May 24th, 2012 by alliance

The response to the Matters column in the June issue of Alliance has been pretty strong on several sides of the debate. We’re curious to read the reactions of you, the readers and fans, so we’ve brought it from the magazine to the website. Feel free to read, think, and write an opinion below — we might just publish it in a future issue of the magazine. If you truly want to stand behind your opinion, log into Facebook and post under your real name. We all know an anonymous opinion doesn’t carry much weight, so put your name on it as a true fan and let us know what you think. Enjoy.

Something was different at this year's Wake Games...

Matters: June 2012

By Garrett Cortese

Over the years we at Alliance have regularly found ourselves comfortable on the other side of the so-called “status quo” in regards to certain parts of our industry. Many times people enjoy our differing opinions; many times people do not. Sometimes our differing opinions can have a noted effect on the status quo; sometimes they can have no effect at all. One area where we have been quite vocal, but have seen very little change at all, is that of contest riding. To surmise the last 11-plus years of Alliance’s views: we think contest riding can range anywhere from kind-of-bad to downright close-your-eyes-and-try-not-to-vomit-much. In those last 11 years of expressing opinions, writing columns, publishing photos, and other magazine-like things, we have seen contest riding (and, maybe more importantly, riders’ approaches to contest riding) change very little. Some might argue it hasn’t changed at all. Compare a contest pass from 2008 to 2012 and you might find more fluctuation in a mouse fart.

The 2012 competitive season kicked off with the seventh annual Wake Games, and other than an occasional extra 180 being thrown into a pass, the overall riding and approach to riding did not seem very different from the first ever Wake Games years ago. The biggest difference was a new boat – the Nautique G23 – and a full TV production crew chasing around the Soven brothers for their new “reality” show. Aside from the reality show though, Phil’s 2012 Wake Games display wasn’t much different than his 2008 Wake Games effort: he won. Obviously that goes to show what kind of competitor Phil is and what he is capable of doing at any moment from the start dock of a contest. Phil has built an amazing career out of being able to do those things. For the sake of this column he just happened to be the winner of the oldest Wake Games finals video I could find on Google, as well as the winner of the most recent Wake Games, as well as the brother of the one rider who did things totally differently this year at the contest (and almost won), as well as the subject of the reality show being filmed by the crew at the contest. It’s as if my opinionated stars are aligning to bring up arguments against the status quo.

Here are Phil’s finals runs (excluding rail hits) from 2008 and 2012, as well as Bob’s run from 2012.

Phil’s Finals Run (2008)

  • Dumb-dumb
  • Switch nose grab crow 5
  • Toeside nuclear roll to blind
  • Whirlybird 7 (or is it a whirlydick? Pretty sure we don’t care)
  • Moby Dick
  • Batwing
  • Heel 7
  • Switch nose grab back mobe


Phil’s Finals Run (2012)

  • Switch heel 7
  • Stalefish glide (into the flats)
  • Switch nose grab back mobe
  • Moby Dick 5
  • Toeside nuclear roll to blind
  • Whirlybird 7 (the announcer in the video called it a whirly 7… we still don’t care)
  • Switch nose grab crow 5
  • Pete Rose
  • Switch toe 9

Phil is stomping this moby dick 5 every run

Bob’s Finals Run (2012)

  • Toeside melan backside 180 rewind
  • Toeside melan backside 3 (into the flats)
  • Backside 180 late stalefish grab (into the flats)
  • Nose grab crow 5
  • Heel 7
  • Stalefish toe 3 (into the flats)
  • Tantrum to blind (into the flats – fall)

Bob's backside 180 late stalefish

Some might argue that Phil Soven is just a smart competitor and he’s doing what he needs to be a successful competitor and win. Nobody can fault him for that. But Bob is very smart, too. Bob knows that trying to beat his older, extremely successful brother at his own game is foolish. Bob knows that to make a name for himself he has to be his own rider, his own person. For all intensive purposes nobody is going to remember Phil’s winning run from this year’s Wake Games, and Bob knows that. Phil has done very similar passes many times and won, to the point where it has become somewhat expected. People don’t always remember the expected, even if it is effective. But people will more than likely remember something that was different or out of the norm. People will remember the new boat, the new rails, and the TV crew because they were different from years past. People will also remember Bob’s riding (and my guess is Bob knew that before he even hit the water). It was extremely different, and therefore extremely entertaining for the crowd – and probably to the fans who will see it on the reality TV show that was being filmed (and Bob probably knew that, too). When it comes to competitive strategy and success, to each Soven brother his own, but if we’re ever going to see boat-riding contests legitimately change in the future, hope may just lie in that crazy ginger fro Bob’s been rocking for a somewhat awkwardly long time.

