August 16th, 2012 by alliance

Editor’s Note: This Matters column comes from the heart, mind, and soul of none other than Randall Harris. As talented and unique as Randall is on the water, he is just as talented and unique with a pen or keyboard. In case you missed this column from the July issue of Alliance, here it is again to go over and think about. Feel free to write a response in the comments section below.


By Randall Harris

It’s 1994. Pops gets off the phone and tells my brother and me that our first sponsor wants us to go to Texas for the Wakeboard Nationals.

I didn’t know what to think. “They want us to do what!? What’s a Nationals? A contest? I don’t want to go to a contest! I want to make video sections!”

“I know, son, but you gotta play the game,” my dad tells me. So off to play the game I went. A skater kid from the suburbs of Huntington Beach, CA, a.k.a. Surf City. Where every square inch of Earth is covered by skateable concrete and pavement right up to the glimmering edge of the Pacific Ocean. It’s the epicenter of action sports, except wakeboarding. Where nobody, and I mean no-damn-body rode a wakeboard. Off to play the game in swampy green lands with never-ending piles of cow shit. Off to “compete” in glorified mud puddles swarming with relentless bugs that don’t stop biting. Sometimes you can’t even see these damn bugs. The clever locals call them “no see ‘ems,” imagine that. I was hoping to see riders like Erich Schmaltz, Scott Byerly, Greg Nelson, Josh Smith, Bill McCaffray and Gator slide docks and grind rocks. But at the event I ran into gapers with weird names who rode like the trick skiers (‘cause they used to be them). I know about skating. About Powell Peralta’s Bones Brigade and Tony Hawk. Sk8 and destroy. Thrasher. The people with funny accents are talking about things like “three event skiing” and “ski shows.” Having barely been on the board myself for a year I hear rumors of a kid my age who has been skiing since he was six months old and he’s “fittin’ to” win the boys division. My division. This kid was of course Parks, also a weird name. I got 2nd to Parks at both Nationals in Texas and Worlds in Florida that year. So began my not so illustrious career as a struggling artist. An outcast. A misfit. The dark knight… that never rises, haha.

Over the years I’ve realized that some wack boarders are doing a sport and some of us riders are painting a picture. Some are driven by a desire to win. Some are driven by a desire to create beauty. Some of us are athletes and some of us are artists. There are however a very select few that can be both an athlete excelling in our sport competitively and a skillful passionate artist creating their own unique painting that pays homage to the ones that came before them. Parks is one of those people. Danny Harf is one of those people. Maybe Bob Soven is one of them. Maybe Josh Twelker is one of them. We’ll see. Scott Byerly is definitely one of those people, but since the attention span of the typical wakeboard “fan” is, in my estimation, two or three years, y’all probably already forgot about him or he doesn’t matter to you anymore. I’m obviously not one of them. No, I’m comfortable in my position as the Vincent Van Vandall of this wake shit, mental disorders and all. I never, ever, ever, ever wanted to do contests. Not on a skateboard. Not on a wakeboard. That’s the truth. It’s no excuse. It’s no “after the fact justification.” It’s not a mindset adopted after failure to achieve competitive success. I didn’t start wakeboarding to get rich. I didn’t start wakeboarding to become famous. I was driven to wakeboard by the same thing, I assume, that drove Vincent Van Gogh to paint. I’ll never a be Parks, a Danny, or a Scott. Does that even matter?

Speaking of “matters”, I don’t really know what to write about. I’m having one of those “not one f$%@ given” type of moments. Actually I’m having one of those years. I make it a point however, to never pass up the opportunity to be a part of something Alliance. Corey Marotta told me, “My man, I know you have subjects related to the activity you’re passionate about. I believe in you, dig deep.” So I’m thinking to myself, “Do I have subjects related to the activity I’m passionate about? Am I even passionate about it anymore?” At the moment I’m feeling more like this activity has sucked the passion out of me, leaving me broke and broke off… repeatedly. It ain’t easy being an introverted entertainer. Sometimes it feels like sponsors give a damn, but they want an awful lot. How do I sell their dreams when at times I’m living a nightmare? Do I matter to wakeboarding? Is wakeboarding passionate about me anymore? Does it matter to me if it is or isn’t?  Am I really this self-centered that the only thing that matters to me in relation to wakeboarding is me? The answer is yes. Yes, because I don’t look to wakeboarding for inspiration to wakeboard and I haven’t for the last 90% of my career. I haven’t looked to wakeboarding for inspiration since my idols were forced to get real jobs because this sport isn’t big enough to sustain its art-minded athletes. I believe that should I never watch another single wakeboarder wakeboard, my path of progression will play out exactly the same from this point forward – as well as a good ten years back. This is my article and I’ll write about whatever the hell pleases me. If you have a problem with that it’s probably because nobody asked you what matters to you.


