I first met Jeff Weatherall about five years ago while I was at Surf Expo in Orlando. It was one of the first trips I made in an attempt to cover pro riders for WakeWorld. Jeff and Cathy Williams didn't seem to care that we were a tiny online-only publication and they invited me to spend the day with them shooting behind their boat. Their attitude personified what Jeff is all about. He doesn't care who you are or where you came from. He's only interested in keeping a smile on everyone's face in pursuit of a good time!
That attitude is a big part of Jeff's success as a pro wakeboarder despite the fact that he hasn't appeared on the top of every podium, been featured in every video or spent a lot of time on magazine covers. Not only is Jeff an incredible rider, but he's all about spreading the "stoke" of wakeboarding and his lifestyle with anybody that crosses his path. In fact, he goes beyond wakeboarding with his involvement in several other action sports. His energy and eagerness to push his limits in all areas have made him a bit of an ambassador of the sport of wakeboarding to other action sports. With his infectious all-fun-all-the-time attitude, it would be tough to find someone better suited for such a task.
Learn more about one of New Zealand's greatest exports...
WW: How old are you and where are you from? JW: I'm 28. I was born in Auckland, New Zealand and I lived there until I was 19. When I was 19 I came to the USA to pursue wakeboarding and at the same time my family moved to the Gold Coast in Australia. So when I finally came back, Australia became home.
WW: What's your height and weight? JW: I'm 5'7" and 175 pounds.
WW: Single, married, committed or just out there? JW: I'm just doing my thing. I'm single.
WW: How long have you been wakeboarding and how much of that time have you been doing it professionally? JW: I grew up surfing, skateboarding, snowboarding and skurfing during the summertime when it was flat. Guess I first strapped a wakeboard on when I was about 14, but I didn't really get the bug or take it seriously until I was 17. I came to the USA when I was 19 and pursued it full time since then. I guess my first paycheck came about 2003, so about six years pro. I consider being pro as meaning full time wakeboarding and getting paid! Seems like there's a lot of people out there claiming pro these days, but if you ain't getting a check, you ain't pro...so check yourself before you throw pro around.
WW: How many of those years have you been chasing summer between the U.S. and down under? JW: All of them have been chasing the eternal summer much like Daniel, Ike and Josh. It's what we do. We are committed to our sport and in the USA we come to push the boundaries and test ourselves against the world's best, and then we come home to Australia and do it for the love and for the future kids coming up. It's about having a supportive scene and grooming the next generation so that they can push the level far past what we could ever imagine.
WW: What are some of the highlights of your career? JW: As far as contests are concerned, winning the New Zealand national championships seven times, the Australian Pro Tour Series, two WWC World titles and loads of memorable podiums, made that way by the awesome battles I've had against certain guys in my career. Especially Daniel Watkins over the years. We have had a fair few good battles that taught me a lot. I think he's probably beat me more times than the other way round, but damn, in hindsight they've been fun.
Also, the battle I had with Brad Smeele this past year was one of the best battles. He laid it down in front of a fairly large New Zealand crowd at the Nationals and for us to win in front of the home crowd is a big deal. He laid it down hard and I almost choked with the pressure, but somehow managed to put it all on the line and it paid off. At the time, I hate the way it feels, but once it's done and you've made it, it feels so good. And you know the crowd was so stoked 'cause they got to see a real battle. The ones you have to work the hardest for always mean the most.
Other career highlights have been all the perks that have come along with wakeboarding. Getting to ride motocross and flip with Pastrana and Maddo. Spending time surfing with Darin Shapiro over the years in Hawaii and Mexico. Going on crazy trips, filming for vids with super fun crews in places like Tahiti and Mexico and also getting to bring a string of pros down to show them the beautiful land of New Zealand. It's an honor to be a guide to such a beautiful country that I'm so proud of. I know everyone that's come has had an amazing time, even if they did get the odd dead eel stuck in their boot (sorry Rathy) or have their passport messed with on the way through customs (yeah, JD you still owe me). It's just all the good times with killer people that make it such a damn amazing ride!