Bob most likely didn’t do better at Wake Games because of his falls. He easily had Phil and Harley beat in the amplitude, rail, and style categories (if a style category indeed exists in most of today’s contests). Had he landed his tantrum to blind into the flats and not won the title, this column would have been directed more at the judges and the system than the riders. But if the contest scene is ever going to see much change (other than adding 180’s), it is going to be up to the riders. Judging from Bob’s approach to the finals of the first contest of the year, he is more than happy to try to bring about some change, and for that we applaud him. After the contest Bob came up to me and said he got some inspiration for his riding from the Alliance Less Than 5 contest, which we had organized six weeks earlier. He also said it would be awesome to see the king of truly unique riding Randall Harris make a contest comeback and be on top of a podium this year (Randall narrowly edged out Bob for the Less Than 5 title). By no means are we saying every contest needs to be a Less Than 5 contest. It is great seeing the best riders in the world do some of the most technical tricks in a contest setting – but we are saying a little diversity never hurt anybody, and if there is anything boat-riding contests could use a little bit more of these days it’s definitely diversity. Seriously, we can’t be the only ones who are tired of seeing ungrabbed moby dicks, KGB’s, dumb-dumbs, and two-handed crow 5’s taking guys into the finals of a contest, can we? (Actually we know we’re not. Go see Steel Lafferty’s interview on page 44). Maybe if we organize a few more contests on our own terms we’ll actually see a shift in the way riders approach “regular” contests. Maybe we’ll see more emphasis on amplitude, style, and creativity. Maybe Randall Harris can make a comeback and stand on top of a PWT podium. Maybe pigs will start flying too.

For now some people will probably read these opinions and think about change, while others will read these opinions and think I’m being a total a-hole. If you read this column though and thought I was just calling out a particular rider, then you’re missing the point. Regardless, we will continue to publish opinions like this, but you should be used to that. Don’t like it? Write us a letter ( and maybe we’ll publish your opinion, too.



Hamming it (and loving it)


27 Responses to “Matters – June 2012”

  1. real Says:

    well i have to say that a lot of people on the message board knock on riders and how they do their tricks, but yet they of course don’t have videos on themselves. So my concern here is that Alliance is bashing the way the Pro Tour is operated, but what have you done improve Pro Stops? Yeah i know the Ledd than 5, but really… that was for fun and yeah it was cool, but what do the riders get from that? a cold beer and a high-five? Don’t knock if you can provide something better.

  2. real Says:


  3. jon Says:

    Maybe people in the wake industry will also learn how to properly use the english language. Avoiding improper use of ‘myself’ would be a nice start. They could also avoid trying to sound smarter than they really are. Seriously. The correct phrase is “for all intents and purposes.”

    Maybe pigs will start flying too.

  4. steveP Says:

    good try garrett. the two comments above show that most people these days can’t read something and come away with the point that was being made.
    contests suck!! its turning good riders into wake robots! if anyone watched the wake games on tv, bob said it best… a run for the fans and one for the judges. what pumps the fans is not seeing every rider throw the same mobes over and over! its a riders style on the water. style should be the biggest scoring catagory in a contest. its not about doing a trick its about making it look good, especially to the people that are making the effort to support the riders. the fans that make the long drives and spend their hard earned money to see something amazing… and usually get to see the same riders do the same tricks in a different town. i could go on for days but ive made my point. i agree with every rider that hates doing contests, for all the same reasons.
    ps. no facebook needed to be real!!!

  5. John Douglas Chaney II Says:

    Good read & I agree for the most part. I think the contests need to evolve a long with the riding. Perhaps separating rails & boat riding could help. I’d rather watch a dedicated rail contest & a dedicated boat contest on different days, than see the riders taking these awkward lines just to hit the obstacles. The toe jam format is light years ahead of any of the pro tour stops.

