The Cultivation of Cody Hesse
This rail is just as sketchy as Clear Lake, but that doesn’t bother Cody. Photo: Cortese
by Bradlee Rutledge, Garrett Cortese + Shane Bonifay
If you’ve ever met Cody Hesse, you know he drums to a beat different than most everybody else’s. Hailing from the mountains of Virginia, Cody grew up like a lot of kids lucky enough to wakeboard in the summers: dreaming of one day making it to Orlando. At 18 he set out to make that dream come true by moving into a tiny shed on Lake Holden and paying $250/month rent. He had no bathroom, running water, or kitchen, but was doing whatever it took to wakeboard everyday. Working a full time job to pay the bills, he turned to riding cable out of necessity to keep his costs down. He was grinding – determined to achieve his goals – and prove to himself and anybody else that he could do it.
Fast forward three years and Cody is now part of the next generation of riders pushing the sport in a new direction. He is the first and only rider to ever land a mute double rodeo 10 (mobe) off the kicker. And he now lives at Shane Bonifay’s house; complete with a kitchen, bathroom and running water. He recently signed with Billabong and has been part of the Byerly Boards family for almost two years. Dream come true? Pretty much, but Cody isn’t satisfied. In fact he’s working harder than ever to keep living that dream, while still drumming to his own beat.
GC: What’s your name?
Cody Hesse: Cody Allen Hunter Hesse… the first! (laughs)
GC: Wow, four names? What’s the story there?
CH: My grandmother wanted Hunter and my dad wanted Allen, so I got two middle names.
GC: Where’d Cody come from?
CH: My mom wanted that. There was some old TV show she used to watch and somebody had a kid named Cody or something… The Tonight Show?
Shane Bonifay: I’m pretty sure there wasn’t a character on the Tonight Show named Cody… (everybody laughs)
GC: Where and when were you born?
CH: I was born December 28, 1993 in Alexandria, Virginia.
GC: What’s your zodiac sign?
CH: What the hell’s a zodiac sign? (laughs)
SB: Like a Sagittarius, or a Cancer, or a Libra…
CH: Can I do like a “V”… for Vendetta?
Hood Pulls. Photo: Cortese
Brad Rutledge: Tell us about first moving to Orlando.
CH: I moved into this shed in somebody’s backyard on Lake Holden. It was a shithole; there was mold on the walls and stuff. Every time it rained my floor would flood and I’d have to mop it up.
Marc Rossiter: It was pretty sick though, you were right on the water…
SB: It was literally waterfront! (laughs)
CH: Yeah, but I didn’t have a shower or a bathroom or anything.
GC: Whose shower were you using?
CH: I’d walk up to the main house.
GC: So you had a shed with electricity?
CH: Yeah, pretty much. I had a hot plate to cook with.
SB: How old were you when you moved in there?
GC: What made you move to Orlando in the first place?
CH: Oh man, I just had to get out of Virginia.
GC: And you just figured you could make it work with wakeboarding?
CH: Yeah, sort of. I’ve always wanted to come to Florida. It’s nice and warm, I like tropical.
BR: How did you get into wakeboarding?
CH: My sister was the first to do it in my family, and a bunch of kids in my neighborhood did it, too. So that’s how I got into it. I wanted to hang out with the cool kids, I guess. (laughs)
GC: How old were you?
CH: I was seven the first time I got up on a board… on an Air Profile 145!
GC: When did you start riding cable?
CH: I didn’t ride cable until I moved down here to Orlando when I was 18.
BR: You got good at cable fast.
SB: Yeah he did, but you didn’t get to ride boat much when you moved here, right?
CH: No, I planned to ride a ton, but when I got here it wasn’t as easy as I thought (laughs). There was no way I would have been able to afford to ride boat all the time while paying rent, bills, food, and all that. So I started hitting up OWC all the time.
SB: So you were riding cable because it was sort of your only option?
CH: Yeah, for sure.
GC: Did you move down here not knowing any other pro riders?
