2015 Rider of the Year: Aaron Rathy
ev·o·lu·tion of Aaron Rathy
ev·o·lu·tion – noun – the gradual development of something, especially from a simple to a more complex form
By Garrett Cortese
If evolution isn’t the most accurate word to describe Aaron Rathy as a person and a rider, I’m not sure what is. There is a reason this magazine has named him the Most Improved Rider of the Year three times in the past ten. There is a reason his video sections are highly anticipated and never repetitive. There is a reason he’s been seen as a boat rider, a park rider, a freerider, a contest rider, a wakeskater and everything in between. And it’s all because Rathy’s riding has constantly evolved. Over the years he has developed into one of the most well rounded wakeboarders in the world. Nowhere is that evolution and development more evident than in the 90 seconds of his Real Wake part. The minute-and-a-half section has it all, and therein lies the basis of what makes Rathy so special: everything. He has done it all and can do it all. But in a year where there were more contests to be battled through and prize money to be won, Rathy noticeably avoided the wake rat race. When others were globetrotting in search of standup passes, podium appearances, and big checks, Rathy was doing his own thing. More importantly, he was continuing his evolution, and in so doing, progressing the sport at the same time. His freeride approach and focus were a breath of fresh air. While some might see it as a simplification of being a veteran pro, it’s much more complex than that. Without a doubt, because of Rathy’s evolution, wakeboarding is in a better place. And for that Rathy is the well deserved Alliance Wake Magazine 2015 Rider of the Year.
Alliance Wake: What’s it mean to win Alliance Rider of the Year?
Aaron Rathy: It’s huge. It’s probably the biggest thing I’ve ever won. It’s something I always wanted to win – it was sort of a missing link for me – but it’s also something you don’t think about regularly. It’s not like every day you’re thinking about trying to win Rider of the Year. But maybe at the end of the year when you see the award come out then you’re like, “Damn, I wish that was me. Maybe next year…” I’m hyped. It might sound cheesy, but I’ve always seen it as wake royalty, especially because a Rider of the Year for Alliance can be a wakeboarder or wakeskater, and I’m honored to be a part of that.
AW: What was the Real Wake process like for you? Did you put a lot of pressure on yourself?
AR: I really wasn’t approaching it as my section and my tricks, if that makes sense, I was just trying to do wakeboarding justice as a whole. I knew I’d been given the opportunity as one of eight guys to film a part for X Games and if my part sucked I knew I probably wouldn’t be in it next year. So I felt a lot of pressure from just that, just from the sport of wakeboarding. Looking back I think I did a pretty good job and I think overall everybody did an amazing job and represented wake really well. The process was pretty crazy, we had three months to film, and it’s not like you’re filming every day for those three months. There’s a lot that goes into planning shots, thinking of new tricks, and a lot more. It was probably a month and a half of filming, but every other day was preparation, planning, and figuring things out.
AW: This year you really seemed to do your own thing. There were more contests than ever it seemed like, but you didn’t really do them. Are you more comfortable with where you are as a rider now?
AR: To say I’m burned out on contests is a massive understatement. They don’t get me excited to ride, so I pretty much just did the things that get me stoked to ride. I’m still passionate about putting together a really good video part, I’m still passionate about trying to get really good photos; and I’m not passionate at all about going out and making sure I can do six or seven really hard tricks ten times out of ten. I’d rather go out and do something harder than that once, even if it took me a week to land it. The rat race of following around these events is just ridiculous to me; guys are doing the same ten tricks over and over and those same tricks have been winning contests for years. That’s not an exaggeration. Add a double tantrum here or there, or a 180 or something, but really I don’t see that as pushing our sport. And I don’t want to dog those guys that do it. If there’s room for it in our sport that’s great, and if people are making a living doing it, that’s great. But it’s just not for me. I don’t have a passion to do that anymore.
AW: What would an ideal contest be for you?