    Bob is definitely leaving his own mark on the sport and I applaud him for riding the way he did at wake games. Perhaps more riders will follow suit and ride with soul and passion.

  6. Luke Says:

    If I were getting a pay check like Phil to do the same tricks every year I’d be stacking riches and smacking b*tches all day. Don’t hate the player, hate the game. Overhaul the PWT or just get bigger sponsors for alliance contests and don’t make them super exclusive – super secret – invite only.

  7. real Says:

    @ Steve P. really? Alliance has no control over the pro tour and they are sour. QUIT bitching! Looks like the Pro Tour will have more publicity than the Pull Series!

  8. Scott Grant Says:

    I have watched every video Alliance has posted in the last year and I have not watched one full contest, simply because its boring to watch. I would much rather see kevin henshaw and keith lidberg scorpion all day, in attempt to challenge each other than see how they can pushthe sport. To me that is the essence of the sport of wakeboarding. You wont see guys out at the lake trying to set up their own traditional contest format with each other. More often you will see guys designing contest amonst each other like 3 cheeseburgers and a 7. Doing random things to entertain each other and enjoy the sport in its purest form. People like to go out and try big flips and hurt themselves, rather than try to add a little steeze to their nosegrab fs 180, or how to grab their scarecrow melan. In my opinion, the best sections of videos are those that riders are boosting off a double-up trying to poke out their indy tantrum to blind, or trying to late grab their switch frontside 5 wake to wake. I would love to see more contests with Trever Maur, Randall Harris, and Josh Twelker adding big tweaked out style to anything they do. They are the guys that seem to have so much freedom and creativity in their riding. Phil Soven has grown up in a contest setting and is a contest monster. If he wanted he could win them all, because thats how he has created his riding and trained himself. Thats the way the industry used to be, Rusty, Parks, Shapiro, all those guys were so focused on contests they would learn something new that would get them points, do it for a few years and then add some style to it. I appreciate the battle Alliance is fighting to combat the stagnancy of the traditional boat contest, I think the >5 contest was an incredible idea and has inspired me to add a little more poke and grab a little longer instead of trying to spin wake to wake like a trick skier. I love they way the sport is headed and I love to see the progression of style and creativity that makes the sport unique to each individual. Keep riding because you love it, do tricks that make you happy and add your own flare. It will make the sport better and who knows what kind of progression will come out of it.

  9. real Says:

    more publicity than the pro tour when the pro tour will be on national TV? get the facts!

  10. REALLY Says:

    I’m guessing the last thing Alliance wants to control is the ProTour…

    @Real, ur’a REAL FKN moron. This is not the site for you. Go back to your nude participation on wakeworld and smashing ur junk in your laptop.

  11. Jeff Seidenstricker Says:

    With all of the the hate on the super secret and small Less then 5 contest:

    A. It was the first time it had been tried. The Toe Jam, Carnival, 3 cheeseburgers and a 7, and every other contest was small the first year it was done.

    B. The exclusivity was kind of the point. Alliance handpicked the most stylish riders they knew of and brought them together. Sure you could argue that some were missing–see point A. What would be great is next year to extend the invites to AA, Phil, whoever else and invite them to change their riding. The fact that they couldn’t come out and do a bunch of 9’s would force them to get creative. Maybe add a prize like cash or an Alliance cover shot to entice people.

    C. Why does no one have a problem with the competitors of Double or Nothing and the Carnival being hand selected? Those were exclusive events becasue it doens’t make sense to invite a railrider to a double up contest. Same goes for the LT5 contest.

  12. jamie Says:

    People really are respectful of other’s opinions on here. It’s like if you agree with Alliance it’s Ok and if you don’t you’re someone who can’t understand a paragraph on the internet.

    Real actually has a very good point, I’ve heard it before from other people, and it’s one reason why I can’t even read the magazine (alliance) anymore. Everyone has an opinion, we all get that and it’s all good, but it was getting old to read some monthly bash on the pro tour, other magazines, whatever. If you really have a strong opinion on the direction of contests, then actually do something about it. If you think contests are lame or are a waste, then stop talking about them, focus on your “progressive brand of content” and let it be.

