Hand on the handle, Heart in the sky. Photo: Soderlind
Fifteen years ago wakeskating was pretty much a novelty – a playful little diversion for most riders to break up long days spent wakeboarding. There were, of course, guys that took it a little more seriously. Scott Byerly is credited with debuting the sport to the public in the early 90’s, rubbing surf wax on his wakeboard and doing a 3-shuv for an instructional in WakeBoarding magazine. Several years later, a West Coast skater named Jason Messer developed something called Fresh Water Traction pads – foam rubber foot decks designed to screw into the binding holes of a wakeboard to make the activity less like surfing and more like skating. Still, not many people back then seemed to think much would become of it.
Around the millennium, one guy blatantly disagreed: Thomas Horrell. Thomas had been one of the premiere names in wakeboarding during its early days, and had, if not necessarily the respect, certainly the attention of everybody in wakeboarding. Whatever Thomas did, people took notice. So when he suddenly showed up one day in the late 90’s with skate shoes and a wooden board covered in grip tape, people laughed. But they didn’t look away.
The Keys and Danny. Photo: Letchworth
Over the next couple years Thomas was wakeskating, doing more to promote and develop the attitude, moves and movement of it than everyone else combined. He was the first to film video full video parts on a wakeskate, the first to perfect an arsenal of lip tricks and the first to actively encourage and inspire others to follow in his path. Soon, guys like Brian Grubb, Collin Wright, Scott Jobe, Jim Leatherman, Aaron Reed and Drew McGuckin started to devote themselves entirely to the fledgling sport.
But despite all Horrell had done, wakeskating still craved for expansion and attention. Most people who knew it well back then had a growing sense – or hope – that something big was on the horizon, but no one knew what, or who, that was.
Sometime around the Fall of 2002, Thomas started talking about a kid he had watched ride in Miami. A kid that Thomas claimed had absolutely blown his mind with a combination of style and raw talent he had never seen before. It was no small declaration. Now, Thomas was also one of the most animated and opinionated people I knew, and it was common for him to boldly declare even the most mundane of things the best, or worst, ever. As in, “Like seriously Tone, those shoes you’re wearing are the worst thing ever.” Or, “Seriously, that shirt you’re wearing is the worst thing ever.” So when he said something along the lines of, “Seriously, this kid is the future of wakeskating,” I probably didn’t follow it with all the attention I should have.
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The Mastercraft Throwdown went down Saturday on live TV, which was the first time since the 2005 X-Games. If that wasn’t incentive enough, it was also the biggest purse of the season, so all eight invited riders came in with a ton of motivation. The format was also something the riders weren’t use to: sudden death heats giving riders one try and four tricks. This made the best tricks and riding come out. The weather was not ideal, but the rain held off and made for some good conditions in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
In the first round any of the riders could have made it through, but ultimately all of the top seeds were the ones who did. Local boy Mike Dowdy had the hometown advantage and crowd on his side, but he eventually fell short of making finals. He still found himself on the podium in 3rd being the only rider to land a double flip in the contest all weekend. Shota Tezuka can be summed up in one word, consistent. He always knew what he needed and that showed with him ending up in 2nd place. Harley Clifford proved once again that he is one of the best wakeboarders ever. Harley beat 2005 X-Games winner Danny Harf in the first round and then beat Rusty Malinoski to make it into the finals and ultimately took the top prize.
Raph likes to get LF’n Awesome!
The perfect short on land or in water, our hybrids are built to take a beating and to be put to the test!
See them all HERE!
Rad shot of Derek filming for the Dog Days Film (photo O’Shea)