AR: That’s hard to say. Obviously with something like Real Wake – it’s a no brainer – I’m gonna put everything into something like that. I think what bothers me is that in a lot of contests these days guys are watering tricks down to make sure they stand up a pass and win. How exciting is that to watch?! How fun is it to watch all these top guys doing a lot of tricks that look the same? I’m not really sure what the solution is. Maybe we need more one-off events with big prize money and different riding/judging formats, but I’m not totally sure. There isn’t really a perfect match between the freeride mentality and the necessity of judging that comes with contests.
AW: You seem to be the type of rider who gets something stuck in his head and isn’t happy until it’s perfect. Do you think that is good or bad sometimes?
AR: It can be good and bad. It’s great if you’re trying to progress your riding, but it’s also how you can get burned out or even hurt. If you get too obsessed and keep trying a trick for hours, even if your body is telling you to stop, you don’t really pay attention to that because in your mind you just have to land it. I’ve been there for sure. It’s like I’ll need to land it; like a battle that I have to conquer. That’s how it’s always been for me. I hate losing those battles. What’s funny is I thought I was the only one like that, but since I’ve been behind the camera filming more now I see it with other riders. Rusty (Malinoski) can be the same way. It’s funny because then I can see what I can be like at times. I’m definitely better at picking my battles now though and knowing when to say when. I’m better at feeling when it’s close or not close. I used to just go for it no matter what, but now I feel things out more and only go for it when I can feel it happening.
AW: Where are you pushing yourself these days?
AR: I want to push myself with winching a lot more. I think that’s the next door that needs to be opened for me and my riding. The idea of just building some crazy rail is cool, but building it is what sucks. Sometimes the big rails we build can look really unnatural, so I’m really intrigued by finding things that are already there, kind of like in skateboarding. I’ve done a fair amount of winching, and I did a lot when I wakeskated, too, so I know how much work it is. There is a lot to be done out there with it. I think there are some boat riders that have so much talent and board control that if they put some time into winching they could really progress the sport.
AW: You’ve always been into filming, but you seem to be more into it than ever before.
AR: I really enjoy filming and editing because I like the idea of creating something. I’m shit with drawing or painting, but when I’m editing a video I feel like it’s art when it’s done. I get a lot of satisfaction from starting on a project and seeing it through. I don’t know if I’ll take video work seriously enough to try to make money off of it though. I like doing it on my own because there aren’t deadlines or anything, it can be a passion project. When money gets involved there are deadlines and other people’s expectations and I feel like that would take some of the passion out of it for me. I think that’s true with any aspect of life; money can ruin it. Right now video work is my creative outlet, it’s like a bonus for me, and it actually keeps my own riding fresh.
AW: What brought about the video part with Rusty? People got to see it at Surf Expo and it was really, really good.
AR: I can’t speak for him, but I felt like he felt like he had something to prove after his Real Wake part. Those guys put all their eggs in one basket with a crazy night shoot that would have looked insane, but some things didn’t go according to plan and Rusty wasn’t able to get tricks he wanted to showcase his best riding. I think he wanted some redemption. He knew he could release a banger edit. He actually hit me up and asked me to film something with him. I was into the idea so we did as much as we could – I think we filmed 12 times – and I was able to get a solid piece edited by the Friday of Surf Expo so we could show it off at the Alliance booth.
AW: What has you stoked about wakeboarding right now and going into the future?
AR: I think there’s a lot to look forward to. I think Real Wake was insane for our sport and hopefully it’s back next year. I think more people are really appreciating and seeing the value in big video sections. That has me stoked and hopefully companies continue to see the value in it and invest in them to help riders make them really good. There’s a lot of good young talent coming up wakeboarding right now and they all seem to have a solid focus on making their riding unique.
AW: What advice would the Rathy of today offer the Rathy from 10 Years ago?
AR: (laughing) The butterfly effect, man. Honestly, I wouldn’t change too much. I like where I am and what I am as a wakeboarder and I realize that everything I’ve done and gone through in the past has helped me get to this point. I appreciate the process I’ve gone through to learn and develop the riding I have. Maybe a couple years were way too intense and maybe a couple years were way too mellow and I was hurt a lot, but I love the way that I ride now and I think all those things play a part.