Nothing For Granted: Andrew Adkison
It was way back in 2005 that CWB introduced the first Andrew Adkison pro model wakeboard, the Transcend. I remember how excited Andrew was as he showed me all the features of the board just before he went out to compete at a Pro Tour stop in Orlando. Andrew had already started turning a lot of heads in the wakeboard world and had worked hard to earn his own board. However, after he finished showing off his board all those years ago, he actually thanked ME for helping to make his pro model a reality! I don't relate this story because I think I had anything to do with Andrew's major accomplishment...I didn't. I tell it because it shows how down to earth and gracious he is.
You'll rarely see Andrew without a smile on his face and it seems like he has a constant awareness of how fortunate he is to be living the dream of being a professional wakeboarder. All too many riders seem to lose sight of how lucky they are, but Andrew always seems to be thanking somebody for their help or trying to return the favor by helping out somebody else.
Six years and a few world championships later, Andrew's enthusiasm and positive outlook have not wavered while his ego has not grown. We had almost the exact same conversation at the Reno Pro Tour stop last year as Andrew showed me his latest pro model wakeboard and his new AA bindings. He even talked me into using his pro model for our custom WakeWorld wakeboard promotion that we did last year. He was just as excited as when he showed me that first pro model and he still isn't taking any of it for granted.
WW: How old are you?
AA: Hey, how about this weather?
WW: How did you get into wakeboarding?
AA: I've always loved anything water. Getting behind a boat was just the natural progression from always being at the lake or beach. I didn't have a boat growing up, but, luckily, I grew up in an area that has some of the best places to ride. I met people along the way that also loved to ride. Many of those people are still friends to this day.
WW: What made you take it seriously enough to go pro?
AA: An unwavering passion. That sounds much nicer than saying an addiction. I wanting more than anything to be on the water. So it was either do it as a profession or starve trying.
WW: Would you consider yourself an elder statesman within wakeboarding?
AA: I've had the great fortune to experience much in my career. The travels, people and experiences have taught me much about the world and our sport. So by the way of my experiences and things I’ve learned, yes. But at the same time, I have much I still strive to achieve in wakeboarding both on the water and off.
WW: You originally rode for Hyperlite, but you’ve been with CWB for most of your career. How is the CWB team different from other teams?
AA: The one thing I notice with all of the teams is that they align themselves with great people. CWB is no different. Everyone at CWB is passionate about the sport. All the way from the heads of marketing at the factory to the sales crew. Everyone loves to get on the water and that shows through in the products. When you have everyone on the same page, it really sets the pace to have a positive impact on the sport. What more could you want?!
Also, the CWB team is a pretty funny crew. It’s as much of prerequisite to be able to make the rest of the team laugh as it is to be able to ride well.
WW: Describe your position within the ranks of competitive pro riders.
AA: It's easy for me to find so many things I respect about the other riders. I feel like I've done and am doing my part to get the same. That and they all know I'm pretty much the authority when it comes to Ping Pong. That definitely helps my street cred.
WW: What do you think is unique about your riding?
AA: Nose grabs. Ok, I was just joking a bit there. My journey into the sport was different from most. I learned to ride in four-day stents. I was 18 before I really starting riding on a regular basis. I was juggling my riding schedule with a full-time work and school schedule. My school and work was packed into long days on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. On my four-day weekends I would drive to where the best riding set-ups were. This was usually about four hours from my house…all over the southeastern U.S. For me, the surest path to being able to get more water time was making it happen at comps. It helped that I’ve always liked the atmosphere of comps. Win or lose you tend to meet great people that have the same passion as you. Knowing that, I charged the opportunity. The history of my riding put me in a position to focus on being technical and consistent. I feel that has been my uniqueness, although it is just a snap shot of how and why I ride.
WW: What would you like to change about your riding?
