2003 Rider Of The Year: Aaron Reed
By Tony Smith and Chris Heavener
Yes, it’s Aaron Reed. And if right now you’re asking yourself, “Who, exactly, is Aaron Reed again?” then you’re probably not alone. The better question is “What did he have this year on riders like Danny Harf and Parks Bonifay and Shawn Watson?” Harf had one of the better competitive seasons ever had in wakeboarding, pulling back to back wins in the Gravity Games and the Nationals for a $35,000+ swing over the course of seven days, and catapulting him across the invisible line that separates really good pro riders from superstars. And there’s always a strong case for Parks being “Rider of the …” anything. There’s little doubt anymore that everybody considers him the overall best, and he kicked it up a notch this season innovating new moves off the double up, including a double back roll mobius. Watson was arguably “traditional wakeboarding” better than anyone else in the world at the beginning of 2003 (he was no slouch on sliders either). For the few months after he moved to Orlando in the spring, he was riding so smoothly it was hard to tell he was holding a rope the whole time.
But in the end it was Reed who stuck out. Like a dirty gym sock hanging on the wall of an art museum — you just could not deny his presence. There are many criteria we consider every year when we undertake our judgmental little task, among them are talent, media exposure, video parts, public sentiment, how much a rider has progressed over the course of 12 months, and how much they have done for the sport. If Aaron doesn’t come in first in all those categories, he’s damn close to the top in every one. But past that, there are three specific reasons why we chose Aaron Reed as Alliance’s 2003 Rider of the Year:
#1.) Invisible Cinema and Sfumato – I can’t speak for the rest of the people on our staff, but when I saw Sfumato it really pissed me off. Our movie, Invisible Cinema had come out a few months prior, and the footage we had of Reed was amazing, I truly thought we had compiled the largest amount of technical wakeskating footage ever assembled in one movie. And we had … for about four months. Then Sfumato came out and it made me want to scream. The period of time between the end of filming for both movies, respectively, was from about April to August (he wrapped one and immediately started shooting the other), and the gigantic leap forward in progression that Aaron made in those four months is probably the single most impressive thing I have ever seen in wakeboarding/wakeskating. The tricks alone are extraordinary, couple them with the extremely small window in which he seemed to learn all of them and it’s mind boggling. Go get both movies, watch Invisible Cinema first and then Sfumato and tell me that 2003 wasn’t Reed’s year. Rider of the Year is still 95% about riding, and those two movies alone prove he rode better than anybody this year.
#2.) The Underdog Factor – While the Rider of the Year is not a popularity contest, it is impossible to deny the fact that it was good to see a truly talented individual come forth who also happened to have the attitude of a first year rider. We respect the superstars as much as anyone but isn’t it always nice to see somebody come in off the bench and amaze? Reed seemed to stand in the middle of the whirlwind rising up
around him and be totally unaffected and surprised by the whole thing. I’m still waiting for the day where he acts like a diva bitch, but I don’t foresee it happening anytime soon. Every time you watch Aaron ride with other pros, even his closest friends Thomas Horrell and Jim Leatherman, it’s like he’s Cinderella invited to the ball. Which makes it all the more impressive when he kicks everyone’s ass. In the new issue of Cassette’s Analog (presumably quoted from or approved by Thomas) there is a passage that reads, “This is Aaron Reed. Never be replaced by him, he’ll drive your image into the dirt.” Obviously he has the respect of his peers, but while 2003 was his underdog year and he still has all the enthusiasm of a freshman sorority pledge, there is no way he’ll be fooling anybody anymore.
#3.) His Complete Dedication To and Passion For Wakeskating – I want to talk briefly about women and riding. Not women riders, but what women do to men that ride. I think we all know friends that let girls control their lives, and in the case of Orlando, many of those friends happen to be professional riders. I can’t tell you how many times a rider around here has let a girl, or his pursuit of girls, or more realistically his feeling for a certain girl, get in the way of his riding and career. There are probably three careers alone I can think of that got absolutely derailed by women. And again, it’s not the women’s fault, it’s that the riders let these women control their lives. The reason I’m mentioning it is because of a story I heard about Aaron.