    Wakeskaters are getting things done and the wakeskate tour is full proof that wake contests don’t have to suck, or that they can’t be respected or be progressive. Some passionate people decided to step off the sideline and make something better instead of simply pointing out what’s wrong and waiting for someone else to change it. We all know wakeskate contests have had their ups and downs, be it not enjoying a full PWC event or having lame giant wakeskate rails built by wakeboarders. So we all know change is possible, it just requires passion AND action.

    And I’m not saying that the entire mag is a wash because a lot of people respect it, and I know a lot of people work hard to try and make good things happen. But at some point it all gets old.

  13. Justin Harrelson Says:

    This isn’t a new discussion. It has been around as long as Shapiro vs Byerly.

    It is a divisive and unpredutive discussion. Two things the sport doesn’t really need.

    Contests may not be the best part or even the best representation of wakeboarding, but where else can you go to see the best in the world throw down in person all in one day??

  14. Justin Harrelson Says:

    Also, I’m going to use, “Stacking riches and smacking b*tches” in a sentence this week. I don’t know where or when, but it’s going down.

  15. Zak Ott Stone Says:

    I like Bobs run! That’s the fun wakeboarding I enjoy. Show me something new.

  16. hmmm. Says:

    I think competition has it place and I think freeriding has its place, what I see is wrong is wakeboarding putting too much video content on the interenet killing the full length video market in wakeboarding – which hurts the free riders. If Vandall was featured in a full length video every year or two – and the footage stayed away from the web – then people would be dying to see his riding. Luckily Lipsmack was done right and people were/are dying to see what is in the flick.

    Competition isn’t “Bad” but it doesn’t have to be your thing, and if free riding is your thing then you need to treat it right. Save photos for mags, save footage for full length, and don’t spew everything right onto facebook. that is the death of free riders in wakeboarding.

    One could argue that Alliance is hurting that with putting out so many “Alliance Web Edits” of just riding.

  17. Luke Says:

    You’re welcome Justin. I like to use it at Casinos haha
    Does anyone remember the pressure cooker?
    How about selling tickets (or letting people watch) Double-or-Nothing? Or Carnival?

  18. steveP Says:

    i don’t think alliance really cares about the pwt. they are just voicing their opinion, which these days seems to be the same opinion that a lot of the guys that ride in the pwt have!
    why do these discussions always end up in a battle of who’s side your on rather than what people really think.
    @Real.. wtf are you sour about

  19. j hill Says:

    Bob cares about wakeboarding. Phil cares about his self.

    Garrett, how could you write an article about Bob at wake games and not mention him trying to do a Lyman-style wake to rail onto the transfer box?!

    The only problem I have with this article is that it’s kind of assuming watching Phil’s contest run is like watching all the contest runs. Even if you’re just talking about finals runs I think it’s different. We all know what Phil is going to do, you watch his run to see if he is going to fall and who is going to cheer if he does. Some people put him and Harley in the same boat (pun?), but I enjoy watching Harley’s run because there’s a good chance he might do something that hasn’t been done 100 times in a contest already.

  20. Daniel Jarrett Says:

    Garrett, I appreciate the discussion and your approach-one that has continued and should continue as the years go on.

    In the late 90s a couple friends of mine and I attended a wakeboard camp a few times that contributed to shaping my understanding of the sport we all love. We thought the place sounded great-Christian Family Ski School-but little did we know that the son of the parents who ran the place was an up and coming rider named Thomas Horrell.

    Seeing a pro ride from the boat for the first time, and having a ton of time on the water with Thomas and a few others (Scott Jobe, Russ Wilde) we certainly saw a direction of the sport that we wanted to emulate coming home to Illinois/Wisconsin. The sport they showed us simply made sense-even the random afternoons with Fresh Water Traction pads on Thomas’ old Full Tilt pro model was then, totally foreign but interesting, and obviously at the ground level of something very big coming.

    As the years have gone on, attending contests here and there, obviously following the sport on great sites/mags like Alliance-the issue of the contest structure/style has always been the armpit of the sport. The days of a trick pass with 10 versions of a raley are gone, but have been replaced with 10 dizzying spin variations (Sidenote: I think many of the guys doing that-do it as well as you can: mostly tucked knees, grab variations etc).