AA: The first rail I ever hit behind a boat was over a Ford Ranger Truck during my first pro event at the Vans Triple Crown in Pensacola, FL in 2002. Needless to say, the stigma of being better on wake than on rails has followed me since. People tend to think of you how you enter a career. It’s been almost a decade since then and rails are a bit of a strong point for me. The thing I’d like to change would be that I’d like to focus on showing my versatility on a board and plan to.
WW: Who helps you with your riding the most right now?
AA: Too many people to list. Just a few off the top of my head would be JD, Kyle Alberts, Spencer Norris, Derek Grasman, Zane, etc… I get help from so many great people in our sport. Many of whose names you wouldn’t know but they know my riding. I learn from everyone I ride with. I’ll see something really strong in someone else’s riding and pick their brain on it a bit.
WW: You recently got married. Has that changed your wakeboarding career at all?
AA: For the better, yes! My wife, Iris, not only wakeboards for fun, but she also takes an active role in the sport. She works with the leading governing body/organizer for wakeboarding. She loves the sport as much as I do and that is an invaluable person to have on your side. It’s also important to mention that my schedule, life, training and focus have been much more structured since we married. Three years in October!
On a side note, we had an outdoor wedding on the bay in Ft. Walton Beach, Florida. Literally, while she was walking down the aisle, some random bros went by wakesurfing and yelled, “Congratulations!” It was probably just the humor I needed at the time to keep my cool.
WW: Are you going to be competing at any cable comps this year?
AA: Yes! As long as they don’t conflict with boat comps. I plan on making it to the WWA Triple Crown at McCormick’s this year. McCormick’s has pretty much become my home cable. The staff and local riders are always great to ride with. I really enjoy cable because it allows me to do things I wouldn’t ever get the guts to commit to behind the boat. It opens up an entirely different avenue to get better on my board; air tricks and obstacles. The cable has also taught me much I’ve brought over to the boat.
The great thing about riding a cable comp for me is that it reminds me of the first few seasons of boat comps I ever did. I didn’t put pressure on myself to end up on the podium. I just wanted to go out to do my best and meet good people along the way. Because of the lack of pressure I put on myself during cable comps, I tend to hit all of my hardest stuff. That’s always a good feeling when you come back to the dock.
WW: Do you feel like a rider can be successful competing behind the boat AND on the cable?
AA: The level of riding on both boat and cable has jumped so much in the last few seasons that I feel like a concentrated effort has to be focused on one or the other to be at the top of the competitive field. However, they both help each other. If you get better at boat, it makes you better on the cable and vise versa. Someone eventually will excel at both simultaneously.
WW: Tell us about your latest pro model wakeboard and bindings. Why are they so great?
AA: Because I said so. Kidding. The Transcend was designed with input from riders of all ability levels. I wanted a high-end board that would work for a broad range of riding abilities. Every design detail on the Transcend is there for function and control. We focused on control in the edging, speed, pop and landings. We got the traction of a four-fin set up with the ability to still release at the top of the wake. The speed of the board stays with you. It doesn’t take off ahead of you or lag behind. The pop on the Transcend is unique in that it’s a subtle three stage board, but the pop is generated under your back leg up through your center of gravity. That was a fancy way to say that it has a ton of pop, but it’s a very controlled pop. Taking the center spine all the way from tip to tail of the board softened up the landings. We also left the spine subtle enough to where it didn’t effect how the board transitions edge to edge. The end product of much testing is a board that works well for the most advanced riders but is still a good fit for someone learning to jump the wakes for the first time.
With the AA bindings, my design needs were simple. I wanted a binding I forgot was on my feet. All I want to think about when I ride is the board. My focus in design for a binding is comfort and performance based. I also wanted to give the riders the option to adjust the bindings forward lean to fit their personal preference. We eliminated the laces and have three Velcro straps. When I ride the cable and I know I’m going to be spending a ton of time on rails. I remove the center Velcro strap. This increases the flex of the binding allowing for a secure fit, but the ability to lean more over the front and sides of the bindings. When on the boat, I use all three straps and cinch them down for more of a secure fit.