CH: No, none. I only knew my good friend Terry Bailey, who rides and knew some of the riders. He came down a couple years before me and introduced me to some people. When I first got down here I was just crashing wherever I could and doing chores so I could stay. I was scrubbing walls, mopping floors, all kinds of stuff…
SB: Wait, now you’re living at my place where’s all this scrubbing walls talk?
CH: I pay you rent! (laughs)
Kung Fu fighting at Area 52. Photo: Rutledge
BR: How did you end up living with Shane?
CH: I’d met some of the guys through Bailey and riding at OWC, and I was hanging in the area more at Mitch Langfield’s. I remember coming over to hang out and I heard Marc (Rossiter) was moving out, so I jumped on the opportunity.
SB: Yeah, I remember seeing Cody a couple times at OWC and I knew he killed it. He was the kid landing mute double half cabs and mute double mobes and stuff. When Rossiter was moving out I knew I wanted somebody who was also a rider and would push me, so when Cody asked me about moving in I was all for it. There’s actually a really funny story about it, too, with his grandparents.
CH: Yeah, this is great!
SB: About a week or two after Cody moved in, his grandparents – who were on vacation in Winter Haven – end up meeting my dad. They somehow get talking about wakeboarding and Orlando and stuff and my dad tells them that he’s the father of Parks and Shane Bonifay. Cody’s grandparents tell him “Well you know what, we should get our boys in touch because our grandson needs a place to stay!” My dad ends up telling me I need to try to meet this kid named Cody who wakeboards and is looking for a room in Orlando… I was like, “Uh, he just moved in…” It was pretty crazy, nobody had any idea he’d just moved in with me. (laughs)
SB: Cody, let’s get serious here now. As a tenant in my house you’ve got some pretty big shoes to fill. Some of my past roommates include Kevin Henshaw, Collin Harrington, Clay Fletcher, Marc Rossiter, Pat Panakos… Do feel some pressure there? (laughing)
GC: 2612 does cary some weight…
SB: Basically in about four or five years you have to buy your own house in the ‘hood and win a Rail Rider of the Year Award.
CH: I definitely feel a bit of pressure. But I feel like I can use Shane’s fame to prop myself up and get ahead (laughs)
SB: Hell yeah, these shoulders are meant for boosting other wakeboarders up! (everybody laughs)
CH: I just want to be able to say, “Yeah, I live with Shane Bonifay, no big deal.” I just want people to think I’m good (laughs). Seriously though I do respect the guys that have come before me, both riding-wise and living with Shane (laughs), and I want to work hard to make my own mark.
GC: What was it like growing up in northern Virginia?
CH: Uh, it’s good and bad I guess. In the winter there isn’t much to do, so you can sit around and get into trouble a little bit (laughs). Summer and fall are awesome because I’d wakeboard and mountain bike all the time – and I’d snowboard some in the winter. It was cool to have that variety, but slow winters would definitely make me start to go crazy.
GC: Did you used to do local contests back home as a grom?
CH: Yeah, I used to do really well at contests… I used to get good results… I don’t know what happened to that! (laughs) We used to have some really fun contests in that region, Adam Fields puts on some good ones on Lake Gaston.
Cody Taking the exit point at Valdosta. Photo: Malloy
SB: I’ve got some questions for you Cody, now that we live together and everything. How many boxes of cookies do you think you eat a week?
CH: I’ll probably eat a sleeve a day, and there’s probably two sleeves in a box. So how many is that?
SB: Let’s say a dozen cookies a day? That’s probably low-ball, but we can go with that. We could say six dozen a week?
CH: (laughing) Where are you going with this?
GC: 6×12 is 72…
SB: (Shane pulls out the calculator on his phone) Based on those rough estimates, Cody, you’re eating about 3,744 cookies a year! But what’s even more mind blowing is if you’re buying three boxes of cookies at $3.00 each, minimum, per week, that’s about $1,404 a year. And we know some of those guesses are low. Let’s say you spend $1,500 a year on cookies. How does that make you feel?
CH: I’m the Cookie Monster!
SB: Well, how much money do you actually make? I know you want me to ask that question ‘cause you have some sort of special answer (laughs)… And you want me to ask how much you bench press, too, right?
