You’re gonna love this month’s assignment…
Aaron Reed is the master of awkward portraits. This outtake from the BROstock portrait session is perfect evidence of that. Give us your best captions for this photo, in the comments section in the Alliance Wakeboard Magazine Official article (http://www.alliancewake.com/wake/caption-contest-w-aaron-reed/), and you could win a kickass Aaron Reed giveaway – a brand new Obscura Tao 41 wakeskate and an O’Neill Trekker backpack. Let’s see if your funny bone is strong enough to earn you some schwag…(make sure you comment using your Facebook account or email your caption to firstname.lastname@example.org…just so we know how to find you to give you your sweet prize!)
We’re super stoked to be a part of #PassTheHandle on July 26th… Take your friends, family, and co-workers out on the water for some fun in the sun! Show them all the reasons why you love wakeboarding, wakeskating, & wakesurfing as much as you do!
Tag LIQUID FORCE so we can see all the fun you’re having and we’ll pick one winner that will score the LTD Harley Clifford x Monster Energy board, BROstock tank & BROstock x New Era Cap!
Liquid Force at 20 Years: a conversation
If 20 years ago you had told Tony Finn and Jimmy Redmon, the co-founders of Liquid Force, that their fledgling wakeboard brand would eventually become the largest in the sport, they probably would have said, “well yea, it should be!” Then Tony would have given you his signature larger-than-life laugh and tried to sell you a board. It is that kind of fun, confident irreverence that has built LF into what it is today. The history of Liquid Force really can’t be put into words; it’s full of too many unbelievable circumstances and twists of fate, not to mention the requisite blood, sweat, tears and a lot of really good times and blurry nights. But it can be summed up in one word: FUN. No doubt if you’ve been a fan of wakeboarding at all over the past 20 years, Liquid Force has played some sort of role in your views and attitudes about the sport. At the root of everything LF is the desire to help wakeboarding grow, and to help those involved have fun doing it. From Trips Across America, to Slide Show rail jams, to Free4All events, and of course, BROstock, Liquid Force has made wakeboarding more fun for a lot people, even if you’re not riding one of their boards. Could anyone have predicted that 20 years later LF would be where they are today? Of course not, but we can predict that for the next 20 years the employees and riders who make up LF’s DNA will continue to have fun, while encouraging you to join in with them.
Editor’s Note: This article appears in the June issue of Alliance Wake. We couldn’t fit everything from our awesome conversation with LF’s Big Wigs, so we’ve got it all here (along with some extra photos) for you to check out.
If you can name every person in this photo you will get a prize… or just be called the greatest LF fan ever… or just be trolled in the comments below for being a creepy wake geek.
20 years in 20 words
Bill McCaffray: 20 Years of LF in 20 words?
Tony Finn: All we wanted to do was spread the stoke of wakeboarding and hopefully we’ve been pretty successful doing that.
BM: Aaron (Grace)? Your lifetime of Liquid Force in 20 words or less?
Aaron Grace: I’ve been fortunate enough to work with the two guys that started the whole sport and I’m grateful for that. And like Tony said, spreading the stoke. (laughs)
Don Wallace: My turn? I’d say in 20 years it’s a bunch of knuckleheads having fun, making products, for people.
TF: You’re totally right about the knucklehead part (laughs).
BM: Speaking of knuckleheads, who are some of your favorite athletes you’ve worked with?
JR: Gregg Necrason.
DW: Me too. It’s funny, I knew this question would come up, and we had some difficult times with Gregg over the years. But he was the guy when I first started – and I started a year and-a-half after LF was born – and I wasn’t a pro wakeboarder or anything and here I am tossed into this team management position. All the team riders were giving me grief and more or less hazing me, but Gregg was the one that didn’t, and he was arguably our best guy at the time. I always from that point on was just stoked on him and the contributions he made to LF and the sport. I could list about 20 favorites, but Gregg is the guy I’d name if somebody made me pick one.