    The ultimate issue I think we find our sport in is a certain level of plateau, despite all of the incredible progression behind both the boat and at the parks. The medium, which is obviously water, is limiting regardless of how big the boats get. The new flagship boats are awesome, but to fit in most of the lakes across the country we obviously can’t go much bigger-heck just wait for the calls against erosion etc. With the great things we’ve seen from recent rail riding, cable parks popping up left and right, and really great documentation of it all in movies like Defy and Lipsmack, there is quickly entering in a repetition/redundancy to it all and, wait for it, that’s OK. Just as the housing bubble met it’s limit and broke, how many more 180s will Harf and Clifford be able to add on? How much bigger could D. Smith and Randall really go? How many air tricks can the top cable riders do? What more could Raph, Shredtown, etc come up with to slide. Another side note: take a thought back to a certain rider sliding a VW.

    So with the plateau we are at, plus the never ending battle to effectively judge sports subjectively I’m not sure I have the answer. I love that Randall has pushed many guys to do one the greatest tricks in our sport to the spot light-a HUGE indy backside 180. I love that Bob is trying to create a niche for himself, and he has done so really well-especially with his rewind tricks. I love that wake skating really looks more and more like skating on water.

    At the end of the day, however, at the top of our sport is a bag of current tricks that gets it done in contests. It is and has to be judged subjectively with a consistent format and style (sliders etc) for the tour to function fluidly at each stop. There is competition and decent story lines with guys like Phil and Harley, but at the end of the day it feels a lot like a presentation/demo rather than a contest, because as the cliche goes, “it is what it is”. Regardless of our analysis it seems like the unsurmountable task to change what we’ve known and loved watching since Byerly, Gator, Shapiro, etc.

  21. Adam Van Dyke Says:

    We get it Alliance. You hate the PWT/KoW/etc. The constant bashing and jabs are just as bad as what you see in these comments. Yes, we catch the “Dumb-Dumb” jabs too. The people above have made some great points. The Carnival and Double or Nothing are great events-instead of limiting it to the Alliance/Pointless insiders, let the fans watch that. They would be just as stoked to see that as a PWT stop (look at Wake Lab/Wake the Line/etc).

    But for the Pro Tour itself…I agree with “real.” What do you really want Alliance? You bash and bash but offer no solution. I loved <5, but you and I both know that doesn't work for the Pro Tour. The goal of the Pro Tour is to showcase who is the best in a sport at any given time-while we all love style…how can you compare 2 awesome runs of grabbed 180s and 360s and say one is better than the other? That has its time and place (<5 contest, videos, freeriding, etc) but the Pro Tour should showcase the cutting edge of wakeboarding whether that is through GRABBED crow 7s that Harley is doing or a rewind TS BS 180 that Bob does. Instead of bashing the good comp riders, challenge them to make their bangers different. Steel Lafferty said Tootsie Rolls can never be stylish. Why not? Go out and learn an Indy frontroll to late BS 180 landing wrapped. Jaws would drop, throw it in a comp run. Do an ole HS BS 5 grabbing the board the whole way through. There are ways to make hard tricks look good. Instead of sticking to 360 variations (which Harley can do with the best of them), push the envelope of style and tech. Harley does a poked Melan to late FS 7! Don't generalize these riders into "two handed ungrabbed crow 5's." That is a weak jab at riders who are pushing hard (and grabbing their crow 5s…) to do new tricks and do them in new (and stylish ways).

    In Summary- I think the pro tour is an amazing showcase of talent and consistency. I do agree that the runs are very similar and could be more stylish…so Alliance and all other comp bashers should instead challenge the top riders to learn new variations of bangers that set themselves apart (seriously an Indy late Tootsie landing wrapped would be nuts)

  22. Wishing Well Says:

    J Hill:
    -“Bob cares about wakeboarding. Phil cares about his self.”

    That could very well be the most ignorant statement I have ever heard.

    Lets take a look from the outside in.

    Snowboarding – Has there been a magazine article bashing shaun and louie for doing 4 dubs at winter x? Or maybe saying they should ride more like Luke Mitrani or Kazu and make it a little more stylish?

    Surfing – Was there a magazine article I missed that specifically mentioned that Kelly Slater is bad for the future of the sport and should maybe surf more like Jamie O’Brien because JOB surfs differently.

    Skating – Everyone likes the originality Chris Cole brings to a contest. Dude isnt afraid to skate his own way. Do the mags bash Nyjah? I also saw P-Rod and Tom Asta do switch laser flips at Battle of the Berrics the other day. Should we criticize them for that when they could have done a trick that wasnt so tech?

