Boarders: When was your first wake surf experience?
Jeff Walker: Oh I wish that my memory was that good! It would have been as a kid, before the sport was termed "wakesurfing." We paddled longboards into the wakes of the ships that traveled down the deep water channel here in the Stockton area. That would have been in the early 60's.
Boarders: When and how did you start taking an active role in the sport?
Jeff Walker: We attended and competed in the 2003 World Wake Surfing Championships in Merced and it was in 2004 that I started getting involved in the promotion of the sport and rule making.
Boarders: How have you seen the sport evolve?
Jeff Walker: It's been a wild ride, that's for sure! In 2013 we have seen the development of two wakesurf tours with multiple stops and contests from what was a single event back in 2003. The riding has progressed dramatically, yet it is still limited by a number of factors, but we are seeing our athletes develop some amazing tricks and unique styles of riding.
Boarders: Name and talk about the sanctioned bodies and organizations you have been involved with.
Jeff Walker: The very first organization that was formed would have been Centurion's efforts with the World Wake Surf Association. I wasn't part of that group, but after the demise of the WWSA I gathered together some of the best and brightest to form the America Wake Surf Association. I was the first President of that organization and much of what you see today in terms of rules, courses, safety and judging originated from the hard work of that group. I was a member of the board of directors of USA Wakeboard as that group attempted to create a sports discipline for wakesurfing and those efforts helped develop Wakesurf Nationals. I was one of the founding members of the Competitive Wakesurf Association (CWSA) and that group continues it's fine work in helping promote the sport of wakesurfing and assisting organizers in staging wakesurf contests. I have also staged contests under the umbrella of the INT League, USA Wakeboard and USA Wakesurf and the WWA.
Boarders: Where is the sport heading?
Jeff Walker: Personally, I think that we will need to see some changes to continue to see growth within the sport. If you've ever watched a wakesurf contest, it's pretty boring. You will have your favorite riders and it is always great to see their runs, but the other 7 hours . . . not so much. I think we will see efforts to make the riding more exciting to watch, initial efforts will focus on making the runs quicker, but that will ultimately fail to create better riding or better tricks, just MORE folks doing the same thing. Eventually, someone will experiment with a different format or vision that will generate the enthusiasm and interest that will sustain further growth within the sport.
Boarders: Are there any limitations in your opinion upon the sports growth?
Jeff Walker: Well, there are quite a few compared to say wakeboarding. We need specialized locations and water depth typically has to be greater than 10 feet. There are tons of man made lakes for wakeboarding that don't offer wakesurfing a great venue. We need specialized equipment, folks can wakeboard behind just about any boat, I/O's aluminum jonboats, etc; we are limited to fairly pricey inboards with huge fat sacs and pretty specific wakesurf boards. So those things, will hamper the overall growth of the sport in comparison to say wakeboarding; however, the almost meteoric rate of growth will continue as more folks become aware and try it. We have seen dramatic increases in the number of contests and plans to continue them through 2014 and beyond. We have seen dozens of new manufacturers offering products in 2013 and there will be more in the years to come. Those increased offerings make it both wonderful and difficult for consumers. There are so many options that it is sometimes hard to make a choice!
Another limitation is that competitive judging will continue to be an issue that limits growth of the sport. Current systems force all riders to ride exactly the same, despite claims to the contrary. At some point, someone will develop a system that encourages freedom of style and the ability for riders to develop unique tricks that we have not seen yet. That will require, no doubt, a complete dismantling of the existing judging infrastructure and a change in perspective from the existing who does the best of old school tricks, to who can CREATE the best new age tricks. Judging is stuck in "years past."
As I wrap this up, I want to thank Boarders Mag for the opportunity; I appreciate their fresh perspective on the sport and I am honored to be included in the short list of folks that have had an impact on this great sport of ours. Thanks so much also to your readership and for taking the time to read my interview!