If you Google 'Keenan Allen,' the first page will be filled with links to stories from ESPN, CBS Sports, Yahoo Sports and several other big name publications about a guy poised to leave the amateur ranks in order to take on the pros in 2013.
But lest you think the mainstream sports world has suddenly taken an interest in wakeboarding, you should know that the April draft to which these stories are referring is not the Wake Games team selecton process. It's the NFL draft.
You'll have to dig about 42 Google pages deep before you run into a similar, but not-quite-as-popular, athlete. However, wakeboarding's Keenan Allen has a similar story. He is also leaving the amaeur ranks for the pros and will get his official baptism into the big leagues on the same April weekend that Cal Berkley's Keenan Allen will get drafted by an NFL team.
Perhaps, by mentioning the NFL and Cal Berkley in our intro, wakeboarding's Keenan Allen will move up in the Google rankings for his own name. Until then, let's find out a little more about him.
WW: So you are somewhat new on the scene, or at least on the podium. How old are you and where are you from?
KA: I am 18 and born in Asheville, North Carolina, but raised in Orlando. And, yes, I’m somewhat new on the scene. I started riding in 2008, so this past season was my fifth summer on the water. To be able to hit the podium this year for both boat and cable next to some great riders like Jacob Valdez, Noah Flegel, Tom Foshee and Julian Cohen was exciting!
WW: Are you in school and, if so, what are you studying?
KA: I just graduated high school and currently go to Valencia. I will eventually transfer to UCF and major in business.
WW: How old were you the first time you rode a wakeboard and how long did it take before you were officially hooked on the sport?
KA: It was at Freddie Wayne’s house. I was 12 and got up first try. I didnt really get hooked on the sport until I was 13 or 14 though.
WW: When did you enter your first contest and how did you do?
KA: My first experience with the contest scene was 2008 at the Performance Gravel Tour as a Novice rider. I ended up first in the Novice division that year! What a great scene for up and coming riders. I rode at Gravel Tour progressing through all the divisions up to Outlaw in 2011 when I won it overall.
I highly recommend Gravel Tour for up and coming riders. Bill and the Performance team put on great contests, which get better and better each year. Dano is announcing at Gravel Tour, the competition is getting tougher each year and the pros stop by on a regular basis, so it’s really evolved into the country’s best amateur competition in my opinion.
WW: Who are you currently riding for?
KA: I’m stoked to be riding for Ronix and, as you said, I’m somewhat new in the industry and I’d enjoy being able to endorse other companies.
WW: What gear are you riding now and can you tell us what you look for when choosing a new board?
KA: Right now I ride the Ronix District on boat and the District Park on cable with the Bill Bindings. When I ride a board, I want it to have a consistent pop off the wake, smooth landings and for the board to kind of adapt to the way I ride it. That’s why I really like the Ronix District.
WW: What is your training like? Do you work with coaches and how much time do you spend a week riding?
KA: I try to ride every day whether it be boat, cable or both. I have been riding a bunch of cable lately because I live so close to it. I ride with Mike Ferraro once a week to dial in my tricks or learn some new ones. I also have just started mountain biking a lot, going a couple times a week.
WW: You scored a 98 point run at Wake Games to start last season off with a bang. How sweet was that and can you tell us about that run?
KA: Yeah, I was stoked to come out of the gates scoring that well. It was really a confidence booster for the season. I went into that run thinking as long as I ride as good as I can I’ll be happy.
WW: You had an amazing performance at the Tige MyWake Global Challenge by making the podium in third place. You went up against some big names such as Jacob Valdez, Noah Flegal and Jason Soven. Do you ever get caught up thinking about riding against some of the bigger names in a stacked Jr. Pro Men heat or do you just block that out somehow?
KA: When I go into a heat with big names all I think about is me. As long as I stand up and ride as good as I can, then I’m happy. I don't worry about the other riders on the dock.
WW: You rode really well at Nationals and Worlds in 2012. However, trophies and championships are what every competitive rider dreams of, so what do you think it will take to get you on the podium more this season at these big events?
KA: Well, since I'm going pro this year, I will have to compete with the top guns. This winter I've been working harder than ever, riding almost every day, learning a bunch of new tricks and working out a couple times a week. Hopefully all the hard work will pay off.
WW: You shocked everyone by making the podium and winning the kicker competition at the Cable National Championship. What do you think gave you that edge and do you see yourself making that happen more next season?
KA: Having OWC in my backyard is definitely an advantage. I have been riding so much cable lately, so I'm glad that paid off at that competition. You will most definitely start to see me at more of the cable comps throughout the season. I want to start to do a lot of both boat and cable.
WW: I guess here is the big question then; cable or boat? Where do you think you excel the most?
KA: Well, just recently I have been learning a lot of new tricks on cable. I’ve done a handful of switch heel 1080’s at OWC. I don't want to be better at either. I want to continue to excel at both.
WW: What are your goals in wakeboarding? Is this just a cool thing to do while you’re young or do you see yourself turning all of this into your career?
KA: I would love to make a career out of wakeboarding. I love to do it! I would still probably do it regardless of if it was my job.
WW: You also work with the U Can Ski 2 organization helping disabled kids get out on the water and ride. How did you get involved with them?
KA: John and DiAnna Lipscomb invited me out to one of the events one year and I have been going to them ever since.
WW: I know first-hand how cool it is to see someone who is disabled ride for the first time. Can you describe to us what it is like to be part of something like that?
KA: It’s truly amazing to see disabled people get up waterskiing for the first time. Seeing the joy in their faces is what motivates me to keep doing it. It’s a very humbling experience because you take so much for granted and disabled people can’t do something I'm blessed to be able to do every day.
WW: I'm sure all the girls will want to know if you are dating and where you hang out in Orlando.
KA: Well, right now I’m single and ready to mingle (haha), but you can find me at OWC or out on the lake most of the time.
WW: What did you do this off-season? Did you continue training or did you take a little break from lacing up the bindings?
KA: I actually just had a little break from riding because I slightly tore my meniscus and got a bone contusion. I had to take a few weeks off, but I’m back at it now training harder than ever!.
WW: Is there anyone you would like to thank for helping you along the way?
KA: My mom has been the most influential person in my life. I cannot thank her enough for all her support! Also, I would like to thank Glen Fletcher at O’Town. That’s where it all began. I would also like to thank Ryan Jones at The Tramp Place. He has helped me so much with everything. Lastly, I would like to thank Mike Ferraro. My competition riding has gone through the roof because of him and I have learned so many new things.