CH: Well, thank you Shane. And to all you special ladies out there, yes, I do like cookies, but I also bench about 300. Maybe 400 on a good day.
BR: 300 or 400 cookies! (laughing)
CH: And I make about $100,000 a week…
SB: Oh, so cookies ain’t no thang? (laughing)
CH: I’m cookie rich.
GC: What’s the best flavor Publix cookie?
CH: Chocolate chip, no doubt.
GC: Do you have a technique for shopping for them?
CH: Yeah, you gotta look for the lighter ones. The darker ones are usually cooked longer and they’re hard and crunchy. I don’t like hard and crunchy cookies, I want them soft!
BR: Maybe you should start a signature cookie line.
GC: Yeah, what would your cookies be called?
CH: Cody’s Cookies Cookies! (laughs) I’ll have a cookie garden. It’ll be like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory… Cody’s Cookie Factory! I’ll have cookies growing everywhere! And I’ll have little cookie monsters all over helping me out (everybody laughs)
GC: What did you have for breakfast today?
CH: Me and Cole (Vanthof) went to Whole Foods and had some biscuits and gravy with ham, egg, and cheese.
BR: With cookies?!
GC: How far do you have to drive to get to a Whole Foods from the ‘hood?
CH: Pretty far! (laughs)
GC: What do cookies cost at Whole Foods?
CH: Way too much!
Working on keeping up with Shane’s past roommates. Photo: Soden
SB: Another roommate question: how come you love Will Smith so much? And what’s yoru favorite quote?
CH: Will Smith is awesome! And my favorite quote is the one about making a wall. “You don’t set out to build a wall. You don’t say ‘I’m going to build the biggest, baddest, greatest wall that’s ever been built.’ You don’t start there. You say, ‘I’m going to lay this brick as perfectly as a brick can be laid. You do that every single day. And soon you have a wall.”
SB: Here’s what’s great about this quote and Cody. One day we’re sitting inside and it’s just one of those crappy days where you know you’re not gonna ride. Of course Cody looks at me and goes, “You wanna go hit the cable?” And I’m like, “What the hell are you gonna do at the cable in this?!” And then he drops that Will Smith line and tells me, “Today, I’m gonna lay a brick!”
CH: Will Smith is a good person to look up to!
SB: What about Kevin Bacon? You’re into him too, right?
CH: Oh, huge Kevin Bacon better fan.
GC: Who’s better, Will Smith or Kevin Bacon?
CH: Kevin Bacon. Have you seen Footloose?!?
SB: Name three other Kevin Bacon movies. Since you’re such a big fan.
CH: Ummm, Mystic River…
GC: Really? You can’t name any other Kevin Bacon movies?!? Wild Things, A Few Good Men, Apollo 13…
CH: Damn, I thought I knew a lot more Kevin Bacon movies! (laughing)
SB: Speaking of movies though, you’re interested in doing stuntman work. What’s that about?
CH: Yeah, I just always thought it would be fun to do. In May I’m actually going to a stunt school in Atlanta. The class is pretty much on the job training, and when I’m done I’ll hopefully be placed with an agency or a crew and get a little bit of work.
SB: Where does wakeboarding fit in?
CH: I think I’ll be able to do both. I want to do more things than just wakeboard, and starting off I don’t think I’ll be super busy with stunt work.
GC: What made you think about getting into stunt work in the first place?
CH: I don’t really know, I guess I’ve just always had it in the back of my mind. A few years ago I’d go online and look for job listings – like on Casting360.com – to see if I could get anything, but I never did. I still wanted to pursue something though and I talked to my mom about it and she suggested looking into a stunt school place. We found a place that I really liked and they really liked the fact that I’m a pro wakeboarder or whatever, so I’ve been saving up some money and I’m just gonna go for it and see what happens.
GC: Have you been doing any training?
