2011 Rider of the Year: Reed Hansen
Reed Hansen is not your typical 21-year-old. Despite being the most successful wakekater on the planet (he’s the five-time reigning World Champion and four-time reigning overall Toe Jam champion), Reed still lives at home with his parents in the country town of Groveland, about 40 minutes west of Orlando. Reed grew up on the lake in his backyard and in the orange groves that surround it. He’s a country boy through and through, but a straightedge Mama’s boy, too. He doesn’t smoke, drink, or cuss. Reed loves big trucks, big guns, camo, the Bible, and of course, wakeskating. While his lifestyle might be curious to some, Reed wouldn’t have it any other way.
“What can I say about Reed? Reed is a great guy on and off the water. I always think that Reed is older than he is because he has done so much in a short time. On a wakeskate there isn’t much he hasn’t done. He continues to learn new tricks year after year. He has won a ton of contests and the Worlds 5 times already and he just turned 21. He is the person I fear most in a heat, but I look forward to riding against him every chance I get. Reed deserves to be ROTY because has helped make wakeskating what it is today and what it will become in the future. Congratulations!” – Brian Grubb, Alliance ROTY 2001
Aside from being one of the best wakeskaters in the world, Reed is one of the nicest guys you will ever meet. He’s quick-witted, but with a country-like “awe-shucks” sort of attitude. When you call most guys in the industry on the phone and ask them what they’re up to, the usual response is “Not much.” Not with Reed. Reed will just tell you what he’s up to, and it’s usually pretty entertaining. Some recent responses I’ve gotten from Reed over the past year or so:
“Sitting here with Manzari. We just bought a Bobcat in an online auction. Gonna move some dirt around.”
“Trying on my new python skin boots my parents got me for my birthday.”
“Writing a note for my parents to watch my new pet squirrel for me while I’m off in Germany.”
“Getting the El Camino rhino-lined. Yeah, the whole thing, rhino-lined. It’s gonna be sweet.”
Hang out with Reed for a few minutes and you feel like buddies on a level playing field. Watch him wakeskate for a few minutes and you realize he’s in a world all his own. What Reed has done in wakeskating, to wakeskating, and for wakeskating over the last five years is nothing short of incredible. Obviously the competitive accolades speak for themselves, and while some members of the wakeskating community might use them to speak against Reed, they can’t say anything about everything else Reed has done (and there’s a lot). Crazy highlight clips on the Internet? Check. Landing tricks nobody else has ever done? Check. Landing tricks switch nobody else has ever done? Check that, too. Conceptualizing, building, and riding new rails and obstacles? Check and check. Be one of the coolest and most approachable guys in the sport helping to spread the word, stoke, and progression as an ambassador? Easy check.
Even for the so-called knocks Reed might receive as a “contest rider,” every other top pro wakeskater will tell you they respect Reed for what he is able to do and how consistently he is able to do it. Only some will admit to wishing they could do what Reed can do, but deep down they all wish they could. As wakeskating has progressed over the last five years riders have started to specialize in certain aspects, much like with skateboarding and snowboarding. In skateboarding there are park guys, street guys, vert guys, etc. It is rare to see a skateboarder excel in all aspects. In snowboarding there are big mountain guys, park guys, urban guys, and halfpipe guys; and it is also rare to see one guy excel in all aspects. Wakeskating now has guys specializing in park/cable riding, boat riding, PWC/flats/rail riding, and winch/urban riding. There are guys in each discipline at the top of the sport, and there are a few guys who are good at all of them. But there isn’t a single wakeskater on the planet that is as good at every discipline as Reed. The proof is in the pudding (Reed’s trophy case).
Yes, Reed is competitive. He hates losing. He wants to ride well all the time; and behind that goofy, country-kid attitude lays a killer instinct. But Reed doesn’t wakeskate because he’s competitive. Reed wakeskates because he loves it. Why else would he huck himself off an eight foot drop at Radar Lake for over two hours trying to land a backside bigger flip, even when it got too dark for the cameras to keep rolling? Why else would he work with Fox to build a 60-foot spine in his backyard? Why else would he buy a used Bobcat in an online auction so he could work to build new pools/gaps/etc in his backyard?
When the question gets asked, “How can Reed be Rider of the Year?” the answer is pretty obvious, “How can Reed not be Rider of the Year?”
“Most people don’t understand how much Reed Hansen has done for wakeskating. For some reason I feel like a lot of the “core” culture of riders overlooks his presence in the sport. Reed has been the first to land countless flip tricks, rail hits, and wake-to-wake moves; and is constantly progressing with his riding. We all know he is a dominant force in contests, especially behind the boat, but he is much more than just a contest machine. Reed can hit gaps, ride rails, PWC, cable, whatever better than almost anyone else in the world. He is a badass who has been around for a long time and someone whose riding constantly impresses me. He is also a nice guy who I like to see anywhere except in my heat!” – Danny Hampson, Alliance ROTY 2008
“I would say that Reed Hansen’s name has come up in the discussion for ROTY just about every year since I was inducted. I can’t think of anyone else that has had a legitimate case to be the recipient that many years in a row. Consistency in his contest results, overall impact, and general freakishness make Reed not only a no brainer this year, but a serious contender for the last five years as well, and probably the next five to come. One of my favorite things about Reed is that, although being friends and teammates with him, I’ve never actually heard him talk about his own riding. It’s obviously not for a lack of new tricks to talk about or contests won, it is due to his humble demeanor and his desire to actually show people what he is capable of, rather than using words to convince them of it. It is left to the lucky ones that actually get to see him land a new trick or some insane line to talk about it.” – Ben Greenwood, Alliance ROTY 2005
“Watching Reed ride is like watching a human highlight reel. I’ve been fortunate enough to see him do a lot of crazy things over the years – from his backside 5 off the wake to pool gaps and flats tricks that are hard to explain – and it amazes me how he continues to progress his riding. His determination is insane. Watching him try trick after trick over and over down the pool gap at Radar this summer was impressive. He was taking a beating, but he didn’t want to stop. It was always “one more try” over and over. It was really inspiring to watch. All of that was on tricks he was learning. He absolutely stomped everything else.” – Chad Sharpe, Alliance ROTY 2004
“Reed Hansen is a good kid, I like him a lot. He deserves all the success he has earned. Dude dominates. Obstacles, boat, flats, contests, videos, he dominates it all. He continually expands the boundaries of wakeskating. When I hear about new wakeskate tricks being completed I feel like 75% of the time it’s Reed that landed it. Mentally Reed has what it takes to be a champion. Reeds’ superior board control and technical mind coupled with his belief in himself and his abilities allows him to accomplish great things.” – Randall Harris, Alliance ROTY 2002 & 2007