This isn’t the first time that Jeff Weatherall has been interviewed for WakeWorld and with his infectious attitude and effortless wakeboarding style it probably won’t be the last. Fresh off his win at the 2014 New Zealand Wakeboard Nationals, Jeff has once again found himself chasing that endless summer. We caught up with Jeff after he landed in the U.S., Las Vegas to be specific, for some Supercross, wakeboarding and BASE jumping. Let’s see what the self-proclaimed adrenaline junkie has been up to.
WW: Welcome back to the states Jeff, so what’s new?
JW: Thanks so much. I love being back. The USA has been my home for half of every year since 2001, so I always miss all the friends and good times when I’m away.
Well, I no longer ride on the Pro Tour. Been there, done that and achieved all and more than I ever could have dreamed of during those years. It’s the new bloods’ turn. I ride with Harley Clifford all the time at home in Australia and, well, there’s no way I could keep up with him in a contest setting. And taking home second or third place never sat well with me. ;) It’s been great to step away from that aspect though and be able to ride for the pure passion and love. Learning new tricks, working on projects and coaching a bit more really is a bigger priority now. There is nothing better than a day out on the boat teaching others skills that I’ve learnt over the years and watching them get super stoked on the sport.
I’ve also been focusing a lot of time and energy into BASE jumping. It’s something that I’ve wanted to do and be a part of for a long time.
WW: Congratulations on winning the 2014 New Zealand Wakeboard Nationals. How did that opportunity come about?
JW: The past couple of years I’ve been busy doing other things at the time the Nationals had been on, so hadn’t been able to make it. This year I didn’t really plan to go, but a last minute choice and a quick call to my two supporting sponsors from New Zealand (Ballistics Wake & Snow and Spy Optic NZ) and I was on a plane.
WW: How many New Zealand Nationals wins is that now?
JW: This was my eighth win. My very first was in 2001.
WW: Do any of those wins stand out as being the most memorable?
JW: There are two that are the most memorable…
The first being in 2001, as that really cemented my decision to come to the USA and chase the dream of being New Zealand’s first professional wakeboarder.
The second was 2009. Brad Smeele and I have been engaged in one-on-one battles for a long time. Previous to these Nationals I’ve always beaten him mentally before we even hit the water (something I learnt the hard way myself from many one-on-one battles with Daniel Watkins over the years).
With perfect conditions, the entire New Zealand wake community watching and the pressure of knowing that I was the last rider on the dock, Brad went out and put a smoking run together. All of a sudden the tables turn and it’s me with all this pressure. After he laid it down without any falls, I knew I had to pull out the best run possible. I needed to one-up all his tricks for the win.
My first pass was great. Second trick second pass I went down. I knew at that moment that it was all or nothing for the win. Mentally I just got in the zone right then and there, laying down one of the best contest runs I’ve ever had. It was such a satisfying win because I had to work so hard for it.
To this day Brad hasn’t beaten me on home soil.
Come get me next year, Brad! ;)
WW: What are your thoughts on contests?
JW: Contests are awesome! Since the dawn of time humans have been competing for things. It motivates you to want to be unrivaled in an arena that shows the best of the best. There are plenty of people out there that talk sh#@ on contests, but I guarantee if you look closely, those are the same people that don’t do very well in a competitive arena. And that’s ok. It’s not everyone’s thing and it’s not what the sport is all about. But it is a big portion of testing your own skills against what is considered the BEST.
It’s one thing to be able to pull off the hardest of tricks with exceptional style when there’s no pressure, but to put it all on the line and do it when it counts - often in crap conditions with maybe not the perfect wake - that’s an entirely different mental game.
WW: Who are the heavy hitters in New Zealand right now?
JW: Well, I’m sure you’ve all heard of Brad Smeele, but there are few other really great riders coming up too. Darren Bishop has adopted the endless summer dream and is in Orlando working at the Wakeboard Camp.
My other two favorites right now from New Zealand are David Stubbs and Regan Carlyon, as they have some RAD style. I like that they spend a lot of time making their riding look good.
WW: Wakeboarding has been undergoing a sponsorship change lately based on the economy. A number of high profile riders have lost some big name sponsors. What is your current sponsorship situation?
JW: Yup, you’re very right. With the 2010 economy crash a lot of marketing budgets have dried up, making that small slice of financial pie that we’re all chasing even smaller.
Currently, I am still riding for Ballistics Wake & Snow NZ, Spy Optic and Ossur, but I have no major financial backers, so it’s pretty much for the love at this point.
WW: What is your take on the current state of wakeboarding?
JW: Cable parks are on the rise so much. It’s great to see so many popping up as it’s such an easy way for people to access the sport easily and without huge expense.
At the end of the day, the most fun for me is in the boat with mates out on a lake.
WW: Is there anything that you would like to change about wakeboarding?
JW: Other than the price of gas and a G23?
WW: You are a bit of an adrenaline junkie. If it isn’t surfing, motocross, skydiving, wakeboarding, etc. you had to find a new way to get that fix; BASE jumping. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
JW: Ha ha, I love that term…it’s so cliché. But it’s not just about the ‘buzz’ or ‘fix’ or whatever you want to label it as. It’s about the people, the passion and the adventure. All the sports have taken me around the world to meet the most amazing people in the most inspiring of environments all while pushing the limits of what most ‘average’ humans think is close to or actually impossible. It’s the feeling of being ALIVE! When you do these things with your friends and push your comfort zone to new heights it truly makes you feel so ALIVE.
