Conversations : Harley Clifford

“I just think about my own riding… I’m not coming back to dominate or anything like that, right now I am just coming back to ride for myself. If I do good, I do good.” – HARLEY CLIFFORD

Harley is Harley. And you are not. Even if you woke him from under anaesthetic with a knife still in his knee to go Wakeboarding, he’d likely be able to ride away from more than you could ever dream.

After 8 months off the water and a full knee reconstruction, you might’ve eased your way back into things instead of training like a mad man to get your knee back to full strength, then scoring a perfect 100 score on your first contest run in a year. But then again, he is Harley – and you are not.

What are we talking about? Moomba. My first event in a year.

Yeah, right. Tell us about it. Yeah, so I was down in Melbourne for Moomba. This was my first event back. I did it last year and won which was pretty sick but that was pretty much the only event I did in 2016.  I blew my knee right after that.

Pretty much a year off the water then? It’s been a long road with the injury. Training has been hard. But it’s been kind of good stepping away from Wakeboarding, (getting to) watch it from the outside. You know, I am always at events but I just saw it from a different perspective. The little things that I see, I have a better understanding about it now.

“I have been so flat out since I was 15. I don’t know, it was a little like, when I did it I was a little burnt out on Wakeboarding I guess. ”

It sounds like when you go through injury sometimes there is some good that can come of it? Exactly, I have been so flat out since I was 15. I don’t know, it was a little like, when I did it I was a little burnt out on Wakeboarding I guess. In a way to know for the next 6 months that I didn’t have to ride was relaxing. To know that I would get to focus on other things. Growing up I was only ever Wakeboarding, I’ve been seriously (professionally) Wakeboarding since I was 9 years old. So it was cool to be able to take the time and focus on other things. Plus I probably had nagging injuries like shoulders, neck and stuff for the past few years that never fully fixed because I kept riding. So I used the time to work on other little injuries like that, getting stronger and healthier too.

How did you do your knee? I did it on a double Indy Back Roll off the double up. I came down and hyper-extended my knee by landing on the edge of the dip straight legged. As soon as I did it, I knew I was done for a while.

How did you manage rehab being based in the US half of the time? I worked with two different guys. I trained in the States with a guy named Justin Cobb. He trained Gunner Daft and Mike Dowdy with their injuries and he was pretty solid. When I got back to Australia, I was pretty nervous cause I didn’t know who to train with but I ran across this guy on Jack Freestone’s (pro Surfer) Instagram account. I hit him up and told him my situation, and he was super stoked to bring me on board. So I did the last 4 months with him, his name’s Taylor, he’s a good guy.

Was there much difference between your US trainer and the Australian one? Yeah, a lot of difference. I noticed in America the workouts we did were really gnarly and stuff but a lot of the training we did didn’t do so much stretching. But the Australian trainer was way more into that side. If I said I was a little sore we would spend two hours stretching first, just extra stuff like that.

Are you fitter than what you have been? Definitely. I am way fitter and stronger than I’ve ever been and I am actually 12kg lighter than I have been too.

Do you think it helps; being fitter? You got a perfect score straight up, so it must! It’s a massive help. I came out and got a perfect 100 score which was a pretty crazy way to start of the season. And I needed that extra help cause usually the first event of the season there isn’t as much throwing down as there will be later in the season. But this one Dowdy threw down two doubles, Cory a 10 and a double. It feels like it’s going to be a crazy year.

I feel like (Mike) Dowdy always tries to put stuff out on social media like he’s ‘coming for you’. Trying to start some rivalry. When you are injured and you hear that does it fire you up? Not really, that’s just Mike. I don’t even think about it. I just think about my own riding. I’m not even going to get into that kind of thing. I’m not coming back to dominate or anything like that, right now I am just coming back to ride for myself. If I do good, I do good.

Just appreciating being back on the water? Yeah.  Seriously Wakeboarding for the past couple of years has been kind of boring for me. But now when I get back on the water I just smile. I’m having fun. I guess when you don’t do anything for six months, all you think about is Wakeboarding, what can I do differently when I get back on the water. And then when you finally get back out there, there are all these things that you want to try that have been backing up. Like oh yeah, I thought of doing this that way or this way a few months back and you go try that. Over the next year I am looking forward to seeing if I can get better than what I was.

“ Seriously, Wakeboarding for the past couple of years has been kind of boring for me.” 

You said you have been going to 15+ contests per year since you were 9 years old. That’s a hectic schedule for such a prolonged period of time. What about shooting video, hitting rails, etc. Do you ever think about heading in that direction? Yeah, but people like Raph Derome and Aaron Rathy, guys like that, it’s hard to top a video part that they can do. Because they are just so good at every aspect of Wakeboarding you know?

Yeah, but do you look at their stuff and have a desire to push yourself in that direction? I definitely do. I know Wakeboarding is going that direction. For sure. I know it is beneficial for me to start looking at that kind of stuff but at the moment I just came back from injury and the kind of ledges and things that Raph hits isn’t anything I’m thinking about. I just want to get back to where I was. In the next couple of years it will be a necessity for me to go out and do things like that. Come out with cool video parts cause that is the way the sport is growing.

I can see when you are getting burnt out that is a way to keep it interesting, to expand in those kind of areas.  Yeah, and I was. Literally right before I got inured I was spending a bunch of time at Kevin Henshaw’s Area 52 and working on rails out there. Shooting video and expanding my riding  was going to be a focus of mine last year. I had three video parts lined up, the X-Games Real Wake, a Monster Energy part but the injury happened and it sort of stopped everything. So at the moment I am just trying to get back to where I was and then I can maybe start expanding other parts of my riding in the off-season. Cause right now, I’d look like a 10 year old on Rails compared to guys like Daniel Grant.

Yeah, it’s gone through the roof over the last year.  Yeah, same with boat riding, it’s all gone crazy.

Well, seriously best of luck with the season ahead. Cheers.


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