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Wake History According To Todd Weatherill


Mechanix Illustrated - August 1966Nobody ever invented wakeboarding. For that matter, nobody ever invented surfing behind a boat. It just happened. Both occurred when kids got their dad's boat for the day. It didn't matter if it was a $100k wake boat or a 21' Mako...boards were grabbed and used behind boats since the late 20's. Some people in the late 30's made them out of plywood disks and flipped the board and turned backwards to the boat. Sound like wakeskating? See what I mean?
Until these sports were organized they were just random acts of "I bet I cans."
But there are many noteworthy accomplishments in wakeboarding. Early in the sport, Jimmy Redmon, Tony Finn, Tommy Phillips, Todd Weatherill, Stacey McElhinney, Howard Bass and a small handful of other riders and their parents organized the sport. Many others have the bragging rights of being first to do the following:
Jimmy Redmon made the first U.S. shaped wakeboard and named it Redline Design.
Tony Finn marketed the first U.S. wakeboard and its name was Skurfer.
The first skiboard was the Surf Ski, designed by Aussie Jeff McKee. It was released by Wellington Puritan. McKee promoted the same design in Oceana starting in '82 or '83 under the name McSki.
Eric Perez is the first World Champion.
Darin Shapiro wins the first U.S. Open in 1991Darin Shapiro is the first to win the U.S. Open and took home all the prize money at 90% of the early contests.
The first flip in a competition was done by Kreg Llewellyn, a trick skier.
Trick skiers and hot-doggers like Tony Klarich, Russell Gay and even Darin Shapiro pushed the sport in its early days to new levels.
Pat McElhinney was pulling huge 540's before anyone else on a wakeboard. But remember, trick skiers were doing it already years before on trick skis. However, Pat had the first pure wakeboard 540. In fact it was a wrapped switch 540.
Lance Brug was a flip innovator from Hawaii.
Todd Weatherill on the O'Brien Double Ender twin tipThe first sliders were anything in the way; buoys, docks, trees, stumps and boats...yes, boats.
The first persons to hit a ramp with a wakeboard were almost all three-event (ski, trick, jump) prodigies. The only distance-jumping wakeboarders back then were Stuart Barton, Bob Welsh and Todd Weatherill. Stuart won with 70 feet...then Shapiro (trained jumper) hit a ramp and laughed past us all by almost double.
The dirtiest grabs were dirty in the beginning too (ala Smith, Nelson, Goforth, Harwood). Josh Smith is my pick for best early tweaker.
The body slide was not created by Troy Navarro or Todd Weatherill. It, again, was created by a waterskier. A lot of waterskiers did it.
The first "golden boy" of wakeboarding was Chris Coogan.
The first WWA President was Todd Weatherill.
The first bogus company in the wakeboard world was Thruster samples, great riders, no product to sell, but a huge sponsor check that "will surely clear." I mention no names because I am a good guy.
Phillip Soven back when he was Froggy SovenThe "Dirty Dozen," which are the first professional riders, actually had 19 original members, but were termed the "Dirty Dozen" anyway.
Jimmy Redmon designed the first double-ended board about the same time as Neptune. He also is credited with the first three-stage rocker on a wakeboard. You can see it on the early Sano Boards. Again, wakeboarders were not first. The first three-stage rocker was in surfing designs.
The first compression-molded board was made by Herb O'Brien and his crew out of Redmon, Washington.
The first slalom wakeboard champion was "Barney" Ken Bernard.
The first finless board idea was at O'Brien and it came from Todd Weatherill (tie with Redmon...ask him).
Surfing behind the boat is documented in books back into the 40's.
In the summer of 1994, the First Inland Surf Tournament (FIST) was the brainchild of Todd Weatherill and put on by sponsor "Sail and Ski" in Austin, Texas off Lake Austin. Regular surfboards were used.
Jr. Boys -  Randall Harris (2nd) and Parks Bonifay (1st)The Pro Wakeboard Tour came to be through revolution and victory over the Pro Waterski Tour, which was trying to keep wakeboarding out, the sport's organizers and, ultimately, the ski tour's demise. Wakeboarding is powerful...and organic. Why? Because they said we couldn't.
Yes, Byerly is that nice...really a good guy. He is every bit of legend, myth, person and champion that he is made out to be. He is one of the fathers.
Parks Bonifay's (also a three-event skier) first championship was in the Jr. Men division at the Worlds in Isla Morada Keys in 199...dang, I am old...can't remember the year. It is the same year Byerly won the Worlds I believe. The photo attached has him and second place Randall "Vandall" Harris.
The first year on the Pro Tour the wakeboarders had to ride and compete prior to the National stuff. We faced t-shirts at the Waterski Masters that read: "Three event, not four."
The early champion for single year sales in a wakeboard shop was Tommy's Slalom Shop in Denver, Colorado and Bill Porter of Performance Ski and Surf. They both sold over 1000 boards each in 1991. It is a three-month season in Colorado.
Tommy's  Slalom ShopEarly in the sport, Lance Brug was making true surfboard/wake hybrids that were from Hawaii with innovator and pioneer Pat McElhinney.
The Raley came from Darin Shapiro's coach’s name, Chet Raley (also an early competitor).
The first wakeboarder that did a triple back flip was Butch Bendell. It was not on a wakeboard, but on a snowboard at St. Mary's Glacier in 1991 with a shovel-made kicker.
Scott Harwood did the world's best glide backwards with grab (indy glide).
The first Pro Tour host on ESPN was Tony Finn. Todd Weatherill was next.Todd  Weatherill - A real stiffy on the O'Brien Shredder Then Jeff Barton. But the one that did more broadcasts than anyone was Doug Dunbar. He hosted the wakeboard segments on X-Games for a decade, even more for the pro wake and waterski tours.
The first rebel wakeboard magazine was called Launch Wakeboard Magazine and the editor was Jeff Barton (JB).
First wakeboard tower. Many believe it was Correct Craft because they patented it. Well, the first the pros got behind was Doug Dukane's boat. He was one of the original photographers and photographed many champions. He bought an offshore patrol boat in Florida and owned an old police car to pull it with. The thing was monstrous. The thing had a huge wake, pulling from the tower up high and blew knees out because of the killer landing. Shapiro flew almost 80 feet prior to landing from takeoff. It was a massive wake. Anyway, Larry Meddock (One of the staples at Correct Craft, whose son, Joey, is a huge successful photographer and former pro-rider) saw it, liked it and innovated the tower you see today. His design was the first made specifically for wakeboarding.
Trick skiers, surfers and snowboarders had a lot to do with the early trick progression in wakeboarding.
I will write more when my old mind remembers.