CH: Oh yeah, I stunt hard! (everybody laughs) I’ve been doing some stuff, you can see here in the backyard. (Cody has setup a rope climb up a 20-plus foot branch hanging over the yard, a slackline, a trampoline, and several other things)
MR: I think we should set up a stunt for this interview. But instead of having you bust through something like a glass window or whatever, we have you blast through a giant thing of cookies… just cookie shrapnel raining down everywhere… “CODY COOKIE HESSE!” (laughs)
Stylish Stale… Need we say more? Photo: Rodrigo
SB: This is a little directed toward me, but, whatever… What’s your favorite thing about me? (everybody laughs)
CH: Probably how you constantly criticize me and knock me down. Or whenever I come home and just want to hang out with you, you don’t give me the time of day. And you think you’re better than me.
SB: Alright, then what’s the worst thing about me?
CH: Your hair.
SB: WHAT?!?! That’s a low blow.
CH: That’s true, I take that back (laughing)
SB: That’s coming from the kid that had a mullet! And was proud of it!
GC: Yeah, why the mullet? Is that a Virginia thing?
CH: Hell yeah, going back to my roots! True VA, all day!
BR: Are you ever gonna bring it back?
SB: Last roommate question. How prevalent do you think the Illuminatis are?
CH: Don’t get me started… (laughs)
SB: What made you get into that theory?
CH: I’m not into it, it’s just everywhere you look.
GC: How did you learn about it? DaVinci Code?
SB: Do you think Katy Perry’s an Illuminati?
CH: Because of that damn song everywhere. Don’t get me started. I don’t want this on record! (laughing)
GC: People want to get to know you Cody, they want to hear this.
CH: People are gonna think I’m crazy.
SB: Well maybe you are crazy!
BR: You do spend $1,500 a year on cookies!
CH: Well there are different theories, but I think the Illuminati want to have complete control over the world, and they do that by controlling substances in our food, music, TV/media… Basically controlling the way we think.
GC: So who are the Illuminati?
CH: The most powerful people in the world. The richest people. Maybe even some aliens. We don’t know that yet.
Four years ago Cody was a kid from Virgina who was pretty good at wakeboarding. Now he rides for Scott Byerly. Photo: Malloy
SB: Why aren’t you an organ donor?
CH: Because I think doctors won’t work as hard to save you if there is somebody more important than you that’s also injured that needs your organs. So they’d rather not save you to give your organs to somebody more important who needs like a lung or something.
Cole Vanthof: Does that go back to the Illuminati?
CH: No. That’s just how selfish I think people are.
BR: We might need a disclaimer saying “No drugs were taken before this interview.” (laughs)
SB: What’s your focus on wakeboarding right now, like what do you think you’d like to focus on for change?
CH: My focus would be to get wakeboarding out to more underprivileged kids who can’t afford to ride. Maybe make winching and System 2.0 parks a bit of a bigger deal. There are lots of kids who don’t have access to boats and lakes, but who still enjoy water activities and maybe they enjoy skateboarding or something. I’d like to see a lot of those kids get access to the sport, because I think they’d have some great ideas and wakeboarding could be a great outlet for them.
SB: What’s on your trick to-do list?
CH: I would love to tell everyone, but as soon as I say something that’s all anybody’s gonna ask me about… “How many times have you tried it?” “Why haven’t you landed it yet?” Either that or somebody’s gonna try to land it before me! (laughs) Everybody knows what I want to do…
SB: The triple?
BR: Do you get mad when people scream at you to do the double back mobe?
CH: A little bit, yeah.
BR: Do you think that’s all people know you for?
CH: A little bit, yeah… (laughs) It’s not a bad thing to be known for though. I just don’t want to be seen as one-trick-wonder.
GC: What’s a typical day like for you here in Orlando?
CH: Living the dream! I start with some breakfast, usually eggs and cheese. Then maybe some bingo. Then I stretch and get ready to ride.
GC: What’s a bingo? A dump?
CH: A bingo bango. No big deal.
MR: Ooohhhh… I love bingo! (huge laughs)
CH: Then I’ll go ride. Then come home and bug Shane, grab some lunch. Maybe see if somebody wants to hit up the ‘hood rail park, or head over to O-Dub. That’s about a day for me. Ride, hang out, ride, hang out.