WW: I hear that you've been doing a lot of surfing on Oahu's North Shore this off-season. Can you tell us about that? JW: You know that surfing has always been a huge passion and part of my life. Well, each year between the U.S. and Aussie seasons we get a couple months off to chill and do our own thing. Some people party in Orlando, some snowboard. Everyone does something to have a good time and relax a bit before the following season. Well, I usually head to Hawaii for November/December, which just happens to coincide with the best surf that the North Shore usually sees. This year was my fifth year there and, as usual, it didn't disappoint. I've been dreaming my whole life of surfing Pipe, Sunset and Wiamea, so over the past years spent there and in Kauai with Darin Shapiro, I've been making those dreams a reality. Christmas day this year was no exception with a 20-30 foot Christmas swell. It's the real deal and I swear nothing makes you feel more alive than feeling like you could die. Some don't like that, but for me it's fun, it's a challenge and I definitely live for those days.
WW: When we spoke recently, you said, "Wakeboarding is not my life." Can you explain what you mean by that? JW: A while ago a magazine cover came out with the caption "Wakeboarding is my life" and I thought about it. To me, it seemed like a strange thing to say. Wakeboarding is a huge part of who I am, what I do and where I'm going, but it's not my entire life. For some pros it is their life and that's it, but it's so one-dimensional. If you stripped wakeboarding away for whatever reason, what would be left? And that's what I was saying. There is so much more to me and what I do and why I'm motivated to be here there and everywhere around the globe chasing dreams. In fact, it's all the other things that I get involved with that make wakeboarding so great. It's the crossing over that gets me so amped when I'm on my board. Meeting people from other scenes because I'm involved in them, like the MX or the surfing, and finding people within those areas that are just super stoked on wakeboarding. It's awesome to see that stoke!
WW: What else do you do for fun? JW: Anything that's fun, I'm into! But for a quick go to list, it would have to be surfing, skating vert and mini ramps, riding MX, snowboarding and skydiving.
WW: I know you're sponsored by Alpine Stars, but did you really pull a back flip on a dirt bike? JW: Yeah, Alpinestars has been one of my best sponsors. They have supported me in all that I do and they are just such a great company to ride for. When Malcolm Macassy got me on the team years ago, he signed me up and also got me a brand new Honda CRF 250 as a part of my contract and since then I've spent a lot of time on my bike when I have free time...thanks Malc.
So a few years ago when the first back flips were being done, I looked at it and thought, I could do that. So I got to hang out with Pastrana, Andy Bell and Robbie Maddison a fair bit and the boys helped me learn to flip. It took a little while and a few good crashes, but I got a few down to dirt at the Ogio spot in Salt Lake City. If you want to see it and a really good crash, check out my section in Updog.
WW: What other sport helps the most with your wakeboarding? JW: They all do in different ways. Snowboarding, skating and surfing help me with my balance, fitness and the way I perceive style and certain tricks. Moto is just all about the fitness. If you can ride a bike hard around the moto track, it makes cruising behind the boat pretty damn easy.
WW: Name the top three spots you've ever wakeboarded. JW: Tahiti, New Zealand and Mulwala in Australia through the dead trees with Scotty, Dean, Chris O and the Aussie boys. Always good sessions there.
WW: You've got a brand new Jstar pro model board. Can you tell us about that? JW: Yep, it's the Jstar Brigade. It comes as a super thin, but strong set up. A flat top deck that looks kind of like a snowboard, rolled up rails, so that you can't split or delam the edges smashing it on rails. It's such a killer rail or cable board and I've had a really good response from it so far. It's got molded side fins and a continuous rocker set up as I like a fast ride. Some people think it looks like a flex board, but it's not! It's as stiff as I can get it.
WW: What's the coolest invention in wakeboarding that didn't come from one of your sponsors? JW: Closed-toe bindings are hands down the best. Having so much more control on your board and not having to use binding lube is a Godsend!
WW: What bindings and boat do you use? JW: I have Brigade boots from Jstar that go with my pro model board. I ride every day behind my Epic 23V down at Carlsbad Lagoon.
WW: How fast do you ride and how long is your line? JW: I ride between 80-85 and about 25 miles per hour.
