WW: Name, age, and where do you live?
SW: Shawn Wilson, 35 years young, Paso Robles, California.
WW: How many years have you been wakeboarding for?
SW: Since the beginning, before compression molded boards (haha)! My first board was a Skurfer Blast! Thanks Mom.
Who introduced you to the sport of wakeboarding?
SW: My family has always been a water family, but my uncle Fred (Escalera) is definitely the one responsible for introducing me to everything rad in my life. From the time I was a toddler, he would take me everywhere with him. He has always been so talented at everything he’s done. Whether it was surfing, skateboarding, BMX, waterskiing, barefooting, wakeboarding, he always killed it. I was always there to soak it all in. I followed his every footstep and I don't know if it was just that I wanted to be like him so bad, or the competitive nature between us that has pushed us both to where we are now.
WW: What is the name of your local lake?
SW: Lake Nacimiento
WW: How is the wakeboard scene in your area?
SW: Honestly, its pretty small. I have a great group of riders that I ride with on a regular basis and there is a handful of guys that kill it. But around here it's mostly recreational riders and weekend warriors. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but I'd really like people in my area to start to see wakeboarding as a legitimate sport rather than just another toy that they drag behind their boat. Recently we held a just for fun wakesurfing event called Surf Gate Sunday with VS Marine and Malibu Boats that was small, but pretty successful and everyone involved had a blast. So hopefully that was the beginning of more fun things in our area to come.
WW: Do you ride with the same people or do you venture out and ride with other wakeboarders?
SW: I have an amazing group of friends and family I ride with. My usual crew consists of Brent and Remy Frank, Fred Escalera, Matt Taylor, Stephan (Big Heavy) Hiltscher, Seth Shank, Rick Garcia, Kevin Vogel and, of course, Johnny Stieg.
When I can get away, I try to get up to the Sacramento area when I can hang with the rest of the NorCal Hyperlite team and go to the cable parks. I’d also like to get back up to the Delta and hang with the CIE boys again. As well, I’d also really like to get back down to Canyon Lake and visit some of my extended wake family like Jeff Frew and the Valdez’s, but being a family man sometimes makes it hard to get to away for too long.
WW: What boat(s) do you usually ride behind?
SW: I personally have a Sanger V210, so either that or my friend’s Moomba or my uncle's VLX. My boat of choice though is Malibu.
WW: What board set up are you riding these days?
SW: This year I'm on the Byerly BP with System Bindings and Byerly Boots and I'm beyond pumped on it! Butch and Brenton Priestly knocked it out of the park on this one.
WW: There are so many things that make wakeboarding fun. What do you enjoy about it?
SW: Aww man, where to start. I always have a hard time with this question. Personally, I would have to say just the feeling I get when I'm behind the boat., It’s the one place I can truly leave it all behind. Also, I love teaching people how to wakeboard. My uncle and I started the "Friends of Fred Wakeboard School" on Lake Nacimiento years ago and there's no better feeling than seeing someone’s face when they get up for the first time or when they land a new trick for the first time.
WW: How long have you been working in the Industry?
SW: This is actually my first job in the industry and I've been at VS Marine for almost three years. I don't know what took me so long, but now that I'm here I'm having a blast and know this industry is where I belong. There's something to say for making a living doing what you love and are passionate about.
WW: What changes would you make within the wakeboarding industry?
SW: The names of the tricks! I know a lot of the trick names have been grandfathered in by the forefathers of our sport, but I think some of the names make it hard for people to relate to us as wakeboarders. If you asked ten surfers, ten skateboarders and ten snowboarders what a "Skeezer" is, how many do you think would say: a switch toeside front roll with frontside 360?
Wakesurfing to me is guilty as well. I watch all these web videos and guys are claiming 1080's or air 720's. Not that I could ever do them and much respect to all doing these incredible tricks, but to me as a wakeboarder a 1080 would be three consecutive spins without a stop in the rotation. An air 720 would be exactly that, a 720 in the air. I just think it would help legitimize our sport with the rest of the board sport world if we called our tricks what they are.
The other thing I would like to see change would be the Pro Tour format. There are some many aspects of our sport nowadays, why not showcase that to the world? Kind of like what the Red Bull Wake Open did where they had boat, park and big air categories and an overall winner. I think again that it would open up our sport to a wider audience and the competition to a wider range of talent to compete at the highest level. How many kids do you see killing it at the local cable park? Imagine if those kids had access to a boat every day as well. I know it all comes down to the mighty dollar and sponsors, but I think we'd see more excitment and a wider spread on the podium if the tour took on the different format.
WW: What else do you like to do other than wakeboarding?
SW: Does taking selfies in front of dirty bathroom mirrors count? Haha!
Recently my wife Lori and I bought our first home, so I've enjoyed doing projects around the house. Lori and I also love exploring and hiking. California is so diverse and beautiful we try to get out and see as much of it as possible. And, of course, love spending time with my girls, Reese and Raylee.
WW: Do you have WakeWorld.com set as your home page? There is only one right answer.
SW: I do NOW....!
WW: Are there any tricks that you are working on or want to work on?
SW: To me spins have always come a little more natural than flips, so I'm always working on those making them look better and grabbing them differently. I also want to learn more wrapped tricks.
WW: Have you had any injuries related to wakeboarding?
