Conversations :Aaron Gunn

“That’s what it’s about—who can get the most time on the water and who pushes themselves the most when they do.” Aaron Gunn

I am underprepared. He doesn’t seem to mind though; he is a confident teenager, a perfect balance between enthusiasm and caution. He is talented; he is young; he is Aaron Gunn.

I don’t have many questions prepared so I’ll just wing it; let’s start from the start.
Nice, 6 words in and I have already started to repeat myself.

So where are you in Sydney? I live in Penrith.

You actually live in Penrith? Most of my life.

The Penrith cable wake park has only been reopened for three years. Did you wakeboard before that? I grew up riding boat.

That explains the boat footage in your edit. Yeah, I only just got back into boat riding this year in Orlando, and it was fun.

It’s cool that you can be an all-round rider then. Yeah, that’s what I am going for now. When the cable park opened I stopped being that keen on boat but that’s what everyone is looking to be now: an all-round rider.

When did you first start riding?  I started riding boat when I was ten, I think. So for four years until the cable reopened. Then I stopped riding boat and started riding cable, essentially.

Who did you used to ride with? I used to ride with Scotty Kell at Black Diamond. I had a caravan down there so I’d take my boat there all the time and ride.

Really!? As a ten year old you’d just hook the boat up and drive yourself down to Wisemans Ferry to ride? Laughs.
Well my parents took me down.

Speaking of your family do you have any brothers or sisters? I have a younger brother who is twelve, I think, this year.

Do you remember the old Penrith cable park? No, I never went there when it used to be open. I heard a lot about it, but apparently it was just flat water with no obstacles, it sounded pretty boring.

We start talking of old names that used to ride at Penrith, we talk of the rail comps that Penrith held way back when, but he remembers neither the time nor the names.Back then rails weren’t really a reality. It was all about the water tricks back then. It’s definitely pushing toward rails these days. Well, I don’t think it’s pushing, I’d say it’s been pushed, which is cool. It’s still good to have people doing water tricks because that’s where cable started. I’d definitely prefer rails or features to water tricks any day, although Tom Fooshee does crazy water tricks.

Aaron at Penrith. Pic Hemmings

Aaron at Penrith. Pic Hemmings

You didn’t know much about the original Penrith Park to begin with so that’s not really part of your story; it’s history to you. You began your wakeboarding life riding at Scotty Kell’s Black Diamond Wakeboard School in Wisemans Ferry. Was Scotty an influence on you?  Yeah, he was definitely a major influence on me, he taught me so much about wakeboarding in general.

He is a legend in the sport no doubt. I didn’t realise you had that boat heritage. I assumed that, like many kids from Penrith, you just started wakeboarding when the cable park opened up down the road from you. No, I only started riding cable no more than two years ago.

How many times a week do you ride cable when you are at home?
I ride everyday. I try to get as much time on the water as I can. That’s what it’s about—who can get the most time on the water and who pushes themselves the most when they do.

Who do you ride with at Penrith? Well at the moment there is no one really here—everyone is away. I have Turtle though, to push me. He has been a major influence on me. I love riding around with him.

Did you know much of Turtle before the cable reopened? I knew a little bit about him but not too much. I knew that he was a really good rider but I only started to know his story once the cable opened up and I got to know him. He is such a rad dude.

I guess as far as your riding ‘equals’ go, there are Matty Hasler and James Windsor, but you are all from different parks in Oz. Yeah Hasler is from Cairns, Windsor is in Bli Bli, and I’m in Penny. It would be crazy if we were all at the same park hanging out together and riding with each other, it would push us all so much.

Speaking of hanging out, you spend a bit of time with Cory Teunissen. He is pretty crazy these days, hey? Cory is way too good! He has so much talent its ridiculous. Brad is really good too, but Cory is frickin’ insane.

You ride with them behind their Supra a fair bit. Yeah, like two times a day behind their boat. We would ride boat in the morning then go down to the cable at lunchtime for a couple of hours then come back and have a boat set in the afternoon, pretty much every day.