Necrason and Gator
TF: My favorites are Watson and Shane, and the reason is because the brand was really small and they trusted us and had faith in us, and we had faith in them. Also, because the brand was smaller back then I was able to work with the athletes more, so I have a lot of love for Watson and Shane.
DW: Well, you guys signed Shane before I even started. He was on early. And Watson wasn’t much longer after that.
JR: Watson was so young when we signed him that I remember I had to go meet his parents and convince them that I would chaperone him when we went to Argentina for an event. (laughs)
AG: And that was the downfall of Watson… (everybody laughs)
JR: In order for him to be able to go he had to bring his schoolbooks. But we’re on the plane and we get to Argentina and had to get on a small puddle jumper to transfer to where we’re going. No joke, Kool and the Gang get on the plane right before us. I was like, “Shawn, we’re gonna hang out at the casino with them tonight!” It was probably four or five in the morning that night and we’re on the beach partying and I look over at Watson and go, “Hey, did you do your homework?” (laughs)
DW: Well when we signed Watson, I’m handing a signed contract to Watson’s dad with my jaw wired shut ‘cause I’d gotten in a fight (laughs). I’m like (in a muffled voice) “Yessir I’ll take careofyourson…” (laughs)
AG: Obviously Shawn and Shane are some of my favorites, too, but I also think about Myles, Jim, Chase and Thomas. That whole crew was so out of left field, but they still made a career out of it, and created a whole different lifestyle around wakeboarding just because they were knuckleheads. But they were professional knuckleheads (laughs), they really did change how a “professional athlete” in our sport acted.
DW: Well, look at how successful they all are in all their different ventures now.
AG: It was always a good time with them no matter where you were or what you’re doing.
JR: And also what’s really cool is after 20 years the athletes’ level of creativity just keeps pushing us. The whole new roster of young guys are still saying, “Hey, let’s try this” and they’re generating entirely new product ideas that keep things fresh and fun.
AG: I think it’s rad how long Melissa has been with us and everything she’s done with LF, too. It’s been 15 years since we first sponsored her! She’s always been down for anything – and a lot of the time she’s been the only girl.
DW: Like ten-day trips to Powell! Melissa’s a trooper.
AG: To this day she’s still pushing wakeboarding and women’s riding, and in terms of athletes’ creativity we have her to thank for the Velcro bindings. She came up with that idea and we put them on her boots that year. They were so popular we made a men’s version. Now every company has a binding with Velcro. She’s basically been riding for LF since guys like Daniel were in diapers! (laughs)
DW: Some of our best kids now weren’t even born when our company started, which is crazy.
The Queen of LF: Melissa Marquardt
Yep, it’s Shane, pre board pants…
BM: If you guys had to say there was one best product you put out, what would it be?
JR: The Trip.
TF: The Helix.
AG: The Sponge! (everybody laughs)
JR: Starting the whole hybrid line. That one premise of one board is now 45% of the whole line.
DW: Looking at it from today, the hybrid boards for sure. But I think the first time we put Watson’s name on a product, that was huge for the brand.
AG: You could even say the Super Suction bindings.
TF: Yeah, you could definitely say any of the sewn bindings. The reason I say that the Helix is because it’s really fun to learn from your successes and your failures. The Helix was a really good board, it was just a bit before its time and didn’t sell, but it was a great learning experience for us.
JR: That was one of those things. We made that Helix, Watson went out and stuck the first 900 in a contest, wins Nationals, and me and Tony thought we were gonna sell tons of them. But we threw away thousands and thousands of graphics, and it wasn’t a user-friendly board at all. When Watson went to work on his next board he told me, “I want a board that I like, but that everybody can ride too.” That next board was the Substance.
JR: I said the Trip first though because what blew me away about it was being at X-Games in the boat in San Diego and Gregg kept it under wraps the whole time.
DW: Yeah, Gregg and I walked to the dock together with it under a towel or something.
JR: Yeah, and it had those graphics that were their own thing and a big departure from anything else we’d done. Plus the board itself was different. It was an inch and-a-half wider at the tip and tail than any other board on the market at that point, and fins out on the rails that are half the size of the center fin. I remember sitting in the boat and watching Herb O’Brien run down to the dock as Gregg was getting ready just to get a look at it. That just made me go, “Yes!” to myself.