WW: Did your board ride better with the fresh WakeWorld graphic on it (see video below)?
AA: I rode without a wetsuit when it was 55 degrees out. So I’d say it definitely put a little pep in my step.
WW: Will your board or bindings be changing for 2012?
AA: We do have some good things in play.
WW: Give me three up-and-coming riders that have impressed you this year.
AA: If I said Harley Clifford three times here I don’t think that would be the answer you were looking for. Seriously though at the rate Harley is learning/inventing new tricks I feel like he could still be considered up and coming when gauged against what he will do.!
Phil Aslinger - his name is on the radar but I get to ride with him on somewhat of a regular basis. His progression and consistency is only gaining momentum.!
Michael Dowdy - He’s hitting tricks that few others have done before him. As he gets more consistent he will have the momentum to innovate.!
Anyone/you - This is a bit broad but lets not write off the fact that wakeboarding is still wide open. I guarantee someone that isn’t even on the radar today will be making a huge impact in five years.
WW: If you had to quit wakeboarding tomorrow, what would you do for a career?
AA: That’s easy. I would try to start wakeboarding again. Wakeboarding is my passion in life. It may come off a bit simple saying it, but this is what I love most. I have since my first time up on a board at 14. I would strive to be of value at some other level in the sport. My goals would still be to try to get more people on a board.
Now if you were asking what if any avenue of wakeboarding ceased to exist, I wouldn’t have an answer for you.
WW: Has Steve Bates (CWB team manager) ever offended you in any way?
AA: Only because my sense of humor couldn’t keep up with his. A guy can only take so many really well placed “your mom” jokes. But in all seriousness, Steve is one of those people I’m glad decided to focus his life in wakeboarding. His focus and drive will have so many positive influences on the sport in the years to come.
WW: What’s the coolest thing you’ve seen invented for the sport of wakeboarding the last few years?
AA: I’d have to say the innovations put into play by MasterCraft. Breaking the mold with the X-Star was game changing for wakeboarding. I know it’s been since 2003 when it was introduced, but MasterCraft stepped past the norm and innovated the first wakeboarding-specific boat. Starting from the hull up, they designed a wake shape that was conducive to more things being possible on a board. Through innovation they have progressed the sport.
WW: What frustrates you the most about being a professional wakeboarder?
AA: How can I answer this one without sounding like I’m whining? I enjoy so many things about riding professionally that the little things are drowned out. I would like to mention, however, that some of the stereotypes for pro wakeboarders just don’t fit anymore. All of the professionals I know, and not just the competitors, work very hard to be able to do what they do.
WW: Why do you love being a pro wakeboarder?
AA: How much time ya got, buddy? The opportunity afforded to me by so many good people and sponsors to focus on what I enjoy the most. There isn’t a day I take for granted being able to do this. Even the nights sleeping in airports I tend to think back and smile on the fact that I’m somehow doing this.
WW: What question were you hoping I wouldn’t ask? Please answer it.
AA: My reflex is to come up with the second worst thing I hoped you wouldn’t ask. But I’d say… How long will you/I continue to ride professionally? That’s an easy one, until I’m 65 when I retire. Seriously though, I have much I still am striving to achieve on a board. I couldn’t be happier with the things that have happened, but for me it’s just the beginning. I want to see what is and isn’t possible for me on a wakeboard, cable, boat and rail. I’ve only just started to touch on what I want to do. Today alone I tried two new tricks less than five people have ever done. We’ll see, but you can be sure I’m doing my part to have longevity in my career on the water.
WW: Anyone you want to thank?
AA: My wife Iris, everyone at MasterCraft, CWB, Summit Marine Hydraulic Boat Lifts, Killer Buzz Sustained Energy Drinks, Steeze Clothing, the WWA, Zane Schwenk and Gary Morrison.