Drew Danielo

For the folks that don’t know you, tell us a little bit about Drew. Where are you from? How did you get here? Those types of things. I am originally from the small town of Venice, Florida and I grew up with a passion for skateboarding. In 1998, I started to enter some skimboard contests at the beach and got sponsored by Zap Skimboards shortly after. Zap Skimboards are manufactured in my hometown and it’s an incredible family-owned and operated company. I spent the next six years skimboarding professionally for Zap. In 2002, Zap’s owner, Bob Smetts, started Phase 5 wakesurfers and I was hooked. Bob took me out to the 2003 World Wakesurf Championships and I just squeaked into the last qualifying place for finals. During my finals run, I realized we were just skimboarding behind the boat and I just went for it. I actually won my first World Championship that day!

It’s the year 2020 which is wild in itself. What’s your take on the new decade? On watersports? My first take is, “Wow, I am getting OLD!” *laughs* But really, I’m excited for the new decade. Action sports are getting crazier and crazier and I’m excited to see what happens next. Also, I’m super excited to continue to watch my son, who is almost 10, continue to grow and spend as much time with him and my wife as I can.  As for the watersports side, just waiting to see that first boat wave that we can do full cutbacks on! I think it is coming. The technology going into the new boats is crazy. It is no longer a matter of what boat has the best wave; it is what boat has the wave you like. All the companies have a great wave, just depends on what wave style you like.  With your son being almost 10, is there a chance we will be seeing another Danielo in the wake scene? What are your thoughts on the future? I get asked this a lot and to be honest, Ty loves wakesurfing but it’s not a big passion for him yet but maybe as he gets older. Right now, we spend a lot of our time on the baseball field. He has been surrounded by baseball since crawling on our local high school field at 10 months old with my father-in-law, who is a coach. I have just enjoyed being a part of what he loves to do and will support whatever he wants to pursue.

The future of wakesurfing looks crazy. I go to events now and see the amateurs throwing 3 shuvs, the outlaw riders all have some sort of 540 variation trick, and the pro division is getting younger and younger. It’s rad! I think the only drawback right now is the younger guys really need to remember that as a pro rider, there are people watching you whether you’re on or off the water. Just be respectful and don’t get too full of yourself. At the end of the day, you are just wakesurfing. If you win, that’s great and you make a little money, then life goes on the next day. If you lose, that stinks but it’s the same outcome. Life goes on. That is always my advice to our team riders who start to get nervous.

Phase 5 has been strong in the wakesurf scene the past decade. They recently just added some heavy hitters to their team. What’s it like being one of the originators on such a powerful team? Is it intimidating or do they have a thing or two to learn from you?
*laughs* We have definitely added some heavy hitters. It is super fun to be the Team Manager of this group of riders. We have always really looked beyond just the water ability of riders. Yes, your ability to shred matters, but we also want good people who can be at events and carry on a conversation and know how to conduct themselves in front of the up and coming riders. I think we have nailed it with our team. It’s not that intimidating but only because I am not competing like I used to. At times, it’s like a living video game. Imagine being on the boat for a photoshoot and you have myself (might not have all the tech tricks, but I still prefer to boost every trick higher than most *laughs*), John Akerman, Jodi Grassman, Parker Payne and Sean Silveira. It’s insane. The riding starts really good and by the time we are done, it seems like they all just learned three new tricks. The family feel and support our team has for each other is like nothing I have ever seen. Tell us a little bit about your pro model: the Phase 5 Hammerhead. What is the process like in getting awarded a pro model and then the design process? Phase 5 doesn’t believe in just handing out a pro model board because you went pro. Like you said, it is an earned process. I was super nervous and concerned when I did my first pro model. Why would anyone want my board? As the years went on and I won more and traveled more and more to do events/clinics, I learned this sport has a pretty solid following and a lot of people needed some direction on why to choose a board. 

I have always kept that in mind when designing new boards. I want a board that keeps up with my riding and ability, but I can put any rider on and let them shred. This year’s Hammerhead is probably the most drastic change I have made. It is outside the box and once I rode it, I was hooked. The way the board tracks down the wave and doesn’t want to pivot around is really neat. As for the design process, it’s always fun when you have a mastermind like Bob Smetts in your corner. For instance, the conversation for the 2020 Hammerhead went something like this:

Bob: Hey Drew, I think we need to revamp the Hammerhead this year.
Me: Ok, I will start thinking and drawing.
  An hour later  
Bob: Hey, Drew look at this. (hands me a foam blank shaped with the peanut design)
Me: Wow that is really different, let’s give it a try.

I rode a few different versions of it and we nailed it. Bob has probably forgotten more about shaping boards then I will ever know in my lifetime. I definitely owe a lot of my success to Bob.

Who have you looked up to in the watersports community to get you where you are today? For me, it was always more than just riding. People like Shaun Murray and Cobe Mikacich were always guys I looked up to. Their riding was insane and the way they lived their life was what I was after. Brian Grubb and his consistency on the water was always something I admired. And Kelly Slater would be someone I have looked up to in my later years of competing. Watching him continue to progress his riding and be a top contender at any event really gave me the drive to go out and beat guys half my age that have been riding all summer long!

What one word describes you? And how have you used that to your benefit? Tenacious. I have used my determination to be better and strive for my goals to get where I am today. I did not grow up on a lake with a family ski boat. I grew up with a single mom who worked two jobs to raise myself and my two brothers. The thought of having the latest and greatest wake boat for the past 14 years was never something I dreamed would happen. I have always been determined to make something of myself and be successful. I was always attached to being on a board of some sort and I hoped to make it work somehow. The pieces all came together and here I sit with seven World Championships, two pro models, a great job and a beautiful wife and son. For me, success is not a dollar amount but what I have achieved and what I continue to push for.