DW: I didn’t really know who Herb was back then, but I remember this guy just kind of hanging around the dock looking around. Later Jimmy says to me, “Do you know who that was? That was Herb O’Brien! He wanted to see what we were doing!” It was sort if this validation and it was cool.
JR: Yeah, it proved that we were more than on his screen.
DW: The Ultra Suctions were cool, too. That got us a lot of recognition. That’s how we got Thomas Horrell, was because we sent him a pair to ride. We even sent them to Byerly.
JR: Yeah, we were just sending them to a bunch of riders, didn’t matter what team you were on.
The one-and-only Jimmy Redmon and some early LF shapes
The first LF cover of Alliance: Shawn Watson riding the Helix
Leaving Athletes Behind
BM: What’s the worst “breakup” you’ve had with a rider?
TF: Brannan Johnson… (everybody laughs)
DW: Bullshit, that was the best!
AG: Gregg Necrason.
TF: Well, depends on how you look at it. Is worst because you’re dealing with his mom or something like that who’s super emotional, or because a rider is somebody you’re close to?
DW: Tina Bessinger was bad. She was screaming at me (laughs). Well you could go back and say we had a bad breakup with Ruck or with JD when it was all on good terms, they just had better offers. And it sucked because two years later they’re winning events and blowing up and you’re left thinking, “Damn, we got these guys started and we could’ve still had them.”
JR: JD was tough. We had this board we were gonna launch and it was gonna be JD’s thing. But he got a killer offer and we couldn’t match it.
DW: But it all worked out.
AG: It’s crazy how many kids got started on our boards and then switched to other brands and you’re like, “Shit!” Like Massi now, I wish he was still on LF. Or Graeme, too. We’re like a development brand for some riders.
DW: Well we keep the ones we can that we know are going to work out. Sometimes you have tough choices because you can’t keep them all.
TF: Yep, like with a baseball team you can’t have only left handed pitchers, even if you love them all, because it’s just not gonna work.
AG: Gregg might have been the toughest though, just because of how close we were with him and it was an uncomfortable situation.
DW: And we were all inexperienced in that thing. That was the first time where we’d been with somebody for a really long time and basically had to let him go. I don’t think we took all the right steps, but I think we learned from it.
AG: Yeah, we definitely learned from it.
DW: Which is why it’s been so rad that Gregg has been driving BROstock for us for all these years now. It’s like he’s back in the family.
Gregg, back for another year of double up driving (and other general bad-assery)
BM: Tony and Jimmy, what are some of the stories about the harder times in the early days that ultimately helped build the character of the brand?
TF: I would say the first six years we could’ve gone bankrupt 12 times. It was gnarly, but it was also super fun. Not having enough money to do the R&D that we knew we could do, and not having the money to pay the athletes and pay for travel; that was pretty stressful. I would say the last six years, when we’ve had the funding, it’s given us the opportunity to do a lot more creative stuff, do things with the athletes, and do more for the sport. Luckily we don’t have financial issues now and we haven’t for nine years. That’s why I still look so young and I’m so vibrant! (laughs)
JR: Yeah the thing about the early years was we knew what kind of brand we wanted and what kind of team we wanted, but we didn’t know everything it took to get there. Financiers would keep coming back and telling us we were idiots. I remember I was usually the first person to submit budget proposals because I was working on R&D, and I would never get a response, so I had nothing to work with. Eventually we were up at the WSIA meetings at Whistler and within five minutes of each other Tony’s phone rings, then the O’Brien guys’ phones ring… and we were being shut down.
DW: I remember this because I was on a chairlift in Utah during the Salt Lake Boat Show and Tony had kind of said, “Something’s up, we’ll see what happens…” I’m on this chairlift with Watson, Shane, and Parks. One of you guys called me and told me and I’m like, “Uh, OK, cool…” Watson asks, “Who was that? You kinda sound bummed out.” I just said, “Oh, yeah, don’t worry about it…” (laughs) I knew at that point those guys weren’t going to get paid, and nobody was going to get paid … that sucked.
