Throwback Thursday – October 1997 and The New Crew

A look back at the article, and the riders behind it, that ushered in the "style first" approach to wakeboarding

The New Crew wakeboarding in 1997
Back in 1997 the New Crew was about having fun – and not about skiboarding. Doug Dukane

Editor’s Note: Twenty-two years ago, when the October issue of the magazine hit stands, wakeboarding was at a crossroads of sorts. On one hand, you had the first generation of pros and the water ski brands that started the sport, and on the other you had the next generation: younger riders who saw wakeboarding as something entirely its own, rather than an offshoot of water skiing. The cover of that issue featured on of more vocal leaders of the new generation: Chase Heavener. Chase, his friends, and a handful of other young pros thought “pro wakeboarding” was a bit too stiff, a bit too straight-laced, and definitely not a board sport. With the creation of the very tongue-in-cheek “New Crew,” they started making some noise (in big ways) and ultimately had a huge impact on the evolution of wakeboarding as we know it. They pushed a style of riding and an attitude about the sport that emphasized personal expression and style, as opposed to just landing tricks. They rode longer lines, widened their stances, and treated wakeboarding like a board sport. Looking back, it’s funny to see just how the feather ruffling from this group of friends pushed the sport forward. Of course, Horrell, Staker, Heavener and others mentioned in the article (like Randy Harris), went on to have immeasurable impacts on wakeboarding. Horrell with wakeskating, Heavener and Staker with filmmaking, and Randy with becoming Randall and riding like nobody else.

Here now is the “New Crew” article from 1997 in its entirety, enjoy the trip down memory lane (or the history lesson, depending on your age).

The New Crew
by Chase Heavener & Matt Staker


WARNING: This article contains explicit Raley bashing. We strongly suggest that parents read this dissertation before showing it to their children. We (the riders) have nothing against the people who execute this trick, we just think that the move is overrated.

CH: “So Matt, give me some tips on how do do an S-bend.”

MS: “Well, Chase, shorten your line to just past the prop wash – that way you’ll look like you go into the flats farther – and do a front flip while keeping your arms over your head. It’s just that easy, AND you can do it switch for more points!”


In the above skit we were being facetious, so don’t get your panties in a wad. But if you’re going do do an S-bend, do it like Parks Bonifay or don’t do it at all. That may sound harsh, so let us clarify. There is nothing wrong with a good S-bend or some Raleys every now and then, but we can only take so much. We are not trying to make anybody mad, but five or six versions of this lame trick just to win a contest? Something needs to be changed for the betterment of the sport, and this is a good way to start.

Matt Staker hitting the double up
Matt Staker off the double up. Doug Dukane

Now that we have that off our chest, let’s talk about The New Crew. These are guys, like us, who are leading the anti-skiboarding brigade. There is only a handful of us – Thomas Horrell, Steve Wahlman, Randy Harris, Brad Hellerich, Andrew Cairns, Scott Jobe and the two of us. Most of us don’t do Raleys, but we RIDE every day and we WAKEBOARD because we love to, not because we want to “train” for a trick ski contest. And although they are impressive (and we do them for fun), wakeboarding isn’t about doing flips either. It never was. Wakeboarding didn’t start out as a sport about who could do the best tricks, so why is it that way now?

The New Crew has fun on the water – that’s our goal. You’ll never see us timing each other’s runs, but you will see us throwing a big spin off the double up every chance we get. We like doing a variety of moves, but never that mule-kick thing even though it’s adored by onlookers. Mostly, we’re just kids having fun for ourselves, and the only people we’re worried about impressing are some of the local girls.

Thomas Horrell launching off the wake
Thomas Horrell, an early proponent of caring how you made your riding look: AKA “style.” Doug Dukane
The New Crew trying new tricks
New Crew riders doing new crew things. Doug Dukane

One thing you’ll also notice when riding with us – we all have different styles. Some of us come from skating, where you’ll see solid grab moves every day; some of us get it from surfing, where big air is key; some from snowboarding, where spin tricks rule; and some of us just let it flow without any previous background. Well, except for Chase, whose style is strongly influenced by Michael Jordan (that’s why he always sticks his tongue out when he rides), but he’s strange anyway.

Brad Hellerich pulling some nice flips
Brad Hellerich Doug Dukane

As far as attitude – everything goes. Everything that is except selling out, and by that we mean changing the way we ride and doing moves we don’t like just to place well in a contest.

We also have a big respect issue. We respect spin moves because they’re so difficult, yet have so much style. We also respect the riders who came before us and helped pave the way. What we don’t respect are some of the riders in the top 10, not because of what tricks they do or do not do, but because they are in it for the money, not for the passion. Don’t get us wrong, there’s nothing wrong with winning money; it just shouldn’t be the only motivation to go wakeboarding every day. That’s when wakeboarding turns into skiboarding. And you already know how we feel about that.

The New Crew's rules
While skinny stances are back and long shorts are long gone, a lot of the New Crew’s rules still apply 22 years later. Doug Dukane

1. No Raleys.
2. Stance is 21 inches or wider.
3. Rope length is long enough to require hand signals to communicate with the driver.
4. Play at least 15 minutes of video games every day.
5. You don’t wear gloves. Ever.
6. You don’t wear three-quarter wetsuits. Also known as “Janes.”
7. Your shorts hang over your knees and your butt shows some crack.

Chase Heavener on the cover in 1997
Chase Heavener, leader of the New Crew, on the cover of the Oct. ’97 issue. What’s funny/ironic is the instructional piece for this is is “learning the Raley.” Doug Dukane

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