BR: Where do you fit in time for all the cookies?
CH: I’ve always got time for cookies!
BR: Do you lose motivation being in Orlando because it can get repetitive?
CH: No, I don’t lose motivation in that sense. Sometimes you do get tired of a spot and want to go somewhere else or something, but I like having Orlando as home and as the place where all the wakeboarders come. Being around all these riders all the time keeps me motivated.
GC: Were you ever afraid of gators like some people who aren’t from Florida are when they get in a lake?
CH: Actually yeah, and I have a funny story from just a couple days ago. I took my mom paddle boarding on the lake in Winter Haven where my grandparents stay. We started going down this one swamp-looking canal and I was telling my mom to not worry, that I’ve lived in Orlando for a while now and you never see gators.
SB: Dude, Winter Haven is not Orlando! I grew up in Polk County, Parks and I saw gators every day we rode as kids! (laughs)
CH: Yeah, so I’m telling my mom not to worry, and I got to push this tree branch hanging over the canal out of the way. I find myself about ten feet away from an eight-foot gator and he dives under right toward us, so my mom starts screaming! I basically just turn around and push her the other direction to get some speed and be ahead of me. She was shaking, I’ve never been so mad at myself for putting my mom in a spot like that! (laughs)
SB: Well we know you want to give your mom some love, so feel free.
CH: My mom is the best, she’s the most amazing person. She’s trusted me since Day One when I wanted to wakeboard more and started traveling around to different contests with Terry. She’s always supported me and been there to help me. She’s the hardest working person I know and my biggest inspiration. She raised two kids on her own and… yeah, she’s the best.
SB: Well maybe a big inspiration to a lot of people… You told me once she dated Dave Grohl pre Nirvana.
CH: (laughing) Yeah…
SB: What if Dave Grohl’s inspiration and music comes from a relationship with your mom?!
CH: It is true, my mom made out with Dave Grohl in 8th grade… (laughs) Yeah mom!
“How many cookies have I had today?” Photo: Rutledge
GC: Do you have a preference between boat, cable, winch?
CH: No, I love all forms of wakeboarding. I feel like I never get tired of one because I’m always changing it up, and I like doing them all. I ride cable more than anything, but I wouldn’t label myself as a cable rider.
BR: What draws you to winching?
CH: I love hitting different spots that you can’t normally access. I think that’s a cool, raw element to wakeboarding. And like I said before I’d really like to see that get bigger and see some kids who can’t get out on a boat be able to go out with a couple buddies and a winch and do some things nobody has ever seen before. There are tons of snowboard and skateboard rippers just hitting crazy spots, and nobody’s ever heard of them before and they don’t have money to travel and compete, but they’re insanely good. I’d like to see that happen in wakeboarding.
GC: Do you see yourself as one of those kids in a way?
CH: A little bit. I wasn’t spoiled or anything, but I’d like to think I was actually privileged. Not compared to some kids these days, but I had it pretty good. I had some help in that my grandparents lived on a lake and had a boat, and I lived walking distance from them. But I didn’t have any sponsors or industry help, or any inside connections. I moved to Orlando to chase a dream and try to make it come true. So I just think it would be cool to see some different kids who don’t come from the normal wakeboarding pipeline get the opportunity to try it. And who knows, maybe they blow the sport away with some insane stuff. I don’t know if I’ve been able to do that, but I’m going to keep trying.
BR: Do you get a lot of influence for your riding outside of wakeboarding?
CH: Yeah, most of it, I’d say. I don’t think I get much inspiration from wakeboarding.
MR: So you don’t like any wakeboarders, right? (everybody laughs)
SB: He just likes cookies and wants to use me for my name! (laughs)
CH: No, I love watching other people wakeboard, and I’ll get inspiration from that, but a lot of my influence comes from snow and skate stuff. I like trying to make my riding as different as possible, and sometimes that means looking away from the sport. But I really like watching guys like Shredtown – their stuff is awesome. Dom (Hernler), Dommy Salami; very creative and gracefully aggressive. Felix is really fun to watch. Twelker is a favorite, so on point. Of course guys like Rossiter…
MR: You don’t have to say my f$*#&% name just ‘cause I’m sitting right here, I know how you really feel!
