Tarah Mikacich is one of those girls who always has a smile on her face and isn’t afraid to put a smile on yours. She is a talented wakeboarder, smart coach and friendly spirit. Most days you will find her at OWC on the boat or lapping the cable going bigger and pressing harder than most of the boys. Hear what goes on in Tarah's life and what her thoughts about the sport are. Meet Tarah Mikacich.
WW: Hey, Tarah. How’s it going today?
TM: It’s going great! I just learned switch toeside off-axis 5 off one of the kickers at OWC. I love winter riding. Florida isn’t too unbearably cold, so as long as you have a full-suit. It's really fun to ride! The water stays calm and not that many other people are trying to ride at the same time.
WW: Can you give us a little run down of yourself?
TM: Hmm, I live in Orlando and I love it here! I have always been extremely involved with water sports. My parents used to own a water ski school. Actually, they were the first ones to have wakeboard coaches. In the early 90’s, Eric Perez and Mike Weddington coached at The Benzel Skiing Center. After they sold the school, I continued to train really hard with slalom, trick and jump and I got to go to some amazing places as a member of the U.S. Team. I got academic and athletic scholarships to Rollins College.
After I graduated, Cobe Mikacich and I got married. That was four years ago. Basically, most of my life has been spent on the water. When I’m not on the water (or training off-water), I’m usually in the kitchen. I really enjoy trying new recipes (meat for Cobe, vegetarian for me) and baking cookies for our friends.
WW: Now most people probably didn’t know much about your watersports background, but I did! You are without a doubt a ripping slalom skier from a ripping skier family. What made you want to make the switch to a board?
TM: It’s kind of hard to explain. I guess it was just time for a change. It was towards the end of the 2005 season and I’d had a great summer, but I think I got a bit burned out from three-event. I was flying back from Worlds in China and said to my mom, “I think I might try wakeboarding.” I’m sure she thought it was just a phase (since I had been dating Cobe for almost a year), but I actually didn’t compete in another water ski event after that conversation. You know, right away when I started wakeboarding, other riders were really supportive and encouraging. It felt really good to be involved with a sport like that.
WW: Being one of the top women wakeboarders in the world right now, do you feel well accomplished in your watersports career? Or do you feel like there is more out there for you to go out and get?
TM: To be honest, I really never feel that accomplished. Like, my water skiing titles were amazing, but I don’t think about them much because they’re in the past. And with wakeboarding, there is so much more I want to do with it that I don’t really let myself get comfortable where I’m at.
WW: What was your first ride on a wakeboard like? Did you pick it up right away?
TM: My first set was on Lake Holden in Orlando. Cobe took me out behind his boat and set me up with all O’Brien gear. He put me on a nice short rope and put zero weight in the boat. I remember him telling me not to try to go wake-to-wake on my toeside; that I should only try to go over one wake. I was like, yeah ok, so I did that like twice and then I just started going wake-to-wake heelside and toeside, back and forth the whole set. When we got back in, Cobe was telling Jason Lee (who lived next door at the time) how I did really good for my first time and Jason jokingly was like, “Oh yeah, busting out Raleys?” And so I thought that if I had really been good, I would have done Raleys on my first set!
WW: Was there a pro woman rider that you looked up to when you were starting out?
TM: At the beginning, I really didn’t know that much about the girls in wakeboarding because I pretty much came out of nowhere, crossing over from another sport. But it didn’t take very long for Emily Durham to reach out to me. She and a few other girls started doing a weekly Bible study. It wasn’t all wakeboarders, but there were enough of us that we decided to start riding after we met on Wednesday mornings. It made a huge impact on me that the girls who I would be competing against were actually willing to help my riding and teach me stuff. That was a completely foreign concept to me and it’s rare to find.
WW: So you are married to one of the sport’s most historical riders and coach, Cobe Mikacich. Was your hubby a big help to your success on a wakeboard? I’m sure he had you going upside down on your first set right?
TM: Yes, of course. Cobe has been a huge help to me! He really didn’t push me much in the beginning though. I think he knew that I would just try stuff when I wanted to. I could already do five inverts on my trick ski, so after a couple days riding sideways, I just went for it and I ended up landing toeside and heelside backrolls in my first seven days of riding.
Cobe really is my sounding board and voice of experience when it comes to my wakeboarding career. I always run things by him. Sometimes I think I’m ready for things that I’m not (which usually ends in concussion) and other times he has to tell me to stop second-guessing myself. He also gives me sponsorship advice…and lots of stories from the “old days” when the bus would break down in the middle of nowhere! And he always tells me, “You don’t need more weight in the boat! I learned that trick behind a jet ski!” LOL.
WW: You and Cobe are now running the boat side of OWC and running your camp/school from there. How is that going? Can you tell us about the camp?
