20 Questions w/ Dylan Miller
Over the past few years Dylan Miller’s approach to wakeboarding has changed drastically, which has had a profoundly positive impact on his career and place in the sport. Originally, like many of his Canadian expatriates, Dylan pursued a career through boat contests and results, but unless you’re at or near the top, that route can be a tough one to find sustained success on. Fortunately for Dylan (and the rest of us) he started thinking outside of the box and approaching riding in different ways. The difference has been notable and Dylan has had some of the most memorable (read: gnarly, creative, unique) photos the past few years. At the same time he has also been part of some of the funnier spoof style videos that poke fun at both himself and wakeboarding’s silly nuances. It goes without saying that the laid-back Canadian has an interesting take on his roll in the sport and after seeing some of the recent photos he’s shot this past winter and spring, we knew we had to sit down with him for 20 Questions.
Editor’s Note: The full interview can be seen in the July issue of Alliance Wakeboard Magazine
This picture of Dylan is one of the gnarliest we’ve seen all year. Photo: Cortese
1. Every time a video of you hits the Internet there are always comments about your narrow stance. So what’s the deal?
Dylan Miller: Snowboarders did it first, so I can’t take credit for anything, but a couple years ago Dustin O’Ferrall and I were back in Canada and we were gonna make a stupid little video with our stances bolted all the way in. We were just gonna hit a rail and like smoke cigs while we rode, just to act like dirty skate kids (laughs), but when we tried it out we actually had a lot of fun (laughs). So after that I started riding with a narrower stance in the cable parks and kept having more and more fun doing it. It’s a lot of fun on rails, especially round ones – you have more nose and tail to work with and flex with and you can get the rail way outside of your boots. I just really like the feeling now, ever since we did that little video.
My boat stance is still wider – probably by an inch. But I definitely like the narrower feel in the parks, it feels more like snowboarding to me, which I like. I like the look of it, too. I think it looks better than having a 136cm wakeboard with the boots all the way out and you’ve only got three inches of tip and tail. To me that looks silly now.
2. How much does Wakezeach influence you?
DM: Quite a bit, I’d say. There’s actually been some stuff leaked (about who runs that)… So I guess this is a good time to just come out and tell everybody. I’ve been running the Instagram for quite a while. Since Day One, actually (laughs). I get some input from others from time-to-time, but it’s mainly me. I hope people still get the humor behind all of it – I think they do now – but really I try to treat it more like a public service announcement, I guess (laughs). The actual Wakezeach website hasn’t been used in a while and I didn’t set that up or run it, but we talked about linking it with the Instagram and just never did.
I guess it comes back to snowboarding again, but I think it’s a lot better when people T stuff up properly (and hit rails legit). As funny as it sounds, I think Wakezeach actually had a big impact on that and got people thinking about legit rail hits. I know a lot of people might disagree with that, but if you look at the comments people make on photos and videos they use the term zeach all the time. It might be a bit blown out of proportion, but I think it did it’s job and definitely helped push the sport some. I’m not saying everybody has to be a robot and do things perfectly every time, but it should be thought about.
And I don’t want anybody to think I use the account to just make fun of certain riders – I don’t play favorites or anything, I even make fun of myself and put pics of me up there. If anything I’m harder on myself than anybody else.
2.5. Who has gotten the most fired up about being called out on Wakezeach, or what has been your funniest/weirdest interaction?
DM: Oh man… One time Patrick Wieland got really mad. Like really, really mad (laughs). That’s just Patrick though, he’s just really passionate about what he does. It was a clip of a rider that he’d shot and just got really defensive about it. I was trying to avoid the topic when I was around him ‘cause I knew he’d get super pissed at me (laughing)… He’s probably gonna be pissed when he reads this and finds out (laughs).
A good walk-back is an important part of winching… especially during photo shoots Photo: J. Lee
3. You come from a heavy boat-riding background. What has influenced you to change up your riding so much the past few years?