It seems one day this summer Aaron walked into a drug store in his hometown of Clermont, Florida and whether by grace or gravity, or some other uncontrollable force, his head was drawn to the photo counter, where he locked eyes with a female clerk named Lindsey Bott. After much prodding from his friend and fellow Wakeboard Camp coach, Kurt Robertson, Reed finally got up the nerve to ask her out. Lindsey’s recollection of the events that followed are these: That Aaron came back for three days in a row to ask her out, even though she only agreed on the last day. That he borrowed a car from one of his friends (whether it’s because he was embarrassed of his old, white pick-up truck or that it wasn’t working is unclear), took her out to dinner and for some drinks and at the end of the night drove her home across the lake on the back of one of the Wakeboard Camp Sea-Doo’s and walked her safely two blocks to her house.
“It was just really cute,” she said.
Next date was to Disneyworld with his parents, grandparents and aunt.
Bott again: “He’s not really the date type of guy, he’s just down to hang out and do whatever.” The reason for this? According to Lindsey, “He spent so much time wakeskating it seemed like he really didn’t have time for a girl.”
And there you have it, the secret to Reed’s success. First, that he is a genuinely nice guy. But also, he doesn’t let that stand in the way of what he loves to do, which is wakeskate. The sweetness is there, but the sweetness is not his weakness. Our congratulations to Aaron Reed — Alliance’s 2003 Rider of the Year. – T.S.
A lot of people don’t really know too much about Aaron the person, as opposed to Aaron the wakeskater. I know I didn’t. I decided to pretend that I was a professional by doing some investigatory journalism on the background of our main man here. What I found was a sordid tale of jilted lovers, crimes of passion, mystery, intrigue, and murder. Okay, not really, his backstory is pretty standard actually, but still somewhat interesting. So here is a brief history of Aaron Reed, and mind you these are just the facts, no funny
stuff here, I have a personal rule of not messing with a man’s past. I messed with a man’s past once and it got pretty ugly. I’m not going to go into detail but lets just say I’ve got one too many tattoos of Alec Baldwin in a place that no man should ever have a tattoo … ever.
Aaron grew up in Stuart, Florida. Stuart is a nice little town just off the eastern coast of the state, about two-and-a-half hours southeast of Orlando. He spent his time fishing with his father, mostly saltwater fly. He attended Martin County High School where he was on the debate team and played wide receiver and cornerback for the football team … Go Tigers! When he was 15 his father gave him his first wakeboard, a Wake Tech Rave. It wasn’t long before he had taken the boots off and waxed down the top of the board for better traction. You could say that his love affair with wakeskating had begun. Aaron moved from Stuart to Clermont, Florida for his senior year of high school. He enrolled in South Lake and made good grades. When he graduated, he decided to move to Tampa and attend the University of Southern Florida where he would major in psychology. He worked many jobs during this time, mostly as a waiter. After only one semester he realized that wakeskating had too strong of a hold on him and he moved back to Clermont to pursue his passion and let the chips fall where they may.
Aaron started working at the Wakeboard Camp and soon grew to be friends with head coach Kyle Schmidt. It wasn’t long until word spread north to Orlando about a kid who worked at the camp and had unreal skills on a wakeskate. Thomas Horrell, who was in the midst of piecing together a team for his wakeskate company, Cassette, heard about Aaron and wanted to see for himself if Reed was all he was cracked up to be. It only took one outing in the boat for Thomas to realize that Aaron was a natural for the team. Thomas started to flow Aaron some boards and Aaron came up to Orlando to ride every once in a while. In 2002 Aaron wont he Alliance High Ollie Contest putting many of the “names” to shame. The next thing we knew, Aaron was a permanent fixture on the Cassette team and in the wakeskating world in general.