JR: But everybody stayed.
DW: Even before all that happened though, I was gonna say when we first started we didn’t even have enough money for everybody working in the office to have computers! Tony had the only computer for a while. So if I had to type up a contract, I’d be in Tony’s office working on his computer and he’d be on the phone selling or something. (laughs)
Don Wallace, the morning after
Motion Water Sports
BM: What kind of an impact has Motion Water Sports had on how Liquid Force operates and has developed as a brand?
TF: We spend over a million dollars on R&D and we ask for all kinds of crazy money for all kinds of crazy products and they’ve never once said no. They’ve asked me to re-explain things or rework the structure of a proposal multiple times, but they’ve never said no. And that’s been the biggest difference.
JR: The months leading up to when we got closed I wasn’t getting anything approved for R&D budgets, so when Bob (Archer) and MWS came into the picture, I didn’t know what to expect. Tony told me to shoot for the moon (with a proposal), so I tripled my proposal numbers that were getting rejected before and Bob (Archer, Motion Water Sports CEO) didn’t even flinch. I was like, “Oh shit, I have to do all this stuff now!” (laughs)
DW: I think the big thing is that they are trusting enough of us as a team. We’ve made it 20 years now, so we obviously kind of know what we’re doing, and they’ll question things, but as long as you have conviction and can explain why, they’ll trust you.
Lyman on board and soaring for LF in ’07
Trip Across America
BM: What is one of the funnier stories you can tell from the early Trip Across America missions with the old LF RV?
AG: Just the calls we would get from whatever crew was on the road at 3:00 AM… “Hey man we’re stuck on a bridge, the U-joint in the RV went out.”
DW: Everything seemed to happen on a bridge… (laughs) “Hey, we just had to slam on the brakes and the boat is in the back of the RV right now.”
JR: Who got stuck in a tunnel?
AG: That was Gregg and me! That is a great story!
DW: I think I got the call about this one! (laughs)
AG: So Gregg and I are on Lake Champlain doing a demo and first thing a kid catches an edge and scorpions himself bad. We whip the boat around and pull him and there is blood everywhere. He ended up fracturing his skull, which I didn’t find out until a couple days later. So that was how the morning started and we were trying to make it from there to New York City so we could make it to Scores before it closed. (laughs)
TF: That’s an excellent goal to have!
AG: We were hauling ass and all of a sudden we’re in Manhattan and neither of us had ever been there before. And we’re in a 42-foot RV pulling a boat! All of a sudden we start getting to these tunnels and I start wondering if we’re actually going to fit. We got through about three tunnels and it’s probably 1:00 AM, but we made it and we got a drink at Scores. We camped out at a random parking lot and woke up to somebody banging on the door telling us we had to move. So we head to the airport because I had a flight to catch and we come around a bend and traffic is dead stopped, and we were hauling ass. We lock up the brakes in the RV and there is a semi doing the same thing right next to us. Gregg knows we’re not going stop in time, so he just turns to the right and we fully jump a median. I think this is the beginning of the end of that RV, that’s when it really started to go downhill mechanically (everybody laughs). But somehow we’re unscathed, Gregg gets control, pulls over into a gas station, and we both just jump out of the RV shaking. We collect ourselves, check the RV a bit, then get back in and get to the airport. Gregg drops me off and I have to hustle to make my flight. From the time I got dropped of to when I got to the gate, my phone probably rang 20 times. I finally get to my phone and see it’s all missed calls from Gregg. He had left the airport and the first tunnel he tried to go through he got the front of the RV and the AC unit on top stuck. Fortunately he was going slowly so it wasn’t bad, but he decided to back out, while on a major thoroughfare in New York, in an RV towing a boat! (laughs) He’s by himself in this thing now, and by the time I finally called him back he had rallied it up a bank and off that road, the black water pipe had broken so all the shit from the RV was flowing out as he was driving, and a tow truck driver finally sees him and was like, “What are you doing?! You’re not even supposed to have an RV on the island of Manhattan!”