WW: Your diet is pretty much crap from what I've seen, with a heavy emphasis on Skittles. How do you keep in shape? JW: HAHAHAHAHA! Yeah, anyone close to me will tell you I'm a bit of a candy kid! It's definitely my vice. When I'm at home I try to eat as healthy as I can and that's been helped along a lot by living with two pro snowboarders. We are all pretty conscious of what we eat and try our best to keep each other motivated, but, man, when you're on the road traveling it's just such a mission, especially in the USA. Eating out of gas stations is never really gonna be healthy, so, as you've seen, at that point I pretty much don't fight it!
WW: At the Brostock 2009 double up comp, you went out with a board that had one binding and wax where the other binding would go and you had a shoe on one foot. It looked like you were going for some kind of old school Eric Schmaltz one-footer. What's that all about? JW: Yeah, that's exactly what it was. I hit the first couple of double ups and then I just wanted throw something a little different in there. A lot of peeps where busy throwing 7's and 9's and, yeah, I guess they win comps, but the same old gets a bit boring after a while. It's nice to spice it up. I had been experimenting with it for a little bit of double ups and it's such a fun comp and format that it just seemed like the right time to pull it out. It's such a great comp 'cause win or lose people are out there trying new stuff that looks amazing.
WW: What's your take on the current state of wakeboarding comps? JW: The Pro Tour is boring as hell! The same as it's been for so long. Same obstacles set up the same way just set in a different city each week with sh*$%y water conditions. The money is pathetic and is a poor representation of how a professional sport should be. The pro surfers complain about the money they get paid, but at least everyone in the top 40 gets their expenses covered. 40 Or so guys show up for the Pro Tour and only three actually cover their expenses to even get there. It's a joke! I guess the Pro Tour is lucky there's a lot of kids with rich parents to fund them going along. Otherwise they'd not have a quarter of the participants.
On the other hand, comps like Brostock are off the hook! A fun environment with a progressive atmosphere leading the sport where it should go. Everyone has an amazing time and the sport is pushed with so many people trying so many different things. Instead of the same 7, 7, 9, mobe five s*%$ that is the Pro Tour.
The Aussie Pro Tour has always been fun because there has always been an emphasis on trying new formats and different set ups. Coming to a comp each week and wondering what new rails will be there or maybe we get to hit more double ups just adds something extra fun and exciting to the mix.
And, of course, there is The Carnival, the most legit rail comp in the world. Every rider in the world would love to have that title more than anything I think! It's the real deal.
WW: What happened with the Aussie Pro Tour this year? JW: Because of the recession and sponsors pulling out a lot of marketing dollars, there just wasn't the funds this year to be able to run the tour. It's sad because so many people have poured so much heart and soul into making it happen and it really has been a stepping stone to the U.S. tour. I mean, look at what Harley did this past year. If it wasn't for the years of experience he had gained over all the past Aussie tours down under, perhaps he wouldn't be the U.S. Pro Tour champ. But because it was around and because he has had that, I think it's helped his competitive game a lot. Same with the other up and coming Aussie juniors, Sam Thompson for example.
Hopefully things will get back on track and running smooth again next year. It's important for our future generation of riders down under. In the meantime though, there are still two very major events, Wake Wars in Adelaide and the Australian Open, so not all is lost.
WW: What do you think about the progression of the sport as a whole? What would you like to see change? JW: I love where Danny is taking things with the wrapped grabbed double ups. Super style and super snowboardesque. Also, Chad with his grabbed double is sick. I hope Bob ends up being able to grab his new double. That would be off the hook as well.
The only thing I want to see change is the economy so that the wake industry can get back on its feet and keep moving forward.
WW: What new tricks are you working on right now? JW: That would be telling. When you see something new, you'll know what I've been working on. If you don't, it means I've probably been busy surfing or riding my bike. Hahaha. It's the off-season you know, so I'm enjoying it.
WW: Are there any tricks that you just don't do? Why? JW: If you can't grab it and poke it, I don't wanna know about it. Style is much more important, I think, than 'hucking' just to land gymnastic-style tricks. That's why Chad's indy double backroll is so legit. Style, balls and commitment! I like that.
WW: What are your goals for your wakeboarding career? How would you like to be remembered? JW: My goals have never changed from the day I started, and that is to ride with style, be progressive, put 100% in and most of all to have fun.
