Although he hasn’t worked in the wake industry since he left Alliance in 2007, Tony Smith has remained close with everybody in the sports and his impact as an editor/photographer/friend can still be seen and felt today. What originally started out as a staff writing job for a fishing/boating publication that shared offices with WakeBoarding Magazine back in 1995 eventually became a career and lifestyle that would help shape wakeboarding and wakeskating for years to come. For the last few years Tony has been working at Fiction Creative, a firm he started with former pro rider and Alliance co-founder Chase Heavener. When Tony announced he would be leaving and moving down to Miami to start a new chapter of his life, Chase and the rest of the crew knew they had to throw Tony a kickass surprise going away party, because Orlando without Tony wasn’t going to be the same Orlando ever again. So on a Friday afternoon around 2:00 a Zebra striped Hummer limousine pulled up to the Fiction offices and we proceeded to P-A-R-T-Y.
To put it simply, you know you’re gonna have a good afternoon/evening/late night/early morning when you’re rolling around town in a zebra limo. The bars would have to wait though; one, because it was only 2:00 PM and two, because a good-bye party for Tony Smith wouldn’t be complete without some wakeboarding. First we stopped at Clear Lake to pick up Parks and Shane Bonifay and Erik Ruck, then made our way to OWC to shred some cable and met up with Chad Sharpe. Everybody hit the water, including Chase, Staker, and the man of the hour(s). We even witnessed Chad landing his first ever switch mute double half cab roll off the kicker. Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? He of course celebrated with us afterward. OWC was a great way to kick off the festivities for Tony, but once again Parks stole the show without even touching the water. While standing in line to ride Staker overheard a kid say to his friend, “Did you see Parks pull up in that limo?!?!” After years of hanging out with PB we’re pretty sure Tony is used to that kind of thing by now.
After the OWC festivities we headed back into Winter Park to hit up some of Tony’s favorite dive bars and were also greeted by some of Tony’s best buds like Josh Letchworth, Gregg Necrason, and Cobe Mikacich. We did everything Tony loves to do at dive bars: play pool, throw darts, drink cheep Not Beer, and eat wings. Plus, nothing makes a statement like pulling up to dive bars in a zebra limo. Eventually we headed into downtown Orlando (because when you have a limo for a night you’ve got to take advantage, right?) and met up with even more wake friends. Things started to get a little hazy though and the night ended in probably the most appropriate way: we lost track of Tony, Letchworth and Necrason and had to take the limo home without them…
It goes without saying that Tony leaving Orlando is the end of an era of sorts. The impact Tony has had on both riders and readers alike can’t really be summed up in a short web article, but believe me when I say a lot of us in the industry today owe a ton to Tony (myself very much included). Tony first moved to Orlando in December 1995 and after meeting some of the guys who worked at WakeBoarding Magazine rode a wakeboard for the first time. He was instantly hooked and was eventually brought on as managing editor for WBM in 1997. In 1998 he became editor and hired Bill Doster to be the staff photographer and Kevin Michael to be the new managing editor. Kevin (better known as Kevco) was with WBM until last year and still works in the industry, while Bill is still the staff photographer today.
In 2000 Tony left WBM to join Bill McCaffray and a few others at the startup Bluetorch Wake magazine. That project was short-lived, but out of the ashes came Alliance Wakeboard Magazine, where he worked as editor through 2007. In 2005 he and Bill McCaffray brought me on as a managing editor and staff photographer, and after he left Alliance I had the unenviable task of taking over his role. During those ten years as an editor in some way, shape or form Tony wrote hundreds of articles, scoured over countless photos, and worked some crazy hours to represent wakeboarding and wakeskating in a way he saw fit for both the industry and its fans. He also made lifelong friends who are sad to see him go, but excited for what the future holds for him. Thanks for everything, Tony, cheers and Godspeed!