DW: We could have a full issue of Alliance that was nothing but stories from Trip Across America. At Masters one year Larry Meddock let the guys park the RV right next to the water. I was at a wedding in Portland and my phone wouldn’t stop buzzing because our old sales manager Pete kept calling. Well it turns out Thomas, Jim, and Myles lit off a smoke bomb inside the RV in the middle of the event and smoke is just billowing everywhere over the course.
TF: And we wondered why the Masters hated wakeboarders for so many years! (laughs)
Signature Benny G
Sinking the Malibu at Lake Powell
BM: Who was responsible for sinking the boat at Powell?
DW: The whole team.
AG: This was the last day of the trip and we’re driving the houseboats back to the marina. Everybody’s pretty much over it after being out there that long and we’re all packing up. The winds were howling that day and the lake had turned into a washing machine.
DW: We’d been at the lake for at least ten days at that point, doing the catalog shoot and then BROstock. We were definitely over it.
AG: I remember driving my houseboat and looking back wondering where the other houseboat was. Then this guy in a runabout comes flying up alongside us and telling me that our other houseboat stopped a ways back because the boat they were towing sank! I stop our houseboat and hop in the Spy Nautique and cruise back. It was a good two miles to reach them and sure enough, the brand new BROstock Malibu was underwater, and all you could see were the bow and the tower.
DW: Yeah, I was driving that houseboat with Tino Santori, we were sort of trading off. Shane was on that houseboat too, and some of the guys were on the roof just hanging. We had two boats we were towing, and we were checking on them periodically ‘cause it was super rough. I remember every now and then we’d get a big roller that would come on the front deck of the houseboat and crash into the sliding doors. All of a sudden, Shane comes running down from upstairs screaming, “Holy crap, Don stop the boat! Stop the boat!” He’s at the back of the houseboat just staring, but he can’t explain what’s actually happened. He’s staring at where a wakeboard boat used to be (laughs). Tino, Justin Stephens, and I walk from the front to the back and all you could see was a bunch of stuff floating… life jackets, a ballast bag… Justin actually filmed the whole thing I think, because he knew something was up when Shane came in screaming. It took us about 20 seconds for everything to kick in, but we were all thinking, “Oh f$*%!” You could see bubbles coming up! (laughs) You couldn’t actually see the tower at this point, just bubbles. And then the tower barely poked up, and then the bow. All I was thinking was what did we just do?!
AG: I cruised around and found a bay close by with a beach that we could pull into, and we eventually drug the Malibu there until it beached. We were all trying to figure out how to get it floating again when I think Collin had the idea to pass ropes underneath and fill ballast bags with air to try to raise it.
DW: Yeah we did that a few times and eventually got it beached far enough out of the water to where the gunwales were above water, so then we just had to bail it out. But of course it’s middle of the day at Powell and it’s scorching hot. On top of that fuel had obviously leaked out and we’re all wading in it, burning ourselves. It was miserable!
AG: We were probably the only people on that lake that could’ve have gotten a sunken boat floating again.
DW: That’s the funny thing, here we were a bunch of professional boaters and we sunk a boat. (laughs)
BM: Was there a theory on how it actually happened?
AG: Yeah, we forgot to take the weight out of the bow, so it was just porpoising in the rough water and taking on water every time it dipped. Eventually it just nose dived like a submarine. (laughs)
DW: The funny back story is that same morning we’d gone to visit Rainbow Bridge and there are all those signs about how you shouldn’t walk under it because you’ll get bad luck from the spirits. After the boat sank and we got back to the marina Justin reminded me that he had footage of Melissa walking under Rainbow Bridge. To this day we still blame her for sinking the boat. (laughs)
Good times at Lake Powell, pre sinking
BM: What’s a classic Liquid Force story for you, Tony?
TF: (to Jimmy) What’s the story about you wanting to fight the guy in our booth at Surf Expo?
