At 20 years previous, Guenther is already a pressure to be reckoned with (photograph: Mathis)
by: Tony Smith & Jeff Mathis
Most people who’ve gained the Alliance Rider of the Yr award had it coming. Simply take a look at a few of the names: Brian Grubb (2001), Parks Bonifay (2002), Randall Harris (2002 and 2007), Danny Harf (2006), and so forth. These are guys that, by the point they gained, had developed and perfected their types and distinctive approaches to wake not over a yr or two, however in some instances, over a decade. Their paths to the ROTY are sometimes tales of redemption, comeback, or simply plain previous grinding it out to the highest of the mountain. For them, the award was a worthy recognition, nevertheless it was typically added to an already-stocked trophy case crammed with medals, video credit and journal covers. They have been family names in wake.
In distinction, a number of years in the past the identify Guenther Oka, our 2018 Rider of the Yr, wasn’t solely a bit of bit totally different, it was comparatively unknown in wakeboarding circles.
“I feel I received an e mail from certainly one of our group riders about sponsoring a pair new up-and-comers about three years in the past, and he was one of many guys,” stated Slingshot Workforce supervisor Jeff McKee. “However he was nonetheless sort of like somewhat child. So then a few year-and-a-half in the past abruptly he was this tall man with a bunch of favor. After which I noticed him driving in a contest on a Watson Basic with no fins, and he might do every little thing everybody else might do. And, you already know, it’s actually f***ing exhausting to experience with no fins. So swiftly it was like, “Geez, this man’s insane!’ I imply … he’s good, man. Pete Rose, change Pete Rose … in all probability the good Pete Roses ever behind the boat.”
That assertion has a contact of irony, contemplating the trick was named for a Corridor of Fame baseball participant from Cincinnati, Oka’s house city. The 20-year-old is aware of he appeared to hit the large leagues out of left area, however credit his Ohio roots with a number of his success. “Yeah, I come from a background of fairly heavy water skiers and present skiers. It’s huge up there. My dad was a snow ski teacher within the winter and show-skied at Sea World in Florida in the summertime, and my mother grew up in a lake home, so I sort of simply grew up on the water with these two. Then once I began moving into wakeboarding, Wake Nation Cincinnati was proper close to my home, so I used to be on the water in the summertime on a regular basis, after which snowboarding all winter.”
Recent take (photograph: Mathis)
Oka resides in Florida full-time now, and the concentrate on wakeboarding alone has turn into apparent. However even inside wake, he’s removed from a one-trick pony. Prior to now yr, he has gained our “Wake Park Rider of the Yr”, made the rostrum in each boat contest he entered and, most notably, blew up the competitors on the best way to profitable the X Video games Actual Wake gold medal. When you haven’t seen that 90-second clip, watch it, and also you’ll start to know why this yr’s selection was a lock.
None of which is to say that it has been handed to him. Ask his friends and, to an individual, they may say his overarching traits are humility and a want to work actually arduous to get higher.
“Yeah, it’s actually no shock that he’s this yr’s Rider of the Yr. He excels in any respect sides of wakeboarding and does it with humility and elegance. Whether or not he’s driving in a contest or freeriding at residence, he’s pushing the game and doing it his personal approach,” stated Grubb. “And he’s simply actually naturally gifted on a wakeboard.”
Champagne showers at 9 am are regular, proper? (photograph: Mathis)
As for being chosen Rider of the Yr, Oka’s modesty exhibits by means of: “It’s kinda unusual ‘trigger coming from my background, it was all the time nearly having enjoyable. In my thoughts, once I was youthful, it wasn’t about profitable issues or doing all these things, I simply obtained to wakeboard. To go from being a bit of child that was simply such a fan to this highlight, it’s fairly loopy. I don’t know easy methods to put it into phrases. It does really feel … good, however … ,” his voice quietly trails off. And requested what the longer term holds after being acknowledged like this at such an early stage of his profession, he can solely supply a joke and a few fairly good perception for a 20-year-old, “I feel I’ve undoubtedly made it fairly onerous on myself, haha. However yeah, it actually does pose the query of, ‘The place do you go subsequent?’ However plainly wakeboarding as a sport is basically rising in several instructions with so many various two-tower occasions and full-sized cable occasions and all of the boat occasions as nicely. So if I need to persist with competitions I nonetheless have loads of objectives to go after. Or perhaps attempt to create one thing totally different — perhaps create an occasion myself. It’s exhausting to inform proper now, however, I don’t know, I undoubtedly gotta’ carry on pushing proper now.”
