You see the images and watch the videos that spill out from every wakeboard manufacturer on the planet. A majority of this content is produced from a single trip, usually crammed into a few early wake ups and a few late nights. This past year I coordinated my first such trip for Hyperlite, which included 13 riders, 2 photographers, 1 cinematographer and myself. “Coordinated” is a loose term, by the way, as I mentioned there were 13 riders.
We decided on a place close to home for the majority of the team and opted for a land based shoot rather than houseboats. Houseboats are fun, but it’s nice to be able to eat at a restaurant, take a shower and fill the boats up at a gas station. We landed in Astor, Florida on the St. Johns River at Astor Bridge Marina, about an hours drive from Orlando.
I flew in and was picked up by JD, we proceeded to the grocery store and bought more processed food than the FDA recommends, plus a few refreshments, not beer. A quick stop at Performance to pick up Valdez and the 3 of us were headed north to meet up with photographers Joey Meddock, Rodrigo Donoso and the rest of the crew.
You’re always a bit nervous when you book something over the phone while looking at a website, since they always make it look nicer than it is in reality. When we pulled down to the resort my first reaction was – oh shit, hotel my butt, this is barely a motel. Some of the guys landed ahead of me and Ruck was the first one I met up with, which put my mind at ease. Erik has a good time wherever he is and he said “Dude, this place is killer. We have it all to ourselves and we can do whatever we want.” Sweet, it was actually a very cool spot with the hospitality that southerners are famous for. Another quality quote from LaRiche, “The minute we drove down to the marina, it seemed like time slowed way down.”
Now, most everyone rides when they want to at home, they sleep in a bit, stretch out & get the body moving and what not. On a shoot like this you always want the best light, which is either very early in the morning or just before dusk. The biggest challenge is getting these guys up at 6am and moving. I felt like a den father or something, I think I was polite at first, but if they lagged I started pounding on doors and making empty threats.
Once the boats left I kicked back and do a gas run or something, actually I spent most of that time trying to catch a fish, which never happened. The crew would return around 10am and our marina restaurant, Castaways, would open early to feed the mob. It was awesome, they had a porch over the river, decent coffee and a baby gator that lived in the lily pads next to the porch. For some reason they never got BT’s order right or he’d be the first to order and last to be served, kind of funny, but not for BT.
Rusty and Jimmy showed up the afternoon of the first day and they both looked haggard. I forget where they were, but I know each of them hadn’t been home in many days and they just wanted to sleep. Rusty was in decent shape, but Jimmy barely looked alive. I mean this kid is 19 and living the dream, but all he cared about was a bed. The Jimmy thing was funny and I understood, I’d been there before and sometimes the dream job and its demands can be tough.
Dinner at Castaways and a bar tab to boot – this is my favorite part of the day. We turned heads in ol’ Astor, the locals weren’t quite sure what to make of us. We were louder than most, with an expensive fleet of weird looking boats, we drank more than most and were definitely having more fun, and this was just the first full day. It was cool to hear the stories of the sessions at dinner, everyone sharing with each other what tricks were landed, what they saw & how someone freaked out Kallas by pointing out a gator.
Morning came early again and so did the routine, knock on the doors, get the guys up, load up the boats and jam. After breakfast we all piled in the boats and went north up to Lake George where a natural spring flowed from the ground with crystal clear water. It was sick, the minute the boats hit the slow zone, wakeboard ropes where launched, snorkels and masks dawned, everyone trolled behind viewing the river bottom and all the fish. Now I was needed as a boat driver, go figure. The actual floor of the spring was maybe 20 feet deep, filled with huge stripers and a steady current, I’d never seen anything like it, pretty cool.
The best part of this job is getting to watch some the best riding anyone can witness and I’m a fan these days, a big fan. So our 1080 master, Mr. Malinoski, was more concerned with landing a trick he’d already done 20 times. Throwing Doubleups up and down a river for a sequence doesn’t make as much sense as running follow boat for some killer stills. As the frustration mounted, the light was fading, Rusty nailed the 1080 & his job was done. I didn’t say much at the time, but later showed Rusty the shots and we agreed it would have been better to just get more quality stills – even the big dogs are still learning.
Before the week was over Kevin Michael joined us for a day of riding and hanging out and Matt Staker came up to roll some video. The day they were both there, Murray broke out his new game, a Frisbee/drinking game called “Polish“. A camper at his school shared it and here’s how it goes. Each team of two athletes stands behind and defends their Pole, facing the other team. A plastic beer bottle rests atop the pole and each athlete has a beverage in hand. Armed with one Frisbee only, each team shoots to knock the beer bottle off the pole. If the bottle hits the ground, it’s 2 points, if the Frisbee hits the ground it’s a point, but it the defending team catches the bottle or the Frisbee the points are theirs. Keep in mind the defenders only have one hand to use the other is gripping a beverage and you play to 21.
That afternoon, Kevco and I went out for a little slash session followed by a Murray & Palma doubles set where they were riding 5 feet apart in rope length, hitting the wake almost simultaneously. Scary and cool – Murray was tripping on the view as he watched Palma spin a 5 in his face. I was thinking to myself how cool that would look from a helmet cam, get on it someone.
I forget which night the guys really scared Kallas, but I think it was Jimmy and BT, who loaded up a ski with Kallas and went on a gator hunt. Cruising though the lily pads they were on the search and while they were deep in gator territory one of them starting to rock the ski and that’s when Kallas really got the scare.
The 4 days went off without a hitch, and even though I give a Rusty a hard time, it’s just that. When I said veterans I meant it. JD Webb, Shaun Murray, Rusty Malinoski, Erik Ruck, Jimmy LaRiche, Brian Grubb, Brandon Thomas, Mike Schwenne, Josh Palma, Chris Kallas & Jacob Valdez are pro’s and they make everything run smooth. I can’t say enough about Meddock and Rod, totally pro (expect for Rigs loosing a full card of images). By “putting this trip together”, I really meant someone was there to sign the tab and buy the gas – the crew knew just what to do and how to do it. They got their work done early, so everyone was released to go home for a couple days R & R before leaving for their next wake adventure.
The photos speak for themselves, some highlights for me are JD Webb boosting, Grubb throwing down, Murray laying it down, Jacob and Jimmy poking it out & Rusty bonking the pylon. Check out the photos from the trip here.
-Greg Nelson, Hyperlite Team Manager