JR: That was right after 9/11 because it was the Surf Expo when nobody was there.
DW: Yeah, nobody came that year because 9/11 had just happened.
JR: That is a good story though. Tony was in the middle of the booth talking to Larry Meddock about a Nautique sponsorship for the next Trip Across America. We had some new apparel that year and we had the great idea that in order to get people into the apparel booth we should serve free Red Bull and vodka. (laughs) I remember coming back to the booth and seeing somebody who wasn’t an employee standing in one of our private meeting areas that are a part of our booth. I was worried he was ripping something off, especially because I had a brand new prototype for Shane to test out in there, so I say, “Dude, what are you doing in here?” And I notice the carpet where he’s standing is wet, so I’m thinking he spilled one of the drinks in there or something. But then he turns around and he’s got a full cup of beer in his hand, and I look at Shane’s prototype, which is all white, and right at the perfect height is a yellow stain running down it down to the carpet! So I go, “Dude, you pissed in our booth!” He was super hammered!
TF: That’s why Jimmy could kick his ass! (laughs)
JR: I was ok that he fucked up the carpet, but that was Shane’s board that he hadn’t even ridden yet! He looks at me and goes, “No man, it’s cool.” I have a drink in my hand at the time and he tries to cheers me after telling me it’s cool. So I upend his glass into his face and punch him as hard as I can. He staggers around the side of me and then tries to bolt out of our booth, so I come chasing after him and he’s going right past Tony and I’m screaming for them to grab him.
TF: No, you were screaming, “This dude pissed on my board! This dude pissed on my board!” (laughs)
JR: Larry Meddock is looking at us like we’re insane, but I catch the guy and get him in a headlock. Tony’s trying to tell me to chill out, but I’m pissed at this guy! (laughs) I eventually somehow flip him over my shoulder and we land in the aisle, so I’m back on top of him and hit him a few more times. Before I know it the cops are on top of me!
TF: I was eventually able to pull you off of the guy, but in Jimmy’s mind this guy needed to be arrested because he’d pissed on his board, but I’m telling Jimmy, “Dude, you just assaulted the guy!” (laughs) The cop wanted to arrest Jimmy!
JR: Yeah, they handcuffed me and marched us off.
TF: I was able to send somebody to vouch for Jimmy and he was released, he was just expelled from the show the next day.
BM: What would you say is Liquid Force’s greatest achievement?
DW: Being in business 20 years later… (laughs)
JR: Surviving for 20 years for sure, but coming back three times as strong after getting completely shut down. Being able to take that dream that started it all and making it a reality.
TF: I think it’s the amount of people that have wakeboarded or had fun on the water because of Liquid Force. Even if they ride another brand, they’re still out there having fun.
AG: We have fun as a company, and that shows in everything we do.
DW: The quote in the beginning of Relentless is either Jimmy or Tony saying, “We feel Liquid Force in our heart.” The fact that so many people involved with the brand have been there forever is really cool, from riders, to marketing people, to customer service and warehouse, to sales reps, dealers and distributors. I look at BROstock and how we made it into an event for all of wakeboarding and we have riders from every brand there. If there is a kid that loves Danny Harf and comes to BROstock so he can watch him ride, and we were able to help make that happen by putting on the event, we’re totally cool with that, we think that’s awesome.
Shane, keeping the vibe alive at BROstock ’09
BM: What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in wakeboarding?
AG: The emergence and growth of cable.
DW: Yeah, I think the different ways people ride now. How they get pulled.
AG: And the size of wakes behind the boat now, it’s ridiculous.
JR: Entire boards that people used to think were the shit are completely nonfunctional now just because of how much the boat wake has changed. And now there are athletes making a living in the sport that might not ever have to own a boat. That’s huge.
DW: One of my favorite guys on our team to watch is Daniel Grant, and he can’t really ride behind a boat. But he’s so fun to watch. When I started (working at LF) 18 years ago, a kid like Daniel wouldn’t have gone anywhere.
