On a brisk Seattle evening in December, wake film director extraordinaire Sean Kilgus premiered Defy: The Danny Harf Project, in front of a packed house at The Showbox SoDo.
The event was the culmination of a long, taxing journey for all parties involved. For nearly three years, Kilgus, four time X-Games Gold Medalist Danny Harf and their star-studded band of wakeboard thieves traveled around the country, battled injuries, financial setbacks and captured a stunning display of water sports excellence unrivaled by any predecessor.
A who's who among the wakeboard community was in attendance, including Harf himself, who made himself easily accessible to fans throughout the night.
"This is a great place for us to premiere a movie like this," Harf said. "For a place that has such a short season, it really has a diehard crew of fans. We’re definitely happy to be up here."
For Defy director Kilgus, a native of Seattle, the night was perhaps the biggest of his professional career. You could feel the elation and relief oozing out every time he touched the mic to address the raucous crowd. Emotionally and mentally drained, he reflected on the first public viewing of his opus;
"Honestly, this is crazy. I’ve played this moment in my head so many times. To be here with Danny and getting to celebrate, you know, one of the greatest moments of my life, one of the greatest moments of his life, it was an amazing feeling. It’s crazy to do so many movies, learn so much, grow so much, change so much. It’s hard to know what to do next 'cause I gave my entire heart into this project."
One of the best aspects of the Defy project is the truly unique bond shared between Kilgus, Harf (who also served as co-producer) and all the riders that shredded in film. The legit camaraderie is omnipresent with these guys, and Harf, the unquestioned star and namesake of the film, was quick to deflect praise onto his buds;
"Everyone who’s in the movie is a super tight friend of mine who has, on some level, inspired me and been responsible for why I’m here," Harf said. "It’s been really fun to share this with those guys."
Among "those guys" is perhaps the best collection of wakeboarders in the history of wake films; Chad Sharpe, Shawn Watson, Jimmy LaRiche, even the legendary Parks Bonifay, all go huge in Defy.
"What’s crazy is that Danny is considered the best wakeboarder of all time by Parks Bonifay, who is also considered the greatest wakeboarder of all time. You know, these guys are the best to have ever done this and they’re all supporting each other," Kilgus said. "It’s the friendship, the dedication to each other, the dedication to their successes and it’s like the most amazing team environment. It’s really special."
The actual release of Defy, after numerous physical and financial setbacks, was an accomplishment in of itself.
"I really wasn’t sure that we were gonna make it," said Kilgus. "Danny had two surgeries during the making of this movie, you know. The economy was terrible. I couldn’t have done this without the amazing support from sponsors; Ronix, Monster, Nautique, Fox, Transworld, System 2.0, Eye Candy. There was just a lot of great sponsors involved in this film."
For someone who’s the star of his own movie, Harf conveys himself in a refreshingly modest way. It’s not hard to tell why he’s so revered by his fans. He’s well aware of the impact he makes on all the budding future stars of the sport that follow his work.
"Watching wakeboard videos is what made me want to be a pro wakeboarder when I was a kid," said Harf. "In a way I kind of feel like I’m keeping that tradition alive and hopefully inspiring the next generation of riders."
Currently recovering from ACL reconstruction, Harf is looking forward to another busy summer, and perhaps continuing his professional relationship with Kilgus.
"Me and Sean have already been throwing out ideas for another project," he said.
The Defy guys will be in Orlando, Florida on December 17th for another viewing of the flick. For information on the Orlando premiere or how to get your hands on a copy of the film, visit defythemovie.com.
Thanks to Austen James Urlacher for the story and Burton B. Cooper for the pics!