Now that wasn’t so bad was it? See, you get informed as well as entertained. And we all win when we learn. I think this is the part of the story where I blow a bunch of smoke up Aaron’s butt. Aaron is awesome, he’s tall and he’s tan, he’s got a golden arm and his brain is made out of a computer that holds like 50,000 GB of RAM. He’s got a different girl for every day of the week, he can hold his breath for three months, he’s stronger than the Hulk and he’s faster than the Flash, but he’s not faster or stronger than Superman. He can make a mean meat pasta sauce, he takes two pounds of vitamins every day and he could kill a man with his mind.
While all of that may not be true, it would be pretty awesome if it were. Aaron seems to have a natural ability to progress much faster than the average wakeskater. He’s no slouch on a skateboard either. His ability to transfer his power from a skateboard to his wakeskate is seamless. The kickflip for example: some of you may think you’re seeing kickflips in some of these videos but you’re sadly mistaken, the form is all off. Aaron is one of the few that’s gotten it right for once. While most riders pop and slam their front foot down hoping the board will flip and land on the water the right side up, Aaron has the ability to give the board what we call “The Flick”. The top of the toe is the thing that initiates the board flipping and the nose of the board points downward as it flips. The back foot is the first thing to make contact with the board, not the front foot, not both feet, and certainly not the water. That’s just one example that having a strong background in skating never hurts your ability on the water. In fact, I’d go so far as to
strongly suggest that if you are a wakeskater, you absolutely positively must skateboard as well, if not better, than Aaron Reed.
Of course, not all of his talent is accredited to his skate skills, it also helps that he rides with some of the best wakeskaters in the biz. Natural talent can only take one so far, and it takes the proper surroundings and atmosphere to cultivate talent, much like a gardener cultivates a flower. Think about it, you think Aaron would be as good as he is if he rode in the Arctic Circle with a bunch of kneeboarders? I didn’t think so. It helps to ride with guys like Thomas Horrell, Drew McGukin and Jim Leatherman who not only push one’s riding ability but also pump one’s ego up so big your head can’t fit through a standard doorway. As it is with most serious riders, going out in the boat is all about competition — if you don’t land the sickest most insane trick then you’re cut from the team or, even worse, out of the clique. Actually that was just a joke; it’s not really like that. But there is an element of pushing one’s self and when those guys ride together there’s not so much a feeling of competition as a feeling of inspiration.
Aaron’s video footage this year has been nothing less than staggering. His constant filming, desire to ride, and ability to always push the envelope have easily shown through. His part in this year’s Alliance video, Invisible Cinema, showed the wakeskating community that this boy from south Florida was not just a bunch of hype, but instead a strong force to be reckoned with. And his part in this year’s Cassette video, Sfumato, showed that not only was he here, but he was here to stay. Backside big spins, back lip to shuvit out, and a gap ollie into next week were just some of the tricks that not only had never been captured on film but also had never been done before.
Yeah, I hear you, there’s all that junk about the videos, the tricks, the contests, the big endorsement deals and everything, but what about Aaron Reed the person? What’s he like in real life? To tell you the truth he’s a really pompous asshole. Just kidding, he’s a really nice, down-to-earth type of guy. He’d be just as comfortable kicking it at home watching TV having a few beers with some friends as he would be kicking it at the hottest club downtown or in the VIP room sipping on Crystal. He’s not some freak who’s got nothing better to do than talk about wakeskating 24-7. He’s not some kook who’s going get all egotistical when his pro model sells a billion units. He’s not a guy who would throw a hissy fit if he didn’t win the tour stop and he’s certainly not the type of guy who will forget all of his friends when he gets super famous in the industry, not to say that he already isn’t. Aaron is the type of guy who is just living his life right now. He’s doing what he loves and he’s having a blast doing it. And in the long run I think that’s just about the best thing any one of us can hope for in life. So I guess what I’m trying to get at through these closing words is that Aaron Reed is a great guy who is really good at wakeskating and he’d probably be really good at anything he wants to do, whether it’s becoming a famous political debater or a world renowned psychologist. So Aaron, from all of us at Alliance, congratulations on being the 2003 Rider of the Year and thank you for filling our pages with your talent and hard work. – C.H.