WW: So, let's do the intro...who are you and where are you from?
My name is Charles Steerman. Originally from Philadelphia, I now live in New York City. I'm 27 years old, a board rider, lawyer and husband.
WW: How did you get into this whole wakeboarding thing?
CS: I started waterskiing at summer camp. Camp was eight weeks long and skiing came around once a week. That didn't work for me. I pretty much lived at the lake, befriending all the staff for extra sets at off times and throughout the day. We ran a 14-foot Whaler with a 40 HP outboard. I used to barefoot behind that boat. Once a week we would take a trip to a nearby lake and then we ran a 19-foot I/O. We had no pylon, no ballast and no wakeboard ropes. Around the age of 14, I swapped the directional with sandal wraps for a Liquid Force Squirt and taught myself a backroll and tantrum.
By now, I was fully addicted. We did a one-week family vacation to the Benzel Ski Center just after Andy Hansen bought it. I started the week a skier and left a wakeboarder. At 16 I
spent six weeks at McCormick's. By now, my foundation was strong enough to start working. Benzel's was being converted to Hansen's World Wakeboard Center and I got a job as a boat driver and coach. I spent two summers at WWC, progressing, riding the cable, and living the full-on wakeboard lifestyle. Glorious summer number three ended two weeks in with a broken knee.
WW: What do you do during the winter?
CS: Try to keep riding. I pretty much wakeboard one day a week from March 'til November. If I can't wakeboard, I'll mix in time on the skateboard. East coast surfing is good between August and December. Probably get in 4-5 days a year snowboarding and spend a week over New Years visiting family in Florida and riding the Rixen. I spent too many years being inactive during the winter and falling off my game. Now that I'm out of school, I'm doing my best to change that.
WW: What is the wake scene like out there?
We're kind of a second generation wake scene. I've been riding in PA, NJ and NY for over a decade. There was a whole crew of core riders that have come and gone. Jeremy Leonard (RIP), Chewy and Gregor to name a few. There were a few other pockets of riders at this time. Only a few have bridged the gap and kept riding.
Now we've got a whole new scene. Definitely bigger than before. You can catch 6-8 wakeboats on a tiny stretch of the Delaware every Saturday of the summer. Nearly any of them would offer up a pull. I also ride with a crew on the south shore of Long Island and occasionally with my family near Atlantic City.
It's not like Florida up here. We don't live on lakes with boats ready to go. I wakeboard because I love riding a wakeboard. In order to keep riding I surround myself with riders that are relentless. People that make it happen week in and week out. People that hear 70% chance of rain and immediately pull up the radar to figure out where their 30% window is. There aren't many other options. It's that or relegate yourself to being a weekend warrior. My crew isn't prepared to do that.
WW: Who is your favorite rider and why?
CS: That's tough, but I like riders with a unique, smooth style. Smooth is key. How about O'Shea, Ruck, Racinelli, J. Valdez and Langfield. That's pretty much how wakeboarding should be.
WW: Do you watch a lot of wake DVD's? Which wake vid is your favorite?
Don't watch so many wake videos. If I do, I like the old school videos; Shafted
, 12 Honkeys
. Something with long, unedited wake riding.
WW: Do you prefer contest or freeriding?
CS: Freeriding. Contests don't do much for me. I keep riding because I keep wanting to progress. I've found the best way to do that is with a good group of friends and piece of water to yourself.
WW: What do you think about the Pro Tour format?
I think it has to change, no question. Wakeboarding was progressing alongside skateboarding, snowboarding and surfing all through the 90's. Not now. Today there are mega-ramps, superpipes and 10 different breaks on the WCT. Wakeboarding is too static. Go watch the battles between Phil and Danny a few years back. We've seen people kill it under the current format. I don't want to see it over and over when only the faces change. We need new formats where riders must adapt to excel. DRIVE is a method of judging, not a format change. Double up contests and Sesitecs are a start. There are tons of good ideas, many done outside the tour. The tour should get on board.
WW: If a wakeboard company asked you to design a board for them, how would you design it?
I'd take a Lyman 139, add a four-hole mounting system and see if they'd be kind enough to put my name on it.
WW: What do you think about the current state of the wakeboard industry?
CS: If you were lucky enough to be part of wakeboarding early on, you're lucky. The pendulum has swung full tilt from only freeriding to over-exposure and corporate influence. I think we are swinging back towards the middle, something I'm excited about. Since the experiment of how many mobes how young is beginning to lose its appeal, a re-emphasis on style is definitely welcomed.
WW: Do you have any goals that you are striving for with your riding or personal life?
Just to keep working on what I have going on. I'd like to keep progressing, keep riding. In another decade or two, I'll probably be surfing more than wakeboarding, but hope to still have a backside 180 on lock.
WW: Does WakeWorld keep you sane when you're not able to ride?
CS: Definitively a fan of WakeWorld. Chances are if you read this interview, you are too. No explanation needed. It's a great way to stay connected to the pulse of wakeboarding and see all of the most recent footage coming out of everywhere.
WW: Do you have any tips for wakeboarders that may be starting out in the sport?
CS: Wakeboarding is an incredible sport and a unique sport. I've put a lot of time and energy into wakeboarding over the last decade and, even though I never made a dime off
of it, it's paid me back time and time again. I'm healthier, stronger and happier. Wakeboarding means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. As you progress and invest more of yourself into the sport, try and remember what it meant to you when you first started riding. Align the sport with your life and not your life with the sport. You'll be better off for it.
WW: Is there anyone that you would like to thank?
CS: Want to thank Hamish McDonald for seeing potential in me, and all the people who have helped over the years. Thanks to Dave and Kevin for countless pulls behind their X-Stars and my family for all their support. Thanks to Austin Kent for being the man behind the lens and helping push New York wakeboarding. Recent support from Liquid Force is amazing, not only providing the best boards on the market, but helping me stay motivated and focused 10 years in. Lastly, and most importantly, thank you to my wife Jaimee for allowing me to convince an otherwise stylish person that wakeboards, snowboards, skateboards and surfboards are a perfectly acceptable decoration for a 1-bedroom NY apartment.