With a new board under his feet and a mind-blowing edit out, JB is already set to make 2016 his best year yet. We recently got a chance to catch up with the Texan and pick his brain while he was over in Sweden visiting his girlfriend.
WW: What does JB stand for? JB: Jack Belton IV, haha. I just go by J.B. because there are too many Jacks in the family.
WW: Where do you live? JB: I was born and raised in Austin, Texas and am still here. I have had some other wake sites post that I am from Australia before, but I am definitely fully Texan!
WW: Where are your favorite spots to ride in Texas? JB: Well, on the boat I would definitely have to say Lake Austin. I also love the Brazos in Waco and early morning sets on Lake Travis.
For the cable I have a ton of options, but BSR and Next Level Ride are my favorites because of the good vibes and awesome people that are always there! Plus the parks are sick.
WW: How did you start wakeboarding? JB: That was definitely a while ago. My dad had an old 21-foot Sea Ray that came with this board with sandal bindings that weighed at least 30 pounds. I tried it out and rode it around for a bit, but it just wasn’t my thing. Kneeboarding was my passion, haha. It wasn’t until about a year or two later I tried again with actual bindings and loved it!
WW: We’ve heard that you have firsthand experience of what it feels like to drop a 1000 pound boat trailer on yourself. How does that feel? Is that why you started riding more cable? JB: Yeah, that was the worst. The pin didn’t slide in on the jack and the next time we loaded up the boat I was next to the trailer directing the truck. The jack rolled resulting in the trailer falling and ripping my calf muscle off in the process. You can still see my old calf muscle hanging out under the skin by my ankle to this day. But, no, it wasn’t until years later I actually started to get into cable.
WW: How old were you when that happened? Can you still feel it when you ride? JB: I was probably 14 or 15 years old and, no, I don’t really notice it when I ride, but my left binding usually fits better than my right since my ankle is odd shaped.
WW: You’ve just spent the last winter at CWC Wake Park. Tell us the best and worst things about being in the Philippines. JB: Yeah, it is definitely a good time at CWC! The best thing is that scooters are cool in the Philippines! I love that there are always top level riders there. It really helps push your riding. Plus, all the obstacles are very well placed, so it is super easy to learn. The warm weather is always nice in the winter too. The worst things about the Philippines are definitely the Internet speeds and the food. I go absolutely ballistic whenever it takes me 45 minutes to post on Instagram.
WW: Did you get a chance to hit the new plaza double stair? JB: No, I never actually got to hit it, but maybe next winter.
WW: You’ve been wakeboarding for a long time now. How have you seen wakeboarding change over the past 10 years? JB: Wow, wakeboarding has changed a ton! When I first started wakeboarding it was pretty much a boat dominated sport and cable riding seemed so small. Wakesurfing hardly existed (thank god). Now wakeboarding has pretty much had a cable takeover with over 25 full size parks going up in the U.S., hundreds in Europe and more all over the world. Wakesurfing has taken over most of the boat sales, which is really good for the boat companies, but I feel that boat riding has not really grown since I first started. I think park riding is definitely the most popular way to ride these days.
As for the progression, wakeboarding is at an all time high on both boat and cable! The sizes of wakes have gotten so massive. Dowdy is smashing out the most insane doubles off the wake! It seems at every cable I go to there is always at least one kid at a pro level of riding! 1080’s and double flips go down every single day, which is absolutely insane, as that was almost unheard of when I first got into the sport.
WW: Do you prefer boat or cable? JB: I really have a love for both. On the boat I like that the attention is all on one rider for 15-20 minutes and everyone can encourage you while you are riding. Plus, it's always a good time out on the lake. On the cable I really like riding behind or in front of a friend copying each other's lines. So it would have to be a tie.
WW: What are your plans for this season? JB: I will be doing the CWB Good Vibes Tour where I will be touring through the major cable parks in Texas allowing the public to test out all the 2016 CWB gear!
I will also be heading to the Plastic Playgrounds event in London, which is the biggest obstacles-only event in the world.
I will finish up the rest of the year just filming and having a good time with my friends riding. I will probably end up at Surf Expo too.
WW: Any specifics you will be focusing on when it comes to progress your riding? JB: I have really been focusing on doing everything switch lately, so I can be just as good both ways. I mainly just write down tricks I want for my next video then try and take them out one by one.
WW: Who are your favorite riders to watch/ride with? JB: My all-time favorite rider to watch is probably Erik Nikstad. You may have never heard of him, but he really takes some risks and puts his life on the line every time he rides, haha. My favorites to ride with is tough because I have ridden with so many, but I have a few different crews! Lately I have been riding with Carro Djupsjo and little Rocker Steiner. My Next Level and BSR family as well. Over at CWC, my boys James Boggia and Chris Hopf are the sickest! In Orlando, Gunner, Max and Massi! Can’t forget Billy Garcia because I pretty much grew up riding with that guy.
WW: Besides pursuing your own wakeboarding career, you are also responsible for some great edits. What do you think makes a good wakeboarding web video? JB: I really like videos that get straight to the point and the riding. Sometimes it takes over a minute before the first trick, which really gets on my nerves! So yeah, upbeat music and minimal boring fillers.
WW: Who holds the camera when you’re riding? JB: Oh man, pretty much everyone has done it at least once, but Carro is my main filmer lately! It is probably the toughest thing in the world to find someone with steady hands. My friend Grace Dauzat has definitely helped me out a ton in the past with filming! Thanks to everyone who has ever helped me out with the whole camera holding thing. I know I can go pretty insane when the shot is not perfect or if my riding gets camera shy!
WW: Is your editing mainly self-taught or did someone help you? JB: Just self taught. I have pretty much documented all the fun activities in my life since age 10 or so. Over time my videos started to come out pretty decent looking and showing up quite a lot on online wake websites like WakeWorld.
WW: You recently signed with CWB. When will we see a JB O’Neill pro model? JB: That would be awesome! I am not really sure as we have not discussed anything like that, but maybe one day.
WW: You’ve been riding a lot of boat and cable. Can you find a good board to ride on both or do you change up depending on if you're hitting parks or wakes? JB: I definitely change it up! I’m sure I could make one board work on both, but I prefer the flex of the Woodro on cable and the rigidity of the Faction on boat.
WW: What is your proudest achievement to date? JB: Teaching my 62-year-old dad to wakeboard last year! He made his first laps around the cable!
WW: What advice would you give an up and coming rider? JB: Get a camera, have your buddies film you and show the world your riding! Social media these days is quite powerful. Use it to your advantage.
WW: Who would you like to thank? JB: Definitely my parents, Next Level Ride, BSR, CWC and the Steiner family. It would really be tough to get on the water without them. Carro, Grace and anyone who has taken the time to film me. Can’t forget Boardco, ION, Bomber and CWB. All my friends and family and that's about it.