Harley “influencing” (photo: Soden)

by: Harley Clifford

There is a rich history of over-achieving Australian wakeboarders throughout the years of our sport, and it all spawns from riders like Josh Sanders, Daniel Watkins, Brett (Ike) Eisenhaur, Mark Kenney (known to many as the “best wakeboarder of all time”, R.I.P.) and so many others. These are the people who took that initial leap of faith into the unknown by giving up their lives back in Australia to come over to the United States to pursue a career in becoming a professional wakeboarder. At the time, it wasn’t really something that any other Aussie or foreign wakeboarder had done before. They had no idea they were going to end up being superstars of our sport, and pave the way for so many other generations to follow.

Throughout their years of living and competing over in the States, they showed us other Aussies back home that it was possible to make this so-called dream a reality; they achieved so much! They scored big sponsors, bought houses in the States as well as Australia, got numerous covers of magazines, starred in huge wake films by filmers like Sean Kilgus and Justin Stephens, and even rose to the top placing 1st, 2nd and 3rd in the inaugural King Of Wake world tour in 2005. While these guys were taking over the sport in the US, they were also doing so much for the sport back home by taking the next generation under their wings, housing us when we were in the States, and letting us ride behind their boats on a day-to-day basis. They groomed us and helped us get our start, shaping us to one day have our chance to win those big contests and have major sponsors.

It’s a pretty cool thing, and thanks to these guys the Aussie influence has kept going to this day. Currently, wakeboarding (both competitive and freeriding) continues to be dominated by Aussies with guys like Dean Smith, Amber Wing (happy retirement guys!), Brenton Priestley, Nic Rapa, Cory Teunissen, Tony Iacconi, Aaron Gunn, Busty Dunn, myself and if you want me to keep rattling off names, just DM me on Instagram or something and I’ll hit you with some more … we’ve got plenty! We are over in the States for the summers every year, competing in all the events, learning new tricks, putting out content for the world to see and pushing the sport as best we can. Even as the sport has evolved over the years into more cable and winch-driven riding, the Aussies have adapted and branched off into those areas to continue their hopes and  dreams of rising to the top. And many have succeeded. We want to keep paving the way for the next generation to follow in our footsteps.

In my opinion, the Aussie influence has not only inspired those of us wakeboarders who grew up in Australia to continue pushing our riding in hopes of becoming a professional, but it has done so much for the sport of wakeboarding as a whole. Nowadays you see pro wakeboarders that come from all over the world. Kids from Japan, Italy, England, Argentina and so many others are over here either living life as a pro or are well on their way to becoming some of the best riders in the world. I’m not here to say that Aussie riders have paved the way for them, but we’ve had a huge influence on the world of wake and will continue to do so for years to come!