Competitive wakeboarding is a sport that is still in relative infancy. Sure, we’ve all seen decked-out wakeboarding boats being trailered around on the freeway (you may even be an active participant in the sport), yet this year’s Red Bull Wake Open is sure to blow the doors off any preconceptions regarding wakeboard competition in the United States. That being said, make your July 4th week truly epic and complement it with a live viewing of the competition as it airs on July 6th, 4:00 PM ET on NBC.
Wait, so what’s up with the Red Bull Wake Open?
For starters, take a jam-packed Tampa Convention Center, throw in Red Bull’s presenting prowess, then try to imagine a giant floating skatepark with 36 of the world’s greatest wakeboarders battling it out for overall victory – a win that can only be accomplished after remaining on top for all three of the stages: Boat, Big Air and Park.
Red Bull not only raised the bar for wake contests during last year’s inception, but shattered it, dishing out some of the most exciting competitive wake footage ever televised. This year, as goes Red Bull tradition, the event looks to reinforce its dynamic approach to the sport and provide yet another launching pad for the best wake athletes to showcase their skills.
Competitors aren’t limited by a particular discipline, so unilateral domination will be a distant prospect. Who wants to see one guy crush the field in a focus he dominates anyway? Yeah, me neither – doesn’t make for the most exciting TV. Instead, riders will have to exhibit their skills in each of the three stages, allowing for major comebacks and other unpredictable elements to take place. The eventual victor will truly be the most well-rounded wakeboarder in the world.
Chatting with #1 Ranked Phil Soven
Before getting into any competition or sport, it’s always good to hear from the guy/girl at the very top, and we had the chance to touch base with Phil Soven. At just 24, his wakeboarding resume is more decorated than that one neighbor who takes Christmas more seriously than you ever thought possible: 4-time Pro Tour Champion, 3-time King of Wake, 3-time World Champion and 4-time World Series Champ.
As if his ruthless winning wasn’t already sending enough shockwaves through the wakeboard world, his life off the water definitely has. In 2012, Phil took his ambitions into the homes of millions as his reality show, “Wake Brothers,” blew up in popularity through MTV. Adding to his notoriety, Soven then made the decision to break ties with his longtime sponsor Liquid Force and ride for the smaller, rider-owned company CTRL.
Read on and check out what Phil has to say on being a pro wakeboarder, riding for a new company and competing in the Wake Open. And don’t forget to catch Phil and all the wake goodness as it airs live on July 6th.
Can’t get enough of the Red Bull Signature Series? Don’t worry, we have you covered. Keep the good times rolling and peep the Volcom Fiji Pro as it airs Sunday, July 7th at 4:30 PM ET on NBC. In this event, the world’s top surfers look to garner precious points that play into the highly coveted ASP Championship title.
Despite your young age, you have been a professional athlete for over a decade. Are there times where competing alone isn’t enough to satisfy your ambitions and you seek additional ventures?
I have been doing this for a long time, but there is never a day that it gets old. Competing is my favorite part of it. I live for the rush of the do or die moments. As long as there’s a challenge and I am able to push my abilities further, I’ll be happy. Aside from that, I am always seeking out additional ventures, but my main focus always stays at wakeboarding.
Your journey into reality TV was obviously a great move for increasing wakeboarding’s popularity. Has there been a particular moment where the impact of your show became apparent?
It was a great opportunity. I am very grateful to have the chance to grow the sport. Unfortunately, I wasn’t very pleased with the way they portrayed me in the show. It didn’t really show who I am, it was just entertainment. That’s how TV goes, though! There wasn’t really a moment where I was immediately aware of the impact the show made, but I can see now that it has definitely helped grow the sport and that’s what’s important.
Professional competition and a presence on MTV can cast a big spotlight on one’s life. Were you able to predict how the additional fame was going to play out or was it more of a shock, and are there any specific negative aspects?
I really wasn’t sure what to expect out of it, but it is great. I have gained a lot of loyal fans and I can’t put to words the gratification I have for the support I get from my fans. Sure, there are some negative aspects to the whole thing, but the positive overshadows any of that.