So, what matters? I’ll tell you what still doesn’t matter to me and that is contests. It still isn’t lecherous ski companies that hung on to skiing like tics hang on to a dying branch until the opportunistic bastards dropped on to the life force of our activity and sucked the blood out of wakeboarding when it came along just in time to save their fat, bottom-feeding asses. That’s completely false and inaccurate, but it felt good to write, and that matters. It doesn’t matter to me that ironically most wakeboard companies make the majority of their money selling tubes, wake surfboards, kite boards, and all kinds of other bullshit that screws up the water when I’m trying to ride. Doesn’t matter that the vultures are circling to pick apart the work I put in. My age doesn’t matter. Age is mind over matter. It doesn’t matter if I don’t mind. It doesn’t matter to me that this article is mostly just me listing a bunch of random thoughts. I told you I don’t feel like writing. It doesn’t matter that an entirely unprovoked Axis dealer told me “You’ve made a name for yourself, but it’s not like you’re one of the best. I mean you’re not winning the Pro Tour or anything.” Doesn’t matter that even I was impressed with Bob’s riding at the Alliance Less Than 5 contest and like a lot of other people thought he shoulda/coulda maybe beat me and won. Doesn’t matter because the judges were Matt Staker, Danny HARF, and SCOTT CHRISTIAN BYERLY! Do you think you know wakeboarding better than them? I know I don’t. Why do the matters that bother me not matter? Because in the end I will still be me, doing it my way; reclusively painting things the way I envision them on a canvas all my own.

What matters a little bit? It matters a little that the majority of the coveted, financially successful athletes of our sport don’t even know which way to poke their board when they incorrectly grab a grab they incorrectly name. If you’re going to pretend that you haven’t been doing ice skating maneuvers for the past ten years and grab your board, at least have the decency to know where to grab and what to call it. Even if you grab it right it doesn’t automatically mean that you looked stylish doing so. It matters a little bit that competitive wakeboarding is still for the most part a gymnastics floor routine disguised as a boardsport – and that the riding in it hasn’t progressed for years. It matters a little bit if you do everything into the flats and your rope is low 80s or 70-anything. If your rope is that short you ain’t doing anything into the flats, so quit frontin’.


This is the part that matters a lot though. Although I have chosen a path that is rarely lit with rays of sweet glory or showered on by financial rewards, I have been rewarded with the best fans. My fans are not people that just showed up yesterday, saw a competition, and said, “I like that guy, he won, he’s my favorite.” My fans know their shit. They have an appreciation for the history of our sport and boardsports in general. They don’t care that I’m not on the podium. They don’t care that I’m always lurking in the sidelines like a slightly-less-pale-but-nonetheless-hideous-Gollum. They don’t care that I’m rollin with a group of savages that look like a Dia De Los Muertos parade. They don’t care that I don’t have a DVD showcasing my life of doing what I wasn’t born to do or an MTV show showcasing my lack of personality and reclusiveness. They understand that I try to walk with the Lord but sometimes slip and end up running with the devil. My fans are loyal. They recognize the sacrifices I’ve made to paint my picture and they appreciate me for it. I may not be successful by many people’s standards, but no one can say what my painting is supposed to look like. To me success is a matter of perception. I define success as acquired contentment and joy in life. I’m not entirely successful yet, but I’m getting there; one stroke of my twisted paint brush at a time. History may be written by the winners, but it’s painted by the losers.