DM: I think the biggest thing is that I just started paying attention more to what was going on in the sport. I wanted to advance my career and get better, whether that meant getting more sponsors or more coverage or whatever, and so I just sort of took some time and thought about what I’ve done that’s been productive for me. At the time one of the pinnacle moments of my career was hitting a handrail that we put on the roof of a beat-up, abandoned boathouse. It ran as a spread in Alliance and shortly thereafter I signed on with Slingshot. Nothing I’ve ever done behind the boat has ever really turned heads, so I just looked at what was working for me and tried doing more of it. This year I’m trying to film a longer web video section with a lot of different, creative stuff and just have fun with it.
Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. But where there’s meat, there’s no Dylan… Photo: Gustafson
4. Are you petitioning to be the fourth member of Shredtown?
DM: That’d be cool. I really like what those guys have been doing. They’ve really shown people what you can do with a winch, and their setup in Texas is awesome. I’m going back in a few weeks, so maybe I’ll drop an application off to be a member.
This is one way to do a dock start… Photo: J. Lee
5. How hard is it to “make it” as a pro rider these days?
DM: I don’t know, there are so many different roads you can take to get there. It took me longer than I probably first envisioned – I’m 27 now – but at the same time I’m stoked on the way everything worked out. If a kid asked me what to do I would just tell them to do things differently. Be well-rounded, but be different. I’ve focused on finding different things to jib or hit and that’s gotten me recognition, but I still love riding boat and stuff.
6. You’ve worked on oil rigs in the offseason to earn money, what’s that like?
DM: Where I come from in Saskatchewan the oil fields are a really big part of the economy. My dad has worked there for years and is now a pipeline consultant. It’s just a quick way to make money that allowed me to keep pursuing wakeboarding. I did it for five or six years, I think, for about four months out of the year. I’d just bank the money and come back to Florida and ride. Those were cold winters though (laughs), I think the average temperature was -20° celsius (-4° F). In Celsius and Farenheit -40° are the same, and it could get down that low with wind chills. You just have to dress warm (laughs). But I’m proud of that, I’m proud of the work I put in so I could keep wakeboarding, and I’m thankful for having a really supportive family.
7. Why did you go vegan?
DM: It was actually a girl that I met. She was telling me all these facts and stuff about being a vegetarian. That’s when I started taking it more seriously, but for a while before that I had been cutting red meat out of my diet. I’d have an occasional cheeseburger or something, but I was mainly eating chicken and fish. When I was younger I always had a soft spot for animals, too, and I think that played a part. I even tried being a vegetarian for a while when I was a little kid. I think I made it for three days (laughs). Now it’s been about two-and-a-half years since going vegan and I’ve really liked it. Traveling can be annoying though – France was tough (laughs), all I could find to eat was tomato pizza.
8. If you were forced to eat meat right now, what would you go for?
DM: (laughing) If someone forced me to? I’d probably go chicken. Grilled. Cook it with fire.
9. Who makes better guacamole, you or Silas Thurman?
DM: That’s a good one. Silas makes really good guacamole – he’s the one who inspired me to make my own. I’d say he probably still makes it better – I miss his guacamole (laughs).
Dylan’s portable park Photo: J. Lee
10. What’s the story behind your custom surf-shaped Slingshot?
DM: That was just me and my friend Taylor Hanley messing around. I drew up the design and he helped me cut it up. We were just trying to make fun of some of the product videos you see these days. It seems like these days everybody has to have a video about their pro model or their new shape and sometimes it seems like they were a little rushed to get it finished (laughs). It’s funny seeing the shaper talk and then the rider talk about it… I don’t know, were just trying to spoof that whole side of the sport. I hope people thought it was funny (laughs).
The custom Slingshot from Dylan. We don’t know if it has a name, and we’re not sure if it needs one Photo: Cortese
11. You’ve been known to make some of the funnier web videos, where do you come up with them?
DM: Dustin made the hockeyboarding one and the gangsta / thug life one. The gangsta one actually did really well, it got almost 200,000 views or something. We just come up with things we think are funny and go for it – sometimes it’s me making fun of myself, like with the hockey thing, and other times it’s just observations on trends we see.
12. You’ve been filming with fellow Canadian Taylor Hanley a bunch the past few months. What’s in the works?
DM: We’ve got a good little crew that ride and film together a lot: Nick Dorsey, Bob Sichel, Taylor, Trevor Bashir, and myself. We just run around together and film. Those guys will help me if I want to hit a certain spot and I’m happy to return the favor if one of them needs help setting something up or needs a pull. I’m working on making a longer web video part because this year I’m not working on any full length video parts. I really enjoy filming and shooting videos the most, so I want to put some solid time in this year and make something cool.
