Editor’s Note: In the May issue of Alliance we featured a handful of short, to-the-point interviews titled “No Filter.” We wanted to reach out to riders currently going through interesting or different parts of their careers and ask them relevant questions that we knew fans and readers would be interested in. We didn’t want to beat around the bush or talk about what they had for breakfast or if they prefer dogs or cats. We wanted to get to the point. In the end we did just that and “No Filter” was a big hit among both readers and the pro riders. Here is one of the interviews from that section, with none other than JD Webb.
Alliance: How hard/weird is it to no longer be sponsored by Red Bull? Especially after getting third at the biggest event of the year – Red Bull Wake Open?
JD Webb: There is a lot about that whole situation with Red Bull that really bothers me. I understand needing to cut back or whatever, and I understand that there were a lot of riders on the Red Bull wakeboard team all in or around Orlando, but the way it all shook out was pretty unprofessional in my opinion. For one, I told them going into the season that Nicole and I were expecting our first child, so I wasn’t going to be able to do as many contests. At the time they were super supportive and told me to just do what I needed to do. They later tried to tell me that one of the reasons I wasn’t getting a new contract was because I didn’t do enough events over the year… The thing with Wake Open is that they created a contest to show the best all-around riders – and I get third and everybody (from Red Bull) is high-fiving me and congratulating me. A few months later I’m being told I didn’t have a good enough year and that I’m too old to be on the team now. Plus, last year was one of my best years in terms of magazine and web exposure in a long time… I don’t know… the thing that pisses me off the most is that when they signed me eight years ago I was given a handshake and a “Welcome to Red Bull. When you’re with Red Bull you’re with us for life.” And then the same guy that told me that eight years ago was the one that told my team manager I had to be let go – he wouldn’t even return my calls or e-mails to talk things over.
The call to cut me though apparently came from Austria, so I’m not upset at (Ryan) Lamos (team manager) or anything – he’s been my team manager for three different companies for most of my career, we’re still boys. It’s just not a great situation to be in. But ultimately it’s lit a fire under my ass and I’d like nothing more than to prove Red Bull wrong.
A: What are you going to do to stay relevant in 2014?
JDW: Be different. If you’re not Harley or Phil or Rusty and winning regularly that’s what you have to do now to stay relevant. You can’t just be a really good boat rider who might get top ten on Tour and just kind of hang on, you gotta go out and separate yourself. You gotta winch, you gotta hit rails, you gotta ride cable. I think for me it’s combining all of those things and doing them well. On top of that if you’re gonna stay in the people’s eyes and be seen you have to be filming and shooting photos. I’m really excited to be filming some different sections this year and working on some web clips. I’ve got some cool things lined up. Ultimately I’m a much different rider now than I was four or five years ago – definitely not the contest rider I used to be. Cable has really opened up a new aspect of the sport for me and I’m really enjoying that, both in just freeriding and competing. I’d really like to do all the Triple Crown stops this year. I’ll still do all the Nautique events like Wake Games and Nationals, and maybe a couple other things.
A: How hard is it to be a full time wakeboarder and a new dad?
JDW: It’s changed my mindset, for sure – definitely makes me work harder. It can definitely bring more pressure, too, because I’m not just paying for my needs, I’m feeding three mouths now. But it’s more gratifying, too. She’s all I was thinking about during Wake Open because she was born two weeks before. That will be a contest I always remember.
A: Who and/or what gets you stoked on wakeboarding today?
JDW: I left Thai Wake Park a couple months ago going, “Damn, that was some of the most fun I’ve ever had on my wakeboard.” And I was only there for two days! I went halfway around the world to a contest, I didn’t even podium, and then I had to leave, but I left wanting to continue doing that. It was a ton of fun.
Little Mike Dowdy gets me stoked, too. He’s still got a lot to learn, but the kid has got balls and it’s fun to watch him ride. He’ll try anything and he’s pushing the sport. Also Chris O’Shea. Watching him freeride is insane. I’ve gotten to ride with him recently filming for Al Sur, it’s been a ton of fun. The kids that are doing doing unique stuff and differentiating themselves are what get me stoked. Like Daniel Grant. I watched him ride at Thai Wake Park and he’s insane – and he’s just got a huge smile on his face the whole time, not taking it too seriously – he’s killing it. Looking back I probably took things too seriously sometimes, but I’m just focused on having fun and enjoying it now. Having a family makes it all worth it – I just want her to be stoked on what I do and what I accomplished during my career.
A: Who and/or what gets you bummed out about wakeboarding today?
JDW: The PWT. The boat stuff I’ve been doing on Tour the past 13 years hasn’t really changed that much – some of the rails are probably easier now – everything is just a bit stagnant. I feel bad for guys like (Sean) Dishman and (Chris) Bischoff because they really want to make the Tour awesome for everybody, but they don’t have the backing to make it happen right now. I don’t see the PWT lasting much longer if it doesn’t make some big changes. It’s not really a great showcase of what wakeboarding is right now. We might need to go to more of a grassroots type thing that incorporates all different types of riding and that can consist of an overall tour – kind of like what The Wakeskate Tour did last year. They’re doing such a good job with all of that, it’s really cool to see.
Sponsors dropping guys left and right bums me out. Not just because it’s happened to me, but because it’s happened to a bunch of guys recently. It makes you worry about the sport as a whole. I understand budget cuts and everything, but at least give some of the riders some notice if you’re going to let them go. Tell us before Surf Expo so we have a chance to meet with other brands or potential sponsors to try to keep making a living. Don’t tell guys in December or January when it’s too late for them to find another company after budgets are already set. We’re not millionaires, you know? It’s hard because sometimes it can seem like we’re living the high life because of what we get to do and where we get to go, but we have bills and mortgages, too. Getting to fly around the world to ride your wakeboard in a cool location doesn’t cover your bills back home if you’re not getting a paycheck. It’d be nice to see the loyalty come back to some of the athletes. Sometimes you just have to be brutally honest with sponsors. The fact of the matter is I put my body on the line every time I ride and that has to come into account. Something is wrong when a rider can get injured and the next day sponsors say, “Sorry buddy, see ya later.” Truthfully though, right now I’m really focused on having a killer 2014 and staying positive. Surround yourself with good positive people and that’s how you’re going to progress. F*#$ the negativity.
Staying positive with a sunset session on the Delta. Photo: Rodrigo