JR: What’s cool about Daniel is he’s providing this inspiration to other riders out there that is totally accessible and attainable. You don’t have to be rich and have a big boat to be a wakeboarder.
AG: And the fact that he grew up in Thailand to become one of the best riders in the world.
DW: It’s really cool how international wakeboarding has become. It’s been international, but the industry was so focused around the U.S. that nothing else really seemed to matter. Tony was one of the first to really push for us to support some of the international guys. He was saying that we can’t just sponsor guys from the U.S.
AG: Our top five riders on the team right now are from five different countries.
TF: Cable is great because you don’t have to be rich to ride a wakeboard, it’s accessible to anyone. Hopefully we have one here in Southern California soon.
Harley Clifford, one of the best riders in the world and not yet 25
Obscura bosses Danny Hampson & Aaron Reed
Party With Us
BM: Liquid Force has always been very inclusive, in what most see as a very exclusive market . You’ve always said, “Come party with us. Come have fun with us.” Be it events like BROstock or Free4All, etc. It doesn’t matter what board you have, you’ve seemingly always been about spreading the stoke of being on the water, and that hasn’t ever affected your business model. Can you comment on that?
AG: That’s where we get back to growing the sport and the values that are at the core of LF.
JR: I remember when I made my first prototype wakeboard. It wasn’t really a wakeboard, but it was different than a water ski. I was going to University of Texas and there was a pretty big ski culture – a lot of guys had boats. I didn’t have a boat, but I had access to this shaping bay, so I made this board and put windsurf foot straps on it. I rode my bike out to the lake one day and stood there with this board and asked people for a pull. They’d ask me what my ski thing was and I’d get them to pull me and show them. Then I started making one a week and selling that extra one after I bummed a ride. (laughs) That vibe still exists, that vibe is what it’s all about. It’s never been “you can’t do this.” It’s like the second you make something you gotta share it with somebody.
DW: I think when Jimmy and Tony had these ideas, separate from each other – you guys probably both got ridiculed by the water ski industry for your ideas.
DW: I have nothing against water skiing, I grew up doing it and liked it. But you guys had a hard time coming into this group of people that were so focused on that. So from the get-go you’ve been trying to spread your new way to ride and it was a new way to have fun on a boat. I think the grief they gave you made you want to be more welcoming, you just wanted people to try your stuff, be it a Redline Design or a Skurfer, and then a WakeTech or a Liquid Force. When I was a kid I could just do a 180 on a wakeboard and when I met Tony up at Lake Tahoe he was just like, “Oh, you’re into wakeboarding?! Come out on the boat with us!” That’s another reason Gregg was one of my favorite guys to work with. He and Byerly were big-name guys, and I really looked up to Scott as a rider, and they both were really welcoming to me, even Scott who didn’t ride for us, and I’ve always remembered that feeling of inclusion, just being a kid fresh out of college with a marketing degree. Tony and Scott and Necrason treated me like that, and I’ve tried to remember that and carry that through my career. So when something like BROstock is coming up and somebody calls and ask, “Hey, I’m so-and-so from this brand, is it cool if we show up?” I say for sure, bring your friends!
JR: Because of where we come from and because we were on the frontlines of this sport just trying to get a chance, it’s totally hypocritical to not welcome somebody else just because they have a board tucked under their arm or under their feet with a different logo on it. Our whole reason for being was to get more people stoked doing that thing.
DW: There are plenty of brands that have come along that don’t have the water skiing history and have a cool vibe, but we just have these big events that have been open to the industry.
We’re here for the party… and the wakeboarding. BROstock at Powell
BM: Do you, Jimmy and Tony, feel like you’ve accomplished what you set out to accomplish with Liquid Force? Could you walk away tomorrow and be satisfied?
TF: I could. I feel like I’m gonna stay in for 20 more years, but I feel like I’ve met so many people, been to so many places, done so much wakeboarding, and wakeskating, and wakesurfing, and had such a great experience that if today was my last at Liquid Force I would still feel like it was fulfilled.
BM: Have you built the ultimate product, Jimmy?