36 Responses to “Matters – Randall Harris”

  1. Ge Says:

    i can honestly say that the short clips of randall that we get once a month(optimistically speaking) are the only reason I check alliancewake

  2. Connor Says:

    I agree with Ge, we need more Vandall footage! Harris is still the man (and quite the writer), and I agree that the contests are turning to many riders into “brobots”… Don’t get me wrong I love a good KGB7 here and there but where is the style, tweaks, grabs, etc that makes everything look so original and sweet! Not everything should be based around adding an extra 180 to the trick for more “points”

  3. Les Debbold Says:

    Great piece. Thanks for sharing your ‘random’ thoughts about the sport you have impacted in so many great ways. I love watching your sections in wake videos. “Transgression” literally changed life. My kids were just getting into the sport. We were at Worlds in Reno and got introduced to a couple of people by the two people we knew at the premier. My kids were starstruck. I was excited to get back to Tahoe and get out and ride. We are still riding in spite of expense, changing life circumstances, conflicting agendas, age and injuries. Thanks for promoting the fun in wakeboarding.

  5. rebenga Says:

    freemind freeride freestyle…that’s what matters!

  6. cactusjib Says:

    I’ve always loved your riding but if this is any representation of who you are….. you’re kind of a dick. Let people ride how they want and enjoy wakeboarding the way they want to. There is no right way to have fun.

  7. Gavin Says:

    I would say having your own edition boat, board and shoes is pretty successful.
    Inspiring hundreds even thousands of Wakeboarders to charge and design their own art is successful.
    Having the best video parts in the history of Wakeboarding for closing in on two decades is successful, with or without monetary reimbursement.
    Staying true to riding for soul and art rather than ego in the form of titles and exposure from contest riding is respectably successful.
    Being mentioned in the same breath and above as early pioneers such as Greg Necrason, Drew McGuckin, Bruce Clem, Thomas Horrell, Greg Nelson and Scott Byerly is successful.
    Being afforded the opportunity to ride every day on lakes around the world while others dream of water time in their offices and work sites is successful.
    Double grabbed fuckin 720s into the flats off double ups while everyone else tries to wind out another 180 on their 9, 10 or mobe 5 for their robot run is successful.

    I put my heart and my soul into my work, and have lost my mind in the process.
    Painting is a faith, and it imposes the duty to disregard public opinion.
    Vincent Van Gogh

  8. Wes Says:

    Makes sense to me, how can you have fun doing something you never wanted to participate in. I like his views, if you can understand where he is coming from, they aren’t that negative.

  9. Rodrigo Donoso "aka" @rodrigosnaps Says:

    Great article Randell it takes a lot of heart to say what you mean and a lot of talent to be able to articulate it. Being a part of the wake scene mainly on the west coast up until a few years ago I have always been a huge fan. Getting to know you and shoot with you over the past few years hasn’t been dissapointing. Your a super good guy and no one has to tell you that your take on Wakeboarding is not only unique but mind blowing if you e ever had the chance to see it with your own eyes. It is a shame that the sport hasnt really found a space for an athlete that does his own thing to be finnancially successful. I agree w a lot of what you say and the rest, well is how you feel inside and that can never be wrong. I know that you welcome all opinions and that you have thick skin so some one calling you a dick wont phase you. I see what he’s saying about having fun your own way… I agree on an amateur level but pro’s should know better. I think that what people don’t realize is that if you don’t do what you can to legitimize your sport by understanding your roots and progressing on them that we could loose this sport because when it does go full on main stream all of these shortcomings will be exposed for all to see. Maybe that will be a good thing and weed out the gymnasts. Or maybe we will become a joke like rollerblading did once it but the main stage. ( no offense roller bladers , but it’s true) In any case I enjoyed reading this article. So thank you for that also an endless amount of thank you’s for being unique and allowing photographers throughout the years to be able to capture what you do. You make us look like we know what we’re doing.

    Rodrigo Donoso
    Wakeboard fan!

  10. RESPECT Says:

    Listen to the living legend.

  11. Peter Says:

    Love watching you ride bro, but why you hatin??!!? Your free riding is sick but so are the comps. You cant hate on them not progressing, and not being your thing, just because you dont have enough consistency and tech level to be riding in them. Any of the top comp riders could lengthen out to 85, bump it up to 24 and front wrap 5 (with a “proper grab” into the flats, so get over it. Most of those comps bring in thousands of people to the events, which brings in money. Until you start packing 2500 people into your axis or onto the shore line of the Delta, can it. Either that or start coming out with more edits to showcase your skills. I know i want to see more, and if your not going to all the comps, then i say you should put some more effort into filming. I think that will help the sport, especially the free riding aspect, grow.

