By Bryan Soderlind
Ross Gardner is one of those guys who can handle any board you put under his feet. Whether he’s wakeskating, surfing, skateboarding, or “getting his strap on,” Ross manages to tame the snake like few can. When Scott Byerly chose him to represent Byerly boards and both the wakeskate and wakeboard side of things, people started to take notice. His progression in the last year or two has been pretty amazing, but to be honest Ross has always been really good on the water.
I met Ross back when I was a sophomore in high school and played on the tennis team. The Catholic High Crusaders were pitted against the Choctaw Indians and I was to face Ross at the #3 spot. I didn’t know Ross but when I walked on the court and saw a surfer dude with Quiksilver socks on, I knew I wanted to kick his ass. Kick his ass I did, and not in the friendliest of fashions. What could’ve started out as a bitter rivalry developed into a great friendship and 10 years later I find myself sitting at Cindy’s Tropical Cafe having lunch with my old pal Ross along with Danny Hampson for a few questions.
BS: How is your Cuban Sandwich?
RG: Pretty amazing actually, good spot Bear.
BS: I guess we should get started with something like, how you started riding and all that?
RG: Well I grew up in Shalimar, FL and used to waterski and stuff with my Dad on Bayou Paquito. One day we saw some guy wakeboarding out there so we pulled up to his boat and he let me try out his board and after that I was hooked. I started wakeboarding all the time and started doing some contests. There were a lot of good guys in the contests in Pensacola so I competed against guys like Andrew Adkinson and my good friend Joey Northrup. I started riding with Joey a lot on Bayou Texar and started getting hooked up with gear by Mike Bazerque of Innerlight Surf Shop. It was really cool, about that time I started wakeskating some too and started dividing my time between the two.
BS: How did you get hooked up with Scott Byerly?
RG: Scott and a bunch of guys came on a magazine trip to ride in Pensacola. Joey called me and got me to drive over there and come out on the boat and ride. Scott blew his knee out that morning and he was in the boat in a lot of pain. He told me to ride though and when I got done he was stoked. He gave me a board and said there was more where that came from. That was really a huge moment for me. Next thing you know Scott asked me to come ride his board for a catalog shoot in the Keys since he was still recovering from knee surgery. That was like a dream come true.
DH: You owe that guy your life, Ross.
RG: I do, I do, his garage was like my first sponsor. He would give me all his old stuff and let me use his boat whenever and still does. I live like 10 minutes away so I’m over there a lot. Both Scott and Kim (Scott’s Wife) have really looked out for me since I’ve moved Orlando.
BS: Since we have Danny here, you know I have to bring it up, what’s up with the wake to wake late shuvs?
RG: Oh man, I knew that one was coming.
DH: Yeah yeah alright, I saw Ross doing late shuvs one day so I decided to try them, Ross started doing them first.
RG: You took them to the next level though Dan. I don’t know I guess I just started trying late shuvs all different ways wake to wake, and they came pretty easy. Now of course everyone is doing them. I still do them all the time and I don’t really care if you do them, don’t do them, like them, or don’t like them.
BS: Who are your top five wakeskaters?
RG: Byerly, Thomas, this guy(points to Danny), Nick and Stu.
DH: Who would you be, if you could be any person for a day? You can’t say Jesus.
RG: Adam “Blood” Lawrence
BS: So what is up with wakeboarding? I’ve been ordered to ask.
RG: Wakeboarding is really fun
DH: I’ve been riding a wakeboard again lately, it’s so much fun.
RG: Ha, ha yeah Dan has been getting out there with me. I’m wakeskating about 80% of the time and wakeboarding about 20%. I think that is going to change though this year, I’ve been having a lot of fun riding and just going big. I definitely focused on wakeskating a lot more this past year and forgot how much fun it is to “get your strap on.” I think now that Aaron Rathy is on Byerly I’ll be more motivated to do some more wakeboarding when we go on trips and shoots and stuff.
BS: What kind of tricks will you be working on this year?
RG: I think I can do a flip wake to wake on a wakeskate, back roll style probably, I got it.
DH: You can definitely do a bigger spin wake to wake Ross, you need to try it.
RG: Yeah I’ll probably try that some. I think I can do a switch Heel 9 on a wakeboard so I’ll work on that some too
BS: I heard you and Scott have been skateboarding a bunch lately.
RG: Yeah we’ve been going to Vans Skatepark almost every weekday morning this winter. It’s been pretty cold lately so that has kind of been the routine. Danny come with us a bunch too. Grubb and BT came the other day too so that was pretty cool, Dan runs that place. Scott is really good at skating transition too.
BS: What’s up with people mistaking you for celebrities?
RG: Oh yeah I went and ran this 5K Race at Disney not too long ago and this lady came up and asked me if I was the guy from the Notebook. She assumed I was doing a celebrity appearance at the race. I’ve also heard Owen Wilson and Robert Redford in his younger years.
BS: What do you want out of your wakeskating career?
RG: I guess I just want people to remember me as guy who really loved the water and a fun guy to be around. I would love to win a Toe Jam or something but I wouldn’t say that is my main goal, just ride and have fun and spread the stoke. Hopefully I’ll be able to be around the sport for a while even if it isn’t as a rider. I’d love to put my degree to work and work for some of the companies I ride for.
BS: What would you be doing if you weren’t wakeskating?
RG: Probably still trying to kick your ass in tennis.
Who would you like to thank?
RG: All my sponsors, Byerly Boards, Rockstar Energy Drinks, Billabong, Lazy Moon, Cobian Sandals, and Marine Products. Also everyone who has helped me out like my parents,Scott and Kim Byerly, my girlfriend Kristyn, Danny, you, Joey and all my friends.