WW: What would you say if someone came up to you in the street and said who are you and where are you from?
KL: My name is Kirby Liesmann, I am 23 years old and I am originally from New Haven, Missouri. I now live at the Lake of the Ozarks.
WW: Before wakeboarding came into your life, were you involved in skiing, kneedboarding or extreme tubing?
KL: Before I started wakeboarding, I mastered many different towable devices. By the age of three I had pretty much conquered the ski sled. By five I was on double skis, but I was mostly known for my tubing maneuvers. This all prepared me to start wakeboarding when I was seven.
WW: Why are you so hooked on wakeboarding?
KL: I'm hooked on wakeboarding because it is constantly challenging me on and off the water. Being such a social person, I enjoy sharing the sport with others and spending time with friends on the water. It has also been an incredible opportunity to share my faith with others. It has also given me the chance to travel to fun places all over for competitions.
WW: Have you seen an increase in the wakeboarding scene in your area?
KL: There has been a big increase in the wake scene at Lake of the Ozarks. I run a wakeboard school at the lake and in 2011, with the help of another coach, we taught over 300 lessons. This was at least twice as many as in 2010.
WW: What is a typical summer day for you?
KL: Most of my summer days are very sporadic. I usually run all over the lake area for my scheduled wakeboarding lessons and try to squeeze in times to ride behind my MasterCraft X-Star. The best times to ride at Lake of the Ozarks in the summer are in the morning and evening so I spend my afternoons at the local shop, Wake Effects, meeting customers and updating my Facebook.
WW: Would you consider yourself more of a freerider or contest rider?
KL: I would say that I am a mixture of the two riding styles. I really enjoy competing on the Pro Tour, so competing in contests inspires a lot of the tricks that I do. Although, freeriding is how I express my individuality in wakeboarding. It allows me more creativity in adding style to the tricks that I think feel cool.
WW: When you go out and ride do you go out with a plan to learn new tricks or do you just ride and try a new trick if you’re feeling it?
KL: It really depends on the time of year since my riding revolves around seasons. In the spring I work on getting my tricks back from winter break. It usually takes me a week for every month I have off from riding to get back to where I was. In the summer, I spend most of my sets doing the tricks that will be in my competition run for the next contest. My riding in the fall is mostly dedicated to trying new tricks or adding to the foundation of the tricks I already have consistent.
WW: So what trick to date has been the hardest for you to learn and why?
KL: Ha, man, when I was younger the Raley rocked my world for a few years. Now I would say the hardest trick for me to learn was the backside 540. I learned the trick from the ground up with my coach Chad Brown. He taught me the importance of breaking down the trick into segments of the approach, take off timing, line tension and where to spot. This trick built my basis for so many new tricks.
WW: Are there any riders that motivated you when you started wakeboarding?
KL: My brother was the first person to bring wakeboarding to my attention, but when I first started competing in INT the top rider in the Outlaw division was Gabe Fowler so I based a lot of the tricks that I do now off of what I saw him doing. Gabe and I ride together all the time now so it’s funny to look back on how much watching him back in the day shaped the tricks that I like to do now.
WW: Are there riders that you look up to now?
KL: I really look up to Shaun Murray along with the entire wakeboarding community. He has a way of sharing the joy of wakeboarding in a way that everyone can relate to. Shaun has been a great mentor for me in my wakeboarding and in my walk with Jesus Christ.
WW: Do you have any wakeboard companies backing you?
KL: Yeah, I have been blessed to have some amazing companies supporting my career. The local MasterCraft dealer, Wake Effects, is a major supporter of my wakeboarding school and they also sell my sponsors’ products in the pro shop: Ronix Wakeboards, Xcel Wetsuits, Kustom footwear, Anarchy eyewear, Fox clothing and Zinka sunblock. I also ride for a ministry called Eternal Riders.
WW: What do you do in return for those companies?
KL: With my position in the wakeboarding industry as a professional competitor and a coach I have the opportunity to work with large amounts of people who trust my expertise in the sport of wakeboarding. This allows me to become an individual spokesperson for the companies that support me. I trust my sponsor’s products and I fully understand the benefit that they have so it’s natural for me to sell the products that I represent.
WW: If someone said that you could control the whole wakeboard industry and make any changes that you wanted, what would those changes be?
KL: Hmm… It would be nice to have a boat that could run on a dollar’s worth of gas all day, but I honestly like the direction the sport is going. I especially like the way MasterCraft is renovating the standard of a wakeboarding boat wake with the new shape of the X-Star. I think that alone will push the sport to a higher level of trick possibilities and we all love to see our sport taken to a new level. Thanks Harley (LOL)! I also like how the expansion of cable parks across the country is allowing wakeboarding to be more accessible for lager amounts of people.
WW: Where would you like to see yourself in five years?
KL: Whoo… time to break out the business plan. Ultimately, in five years I would like to be working directly in wakeboard ministry in some way. Whether that’s by making it through heats on the Pro Tour or building my wakeboarding school at Lake of the Ozarks I want to be sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ through my gift of wakeboarding. I will also have my bachelor’s degree by then, so there is a possibility that I could have an opportunity to play a different role in the wakeboarding industry.
WW: What would you tell the people out there that want to do flips before they can even cross the wake?
KL: I would say that the time you spend learning the basics would not only save you from being injured all summer, but also prevent you from hitting rider’s block that would force you to learn everything over again anyway.
Is there anyone that you would like to thank?
KL: Absolutely, I thank God for all the awesome people he has placed in my life that have supported me through my career in wakeboarding, especially my Mom and Dad for making Liesmann Auto my #1 sponsor, my brother Jeff for all the emails he gets to proofread, my girlfriend Cassandra for being by my side no matter what, my marketing mentor and assistant coach Loren Ekart, photography support from Ben Vens and Patrice Ekart, the support of the Rahm family (Rusty, Natalie, Casey and Christian), Kevin and Emily Durham for allowing me to share my testimony through their ministry, This Iz My Story, Eternal Riders for their support in setting up outreach events, Wake Effects crew (Greg and Staci Geistler, Ryan Werner, and the pro shop peeps Little Ryan, Mattattack, and Nikkei), thanks for helping promote my wakeboarding lessons, Lake TV Channel 24 for broadcasting my “School of Wake Show,” my coach (Chad Brown), Nick Franklin and his industry guidance, KC Watersports (Sean), all my buddies that keep me pumped on riding and, finally, for all my students for having a passion for the sport and the motivation to learn.