Don’t be scared to get weird (photo: Mathis)

Staying relevant in any industry is adapting to the latest trends, the newest technology or being a part of the next big thing, whatever that may be. This goes for your 9 to 5 job and also the pro wakeboarding scene. If you’re not putting yourself out there and possibly scaring yourself from time to time, you’re probably holding back or just complacent with where you are. I guess that’s fine but if you’re not careful, you might get left in the wake of others. Pun definitely intended.

There’s more than one path to take. But whatever path you go down, you want to make yourself stick out from the crowd.  My good friend once said, “Everyone has style.  It’s the way you do your tricks or how you express yourself on your board. Whether it looks good to people is a completely different subject…” and I took that to heart.    

For myself, I’ve always tried to portray the tricks I do in the way I think they should be done in my head. Sometimes things work out, sometimes they don’t. From there, I take that trick and try to grab it a couple different ways. I like to take inspiration from other sports as well as the oddities derived from being attached on a string. A different grab can make one of your staple tricks feel completely different and give it new life. This process would take my original “perfect” trick idea, scramble it, and morphe it into a unique creature all its own.   

An addiction to progression can go a long way in staying relevant.  If you’re never satisfied in your riding, you’ll always be hunting for your next big thing.  And once you reach those goals, the satisfaction only lasts so long before the next wave of ideas come through. At least that’s how I think of it. My mindset is to always be dreaming of what I can do next, take it out on the water and see what happens.  It doesn’t always work out but when it does, it’s worth it and gives me the drive to keep pushing.

Failure is a part of the game too. It’s going to happen, and it’s going to happen a lot.  Unless you’re Twelker…that dude lands everything 1st T for real. But if you’re a normal person like myself, you’re going to be scared to fail and that’s ok. I’ll admit, I’m not the most naturally talented rider in the industry and it take me a lot of time to perfect my craft. I fail almost daily. Having the determination to keep your head up when it’s not going your way is a hard thing to do but it’s part of the game. It sometimes takes months or years to have a breakthrough and rise up from the plateau you’re stuck on. But when you reignite that spark, it’s makes the struggle worth it.  

When it comes to creativity, nothing is off limits.  There are no rules and there are no rules in wakeboarding either (contrary to popular belief).  This is a big factor in standing out and staying relevant and just because no one has done something yet, doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Get weird. Real weird. Creativity works in mysterious and often paradoxical ways. Inspiration and ideas often arise seemingly out of nowhere. Creative thinking requires complex cognition yet is completely distinct from the thinking process. Yes, you do need to learn the basics but once you’re established on those, let your creative side take over and separate yourself from the herd.

If you ride for yourself and push your own boundaries, you should never be disappointed in your journey or direction. I say do your own thing and see where it takes you. I think all of us have a little individual competitiveness or drive to see how far we can push ourselves. It’s just a matter of tapping into that addictive adrenaline rush and seeing where you want to take it.   

Derek Cook