RECALL | 20 Questions with Kyle Murphy
When I emailed Randall Harris to get some dirt on Kyle Murphy for this interview, his reply was quick and simple: “I can’t really think of anything. Besides, he’d deny it all anyway even if I could. The dude is too level headed.” This is a far cry from the hyperactive 16-year-old I met at Canyon Lake six years ago, bouncing off the inside of the boat waiting for his turn to ride again. He’s all grown up now, except for maybe when he hits the water, and that youthful excitement takes over again. Murphy’s talent comes from two things as far as I can tell: growing up as a true Southern Californian – on cement, in waves, and on a mountain; and having some pretty heavy and opinionated wakeboarding mentors on his way up. His path has taken him from young contest hopeful with the biggest team in the sport (Hyperlite), to wandering freerider constantly looking for a home. That changed recently when he locked in with Byerly Boards, and by Kyle’s estimation, he’s just hitting his stride.
A: How old are you now and where do you live?
KM: I’m currently 22 years of age and I live in Canyon Lake, California.
A: You seem to have been laying low for the last few years, did you ever stop riding or were you just doing it away from the cameras?
KM: I don’t know what happened really. It was just kind of a choice I made and then it ended up going on for a couple years. When I was younger I did the junior men’s circuit and then for two years I tried to ride the Pro Tour. But I got really burned out on traveling all around the U.S. just for contests and whatnot. So I decided just to kinda’ hang out and do my own thing. The whole time I was doing contests it was like I would just ride, and then I would go home and ride to get better for the next contest. I ended up deciding that wasn’t for me and that I just wanted to do it for fun. I wasn’t really trying to make money, because I guess you could call me an “amateur professional”, I wasn’t really making a whole lot of money anyway. It just wasn’t for me. So I just ended up laying low and hanging out and shooting photos and some video things. But nothing too major. And this year I’ve just been trying to get out there a little more.
A: Do you have any other source of income besides being a professional wakeboarder? Do you have a job?
KM: Um, well, I don’t know. For wakeboarding it always seems like there’s little random things that will come up. You’ll do a demo or a lesson, something like that. But yeah, wakeboarding, that’s it right now. But in the winter I’ll work a little bit with my dad or, like last year I put up Christmas lights to make a couple extra bucks. And this year I’ve been working with Melissa’s (Marquardt’s) brother detailing cars. But yeah, I just scratch by. I make a little bit wakeboarding and then I make a little bit extra just to keep wakeboarding.
A: Your family has a house in Mexico that’s been host to a ton of road trips. Can you name all the professional wakeboarders who have been there?
KM: If you gave me four or five minutes I probably could. There’s a handful; I couldn’t remember them all.
A: That place can get pretty wild, what’s the craziest thing that’s ever happened on one of those trips?
KM: The last trip I was on – well, we’re used to lifted golf carts being from Canyon Lake and all, but this guy brought this golf cart over to my house in Mexico … man. I don’t know where he was from but he should have been from Canyon Lake because everyone would have thought he was cool. I mean this thing went from being 12 feet off the ground, and then with hydraulics, just straight down to the ground so you could get into it. So we all took off, there was like 10 of us, and we went out to go wakeskating behind the golf cart. So I was in it showing these guys where to go, and as we’re going – 12 feet off the ground and 40 miles an hour – the wheel falls off of this thing. And it just pitches sideways and we all go bailing out of it. And everybody came up behind us and asked, “Is this where we’re stopping?” And I said, “No, this thing just crashed.” When the wheel fell off I thought I was going to die, everybody just went flying out of this thing. I ended up landing on my feet and walking away from it, and some other guys got some bumps and scrapes, but it could have been a lot worse. That was one of the times when I was like, “Man, this is going to hurt really bad.”
A: People used to get you and Cody Hall mixed up, do you still hang out with him?