Comments (19)

Commented on 6-25-2010 At 05:59 am

love it! todd should hook up with e-snow and write a whole book on the history of wakeboarding and wake skating.
Commented on 6-25-2010 At 07:31 am

This rocks!!
Commented on 6-25-2010 At 09:34 pm

good stuff. my first board was skurfer blast. When we finally got a compression molded board HO perez we chopped the nose shorter and sealed with resin glass. I rode the thruster board when i rode with Erich a few times. funny though I never saw them on the shelves for sale. HAHA the lightest board out back then.

nice article for sure thanks for posting
Commented on 6-25-2010 At 09:59 pm

Ha, sweet article for sure!!
Commented on 6-26-2010 At 12:59 am

Pretty good Todd,

I'd give you an A-, but I won't pull out the Red pen here. We can discuss over a beer some day soon!

Commented on 6-26-2010 At 03:46 am

Good stuff. A- from Mr. Nelson is high praise...
Commented on 6-27-2010 At 05:05 pm

Does anyone know the first wakeboard video made? I bought "How to ride a wakeboard" in '94. I think it was made by Tony Finn and featured Gator and Byerly. That is what made me want to get into the sport.
Commented on 6-27-2010 At 08:03 pm

Good and Plenty did an early wake video (part of a snowboard video) called "Rip IT." Also, one note, in the original version of this article I wrote that the first finless board was also designed by Greg Nelson. We collaborated on it together at O'Brien. It was too far ahead of its time and bombed.
Commented on 6-28-2010 At 10:53 pm

Thanks for the article Todd! I'm such a fan of sports history, this was a very cool read. Can't wait for more.
Commented on 6-29-2010 At 02:58 am

As I wrote, Kreg had the first documented Flip in competition. But did you know that Waterski Mag did an article on Redmon showing his landed Flip sequence in March of 1988? Those photos were taken the fall prior in November of 1987. Great stuff.
Commented on 6-29-2010 At 04:29 pm

