Tony Klarich (early rider and ski-hotdogger) is writing a new book and I got a call the other day to help with my memory of early wakeboarding. Well, it is not easy. But I did remember enough to clarify a few great moments.
Yes that is me up above. I'm Todd Weatherill.
This is the world according to Garp...that's me. So nothing is ever perfect...That said, enjoy the history lesson. I will write more as I remember it. I know I left a bunch out...but if you party like a wakeboarder, some things will always be missing. So forgive me if I forgot...
Nobody ever invented Wakeboarding. For that matter nobody ever invented surfing behind a boat. It just happened. Both occurred when kids got their dad's boat for the day. It didn't matter if it was a $100k Wake boat or a 21' Mako...boards were grabbed and used behind boats since the late 20's. Some people in the late 30's made them out of plywood disks and flipped the board and turned backwards to the boat...(sound like a shovit wake-skating? See what I mean?)
Until these sports were organizing they were just random acts of "I bet I cans."
But there are many noteworthy accomplishments in Wakeboarding... early in the sport, Jimmy Redmon, Tony Finn, Tommy Phillips, Todd Weatherill, Stacey McElhinney, Howard Bass, and small handful of other BETTER riders and their parents... organized the sport and many others have the bragging rights of being first to do the following:
Jimmy Redmon Made the first US shaped wakeboard and named it Redline Design.
Tony Finn Marketed the First US wakeboard and its name was Skurfer.
The first skiboard was the Surf Ski, designed by Aussie Jeff McKee.
It was released by Wellington Puritan. McKee promoted the same design in Oceana starting in 82 or 83 under the name McSki
Eric Perez is the First World Champion.
Darren Shapiro is the first to win the US Open and took home all the prize money at 90% of the early contests.
The First Flip in a competition was done by Craig Luelen a trick skier. (hope spelled right). Others that were close to first and within the same three year timeframe: Jimmy Redmon, Lance Brug, Pat McElhinney, Butch Bendell, Eric Perez, Bob Welsh, Cory Pekos, Chris Coogan, Chet Railey, Todd Weatherill, Josh Smith, Half the trick ski world, Hotdogger Tony Klarich, and a few more...I know I left out someone. Yes, Troy Navarro...I left you out purposely. Just remembered.
Trick skiers and hotdoggers like Tony Klarich, Russell Gay, even Darren Shapiro, and Cory Picos pushed the sport in it's early days to new levels with the angle they cut to the wake. Coaches Like Chet Raily and Mike Ferraro changed the face of wakeboarding with their knowledge of edge control. Kneeboarder Jonathon McDonald was also a great rider.
Pat Mcelhinney was pulling huge 540's before anyone else on a wakeboard (but remember, trick skiers were doing it already years before on trick skis, but Pat was the first pure wakeboard 540. Infact it was a wrap switch 540).
Lance Broog was a Flip innovator from Hawaii and was almost first...
The first sliders were anything in the way; bouys, docks, trees, stumps, and boats...yes, boats.
The First persons to hit a ramp with a wakeboard were almost all entirely Three event prodigy's (ski,trick, jump) and every jumper from Florida to California. The only distance jumping wakeboarders then were Stuart Barton, Bob Welsh, and Todd Weatherill. Stuart won with 70ft...then Shapiro (trained jumper) hit a ramp and laughed past us all by almost double.
The Dirtiest grabs were dirty in the beginning too. (ala smith, nelson, goforth, harwood). Josh Smith is my pick for best early tweaker...
The Body Slide was not created by Troy Navarro or Todd Weatherill. It again, was created by a waterskier. A lot of waterskiers did it.
The first Golden Boy of Wakeboarding was Chris Coogan.
The First WSA president was Howard Bass. The First WWA President was Todd Weatherill.
The First Bogus company in the wakeboard world was Thruster Wakeboards...cool samples, Great riders, no product to sell; but a huge sponsor check that "will surely clear." (I mention no names because I am a good guy).
The "Dirty Dozen" which are the first professional riders actually had almost 19 original members but were termed the "Dirty Dozen."
Jimmy Redmon Designed the First Double Ended Board. He also is credited with the first three stage rocker on a wakeboard. You can see it on the early Sano Boards.
The first compression molded board was made by Herb O'Brien and his crew out of Redmon, Washington.
The first Slalom Wakeboard Champion was "Barney" Ken Bernard.
Surfing behind the boat is documented in books back into the 40's.
In the summer of 1994 The First Inland Surf Tournament (FIST) was a brainchild of Todd Weatherill (yes I am talking about myself in the third person again) and put on by sponsor "Sail and Ski" in Austin Texas off Lake Austin. Regular surfboards were used. (ok, I am done tooting).
The Pro Wakeboard Tour came to be through revolution and victory over the Pro-Waterski Tour, the sport's organizers, and ultimately the tour's demise. Wakeboarding is powerful...and organic. Why? because they said we couldn't.
Yes, Byerly is that nice...really a good guy. He is every bit of legend, myth, person, and champion that he is made out to be. He is one of the fathers.
Parks Bonifay's (also a three event skier) first Championship was in the Jr. Men's division at the worlds in Isla Morada Keys in 199...dang. I am old...can't remember the year. It is the same year Bylerly or Weddington won the worlds I believe.
The first year on the pro-tour the wakeboarders had to ride and compete prior to the National Anthem...fun stuff. We faced t-shirts at the Waterski Masters that read: "Three event, not four."
The early champion for single year sales in a wakeboard shop was Tommy's Slalom Shop in Denver, Colorado and Bill Porter's Performance Ski and Surf in Florida. They both sold over 1000 boards in 1991 (it is a three month season in Colorado).
Early in the sport; Lance Brug was making true surfboard/wake hybrids that were from Hawaii with innovator Pat McElhinney.
The Railey came from Darren Shapiro's coaches name: Chet Raley. (also an early competitor).
The First wakeboarder that did a triple backflip was Butch Bendell. It was not on a wakeboard, but on a snowboard at St. Mary's Glacier in 1991 with a shovel-made kicker.
Scott Harwood did the worlds best glide backwards with grab. (Indy Glide)
The first Pro-tour Host on ESPN was Tony Finn. Todd Weatherill was next. Then Jeff Barton, Sonja Scheffler, and PJ Marks. But the one that did more broadcasts than anyone was Doug Dunbar. He hosted the Wakeboard segments on X-Games for a decade, even more for the Pro-Wake and Waterski tours.
The First Rebel Wakeboard Magazine was called Launch Wakeboard Magazine and the editor was Jeff Barton (JB).
First wakeboard tower. Many believe it was Correct Craft because they patented it. Well, the first the pros got behind was Doug Dukane's boat. He was one of the original photographers and photographed many champions. He bought an offshore patrol boat in Florida and owned an old police car to pull it with. The thing was monsterous. The thing had a huge wake, pulling from the tower up high, and blew knees out because of the killer landing. Shapiro flew almost 80 feet prior to landing from takeoff. It was a massive wake. Anyway, Larry Meddock (one of the staples at Correct Craft) saw it, liked it, and innovated the tower you see today. (His son is a huge successful photographer and former pro-rider). His design was the first made specifically for wakeboarding.
Trick Skiers, surfers, and snowboarders had a lot to do with the early trick progression in Wakeboarding.
I will write more when my old mind remembers.