  12. Benj Says:

    This was so refreshing to read

  13. NotPeter Says:

    Since you’re using misinformation for your arguments I’m not sure this will make any sense to you, but let’s call it like it is, you’re an idiot.
    1. Randall has more consistency and tech ability than a lot of riders who do well at contests. His riding just doesn’t fit what has come to be the “standardized” wakeboarding course, which is unfortunate. Go back and look at any of his video sections. Heck go back and look at some of the PWT events where he made it to the semifinals. Ask any other top pro what’s harder, a switch crow 5 wake-to-wake, or a Randall sized half cab tail grab front (or even full switch front mobe), and they will tell you what Randall does is harder.
    2. Not any of the top comp riders could, as you say, “bump it up to 24 and front wrap 5 into the flats”. First of all, your info is again wrong. Randall rides around 27.5 MPH on a 95-97′ line. Trust me, those 3.5 MPH and 10-15′ make a huge difference. If they didn’t more pro riders would ride like this. Guess how many others do? Zero. Zip. Zilch. Nada. None. Know why? ‘Cause it’s unbelievably hard and for many scary as F. Ever tried charging into a giant wake behind a boat going 27.5 with a rope wrapped around your waist? Yeah, neither have any other of your “top pros”. So no, nobody else can ride Randall’s speeds at his rope lengths and do the tricks he does (at least not without almost killing themselves). That is what makes him unique. That is why his riding has the respect of every other pro in the business. That is why other top pros get excited (like kid in a candy store excited) to watch Randall ride and do what he does in only a way he can do it. Just ask them next time you’re at an event. They understand it, you obviously don’t.
    3. Don’t tell somebody to “can” it when all they were doing was writing an article a magazine like Alliance asked them to write. We’re all allowed to speak our minds. If you want to speak yours and actually make a point, get your damn facts straight, back them up with proof, then write something that can get published.
    4. More videos of Randall never hurt anybody. I can only hope that now that he’s been spending more time on the Delta he’ll get together with Trever Maur and the Delta Force crew and put out some awesome, updated stuff. This is the one point you actually made correctly in your post, more videos of him will help the sport in more ways than one.
    5. You’re still an idiot.

  14. Paul & Mary Says:

    Peter! your out of the band!

  15. max nomas Says:

    i will try my whole life to land a better backside 1 than yours ahah . underground. respect

  16. Keenan Says:

    They should go the same way that snowboarding has.
    Sure there is the contest side that guys are doing triple flips, 1260 in every direction. But the spots I watch are Web series. Guys ripping in the backcountry or in the streets, that are never seen in a major televised contest.
    Look at Travis Rice in supernatural, he invited young guys from the tour into his playgroup and look what happened, they couldn’t hold their own in anything that isn’t a manicured course.

    Show me more clips of Randall and contests like Alliance less than 5 because that’s the kind wakeboarding that I watch.

  17. MWD Says:

    You Have All My Respect. Took My Thoughts And Wrote Them First.

  18. Peter Says:

    I just took a set did a BIG wrapped spin with a grab, so tech, so sick, so style. Thought of you guys. HatersGonHate. Randall for pres

  19. Pat Karls Says:

    dude FUCK everyone who made you feel this way, foreal. when i’m feelin low or some shit like this, i prefer to cook da bacon. one pound usually does the trick. randall, you truly are an artist, and you are such an inspiration man. keep your head high, your real fans love you till the day you die. after that…well, your writing and footage will haveto do. can we wakeboard sometime? that’d be sick.

  20. jamie Says:

    It sounds like he’s experiencing real world issues in a pursuit you would not want to find them in. No matter how much of ourselves we invest in something we love and are passionate about, we learn we’re replaceable, and the people we hoped or thought cared, really didn’t after all. But the one thing is, nobody can take away our style and the attitude we bring to the table. I promise you that is universal.

    I’ve learned you have to do what you do because you love it…you can’t do it for anyone else, or to do it to get credit. That is also universal.