TM: Things are going really well at OWC. They have a good group of people that work there. Cobe and I are there almost every day pulling boat lessons. We get a pretty extensive range of people, from tourists that have never done anything water-related, to riders that want to learn their first trick, to aspiring pro riders that come stay for months at a time. We try to split up the days so that everyone gets lots of coaching attention, but also so neither of us ends up spending 12-hour days driving the boat.
WW: Being at OWC every day, you must be getting pretty good on rails and kickers. What’s it feel like to embarrass the guys so much that they don’t even want to get back in line?
TM: Hahaha, I’ll take the compliment, but I don’t think that actually happens. It does feel good when people say nice things about my riding, but to be honest there are so many amazing riders at OWC that there is always someone else to watch and learn from.
WW: Music time! Top five songs in Tarah’s life right now are…
TM: Francesca Battistelli - "It's Your Life," Our Lady Peace - "Dreamland," Santigold - "I'm A Lady," Miranda Lambert - "Gun Powder & Lead," La Roux – "Bulletproof."
WW: Your favorite playground game as a kid?
TM: On my school’s playground, there was this big tree that had one really long branch that reached pretty low to the ground. It was called the “We-Skee branch.” We would get like 20 kids lined up on this branch and we’d all stand there hanging onto it. We’d pull it down counting “one-skee, two-skee, three-skee…” and then on “WE-SKEE” we’d all let go, except for the last kid on the end who would go flying like 12 feet in the air! It was so fun! I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t let us play that anymore!
WW: What is your favorite trick to do behind the boat and favorite trick to do on the cable right now?
TM: Boat: I think I like my indy toeside backroll and indy backside 180 best. The toeside backroll was the first trick I learned on a wakeboard, so I’m comfortable with it, but grabbing it almost always gets a reaction from the guys in the boat…and getting cred with guys is really not that easy! The backside 180 is just a fun floaty trick. I like landing in that blind wrap and holding it.
Cable: I’m having a lot of fun transferring on the cable right now. I learned to transfer this past summer and it just feels like you have to be so precise, but still powerful. It’s not a trick you can hack. I also like doing big hoochie glides off the knee-breaker. It’s cool ‘cause you never lose sight of the water.
WW: Has wakeboarding taken you anywhere you never thought you would go?
TM: Yeah, I had no idea I’d ever go to Turkey! But there’s a super legit cable park there called Hip-notics and I got to go on a girls' cable riding trip over there a little while back. It was so fun and it’s pretty cool that my career takes me to random amazing places like that!
WW: What is it about wakeboarding that keeps you going at it every day?
TM: I think it just makes me feel good! I mean, wakeboarding makes me feel better on so many levels. Even when I’m having a bummer of a day, I feel 100 times better when I get on the water. I’m sure your body gets endorphins or something, but also it’s the sense of accomplishing something. I’ve spent my whole life on the water and there’s this internal driving force that makes me want to just keep pushing myself. I get so stoked when I land something new or make a rail hit way better. Wakeboarding is like my happy pill and I get pretty down if I don’t get on the water for a few days.
WW: With wakeboarding, along with most board sports, being more of a male-dominant sport, how do you think we can get more girls out there on the water shredding with all the guys?
TM: Well, thankfully, I think it’s already way more accepted for girls to ride now. Like, it isn’t so out of the ordinary anymore. However, I think it’s very important that the girls who are shredding get some more exposure so that other girls have someone to look up to and lead them. It makes such a difference when you can see someone doing what you want to do. Just think of any young kid growing up idolizing his favorite baseball player. They have usually had an experience involving that player (watching a game or whatever) and it inspires that kid to want to be like the pro. If girls don’t have any pro riders to watch and emulate (or they rarely see them getting positive media attention), they’re way less likely to get involved in the sport we all love.
WW: Any helpful tips for the young ladies wanting to be the next Tarah Mikacich?
TM: I would say don’t take yourself too seriously. Wakeboarding is fun and sometimes we all have to remind ourselves how lucky we are we get to do this. Also, never underestimate the value of riding with other girls. Girls will encourage you, laugh with you, relate to you and make your overall experience fun and non-threatening. Of course, I think coaching is a huge “must” for anyone trying to take it to the next level, but riding with other female riders on a daily basis will also really benefit your attitude and your riding.
WW: How about some thank yous?
TM: First and foremost, I give the biggest thanks to our Heavenly Father, who gave me the passion, talent and opportunities in water sports. Next, of course, my husband (Cobe) and my family (David, Cyndi and Tyler) for all the help and support over the years, including coaching and driving the boat for me at all hours and in all weather conditions! Also, my sponsors who have treated me amazingly and always believed in me: O’Brien wakeboards, Ten-80 clothing, Straight Line ropes, Point Conception swimwear, Cobian sandals, Mix1 nutritional beverages and Orlando Watersports Complex.