    Moto – Cant think of anyone more robotic than Ryan Dungey and Ryan Villopoto. Has Transworld or RacerX called them out by name and suggested they ride more like Josh Hansen?

    The above list is not meant to compare wakeboarding to those sports because it is totally different and I hate when people compare it to snowboarding etc… However, it is meant to compare the magazines stance on the issue. Wakeboarding is smaller than all of those sports. Fact. If the mags would focus on the positive aspects of it or figure out ways to change the negative ones, the sport might actually grow one day. All Alliance is doing is dividing wakeboarding into smaller sub categories of stylish/contest riders. Making something smaller doesnt really do a whole lot to grow it.

    Finally, I get the point of the article and I still would have gotten the point if Phil was never mentioned. Way to write off the years of hard work Phil has put into the sport.

  23. Eric Anderson Says:

    PWT should encompass more than boat riding… One stop should be all cable, one should be all rails, one should be all boat. The diversity of riders would increase and blend the sport and some new people would make it to the podium. This sport is so much more than just boat riding or at least clarify that it’s the Pro Wakeboard Tour – Boat.

    Some things that could make the current tour better could be: no repeat tricks that were in previous runs, and/or splitting tricks into categories and allowing one of each in a run (spin, mobe, flip, glide, and less than 5 trick).

  24. Bradey Price Says:

    Fuck it im going skateboarding!

  25. Anon Says:

    What is this Socialism? Who are you just because you have the backing of the magazine to say whats right and whats wrong as far as what a rider chooses to do in their contest runs. There is no right and wrong in wakeboarding and it is all self expression. And who are you to choose what is right. This magazine spends so much time trying to be snowboarding and trying to be cool that you don’t realzie that wakeboarding is self expression. There is no right or wrong.

    Whatever makes you happy and whatever you want to do is what is right.
    And quit using your power as a magazine to force your opinion of what is right upon others. And by the way about 90 percent of pro riders can do a rad looking backside 180. While only 4 can do a whirly 7. And trust me if the rest could do it they would.

  26. Chad Karecki Says:

    I think most people are missing the point. Alliance has always seemed to stand for a differnet view of the wakeboard world. They have been critical of the pro tour for a long time. They do not run the tour and have no actual say in how it is run. Therefore their best way to alter the tour is to write editorials. Alliance in this case Garrett is just pointing out that Bob’s run was quite different from a normal pro tour run. He is celebrating Bob’s run, and in someway for standing up for the Alliance way… Different.
    He also points out that Phil’s run was pretty similar to what got him wins, and it continues to get him wins. They are pointing out that at this stage of the game it is possible to skew from the norm and still do well in a contest.

    I believe that Garrett is doing what he can to change something that he feels doesn’t acurately represent an industry he cares about. He is an editor and wrote an editorial. I think he is asking the riders to do more and change up thier contest runs by reminding them that Bob’s abnormal run will live on longer in the minds of most then Phil’s title winning run. He is asking the riders to change the to. I think Garrett is pointing out to the tour directors and judges that if they want to keep attendance up and advertisements coming in they should embrace riders changing it up. I believe he and Allaince are asking us the wakeboard fans to hold the industry to higher standards and be more aware of the riders doing someting different. I feel Alliance has given us the fans a great way to celebrate the individuality of the sport. Through Alliance Media’s full videos (prepop, rewritten, inuendo), their web edits (amatuer hour, and other non alliance content), their coverage in the mag and their coverage on Pull about non contest riders (Benny G, Collin Wright, Kyle Walton ect.) who you would not normally see if you just watched the tour runs.

    So I guess if you are saying shame on Allaince for being the style police what gives them the right… What gives the tour the right to judge? You and I do. We give them both the right by paying attention (and money) to them. If you don’t like it turn away. I don’t think Alliance even posts pro tour or most contest results, so they are in a way turning away from that part of the sport. They mention the tour in this instance to point out something they did approve. They are saying ride for yourself, not for judges, or for magazines like themselves. If you want to do the add a 180 game you can, but Alliance will be celebrating the riders who don’t always play that game.

    Lastly Kudos to them for giving wakeboard fans a place to discuss (and disagree) with their comments.

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