AARON GUNN has successfully blown the lid off his own expectations by virtue of him being a World Series winner, a winner of multiple pro events, and a two-time world champion.
The last time we sat down for an interview was three years ago. Not too much has changed for me in that time, yet it’s fair to say almost everything has for Aaron.
He was seventeen then, and about to head to Europe after winning the Penrith qualifier for Wake the Line all the way back in 2013. Now, 3 years or 36 months or 156 weeks or 1095 days later, he has successfully blown the lid off his own expectations by virtue of him being a World Series winner, a winner of multiple pro events, and a two-time world champion (Pro Men’s world champion, that is). He is a legitimate ‘pro’ and is rightfully regarded as one of the few riders in the world who cannot be beat.
“Last time you interviewed me, I was about to head off to Europe with Mitch and Chriso to start filming for Odyssey. I then won the whole Wake Park World Series in 2014, and then the World Title in Abu Dhabi in both 2014 and 15. So, a lot has happened since then!”
A two-time world champion, does that sound weird to you?
It’s still pretty weird to hear that. But honestly, that is how it’s classified. Though I’d never claim that because I happened to win an event that has the title ‘world championships’ that means I’m the best rider in the world or anything like that. I’m definitely not claiming that. At any single event there are about ten riders who could feasibly take the title home. So yeah, it sounds weird but it also sounds a little misplaced because there are so many crazy good wakeboarders out there. Some didn’t make it to that particular event but went to different events and destroyed it there instead. Really, it basically feels like a battle between the top ten guys at every event you compete in, and each one is as hard as the next.
But it still sounds good on your resume.
Yeah, it’s still a cool achievement to have those two titles to my name for sure.
Plus, if you’re going stand on the podium at an event it’s a good one to do it at. I bet it helps when you negotiate contracts.
Yeah, it definitely makes it a little easier, especially with sponsors who aren’t in the wakeboard industry. When you’re trying to explain the sport to them and you’re standing within it, it definitely sounds impressive to say you’re a two-time world champion.
You’ll be 80 years old and be telling your great-grandkids “I used to be world champion you know!”
You made a move lately from Liquid Force to Slingshot.
Yeah that was a big one for me. I didn’t ever really see myself leaving Liquid Force in my career, but Slingshot came out of nowhere and it all fell into place. It wasn’t easy though; you end up having a personal connection with the team and the guys who run it. But once you’ve got a couple of offers on the table you have to start taking it seriously. After Worlds last year, the boys at Slingshot came to me and said they were interested. I went back to LF and talked to them, and let them know I needed to know what my plans were and what their plans for me were. And? I was in limbo for a while there, it was crazy, but I ended up making my decision based on what I thought was best for my future and my riding, and that turned out to be Slingshot. And now we are working on my own board, which is going to be released in 2018—the Slingshot range. I mean I’ve only tried a few since I started on their team, but the board I’m on now, to be 100% honest, is one of the best boards I’ve ever ridden in my life. Getting my own board was my ultimate goal in wakeboarding, and to think that I’ll actually achieve that is pretty crazy.
You’re happy, but it’s not simple to say “I’m riding for Slingshot now.”
No, it was a tough process. We ended on good terms, and everyone was happy and all, but obviously it wasn’t easy.
They would understand surely, it is a business after all.
Still, it’s not an easy conversation to have at all. And, I mean, wakeboarding is such a small industry, so you have to make sure you don’t do wrong by anyone. Burning bridges is definitely not a good idea. I mean I’m lucky to have such a good relationship with all my sponsors Slingshot, Jet Pilot, Unit Parktech, Spy and Sandbox.
It used to be when you said you travelled the world wakeboarding, that you only really travelled America and maybe one other country. But now it’s literally travelling the world—Europe, North America, Asia and everywhere in between.
Yeah, especially in cable, cable is mad now, there are so many stops all over the world.
But the flipside of that is that you have to get to these places. Travelling must be super draining.
Oh yeah, it really is.
Do you feel that your riding is affected if you’ve travelled too far before an event, compared to an event where you travelled from Orlando to OWC or something?
You definitely feel a lot more drained when you have to travel long distances. Especially for me because I don’t really have a home base, so I feel like I’m always away from home. So yeah, it takes its toll. I mean, just riding itself takes it out of you, then when you have to get on a plane for fifteen hours, then get off the plane and wakeboard for three days straight at a contest. Oh man. When I get home to Sydney after doing that for eight months straight, I am so ready to do nothing at all.
Do you think that is something young riders are naive about?
Yeah, I definitely was. Talent will only get you so far—you have to be able to cope with all the other things that drain you.
All the other things like travelling, being responsible for yourself, eating right, etc.
It’s actually a lot harder than people think. It was a lot tougher than I imagined, organizing everything, having to communicate with people who don’t speak your language, it really makes you more responsible for yourself; and when you are on your own, it definitely makes you grow up a lot.
So of all the things you’ve achieved so far, do you look back on anything that you are particularly proud of?
Not really, all of it really, I always dreamed about it when I was a kid—becoming a professional wakeboarder. So just actually doing this for a living, it’s pretty surreal.
Spending your time with other pro riders, it is easy to lose the perspective that not everyone is a professional wakeboarder! And for every ‘Aaron Gunn’ there are a thousand kids who don’t have the talent, the drive or the opportunity to be an Aaron Gunn. You’ve got such an amazing life to lead for the next 10-15 years!
Yeah, if my body holds up I guess. Touch wood, I’ve been pretty good so far!
Well I can’t speak for your body, but let’s not talk about injuries, I might jinx you! What about the future? How do you stay motivated?
There is always room for improvement, no matter what you are doing. This might be hard to understand, but I’m always competing against myself to try and be better than I was.
I think most people understand that.
Yeah, but I want to leave my mark. I want to try and be a part of the growth of cable wakeboarding, and I do that by being the best rider I can be. I feel like wakeboarding can be a really big sport in its own right. It’s still a really small industry compared to skating or snowboarding or whatever, but the potential is definitely there. People will get behind it, and I want to be part of the reason people do.
“I want to leave my mark. I want to try and be a part of the growth of cable wakeboarding, and I do that by being the best rider I can be.”
I don’t feel that wakeboarding takes a back seat to other sports in terms of riding quality.
Yeah, there’s nothing happening on the snow that isn’t happening on the water, in regards to rail riding at least. And I feel like even just to have system 2.0 it’s not hard anymore. Once they start popping up all over the place, cable could be the future of wakeboarding.
So what about the future? What are your plans coming up?
All of the events I am doing this year are solo events—stand alone ones that aren’t part of a series. So I have freedom there to pick and choose my timing, and I can focus on filming for a really good video part and learning new tricks. I really want to focus on pushing my riding to another level—new tricks, inventing new stuff, you know.
I feel like there is a lot to be explored in rewind tricks.
Exactly, when they are done right, they look so good. Daniel Grant does them amazingly. I’ve got a couple of those that I’ve been working on, and I will focus more and more on them over the coming months. Plus they are unique to wakeboarding; you have the handle to pull yourself against your momentum in our sport, which you don’t have in any other sport. So I see there are a lot of possibilities with rewind tricks as unique to wakeboarding.
Where will you be basing yourself?
When I get the time I am going to the Philippines to just ride and focus on improving for a few months… literally just waking up, stepping out the door, and riding!
I’ll ride as long as my body holds up!