I first saw BASE jumping when I was about 15 years old and from the very first moment I saw it I knew that one day I would have to do it. At 26 I started skydiving, but not just to skydive. My intent was always to BASE jump. For me going to an airport and having to follow so many rules isn’t my idea of a good time. But to go out into the wilderness - to hike, to climb, to explore and to put all of the skills that I’ve learnt over my lifetime to use, that is what BASE is all about. Being detached from the earth under your own power is the most freeing feeling ever.
WW: Wingsuit flying is the sport of flying the human body through the air using a special jumpsuit called a wingsuit. Have you had a chance to try one out yet?
JW: Yes, I’ve been flying wingsuits now for about 8 months. My first wingsuit BASE jump was made in November last year and it was a super proud moment for me. Six years of working towards that dream realized in 12 seconds of flight.
WW: What are your plans for the year?
JW: I’ll be at wake events, BASE jump events and everywhere in-between that I possibly can make it to!
My goals are to travel as much as possible, meet future friends, go on adventures and to teach and inspire people. At 18 years old, I was lucky to realize that if I have a dream and a goal, if I truly want to make that happen, and if I work hard, then almost nothing is impossible to achieve.
I know I’ve got this one life and I want to live every minute.
WW: You travel quite a bit. What has been your most memorable trip this year?
What is your favorite part of being on the road?
JW: Well, this year has been amazing. My girlfriend Kayla is from Hawaii and she came down to visit in Australia. We did a huge road trip up and down the east coast - surfing, wakeboarding, BASE jumping, camping, etc. It was just an epic way to start 2014!
My favorite part about being on the road is the unknown. You can plan a lot, but it’s the things you don’t plan for along the way that make the best of times. The people you meet and the opportunities that pop up.
WW: Are you planning on continuing the search for the endless summer?
JW: At this stage, yes I am. I’ve got a couple of goals and projects that I’m working on wakeboarding wise, so I’m chasing down those dreams. I’ve had eight magazine covers but never one in the USA so that’s a big goal I’d like to tick off.
WW: You’ve done a lot over your career: won two WWC World Titles, won the Australian Pro Tour series, won X Games medals, a pro model board with J Star, video parts in major wake movies, magazine covers and chased the endless summer for years. What motivates you?
JW: I’ve been very lucky and I’ve worked very hard along the way. For me the biggest thing I want to do is inspire others to get out and do the same - chase those dreams, live those adventures, don’t get trapped in the grind. Life is so short and I’ve learnt that over the years.
Losing my two best friends, Mark Kenny and Richie Wells, at a young age taught me that. I guess that’s why I’m always so motivated to get out and live.
WW: What is your favorite thing about wakeboarding?
JW: Just long summer days of glass out with a cool crew in some amazing location. I’ve had plenty and I’m sure plenty more are coming in my future.
WW: What or who inspires your riding?
JW: I always loved Darin Shapiro, Shawn Watson, Danny Harf and Parks Bonifay. I tried to mold my style of riding as a mix of all four of those guys.
But most of all I love Harf for how humble he is. He’s one of the baddest riders out there, yet his attitude towards people, whether they’re friends or strangers, is just amazing.
WW: You’ve spent a lot of time surfing with Darin Shapiro in Hawaii and Mexico. What do you think about him doing the Pro Tour this year?
JW: I love it. I talked with him just before the first event. I know he gets inspired by Kelly Slater and Darin is to wake what Kelly is to surfing. The skill and determination to come out at 40 and make the top 10 first round. At this stage he has nothing to prove, but it’s great for the sport and great for fans to see him back out there and killing it!
WW: We’ve all had that one really epic day at some amazing spot. What is your favorite spot to ride?
JW: Wow, I’ve had so many of those days with so many amazing talented riders. If I could give you a top 3…
• New Zealand’s Lake Atiamuri with Mark Kenny back when we both used to run the Ballistics Wakeboard Camp
• Tahiti lagoons while on a film trip with Jesson Vedel and a good Aussie crew for the film Deliberate
• Acapulco, Mexico with Darin Shapiro, Shawn Watson, Keith Lyman and Kyle Alberts for the film Updog
WW: If you could pick one person, dead or alive, to have dinner with, who would it be and why?
JW: It would be the future President of the United States of America, whoever that person may be that will pull this great land back out of the current state of ‘run by the corporations’ ‘for the almighty dollar!!’ America is an amazing place, but it seems the government in charge is not doing the best for and by its people. I’d like to meet the person that could change all of that. I’m certain they would be amazing to speak to.
WW: So you are a good surfer and with most of the boat manufacturers adding more technology to wakesurfing , have you thought about entering some wakesurfing contests?
JW: Ha ha. Wakesurfing is fun and it’s something to do when you’re land-locked or the ocean is flat. It’s an activity, but I don’t really consider it a competitive sport. I understand boat companies want to push it that way, but let’s all be honest here - that’s just to push more sales at the end of the day.
WW: What are your goals this year? Planning on doing any contests?
JW: I will be at the CIE Spring Ride, I’ll be at some of the local Canyon Lake Wakeboard Club events and I’ll be doing some demos and clinics around the country.
I’m also available for private clinics. Hit me up on Facebook or Instagram.
WW: Do have any advice for those starting out?
JW: Yes, chase those dreams! The journey to the end result is half the fun. When I started and wanted to turn pro, people told me that I could never do it. I always used that negativity to fuel my fire and passion.
To those that told me "I couldn’t," I thank you. I’ve since spent the past 14 years roaming the world achieving all those dreams and more.
WW: What’s the one question that I didn’t ask that you wanted me to ask?
JW: Is there anyone that you would like to thank?
Yes, I’d like to thank all the family and friends worldwide that have supported me over the years. It’s been one hell of a good ride so far and I sure am excited to see where the future leads us.
Thanks to Ballistics Wake & Snow, Spy Optic NZ, Liquid Force Australia, Ossur and lately the crew at Fox Head.