    Randy Harris (yep, I just called him that) will always be one of my favorite wakeboarders.. My first wakeboarding magazine was the grom issue from 1995 and it featured parks, hunter brown, randy and some other guy. From there randy was one of my favorites because he was a boardsman who was also my age. After having seen photos in the mags, the very first riding footage I ever saw was from the Orlando pro tour stop in 1996. He was riding for sound wakeboards and he had this red rash guard, and i wanted all of those things to emulate one of my favorite riders. That summer I got the sound promo video also…but no matter what, it was still Rad to see him at that tour stop. I think of something thomas said in an interview, which was that people don’t care how you do at a contest, people just want to see you ride. And it’s totally true, because a lot of us don’t have that direct contact and exposure to that level of riding.

    Anyway, in a round about way, my point is it’s been a pleasure to see randy ride and evolve over the past 16 years or so.

  21. mike Says:

    “it matters a little bit that competitive wakeboarding is still for the most part a gymnastics floor routine disguised as a boardsport ”

    so true!!!!!

  22. dave Says:

    All you have to do is watch the opening part of drive and watch Randall going full speen on a full length rope in nothing but glass water.
    The words spoken are that he sums up wakeboarding and that he does,,
    he is may have his thoughts and his style and that is what makes him him!!! respect
    New Zealan

  23. Bob T Says:

    Competition is following somebody elses rules and has it’s place. Free riding is expressing yourself. And like Van Gogh expressed himself on canvas Vandall expresses himself on the water and in the air. I have been in the boat and seen him ride. Like a great painting I could not take my eyes off of him. He is by far the best free rider I have ever seen. You are seeing something special when you watch him ride. And as good as Rodrigo and Big Spence and others are at capturing wake boarders on film you can never capture the true essence of Randall.

  24. Chris Harris Says:

    Although we are not related, I’m damn proud to have the same last name and vocation as you.

    ARTIST. Most important and under valued duty.

    Keep fighting the good fight, Brother.

    Check out the book, The War of Art, for some inspiration. I think you’d like it.


  25. J.Combs Says:

    Love to watch Randall ride. No one even comes close to the way he lays down every trick. To repeat a comment from above ” The only reason I check Alliance is in hopes to catch a quick set of him riding”. Smoothest on the water!

  26. Thollywood Says:

    holy crap! I can’t believe I just read all this! I like what Rodrigo said

  27. Jeff Mile Says:

    Seeing that this article got the most positive comments attached to it out of all the others posted in awhile, it shows that Randall, his riding, and what he has to say DOES matter.

  28. oldpete Says:

    I started wakeboard after seing the Vandall part in Natural Born Thrillaz , then i saw PB part in shafted and that was it . those guys are incredible and i wakeboard since. peace

  29. Trace L8N Says:

    Randal, You are the Man! Proud to call you my friend!!!! Trace Leighton

  30. Keith Says:

    I have been Wakeboarding for about 12 years. I was hooked the from the very first day I tried it, I am not a very good rider a 180 is the best trick I have.. It’s the freedom, spiritual and hanging out side of Wakeboarding that I enjoy most.. The first time I seen Randall ride was in Transgressions I was an instant fan from that point on. I am from Cali and have the opportunity to go to Orlando and watch world’s after a couple of riders the runs all looked basically the same not what I expected. I got bored!! I have also been blessed enough to get to know Randall and watch him ride live several times and I am truly amazed every time, he has a style that will never be matched.. It’s often imitated but it’s never duplicated. He truly is in my eyes poetry on a wakeboard. So thank you Randall for always staying true and what you have brought to a sport I love.. For those of us that know Randall know just how humble he really is!! For those of you who have never seen Randall ride live if the opportunity presents itself I guarantee you will not be disappointed! $!

  31. bob Says:

    Great on the water. Off the water, when you run with the devil though…

  32. Drew Says:

    Dope article. Keep slaying it bro.

  33. jumpnow Says:

    if you use websitebuilder it shows all those dif screen names come from 3 house addresses total. wierd

  34. adam Says:

    “Some are driven by a desire to win. Some are driven by a desire to create beauty. Some of us are athletes and some of us are artists.”


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  36. Josh Smith Says:

    Thanks for staying true Randall! It’s awesome that Alliance gave you a place to speak a little of your brilliant mind. I believe it is a very difficult sport to survive being your self professionally, unless your lucky enough to fit in their box. I believe that’s the fate of athletes in a small sport. Hopefully one day it will be big enough to support the athlete artists. I stopped holding my breath.
    A fan just reading this a little late.


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