FIVE : Dean Smith

Dean at home - Lake Ronix. Pic:Soderlind

Dean at home – Lake Ronix. Pic:Soderlind

“we’ve seen thing never thought possible done with relative ease (on the Mega Ramp). There’s something about it that will always draw riders to it.” Dean

I went to Lake Ronix. I just chilled there with my cocktail on the grassy knoll in the hot Orlando sun. I thought to myself, this is a place that I would have drawn as a ‘one day when I get rich I’m going to own a lake’ dreamer. Well, I never did get that sorted out (yet), but at least someone did. As it develops, more and more gets built there so we asked DEAN SMITH to talk us through five seven things about Lake Ronix as it stands today.

Lake Ronix is divided up into two different areas- the front lake and back lake. Before the bi-level pool and mega ramp was put into place, the front lake was where the whole team would kick it. These days it is usually on the back pool setup where we ride. It’s just something unique that we aren’t able to do anywhere else that is the attraction. The front 2.0 is fun, but stepping up and down out of the pool is just something that you can’t do many places in the world.

It’s a strange thing to say after what has happened, but it would still have to be the ‘Big Air’ ramp. There is no comparison to it in our sport. There is no feeling you can find on any other obstacle in wakeboarding. Clearly we have seen the risks associated with it, however even now, Brad still wants to see the whole team charging the ramp. There will obviously be some hesitation from the whole wake community about this, but we saw tricks we never thought possible done with relative ease. There’s something about it that will always draw riders to it.

The lake is exclusive to Ronix riders. I remember when we first got the lake up and running, I would be spending a lot of time out there building rails etc, and Amber Wing (Dean’s Girlfriend) would crack the shits on a regular basis (still being on LF). It was legitimately becoming a strain on us! What made it funnier was that Paul (Obrien) and Amber were already great friends, and Paul would be constantly taking the piss out of the whole situation. I think he underestimated how pissed off a red head can get. Even Parks Bonifay, who is a co-owner of the lake, can’t get Shane (his Brother) in either. While it can be tough on certain relationships and friendships, I understand the reasoning for this. It creates a mystique and aura around Lake Ronix, which is something that creates constant interest. Either way, I count myself as being lucky. At least these days Amber is sorted!

The beauty about having our “exclusive” lake, is that product testing and development is made so much easier. Quality control is now much easier than it once was. We would previously have to run a new board prototype all over Orlando for riders to test. Now we have all product sent to the lake and we are able to do R&D much easier. The boards stay at the lake, and we are able to relay information and input to the head office instantly. On certain days we might have 4-5 team riders try out 3 different board shapes- it’s rad!

When we had our first major meeting at the lake, we sat down as a group and mapped out what we were trying to achieve, and how to do it. Pat Panakos was adamant that the lake would essentially be our “office”, and that the lake should really be treated as such. We all try to avoid drinking until we are done for the day. My idea for the floating bar didn’t go down too well…

6. IT’S FUN.
Weekends are weekends at the lake too. So it’s cool to get some ‘SUPing’ and Wakesurfing done. It’s rad being able to have everything at your disposal- 2.0s, Boats, SUPs, Wakesurfers! It’s like a little paradise! We can shred as hard as we want, on whatever rails we want to build, ride boat on a sheltered boat line with a banging wake, or kick it on the SUPs. There is a certain tranquility out on the water on the SUPs- a feeling of freedom. So a perfect day is whatever we want it to be.

7. Brad IS A PART IT.
Obviously Brad’s injury hangs over the lake a lot, and it will never quite be the same without him out there. He was unequivocally the heart and soul of the Ronix team. He would be up at dawn jogging and doing yoga around the lake. He lived and breathed it, which is what the most heart breaking part of his injury was. He had found his place in the world, and it was at Lake Ronix. Everything had fallen into place so well, and it was all stripped from him in an instant. Seeing his truck and trailer there, as eerie as it is, is a constant reminder for everyone to “be like Brad”. I obviously don’t want to go into what happened the day he hurt himself, but if anyone can pull themselves through this, it will be Brad. He is one of the most committed and resilient people I’ve ever met. As I type this, he is busting his ass to make sure he gets the chance to wakeboard at Lake Ronix again…

Leave a Comment