The day that you just described to me sounds like a full time job, is that how you treat it? Yeah, that’s what annoys me about people saying you are going on holidays when you are going overseas. Because it’s not really a holiday, I am working. Sure it might look like a holiday—I get to wakeboard everyday—but I still have to push myself to get somewhere.

Who else do you ride with over there? Well, in the house I was living at were Brad, Cory, Bec Gange, Jamie Neville and I. We pretty much hung out with each other all the time. We hung out with Mike Dowdy a lot plus Harley Clifford lives just up the road so we rode with him too.

It must seem like a dream, your life in general. Yeah, it definitely feels like a dream, it is pretty much what I’ve been working toward ever since I started wakeboarding and now I feel like it’s happening. It’s pretty crazy.

Well and truly back at home on an overcast Penrith day. PHOTO : HEMMINGS

Well and truly back at home on an overcast Penrith day.
PHOTO : HEMMINGS

When you think of your future, where do you think you’ll base yourself? From your perspective, as a cable rider who is getting back into boat too, I guess Florida is the best place for you? Yeah, America is probably the best place that I can base myself to live, I think, because I can ride boat all of the time, plus there are some good cable parks over there not too far from each other. Europe is great but it’s probably easier just to live in America and then travel to Europe for the contests.

Where to from here then? Coming off the season you’ve just had, what is a realistic plan for next year? I am definitely planning on going over there next year with my head in the game. I want to push my riding to stand on the top of the podium. I don’t want to be coming second anymore.

What about freeriding? Yeah that’s what I want to work on next season—a bunch of video projects and stuff.

It’s hard though, I think as a rider you have to be working on an edit at any given time. Yeah, definitely. Hopefully I can get someone on board to come shoot some stuff of me and make a proper edit.

I think it’s important, as a rider, to work with someone, because then you don’t have to worry about two things at once—riding and producing. You can ride and let someone else put the edit together. If you’re too involved with the whole process you can get lost in it and lose creative judgment.  Yeah, for my next one I want to do things that haven’t been shot before. I mean really different: not just cable, winching and stuff—boat.

Being a respected rider is not just competition results, it’s filming and producing edits that get seen and respected around the world. There’s such a difference between the guys who approach them well and the guys who just slap them together. Yeah. It’s better to have a shorter edit with everything perfect and to make it all really good. There’ll definitely be a step forward in the quality of edits in the next 18 months. I’ve already been talking with Chriso and Mitch about winching, riding cable and more stuff overseas next season to try and put a good edit together.

Travelling the world, what has been your most memorable moment so far? Probably travelling Europe with Mitch, Chriso and Shane Bonifay. I looked up to them so much when I was younger and now to ride and hang out with them—it’s just surreal. For the entire time I’ve been wakeboarding I’ve known exactly who Shane Bonifay was, it was pretty awesome just hanging with him. I’d seen Mitch and Chris a few times but never really hung out with them until I rocked up to France and hoped that we’d get along. In Europe 16 is the legal age so I could do whatever they did, although in the US it’s 21. But in Florida it seems everybody is a professional wakeboarder who just wakeboards and parties. Every rider is aged 18 to 21, so I fit right in.

“in Florida it seems everybody is a professional wakeboarder who just wakeboards and parties.”

A lot of people will be giving you advice now, seeing as you are at the beginning of a great journey. Who has given you the best advice for your life?  Well, my dad has taught me pretty much everything I know so he has been a major influence on me. All the riders I looked up to—Scotty Kell, Turtle etc. I am lucky it’s been a pretty easy ride for me so far.

When did you decide you’d become a travelling wakeboarder? Was there a moment when you thought “This is what I am going to do”?
I guess the Wake The Line qualifier in Penrith two years ago. When I won a place to Germany that started it for me I think. I was going to Europe regardless, but then I thought to myself that if I am going over there I might as well keep going to the US and do the rest of the season.

I guess you are at the very beginning, it would be easy to get lost in the bubble that is being a pro wakeboarder, but the life you are about to lead is a dream for most people. Yeah, I definitely feel like I am living a dream.

Dream on Aaron.

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