With all that stated, we sat down with the newly topped ROTY to select his mind much more about what it means to him, what path he sees himself and wake going, who he’s received his eye on, and every little thing in between!
Whereas filming for Actual Wake, no winch spot was protected (photograph: Hanley)
Alliance: Guenther, congrats on a stellar yr. I do know it’s acquired to be arduous to sum up, however what’s one of the best reminiscence you have got from these final 365 days?
Guenther: Thanks a lot! It actually has been a loopy yr with so many various excessive factors. However I’d need to say the height of my yr was this award! And the style that I came upon in was even higher. I used to be utterly at midnight about the entire thing and the remainder of my associates all knew. However when the day got here, I drove round with Cole and Jeff to only movie a bit “day within the life”. From my home, we went to the fitness center and as quickly as I walked as much as the door, everybody got here operating out with champagne and that was how I came upon I gained ROTY. It was additionally 9 am so I used to be completely blindsided by it!
Alliance: You’ve been extra well-known on your rail and cable driving expertise prior to now. How did it really feel to actually break into the boat contest scene and make an impression? You is probably not a double flip machine however nonetheless managed to podium this yr alongside the blokes which might be. What do you assume that claims concerning the sport?
Guenther: It felt superb to perform what I did this yr behind the boat. I set my expectations sort of low for myself due to how a lot cable driving I used to be juggling on the similar time, and I used to be a rookie coming into all of the occasions. However then after making finals at Moomba and grabbing fifth there, the door opened up and I noticed what was potential. It actually acquired me excited on boat driving as a result of I noticed I could possibly be a menace by including fashion to all of the tech that goes down within the comps. I feel it exhibits that a rider can take a number of angles at a comp run and it doesn’t should be so cookie cutter.
Alliance: One in every of your highlights this yr needed to have been competing within the X Video games Actual Wake contest and profitable the gold medal. How did you strategy it this yr and the way did it really feel to convey residence the gold?
Guenther: That was certainly a spotlight *laughs*. I actually took a way more calculated strategy to this yr’s Actual Wake. I had discovered what labored and what didn’t once I tried to movie the undertaking final yr. So from there, it simply got here right down to planning the whole lot out and making an attempt to run on a decent schedule in an effort to accomplish every part Taylor Hanley and I needed to do. It was simply so satisfying and truthfully, an enormous aid to get the gold. It’s unreal the period of time that went into each second of filming and modifying to supply what we did. It simply feels good.
Guenther’s tackle the basic slaysh (photograph: Mathis)
Alliance: You had the prospect to satisfy a childhood dream and winch round your hometown of Cincinnati earlier this yr when the Ohio River flooded. What was that have like?
Guenther: The entire Cincinnati Floods journey was one of many highlights of my yr that seems like eternally in the past. It was such a final minute journey and the whole lot needed to line up completely to make it occur. Having Jeff and Cole be capable of drop what they have been doing to return seize all of it, having the climate and flood waters be good for the spots, and my household being all in to assist made it so good. However the raddest half was simply with the ability to journey all these dream spots I had seen rising up there and snagging my first cowl of Alliance with it.
Alliance: Your half in Codecs was superb additionally. Is there a visit or trick that basically stands out in your thoughts?
Guenther: Codecs was so rad to be part of. The composure it took from everybody to convey all of it collectively and clearly the endurance that Taylor put in to make it occur was superb. However I feel the journey I had with Taylor and myself again to Ohio was probably the most productive winch journeys I’ve ever been on. Plus, most of my favourite photographs got here from that journey. My favourite must be the melan again mobe over the land hole and into the docks. It was simply so massive and so sketchy that I by no means thought I might truly be capable of get it. Then all of it got here collectively and we acquired it completely.
Alliance: What facet of the game are you most stoked about proper now? The place do you see issues altering and rising sooner or later?
Guenther: I feel what I’m most stoked on proper now’s all of the totally different types of wakeboarding happening. There are such a lot of totally different riders taking the game in all totally different instructions. There’s hesh, tech, type, unfastened, tight, road; no one is limiting themselves. I feel it is going to simply hold opening the door to the plenty they usually’re going to need to be part of it. However cable goes to maintain individuals coming into the game based mostly on its accessibility.