Amongst pillars Photo: J. Lee
13. Out of all the crazy shots you’ve taken and setups you’ve hit the last couple years, what’s the craziest?
DM: That boat house one I did in 2010, when we put the hand rail on top of the roof – we bolted it in to make it solid – so if you clipped it wasn’t moving and you could get messed up. I was actually able to back lip it in the first few tries and I was really stoked. I kept hitting it after to make sure we got a good shot and on one attempt I scooped out off the kicker and got sideways in the air. I got lucky that I still got high enough to not hit the boathouse or the side of the rail, but I slid every inch of the rail with my ribs. That was probably the closest call.
14. How do you go about approaching a crazy setup, what’s your mindset?
DM: Well, I don’t know if this is a bad way to do it, but whenever I’m about to hit something kind of sketchy I always let the worst case scenario play out in my head so then I can make sure to do everything in my power to not let that happen (laughs). So I sort of work backwards from that and take the steps I need to to stay alive (laughs).
15. What was your approach to that jib/wall ride underneath the bridge?
DM: I actually wasn’t as scared of that one for some reason. The speed was the tricky part of that one because I didn’t know if I needed to go really fast or slow to get up on that part. And then figuring out how hard to push off the jump to get up there. If I pushed way too hard and we were going too fast I guess I could’ve hit my head. It all comes with experience though. I was stoked that my initial guess on how big to make the kicker and the angle put it at was pretty spot on. It also helped that it was a backside wall ride, so you’re naturally in a more crouched position as you hit the wall. After the first couple hits I looked at the photos and videos to gauge where I was and realized I had room and could get higher up, so I kept working at it until we got shots we were all stoked on.
Another look at the bridge wall ride craziness… Photo: Cortese
16. How important is the pallet kicker to your riding now?
DM: Yeah, I’ve got to thank Shredtown for the pallet kicker idea. Ever since they came out with that pallets edit I’ve used them for different stuff and they’ve worked perfectly. I think they’re sort of becoming the norm for guys hitting different things (with the winch) now.
I get a lot of ideas from snowboarding and skateboarding and in snowboarding you see guys build jumps into wall rides all the time. Wakeboarders used to try to truck around a floating kicker on a trailer, but with pallets you can just throw them in the back of your truck with some 2×4 or 4×4 posts, screw them together, and have a jump set up pretty quickly. It’s opened a lot of doors and ideas for me and other riders to hit and do different things.
17. Would you rather date a French-Canadian to keep things in-country, or an American?
DM: Oh that’s an easy question. Oli’s gonna be pissed at me (laughs), but he doesn’t even date a French-Canadian.
18. Who’s your favorite rider to watch these days?
DM: That’s a tough one. Probably Dustin O’Ferrall. I ride with him quite a bit and when he comes out with an edit it’s super good. I really like the crew I’ve been riding with recently, Bob Sichel and Nick Dorsel are a lot of fun to watch. I’ve always been a big fan of the way Rathy rides, too.
19. If you could be sponsored by any company in the world, who would you ride for?
DM: Probably Tijuana Flats or Chipotle (laughs). And that’s coming from a vegan! (laughs)
20. Who would you like to thank?
DM: Alliance and Garrett Cortese for the interview and also for making the sickest mag around; my parents Glen and Brenda Miller for everything they have done for me; my sister Rhiannon; my grandparents Al and Ida Scott; Jeff McKee and everyone else at Slingshot for the continued support and making the best gear on the market; O’Neill Canada; Kevin and Josh at Sandbox helmets and eyewear; Derek and the whole crew at Ambush/Buywake; Kevin at Saskatoon Watersports. Plus everyone that helped me get these shots! Garrett Cortese, Jason Lee, Thomas Gustafson, Bradlee Rutledge, Bob Sichel, Nick Dorsey, Taylor Hanley, Trevor Bashir, Aaron Rathy, Danny Harf, and The Wakeboard Camp.
One foot, zero problems. Photo: Cortese