Rathy

The multitalented Canadian will go down as one of the best all around riders, not just of the decade, but ever. Plus, before the decade started, he was competing in wakeskating at the Byerly Toe Jam and holding his own against the best in the world. Like Trever Maur, his biggest influence the last few years has been from behind the camera, where he’s helped to create some of the best video parts in the game.

Brad Smeele

Brad’s influence on the sport was slow and steady as he made a name for himself landing insane tricks, then dropping bombs off mega ramps. He opened new doors and ushered in a new era of the sport. Ultimately his biggest impact on the sport came following his accident. It unified the sport in unimaginable ways, brought people together from around the world, and created a bond that lasts to this day. These days his words and wisdom are as powerful as ever and continue to influence pros and fans alike.

Massi Piffaretti

The Italian style icon known as Pizza Boy has more than made a mark on the sport. Had he started getting more recognition and traction in wakeboarding earlier in the decade, he might have cracked the top 10 list. Ultimately, Massi has redefined what it means to have your own style on a wakeboard, and he’s pushed everybody who watches him to reconsider their own. Unique grabs and even more unique swagger define the kid out of Lake Como.

Space Mob

This crew has taken a cue from Shredtown and blazed their own path to influence, infamy, and all-around awesomeness. Creative park setups: check. Film everything and make cool, raw edits: check. Create a unique park-based contest that pushes boundaries: check. Push a signature style of both riding and enjoying the lifestyle of wakeboarding: double check.

Guenther Oka

Where Raph Derome left off as the best all around rider in wakeboarding a few years ago, Guenther Oka picked up the torch and has set new standards. Like Massi, if he’d been garnering the attention he’s getting now a bit earlier in the decade, he’d easily be in the Top 10. Guenther’s riding has impacted people around the world riding every type of pull available. His creativity and attention to detail are second to none, except maybe Raph himself.