The cynics will tell you wakeskating is run by old men. Old men who’ve never put soggy shoe to grip tape and popped a shuv. Old men who only care about money and don’t know the difference between a kickflip that’s mobbed or not. But Silas Thurman disproves that theory entirely. As a rider who’s been in the sport since people would make their own decks out of old wakeboards, he is helping to push wakeskating in the right direction. Rider, Team Manager, Judge, Event Organizer—Silas has his hand in almost every facet of the sport. And you know if he is involved, things are going to be done right. This is the Silas Thurman interview.
AWS: Silas Thurman, how is it going today?
AWS: What are you doing with your life these days?
ST: I am the team manager of the Nike 6.0 wake team, I ride for Liquid Force, Active Watersports, aacadia, Bern Lids and Nike 6.0.
AWS: How do you manage to balance riding and babysitting?
ST: I don’t consider it babysitting because these are my good friends. The way I balance it is by riding a bit and trying to take care of emails at night and in the morning. It’s just the life. Ride as much as I can and keep up with Nike stuff. Just had a board come out, the SST. Well, it didn’t just come out, but I just got the ‘09 40.5, it’s amazing. So kinda testing all that out right now.
AWS: Do you have any sort of degree in marketing or advertising that makes you such a good schmoozer?
ST: Uh… I took one year of after high school education. Most classes I did take were in marketing, and low-level math.
AWS: So what’s 3×9?
AWS: Wow, you’re really good.
ST: Yeah I’m pretty quick.
AWS: Why have you chosen to keep riding on a professional level with the industry job and all?
ST: I really love to wakeskate. If I wasn’t doing that I wouldn’t be as interested or motivated in the job that I have with Nike and everything with Liquid Force. It keeps me going and helps me be around the scene, and know a little bit more than some other people who potentially could have had this job.
AWS: As a former Team Manager of the Year what do you think makes a good team manager?
ST: Staying in tune with your athletes, being there to help them out, be around enough that you actually know what’s going on and you’re not just some kook team guy that has no clue who’s doing good. Not just who’s riding well, but who you want to have on your team and what makes a good team.
AWS: Do you really hate polar bears?
ST: I do not hate polar bears.
AWS: Really? So then why do you drive a huge SUV?
ST: Well, I have a really good answer for this and for the person who put that note in my window. I only drive probably half the year in Oregon, so that means I’m only driving that truck half the year. I don’t have to go anywhere for work because I can just stay in my hometown and ride so I am probably driving less than the Prius-driving guy who put that note in my window. So he needs to think about what he, or she does, before she is putting notes in people’s windows
AWS: So you live in Oregon, which is obviously not so common in wakeskating, is it hard to live here?
ST: I grew up in Oregon, so it’s natural for me to live here. My family’s here and my friends are here, so it’s easy for me to stay around. I travel half the year though, a quarter of the year in Orlando and another quarter of the year just random traveling to all the spots we have to go for Nike and Liquid Force and contests. I’ve actually just stayed here because a lot of people I know are still here and I like to be with all of them when I am not working. But I would almost say I am a half-Orlando resident.
AWS: So in addition to being a team manager you are also a contest judge. How did that come about?
ST: I happened to be in Orlando for the final Toe Jam last year, and I’d judged wakeboard contests and wakeskate ones like the Hippodrome in the past. Collin Harrington wasn’t going to be able to make it so I filled in for him because I feel like I know a lot about the sport and all the tricks. I also know what I think looks good so I felt like, I’d rather it be me than someone who doesn’t know wakeskating very well.
AWS: Is it hard to judge your friends?
ST: It is hard to judge your friends, especially all the guys on my team with Nike, but I’m really fair and very critical of how tricks are done and how they are landed. I think it needs to be very clean and I don’t think you can’t be dragging your back down the course and claim that as a landing. I look over the runs the very closely and I think I am a very fair judge. I’ve never really had any issues.
AWS: How did you get into wakeskating?
ST: A good friend of mine, Justin Fisher, was out wakeboarding just after I finished high school. I started wakeboarding a little bit with him. When I was about 19 I was hitting rails a bunch on a wakeboard then started grip taping old wakeboards. I rode those for awhile and then Thomas Horrell came out with the first Cassettes. The one I had was the flat 41 and I started riding that. It was really good timing because there wasn’t a lot of guys out riding yet. I tried to watch all the videos Thomas and those guys were in and learn as many moves as I could and I just liked it a lot more than wakeboarding. Actually I snapped a Cassette in half and Thomas ended up at my house after a pro tour party and was all stoked about it. I kind of met him got to hang out with him and he gave me some insight on how you get around the industry and helped me meet sponsors and stuff like that. Awesome guy.