CH: Yonel Cohen; that kid is insane. I get pumped watching him ride the park, he’s really good.
MR: Tell us about your first strip club experience! Or maybe it should be about your first lap dance experience… didn’t that just happen the other week?! (laughs)
CH: (laughing) No… my first experience was in Tampa with… oh $&@% I can’t say that, I don’t want to be the reason somebody gets a divorce! (everybody laughs)
Cody’s most known for his park riding, but his boat game is plenty strong. Photo: Rodrigo
GC: What’s your preferred form of social media these days?
CH: Instagram. I’m really bad at Facebook.
GC: What about Tinder? You gotta be good at that with how much you bench press…
CH: I don’t have Tinder. I never had any success, so I got really frustrated and deleted it (laughs)
GC: What about Snap Chat?
CH: I have it, but I’m bad at that too. (laughs)
GC: Would you rather have six months of free cookies from Publix or 10,000 followers on Instagram right now?
CH: That’s a good question!
MR: That is a good question! For sure take the cookies, dude, f$#& them followers! (laughs)
CH: I’d get the followers and then tell them to donate some cookies to me.
BR: What’s the best part about living in the ‘hood?
CH: All the neighbors. Being on the lake and having a bunch of different guys to ride with.
BR: What’s your craziest story about living in the ‘hood?
CH: When I was 17 I came down here for a summer and I was at Harley’s for a party and the cops came. So of course I ran, and you don’t have to run far from Harley’s house to be in some sketchy parts of Orlando. I ended up running through this apartment complex and I hear this, “Hey, what are you doing?!?!” I look up and see like eight dudes sitting in a circle outside one of the apartments. I was a little scared so I just kept running, so of course they got up and came running after me. So I’m running my ass off as fast as I can and course run into a dead end with like an eight-foot fence. One guy catches me and throws me to the ground, hits me in my head, kicks me, and then grabs me by my hair and says, “What’re you doing in my ‘hood, boy?! What’re you doing?!!” I just started telling him, “I’m running from the cops! I’m running from the cops!” Then Caro (Djupsjö), she was behind me, comes running up and pushes the guy off of me! I had so much adrenaline rushing through me that as soon as he was off of me I jumped up and somehow scaled the fence and ran away.
GC: And you just left Carro there?!
CH: Yeah, I wasn’t really thinking, just running! (everybody laughs). There were other people coming behind her, it was cool.
MR: “Oh thanks for saving my ass, Carro, I’m gonna leave you with these eight ‘hood dudes! Good luck climbing that fence!!!” (laughs)
CH: They explained to him that I was only 17 and scared and just running and it was all good I guess (laughs).
BR: What’s one thing you’d change about wakeboarding right now?
CH: Honestly, I don’t think I’d change anything. It’s cool, I’m enjoying it.
GC: First time I’ve heard that answer in a while. (laughs) What gets you really stoked about wakeboarding right now?
CH: Seeing guys get really creative. When you’re watching somebody ride and you expect them to do a certain trick and then they just juke you and do something different and rad.
BR: Who are some of the most creative guys right now?
CH: Shredtown, Dom, Twelker, Raph, Bob Soven. Shane, of course.
SB: Are you just trying to get lower rent?! (laughs)
CH: No, I say Shane because he’s been doing different, creative things since the beginning. He’s been riding differently, doing nose presses down rails, all that stuff, for a long time.
BR: Did you watch the old wake videos as a kid, like Pointless?
BR: What do you want to be known for when you’re done riding?
CH: That’s a hard question. I don’t know, I just want to be known for being graceful, stylish, smooth. Just when people watch me it looks good, like a dance, not like something rushed, or forced, or hucked.
BR: Do you like to dance?
GC: Would you do Dancing with the Stars if you became a famous stuntman and they asked you?
CH: Yes I would! I two-step… a little! (laughs)
See Cody’s latest edit here.