There will never be another Randall Harris. Part 2.
Did you ever make a conscious choice to ride in any particular way?
It feels like it was a choice because I was aware that I wasn’t traveling the traditional road of a wakeboarder. I knew my path was going to be more difficult and less rewarding at least in the short term. But it feels like it wasn’t a choice because I wouldn’t have it any other way. Compromising my style would defeat my purpose of riding.
You’ve quit riding and then returned twice by my count. Do you a love/hate relationship with the sport?
It’s complicated! Haha. I have a burning, hateful love for wakeboarding. I’ll always love riding my board. Wakeboarding for me is fueled by passion, and my passion, like gas, has a tank that can be drained. Not fully understanding why at first, I’ve had to take breaks and live other lives to refill my inspiration tank.
Some people ride from inspiration and others for competition points, most are somewhere in between. Do you think the two ends of the spectrum get pitted against each other too often?
There are polar opposites in the way that they ride wakeboards but I don’t feel that being involved in contests is a defining characteristic of one particular side of the spectrum. I think much of the time those things are part of the journey to becoming your own rider. When I was 15, 16, 17 my dad’s business was doing well. He got an RV and took my brother and I on tour where we were involved in the contest scene. I didn’t enjoy the contests especially back then, because my style of riding wasn’t rewarded at the time in that particular venue. To be honest, I was terribly inconsistent at that point, which is another reason why I didn’t enjoy contests. For new athletes however, contests are actually a legitimate way to develop your name, capture the attention of sponsors, and break into other aspects of riding.
Everyone has their own take on wakeboarding. And each has the right to decide what that take is, and how they wish to implement it in their riding style. The very essence of board sports to me is the freedom to do it in whichever fashion you desire. Self-expression and individualism are key ingredients to having a fun time on a wakeboard. If riding in a manner that wins contests is fun and gratifying for you, then more power to you. Some contest riders film and shoot well. Some free riders do well in contests.
Do you think wakeboarding style gets the respect it deserves?
I think wakeboarding had some pretty serious wackiness, during its infant and adolescent stages, which has been difficult to overcome. For a long time televised contests were the only way outsiders were exposed to the sport. I think it’s generally accepted that those contests were pretty lame by other action sports’ standards. We’ve been digging ourselves out of that hole since. I think we’re finally making progress. Wakeboarding currently has some riding that has to be respected by any standards.
Another reason why we don’t get much respect from the rest of the action sports is because of the general acceptance that it’s water and water can’t hurt. People who believe that have not wakeboarded. Those of us who have wakeboarded for any period of time know that belief is inaccurate. I know heavy dudes who won’t ride because they don’t want to get knocked out or blow a knee.
Does, or should, wakeboarding demand an artistic vision?
Wakeboarding should demand an artistic vision if you feel it should. It does for me. I’m not here to define the parameters for the entire sport. That’s for each rider to decide for him/herself. I’m too focused on my own works of art to worry about others.
Wakeboarding as art, has this term been over played?
I feel that wakeboarding as an art form is a good analogy. There are a million analogies, but that one makes sense to me. It resonates well with me because an artist is always deliberate with every stroke of the brush. Josh Twelker is extraordinary because every movement of his is deliberate and precise, he’s not just hucking a flip and reaching for his board as the most convenient place for his hand to land. From the moment he leaves the wake he’s directing the movements of his body to put him in the proper position, to grab and poke exactly where he chooses, at the apex, with perfect execution. And landing clean of course. I believe being deliberate and purposeful is what sets the greats apart.
“I feel that wakeboarding as an art form is a good analogy…It resonates well with me because an artist is always deliberate with every stroke of the brush.”
I look at cable rail riding now and often think how creative it is. As a boat rider what do you think of cable?
As a traditional boat rider I am actually blown away by all the cool progression coming from cable riding. I think this will be the year that I test the waters in the cable lakes to see what happens. I’m looking forward to the simplicity of showing up with only a board, and vest in hand, haha.
Do you worry about boat-riding’s future?
Not really. Boat riding is suffering now somewhat, mostly due to economy and gas prices. We’re at a point in our sport that reminds me of when vert skating stopped being cool and street skating took over the spotlight. There were all these sick young skaters comin’ up in the streets demanding all the attention and respect of the industry. The vert skaters were forced to adapt or move on. Cable is providing growth for our industry and progression for the board sport, so they have much of the spotlight. But like vert skating, boat riding will always be here. People will always love boating. Much like the return to popularity of vert skating, when things level out with cable and there are advancements with boats and wakes, boat riding will continue to shine.