SW: Actually, for as long as I've been involved in the sport I've had very little injuries. I've had a concussion, some back issues and some knee issues, but nothing that will ever stop me from doing what I love.
WW: Everyone has an ideal day… what is yours?
SW: Malibu's Surf Gate Firsthand was pretty ideal, but I'd have to say spending the day on the water with my family, best friends, some smooth water, no worries, a couple sets for all. Finish it off with some good steaks on the BBQ and then head back out for a night surfing set.
WW: Your top three favorite pro riders and why?
SW: Aaron Rathy. To me Rathy has it all. He is just a natural and it translates through his riding. He oozes with style yet he can lay down a contest pass with the best of them. It amazes me how every year he continues to push himself and the sport to the next level.
Jacob Valdez. I was a part of the Canyon Lake Wakeboard Club for many years and have had the pleasure of watching Jacob grow up in the sport and become the rider he is today. It blows my mind and also makes me feel old. Haha!
Darin Shapiro. Darin has always been an inspiration to me because he was such a dominating force for so long. I remember when Eric Perez was the man, then along comes this "kid" Darin who crushed the competition and never looked back. Although there has been many people who shaped the sport into what it is today like Byerly, Vandall, Parks and on and on, in the beginning Shapiro was at the forefront pushing everyone to compete and bring the sport to the next level. What's even more amazing is that he and his riding are still relevant today. It's so good to see him back on the water killing it again.
WW: It seems as though more and more people are starting to wakesurf these days. What are your thoughts?
SW: It's great, especially for the boating industry. It adds another dimension to what is capable behind the boat and opens up boating to a wider audience.
I think that a lot of people relate to wakesurfing more so than wakeboarding for a few reasons: Either they surf, used to surf or because, frankly, It’s not as intimidating as wakeboarding. I hear it all day long...from people my age, older or even younger, “I'm too old to wakeboard,” or “Wakeboarding hurts too much."
Keeping that in mind, if you sit back and think about it wakesurfing is doing to wakeboarding exactly what wakeboarding did to waterskiing in the late 90's early 2000's. Wakeboarding gained popularity over waterskiing because it was easier to deep water start, you could do it at slower speeds and was lower impact on your body (at least on a recreational level) than waterskiing. Then along comes wakesurfing, which is even slower, and even less impact on your body. Nonetheless, your hands are free to hold your favorite frosty beverage if you were so inclined. I don't know that wakesurfing will ever take over wakeboarding but it's definitely here to stay. Obviously, the boat manufactures know this and they are trying to stay ahead of the curve and are putting so much R&D into creating things like Surf Gate to take wakesurfing to the next level.
Wakesurfing for me personally took a while for me to really get into. I mean, I've been doing it for years, but it was just kind of a novelty to say I can do it. Over the past couple years I've seemed to be surfing more and more. This year I've had an amazing opportunity being invited to Malibu Boats Surf Gate First Hand and being a part of that event and seeing all the different styles, really kicked my stoke on wakesurfing into overdrive. That stoke, along with riding with Johnny (Stieg) a lot, and my progression has improved leaps and bounds over the years past. Nowadays, I'm probably surfing as much as I wakeboard.
WW: What spots would you like to go ride one day?
SW: My goal and my dream trip is to be able to custom order my next boat and pick it up at the Malibu factory in Tennessee. Then road trip it back to California with the family and hit as many lakes and rivers on the way home as possible. It will happen…one day!
WW: One of the best things in life is getting advice from those that have been there, done that. Got some wisdom?
SW: Ride as much as possible. Be humble. Be respectful. Participate, work your butt off and, most importantly, HAVE FUN!
What I mean is, I haven't earned the respect I have by being the world’s best rider, but rather by participating in local events, being humble about my riding and being respectful of my fellow riders and competitors.
Participating in events means a lot more to me than showing up to your regional tournaments and sitting in the sun for 10 hrs waiting for your thirty seconds to shine. Participating means getting there early, helping set-up, working the dock, helping with ropes, driving the pickup boats, announcing and staying late to help tear down. Who do you think the sponsors and organizers are going to remember more, the kid who did a seven off the double up or the kid who helped them get home to their family earlier?
To me being humble and respectful is also very important. If you are coming up in this sport, let your riding do the talking, not your mouth. I think we all have someone in our life that have made that mistake.
We started in this sport for one common reason, it's FUN! Don’t take your riding or yourself to seriously. Make sure that having fun is always the number one priority when it comes to your riding. Maybe more important, cheer everyone else on around you to make sure they are having as much fun, if not more, than you.
WW: Is there anyone that you would like to thank?
SW: My wife Lori who is so supportive of me and following my dreams. My Mom and Dad. My uncle Fred and aunt Kathy and the rest of my family. Big thanks to Brent and Remy Frank and The Class Family, Hyperlite Wakeboards, Joe Sassenrath and Brodie Chaboya and the NorCal Hyperlite Team, Kris and Tina Gustafson and the entire crew at VS Marine, Kevin Campion, Jeff Weins and everyone at Filtrate Eyewear, Jason Mendes for always keeping me looking fresh in my Body Glove vests, Ron, Ryan and Suzi at Lazer Star Lights, Human Clothing and, of course, everyone who has ever taken the time to give me a pull or waste a drop of gas on me. I wouldn’t be here without you!
You can learn more about Shawn on Facebook and Instagram.