What is the strangest thing you have encountered while training or in competition?
So many things. So many.
Wakeboarding is a relatively young sport. How do you manage to stay on top of the competition despite its constant evolution and development? Is the future of the sport relatively foreseeable to you or is there a bit of mystery to what is to come?
I focus a lot of my effort on being at the forefront of the evolution and development of the sport. I never want to be the guy chasing down the pace. I do everything I can to stay ahead of the game. The future of wakeboarding is a mystery in its own way. Progression is happening at a rapid rate. The sky is the limit!
With the constant influx of new wakeboarders, the competition at each contest must continue to evolve and increase. How do you account for each rider’s new twist on things? Do you research each rider’s past performances, or do you go into every competition solely looking to improve on your own skills? Are there particular formulas you follow for maximum success?
When it comes to competing, I pride myself on my mental ability. I do my homework. I am always looking to improve on my own skill, but when I go into a contest, I know what every other guy has in their bag, what their strengths and weaknesses are, and I know what I need to do to beat them. When it all comes down to it, it lies in my own ability to stay ahead of the curve. There are so many talented riders right now. I have no problem admitting that sometimes I see someone do something and I’ll take it and try to improve on it further. Progression comes from all angles. There’s guys that say, “I’m not going to do that if he already does it.” I think if guys are building off of each other, it just keeps getting better.
What’s the worst crash you have been involved in? Would you say wakeboarding at such an intense level is a dangerous activity given the wide spectrum of alternative and extreme sports?
In any sport there’s the chance for injury. When you decide to be an athlete, you take that risk, but I wouldn’t say wakeboarding is more dangerous than any other sport. I have had a few incidents, but it’s all part of the job. I’m still breathing, so no slowing down!
Does your wakeboarding skill transfer solidly over to other board sports such as snowboarding and skateboarding?
I guess I’m a pretty good snowboarder. I’m pretty comfortable with any board sport.
The physicality is a clear force in wakeboarding performance. What sort of cross-training do you prefer to allow for maximum performance on the water?
I have just recently started cycling, but getting in the gym and just keeping your body healthy is a must. I think the best thing you can do is actually being on the water.
You have a major following on various social media outlets, and along with any other popular figure, the attention can be both positive and negative. How do you deal with the naysayers/haters, and is it safe to say the good outweighs the bad?
You learn pretty quickly that there will always be haters. If you’re not getting hated on then you probably haven’t done anything worthwhile. I guess in a way it’s a compliment if someone spends time out of their day to talk about you. Good or bad, they’re still talking about you, so clearly you must have achieved something. The hard part at first is realizing that you can read 20 good things about you and one bad, and the one bad thing is the one that gets stuck in your head if you let it. I say, let them talk. I just do my thing. If you don’t like it, that’s fine, but I got your attention, didn’t I?
Red Bull’s Wake Open is truly an exciting spectacle, even for those not familiar with the sport. What are your thoughts on Red Bull’s venture into wake competition and how does it compare to the other national and international contests you have been apart of?
The Wake Open is a little bit different than most contests. There are three criteria spread out: wake, rail park and big air. It is a great event that brings multiple aspects of wakeboarding into one contest.
With the Red Bull Wake Open being geared towards selecting an all-around best rider, do you delegate roughly the same amount of time to training for discipline, or does one require more attention and practice?
For me, I am mainly a boat rider. That’s my thing and that’s what I spend the most time on. I spend a lot of time on rails and kickers as well, but my main focus will be the boat event and rail park will be secondary. My goal is to finish high in all three, but there is a lot of talent so I will have to come with my game face on.
Do you prefer contests that are decided on cumulative scores or those that are more specific to one event?
I wouldn’t say I have a preference. I think it’s fun to bring them all together.
When coming into an event such as the Wake Open, is there a routine you repeat during your preparation the night before and morning of? Any must-have meals or liquids?
I just think about my plan of attack. I usually don’t eat much the day of an event, just some fruit.
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