INFLUENCE – JOSH SLEIGH
Never in a million years did I see this coming. Every year since I use to compete, I always wondered when I left the sport of wake surfing what would come of it. I left to pursue my dreams of surfing. To progress the sport in the ocean. Many things happened that the wake industry inspired me to bring to surfing. Now the cycle has gone full circle. I even competed against Josh Kerr at one point and now he is into wake surfing. I’m stoked to be back in the scene, now making boards and seeing a brand like Rusty get into the game gets me excited. I have been through so much progression with surfing, from rails in the ocean to doing backflips and kick flips. It gets me excited to see where wake surfing is going because so many good things are happening for us all to enjoy.
I guess I’ll start with last weekend where it was my first event for my new brand Sleigh Boards. It’s a scary thought to bring new designs to a new event and the first of the year on the west coast. You have companies like SouI Craft, Inland Surfer and Phase 5 who have it dialed. So a lot of eyes are looking around to see what looks good. What athlete looks ready and what board designs they feel confident with to take them to the top.
Let me say this. The guys who put on the Wakesurf Open in Arizona really went all out. From the location in Tempe to the vibes and setting. They were not holding back with all the tents, music and cars on hand to show. Natique was a sponsor and supplied the boat to surf which topped it off.
I took it personally to build these boards I brought to the contest. I’d made new changes through my design program and established new relationships with my CNC shop to cut out very specific designs and get out of my comfort zone. I mean this was it. If you’re going to play with the big boys you better not hold back. Well it was good on my part. I could tell that what ever I did, the feed back was contagious. People were checking out our team and I told the them it’s not about how you win it’s how we lose that counts. Be positive, have fun and surf like you do when you’re with your friends.
What ever I said worked. And if I wasn’t already nervous enough pro rider and friend Aaron Witherell came up to me to tell me his board had lived its last run. He had to make a decision on a board to ride. I told him he’s more than welcome to see if Jesse Baba’s board would be of any interest. This is the cool thing about wake surfing, it’s all one big happy family. It does not matter who you are, every one is around to help you out. I feel this is the biggest deal going for our sport. How we are growing so fast and how we are going to progress into the future.
Aaron comes back to me and decides he will take a chance on Jesse’s board I shaped for him. To me it was the highlight of the event. He’s in the final and decides to take a chance with one of my new designs that he has never surfed. Boy was I nervous. I had no nails at about half way through his run. Then I looked up and he was going nuts, sticking the biggest big-spin I have ever seen behind a boat. And just like that I realized a dream unfold. And I like to think that’s all of our dreams.
Taking chances. New boards, new boats and new experiences. As for me thats making boards a world pro would take a chance on. And that is something I feel that this industry is doing well. It’s taking chances to make us the most incredible boats to surf. Thus the level of progression is going through the roof. So many choices it’s surreal. There are even attachments to turn your old boat into a wave making machine. And you are the ones that get to reap that.
I recently heard a lot of ruckus about contest. Parents are mad, athletes are not getting in until it’s last second, etc.. The sport has grown so fast that the event producers are being forced into corners they did not see. They do their best to accommodate the new masses and veteran wake surfers. I agree change needs to happen and a seed system needs to be put in place. I also agree if you’re a paid athlete it is your job to register yourself.
Which brings me back to the Wakesurf Open in Arizona. It really was awesome. So many new faces this year. Even those injured were at the event helping and having a good time. And to me that’s how we have an influence on wake surfing. People are having a good time and that is what is rad. We are on a up swing. So enjoy your summer by breathing some fresh air and surf your brains out. I know I am.
The magic boards are out and the best part is riding and finding them. By the way that surf style board I made for Jesse that Arron Witherell decided to take a chance on. He took second. And if that is a sign I guess we all can learn from Arron on taking chances just like the industry is doing to see what will take their wake surfing to the next level!