Found the VCR tapes last night. Good and Plenty's video was "Off The Wall." It was a snowboard film and featured a segment of SKIBOARDING with Lance Brug, Troy Navarro, and Butch Bendell. It has to be one of the first marketed video to feature wakeboarders.
Commented on 6-29-2010 At 08:41 pm

Troy Novarro- not only a good wakeboarder but an excellent salesman at boatshowa. Sold me my first "single tip" wakeboard over the a flight 69 back then. Rode that board 1-full day until I got my feet on the twin tip flight 69. Thanks Troy - he had a great sales pitch on how they were going to be a fad!
Commented on 6-30-2010 At 02:49 am

Nice Todd! Great stuff!
Commented on 7-13-2010 At 01:50 am

excellent write-up! Brought back some good memories, I remember the old skurfers, had to do a beach start because they were so buoyant. Then my first twin tip the hyperlite baff, man I wish I still had that board..
Commented on 8-4-2010 At 07:51 pm

Love the article and it hashes up some old memories. In the early 80's we were using a giant mistral windsurfing board towed behind a Viking deck boat. We thought we had invented a new sport because nobody was doing this behind a boat. Just getting over the wake was a monumental. We did this for a number of summers always having a great time. I remember the day I stumbled into a marine shop in the mid 80's (can't remember the exact year) and seeing the Brand new Skurfer Launch. I couldn't believe my eyes! Somebody had invented a board for "our sport" haha. I bought it on the spot and was in the water that day with my friend. He followed that up and bought the Skurfer Blast. I upgraded to the Skurfer Rage when that came out. Better shape, Radical Tri fin design (yeah ok) and upgraded bindings that were still primitive. I cut bike tire tubes and made heal straps for them.

Everything you did back then was for the first time. Nobody to teach you tricks no magazines or videos (at least that I could find) It really felt like you were part of the evolution of a sport. I stayed with the evolution of the sport, eventually working for Double Up as a manufactures rep until 2000. Lifes priorities ended up taking over and without access to a boat my wakeboarding days fizzled out.

Well now I'm in my mid 40's, have a wife and kids. We just bought a 1984 (my graduation year) Ski Nautique and got back out on the water last weekend on my Double Up Greg Nelson pro model. I was back in heaven! Felt sooo good. My wife had a great time and the kids were amazed. While trick wise the sport has passed me by there is something about the feeling of airing out over that wake that I never want to leave again.

Glad I found you and this great article. Thanks for the memories.

Commented on 8-9-2010 At 10:51 pm

Nice article. Have a look at the shot on my face book page from 96.
Hand made twin tip finless ply board with baseless bindings based on a snowboard made by Grant Gettens in Australia. Chief as he is known and his board inspired the current crop of rail flex boards and in the history books is some what overlooked at times. Also in the picture you will see that Grant was a true master of style...
Commented on 8-28-2010 At 02:38 pm


Thanks a ton. You forgot to mention our first contest that was held at Soda Lakes. Tony Finn and Tony Klarich were both there and a young skateboarder won the event with a back scratcher. 9 competitors entered. Then Tony Finn did the first Worlds in Hawaii in Kaui. I was a judge and Eric Perez beat Kreg Llewellyn barley and went on to ride for Hyperlite after I introduced him to Herb. A few months later Herb came out with the first compression molded board. I was working for Mike Ferraro and Chet Raley in Florida and Darrin Shapiro drove up, got out of his little car and told me he would be the next champ after seeing Ferraro do several wake to wake three's on a Hyperlite with the swallow tail cut off straight. What great times we had modifying board and fins. We then put the fist Nationals at Cotton Wood lake in Brighton Colorado where you and I both competed in our respected division. I lucked out and won my division with just six measly tricks but stood up both passes. Lucky for me everyone choked in my division. Darin killed it in everything and won freestyle while Ken Banard won slalom Wakeboard. Chey Raley had the wreck of the day. I had to break up a huge fight that was brewing between Bob Welsh and Ken Banard and afterwards everyone was laughing about it. God bless

Tommy Philliips
Commented on 3-11-2011 At 05:04 am

Jeff Page was the first to use a Scott Ski Boot on a trick ski in the 70's and was the first to start a wakesurf company called Inland Surfer. Go to way and check it out.
Commented on 8-23-2014 At 07:55 pm

Sweet post dude. Glad you brought that up. So much missing or misinformed history. God bless.
Tommy Phillips
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