Al Sur is an all-boat movie and everyone got behind it. You were obviously in it. How many trips did you take and where did you shoot?
I did three trips for Al Sur. Rodrigo was there to shoot stills and provide comic relief. The first trip was Chiapas with JD, Lowe, Maur, and Rattray. Those dudes were throwin’ down. The river was breathtakingly beautiful. We rode right down the middle of 3,000-foot rock walls! Croc-infested water, but still! Teques was the second trip. We stayed in a house on the lake with Smokey George and his wife Mariana. It’s a lake with houses all the way around and lots of boat traffic plus a propensity for wind. But there was a fire, and some crazy gorgeous sunsets made by the weather. We ended up getting amazing shots. On that same trip we also went to a private lake with a hotel in the middle of nowhere. It was big and flat, except for the fishnets crisscrossed all over it. It was a perfect spot to get heli shots. The third and final trip was Bacalar. We stayed in a cool lil hotel on the crystal blue lake. It feels like you’re at the ocean when you’re there but the water isn’t salty. Legend has it an alien ship crashed in the bottom of the lake, but the bottom has never been found. Supposedly this UFO is why barely anything grows or lives in the lake. That’s the trip where everyone came through. O’Shea, Harf, Twelker, Maur, Lowe, Rathy, Cook, Valdez, Melissa, and Nicola. What! Everyone was there to get shit done. As you’ve seen in Al Sur, some ill riding went down.
You seem to love Mexico more than most.
Man I’m deep in the streets of Mexico! You don’t be knowin’!? Haha! Mexico has a very, very special place in my heart. I’ve been going to Mexico since I was 18. It’s a magical place. The scenery, the history, the rich cultural values… all make Mexico very appealing to me. The beautiful women and the delicious food alone make it one of the greatest countries on earth! I feel very fortunate to have been in Al Sur. The producers made sure everything was taken care of from a logistical standpoint and all we had to do was focus on our riding. Those trips were refreshing and re-invigorated my spirit. Awesome wakeboard adventures!
Watching at the premiere it felt like everyone was still in awe of how big you go.
I choose to do each and every trick in the best way that energy allows. I never worked towards riding the way I ride. It was a completely natural, almost sub conscious, evolution to do tricks the way that they felt best.
You not wearing a vest is something that gets talked about a lot. You don’t wear one. Why?
I learned how to fall well from years of skateboarding and gymnastics prior to stepping on a wakeboard. I’ve had 20 years on the board, which gives me a sixth sense for anticipating a slam. One of the best feelings I can remember from my entire life is jumping on my skateboard as a young kid tearing down the block with no shirt on—the feeling of pure freedom. That’s the same feeling I have recaptured on my wakeboard to this day.
Do you understand the negative reaction?
I completely understand the reaction from industry people. When I’m out riding and someone asks if they should wear a vest I say ‘Ya damn right you should wear a vest!’ I have a niece, and if she wants to wakeboard she’ll be wearing a vest and I’ll be the one to make sure of it. If you’re reading this: WEAR A VEST! I’ve had friends get hurt and die from not wearing a vest too. I have a pro model vest coming out with Follow Wake in 2015 and I intend to wear it when I feel like it. Ha.
I also understand that the industry is heavily influenced by boat companies. Boat companies get funding from boating safety organizations. Boating advertising keeps the magazines afloat. So I understand that none of these righteous people who judge me for riding with no vest give a damn about my safety. They are covering their own asses to avoid lawsuits. That’s the smart move for them. That’s fine but no one will dictate how I choose to participate in an activity that I helped build. Wakeboarding is mine. It’s my release. It’s my therapy. I will ride however I want. But I’m not ignorant. I ride harder and faster than most. I could possibly die because of my choice to not wear a vest. That would be a good death. No one is going to rob me of thr chance for a good death. Live and let die.
Do you think that success can be defined by anyone but yourself?
I think that only you can make an assessment of your own level of success. Success isn’t always about prosperity or the attainment of wealth. To me, the most content man is the most successful. I feel exceedingly successful at the moment; I’m living clean, I have a healthy family that I love, two or three good friends, and a dog that has my back. Don’t trip though, I stay hungry.
Finally what does it mean to get a cover on Union?
It’s Colossal. Union is the magazine held in highest regard by riders’ standards right now so thank you for the opportunity to do this.
Vaya con dios VANDALL.