JR: No! (laughs) It’s in my DNA. I ’m always thinking about how to improve something, or how to make something even better. The riders five years from now don’t have the products they’re going to be riding, and that excites me. I remember watching Byerly ride back in the day and thinking to myself that he was actually being held back by the state of wakeboard equipment at the time. That’s what brought about the Flight 69. I can see that happening again with Daniel Grant somewhat. And I can’t imagine not wanting to be a part of that.
CHECK OUT THE VIDEO AT : http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=espn:13255988
At 17, Daniel Grant is the youngest rider in Real Wake. He’s also the only rider to include wakeskating — which is a smaller board where the rider is not strapped in — in his video part. Grant honed his skills on the cables of Thailand and turned pro before he was a teenager. He has been traveling the world in search of new winch spots and new tricks ever since.
XGames.com: You’re one of the few guys who has managed to excel in both wakeskating and wakeboarding. Why did you decide to include both in your Real Wake part?
Daniel Grant: I knew from the start I wanted both to be included. Whether I could do both was my first question once I found out about Real Wake. The majority of the part is wakeboarding, but I’m glad I got to sneak in some wakeskate clips.
You’ve earned a lot of acclaim for your cable riding. Is that where you focused most of your efforts for Real Wake?
Definitely cable and System 2.0 was a main focus for me at the start. It was hard not to when my house is five minutes from the park, which is what inspired me to [focus on] park riding, unseen winch spots and really bringing out the urban aspect of wakeboarding and wakeskating.
How did you get the nickname “Tao”?
When I was around 10 years old, I was really into my pet turtles. My helmet was painted green. I then got a huge, bright green CGA-approved vest. All those things added up to me being called Turtle, which translated into Thai is, “Tao.”
As one of the youngest guys on the circuit, who do you look up to? How does it feel to be competing alongside guys who are twice your age?
There are so many riders out there who I look up to who have helped me since I started. I won the Worlds in my first pro event at 13, which was surreal. I suppose that has helped me deal the pressure at events.
How long did you spend filming your Real Wake part?
We didn’t even know where to shoot the part at first. When I found out about the project I was in Thailand filming for the new Liquid Force movie, but as soon as I heard about this project everything was put on hold to focus on X Games. I flew out to the U.S to hook up with Collin (Harrington), and my Real Wake part was filmed in about four weeks.
How was it different from other filming projects you’ve worked on?
The challenge was making it different than any video part I’ve done in the past. I realized I am one of a select group who has the opportunity to demonstrate my style of riding. It was different because I know what it means to the sport, but also challenging, as I was already involved in other filming and needed it to be different.
Were there any particular shots you worked especially hard to get?
Winching shots are the real hard ones to get. It just takes a lot of patience and time, as well as having to deal with cops who don’t understand what we’re trying to do. On the last day of filming I tried a double Moby Dick — the only double flip I’ve been thinking about doing, ever. I really wanted to bring technicality to a double flip, but that didn’t end well. Two months down the road, I am just back riding again.
What do you think about wakeboarding being part of the X Games again?
X Games is where the sport belongs. The comp circuit has a place but it’s not everything because the association tries to mold [the sport in] a certain direction. But at the end of the day, it’s an individual sport and we should just do our thing. A lot of wakeboarders and wakeskaters have a similar mentality to skateboarding — people are progressing their own abilities and others are feeding from that.
What will it take to win?
What will win this will be any rider’s part that is unique, creative with unseen tricks. I feel like the best clips, that are going to stoke me out, will be mostly on a System 2.0 or winch.
What’s next for you, personally?
I have a handful of comps coming up, but my main focus is to progress my riding and finish my personal project. I’m planning to release it towards the end of the year. I really want to focus getting clips from places I travel to around the world.
The Tigé MyWake Global Challenge continues. Checkout George Daniels, Reed Hansen, Brian Grubb, and Austin Polterock’s 3 Trick Line for the Pro Men wakeskate division.
For more info about the Tigé MyWake Global Challenge check out mywake.tige.com