Maturity and elegance nicely past a 20 yr previous (photograph: Donoso)
Alliance: Not solely did you’re employed with Liquid Pressure to provide you with a professional mannequin park board for 2019 however you even have a professional mannequin boat board as nicely. What was the method of designing them like? Was it going to be two boards from the beginning?
Guenther: It’s a lot more durable than you assume *laughs*. It began as only a park board after which it type of reworked into a whole lineup. However attending to work with Jimmy Redmond and the group at LF actually opened my eyes to what was potential to do to a wakeboard. They have been open to every concept I delivered to them and needed to ensure we have been creating one of the best boards on the market. The method was grueling at occasions however it made me respect the superb shapes I had been driving within the years prior and what we have been capable of produce.Hometown hustler (photograph: Mathis)
Alliance: Now that you simply’ve been inducted into the unique membership of ROTY’s, rubbing elbows with riders like Parks Bonifay, Randall Harris, the Shredtown boys, and extra, what are your hopes on your driving and the game as an entire as you progress ahead?
Guenther: Yeah, it’s fairly loopy to turn into part of this unique membership so quickly into my profession. Plainly now I simply have to carry on pushing and attempt to discover new methods to reinvent myself. I do know that will get a bit cliché at occasions however it’s the reality. You’ll be able to’t get stale on your self. However, I’m excited to see what type of driving will proceed to get rewarded at contests and the way we will proceed to enhance the occasions. There’s something lacking from them that could be holding us again as a sport.
Alliance: You reside with some fairly progressive riders in Orlando. Cory Teunissen, Gordon Harrison, Tyler Higham and Max Van Helvoort to call a couple of, with loads of others across the space. Do you guys feed off of one another in terms of development?
Guenther: We’ve received a jam packed home of shredders, that’s for positive *laughs*. Surely although, we’re all the time arising with loopy concepts on the home that usually sparks a sequence response of all of us taking somewhat little bit of it and making it our personal. Gordon is fairly huge into skating and browsing so we’ve acquired inspiration coming in from all over the place.
Guenther en path to his X Video games Actual Wake Gold Medal (photograph: Hanley)
Alliance: Talking of different progressive riders, who do you’ve your eye on when it comes to up and coming?
Guenther: I don’t need to make this record too lengthy. The youngsters are getting good fast these days, however just a few may have an enduring impression. However I consider every of those youngsters are bringing one thing good to the desk for the game: Luca Kidd, the Ditsch twins (Kai and Ulf), Liam Brearley, Fynn Bullock, Mikayo Mundy, and Mary Morgan Howell.
Alliance: With a lot journey and every little thing else that comes with being a professional rider, what retains the hearth burning so that you can regularly exit and push the game?
Guenther: Lately, it’s simply been going out on the water and doing no matter involves thoughts. Not having a plan, not worrying about contests, simply doing what I do greatest and having enjoyable. However I get an incredible sense of satisfaction from doing nicely in contests and educating new individuals easy methods to wakeboard. If I can hold doing that, then I feel I’ll be alright.
Guenther going into “full ship mode” on his FL house spot of Lake Jessamine (photograph: Soden)
Alliance: What’s a traditional day within the lifetime of Guenther Oka this time of yr? Are you slowing down because it’s the low season?
Guenther: I’ve determined to take a pleasant break from driving since Wake Park Worlds. I’ve been within the health club two to 3 occasions every week preserving the physique in fine condition, which has been a ton of enjoyable. I’ve additionally been on the seashore a superb bit making an attempt to determine this browsing factor, which has additionally been very addicting. And actually simply wanting again on the good occasions from this yr, and forming a brand new plan for the upcoming yr.
Alliance: Congratulations once more Guenther! Are there any nuggets of knowledge you’d wish to throw on the market for us? Particular thanks?
Guenther: Thanks a lot for the honour, Alliance. I feel all I can say is that it’s a must to have enjoyable with what you do and benefit from the course of. It’s labored out fairly nicely for me *laughs*. Additionally, I need to get a uuuuge because of the next: Mother and Dad, Meagan Ethell, Taylor Hanley, RedBull, O’Neill, Liquid Drive, the 5725, and naturally Alliance Wake.
All throughout the globe, Guenther killed each cable in his path (photograph: Mathis)