As far as being remembered, everyone has their own opinions on people and you can never please everyone. I'm in it for me, for the good times and to spread the stoke. You can make your own mind up on me. Good or bad, I ain't gonna lose any sleep over it.
WW: What are your plans for 2010? JW: My plans for 2010...spend some time in Australia promoting the sport we love and spreading the stoke. Then the Ultimate Boarder comp in March and back based on the west coast. I'll be doing as much events as I can this summer and be involved in as many projects as I can that will benefit wakeboarding and growth. And, of course, I'll be promoting my sponsors as hard as I can for all the support and love they give me to be able to have this good life. And if I have any spare time, I'm gonna hit a few of the WQS surf comps around the globe while I'm at it.
WW: You just had a section in Global Warning. Tell us what the experience was like. JW: I've known both Ronnie and Dave over the past few years and had the awesome opportunities to work with them before, so when they decided to collaborate on this one together, I was super pumped that they wanted me to be a part of the film. So many people put a lot into this film. We took our time, went to some amazing spots and all the riders in the film rode their asses off for their sections and it shows. They put together a super rad crew of riders that are also all good mates and I think at the end of the day that translates in the film as well. It's not just about what was done on the water, but it's the entire experience, and you can tell we had fun doing it. I think people like to see that. We are out here selling the dream, you know. For the average guy that works a desk job and dreams of wakeboarding, watching this is gonna get him stoked on getting out there with his mates and living it. You don't have to go to exotic places to enjoy wakeboarding, but damn, dreaming of it while you're passing time at work sure does help.
The week of filming the intro was especially funny. Everyone was kind of nervous about how it would turn out. No one wanted it to be a flop, but once we got started and had some fun with it, it was a really fun time. Nothing quite like wearing top hats and singing in downtown Orlando in the park. You know we were getting a lot of funny looks. It was a total laugh.
WW: You recently appeared on Fuel's Daily Habit. How was that? JW: I moved out of Orlando and out to the west coast last year. I was looking for a change of pace and something different. A lot of riders thought I was crazy for leaving the bubble, but I'm stoked on it! I recently moved to Oceanside, California and moved in with pro snowboarders Maruis Otterstad and Chanelle Sladics and, damn, it's been fun living with them. We have had all sorts of projects going on, but our biggest and most recent one has been the Movember cause.
So I was up late one night and was thinking wakeboarding has given me a lot over the years and I kind of thought it was high time to use my profile to give back in some way. And I came across Movember! Mo-vember is a word play being that it's held in the month of November and you spend the entire month growing a mo-stache. It started in Australia and is promoting awareness and raising funds for research for a cure for prostate and testicular cancer, which at the present time is the number one killer of men worldwide!
So I made a plan, got the roommates on board with me and we set out to raise as much funds as possible and get as many people as we can in and behind this worthy cause. Pat Parnell and the crew on the Daily Habit were stoked to have us come on and help us spread the word. It was a really good time and I'm stoked we got such a great response from people. Next year is looking to be bigger and better as we are planning on a huge kick off party/demo night down at the Wave House in San Diego just to start raising more funds We'll let you know more when the time comes around.
WW: Whom do you usually ride with? JW: Moving out to the west coast took a lot of the comforts I'd been used to away. Endless lakes, boats, people and, of course, the cable. So I've only had a small crew, but that's fine with me. Long time friend and photographer Steven Hahn and I ride a lot, as well as Mat, who is one of the engineers from Epic boats, and, of course, my roomies Maruis and Chanelle are stoked to ride all the time as it's their off season.
WW: Where do you usually ride? JW: I'm usually riding at Carlsbad Lagoon or Lake Elsinore.
WW: Which riders do you look up to? JW: I don't really look up to anyone, but I do admire and respect Danny Harf the most. He is hands down the most talented rider in the world. He is everything a rider could hope to be; driven, stylish, progressive both as a freerider and a competitive rider. And so humble, nicest guy you'll ever meet.
WW: What question were you hoping we'd ask you, but we didn't, and what is the answer? JW: I thought you were going to ask me how my porn career was taking off 'cause after Movember's dirty 'stache you could be forgiven for thinking that maybe that's what I was turning too during the economic crisis. Hahahaha.