AWS: I always thought of you and Collin Wright as a duo a few years ago. How did you know him?
ST: I didn’t actually hang out with Collin much in Oregon. We didn’t really grow up in the same area but I started meeting him because he was always traveling down to Orlando so I started asking if I could tag along and he showed me around a lot. I met a lot of people in Orlando because of Collin and Mike and Nick Ennen.
AWS: How did you end up doing Hippodrome with Collin?
ST: Collin had mentioned he wanted to do a contest at some point that was a wakeskate/wakeboard contest. The lake from the shop I rode for came open for a weekend and they had mentioned if I wanted to do something we could use it so I called Collin up and we started talking about names and how the contest would be. At the time the Toe Jam was invite only so we wanted to make a contest that all the kids could come to that didn’t have to be invited to the Toe Jam. It worked out really well. We had like 20 riders the first year and 30 riders the second year and the third year it became a part of the Toe Jam series. It was really awesome. It was a big honor to be part of Scott Byerly’s series.
AWS: What happened this year?
ST: This year with Toe Jam moving around to different spots, we didn’t have a lot of time. We were trying to get some permits to have it downtown and have it actually be a winch stop for the year. But we didn’t get permits in time and it was just really hectic this summer, but as long as everything goes right hopefully we’ll be doing it next year in downtown Portland and we’ll be like the all winch stop. Hopefully it’ll be a Toe Jam qualifier.
AWS: Ben, got any questions for Silas?
Ben Horan: If you could do one trick on a wakeskate what would it be?
ST: I think it’s awesome, like I can do kickflips, but it would be so awesome to be able to do a kickflip and a heelflip. I think its an awesome looking trick.
AWS: Who are the people you think are going to take wakeskating to the next level?
S; I don’t want to put my foot in my mouth for this one. If I name every guy and miss one then I am an asshole.
AWS: Ok well then instead of who, what will take wakeskating to the next level?
ST: I think people getting out there, demos, all the contests that are going on. I think not even because someone shows up and gets to see their favorite rider, but it’s more about the person who showed up and didn’t even know about the sport. Those people are the ones we need to get into it. People who are already into it love and just want to keep doing it. But if we can get out there and bring new people into it. Demos, ride days. Raging Pull was a pretty good example. Just spots where kids can come ride with the pros and learn how to ride better. When I started getting better that was the thing that motivated be to keep doing it. I was learning stuff all the time so it was fun.
I think all the cables too. I never used to be into riding behind the cable, but I think if we had twenty cables in the US it wouldn’t be bad a all. And I definitely that when these people start building the cables they need to have good rails for wakeskating, not these stupid gigantic ramps with loop-de-doos They need good wakeskate rails and also good wakeboard rails for the wakeboarders. But I think that’s gonna help out a lot. The winch is definitely helping out a lot because of the way gas is right now. It’s just a really important thing to have. As far as the people who are pushing it I think everyone who is motivated and sticks with it. Doesn’t just give up because they are not making money and getting rich. Those people who push though and stick it out are the people who are going to take it to the next level. They are the ones who love it and wanna keep doing it and want more people to do it and are really stoked about the sport—not just doing it because it’s better than some other job.
AWS: You mentioned the dreaded rollercoaster rail. I know you have some strong feelings on people making those for parking lot rail jams, wanna put it out there?
ST: I think it’s ridiculous. For myself, I’ve passed up a couple rail jams because I think it’s a joke. I don’t want to showcase myself going up down, up flat and then sliding into the water. I mean I just think it looks ridiculous and I don’t think that’s a good way to portray wakeskating– just being able to hang on for the 8 seconds like you’re at a rodeo. I think the best way for all these shops is to make a good flat rail or a good downrail because those are what the wakeskaters want to hit and that’s what’s going to make the sport look the best and make other board sports people want to get into it.
AWS: Plans for the near future?
ST: I am headed to Wakestock then down to Orlando for a while. Not sure how long. We’ve got a Nike trip to the Philippines, and maybe a trip to Germany in September.
AWS: Anything else we need to talk about?
ST: Look for the Hippodrome next year. Check out the new SST 40.5, it will be out very shortly, sorry about the delay. And check out nike6.com/wake. Check out our team.