KM: No, he started doing his own thing, going to school and working and whatnot. I don’t know if he got burnt out or what. I haven’t really talked to him a lot, but it’s weird that you ask that because I just ran into him the other day. He’s great, he’s just hanging out. He’s not wakeboarding at all; I think he’s going to school to be an architect. I haven’t hung out with him in a while but I really want to, I’m trying to get him to go riding with us again. Or at least go winching, because I know he’s really into the rails.
A: How did you get involved with the Byerly team?
KM: I don’t know, it just kind of happened. It seems like ever since I started trying to be a serious wakeboarder, like, “Oh, this is what I’m going to do, I’m going to make it,” the one thing that has always held me back was the board company I was with. Everything just kept falling through. It would be good for a while and then it would fall through, and then I’d move on to another board company and the same thing would happen. Whether it was investors or the people running the company or I don’t know. It kind of came to the point where I didn’t really have anywhere to go. And a lot of times I would just want to be friends with the people I was riding for, not be calling them up and looking for checks or whatever. I’m really tight with Gator and the people at LF, so that’s not the kind of relationship I wanted to have with them. But I heard that Scott was starting a company, and I had met Scott about three or four years ago but I didn’t really know him that well. So I asked George Daniels for his number and just kind of called him up and told him what my situation was and told him I would love to ride for him and be part of his company. And as of right now, I don’t want to go anywhere else. I’m sure it is going to be going on forever as long as Scott is involved in it, and that’s where I want to be.
A: What do you think the difference is for you in this company compared to the others?
KM: Scott’s company is definitely real. Whatever Scott says, it’s gonna’ happen. The other companies, they weren’t really lying to you, but the people who were saying what was going to happen weren’t really in charge or didn’t have the complete final say in things. They would say one thing, and then the investors would cancel that out. But with Scott’s company, with the backing that he has and just being Scott, you know it’s going to happen. He’s very straightforward and he tells you, “This is what we’re going to do,” or, “This is what I can do for you.” All of us plan on growing with the company, it’s going to get huge.
A: Canyon Lake used to be THE West Coast place to ride, but you don’t hear as much about it anymore, has it changed a lot?
KM: Yeah, actually, it has. It’s changed a lot. I remember when it was really big, when I was just getting into it. I was the up and comer, trying to hang out with Randy and Steve (Wahlman), Ryan Augustine, Ricky Gonzales, Charlie and Tommy Marquardt. There were a handful of riders who were good up here. But all those guys, they all grew up. And it was really weird, because right when I started getting involved and figuring out that wakeboarding was my passion, then it all kind of died off for them. They were part of that time in wakeboarding when people, especially from out here, weren’t making a lot of money. So they went on to do other things, and they’re all successful now. But I remember for two years straight Melissa and I were riding, just her and I, and we couldn’t get anybody to go out with us. It got dead. But now it’s starting to get bigger again, there’s some groms coming up.
A: Who are the new guys on Canyon Lake?
KM: There’s this kid out here, Tyler Killingsworth, he’s getting known. He kills it on the rails and he’s good on the wake. This guy Christian Taylor, and the Valdez brothers. And when I see them I’m just like, “Dude, you guys need to get focused, you’ve got it all. You don’t need to work, you get to ride all the time.” It’s funny, this time of year nobody is out … they should be out there every day.
A: Do you feel the West Coast influence in wakeboarding and wakeskating has gotten stronger or weaker in the past five years.
KM: Well, if you had asked me this question a year ago I would have said that it’s gotten weaker, because it seemed like it had died off. And a big part of that was because Randy was gone. But I think right now it’s just getting stronger again. It’s back up to where it was and it’s getting bigger again. More people are starting to wakeboard seriously out here, they’re really getting into it.
A: You are one of the few riders who still does a lot of wrapped tricks. Why do you think nobody is doing them as much anymore?
KM: I’ve heard that people say, “Oh, it makes it easier,” and things like that. But it really doesn’t. If anything it probably makes it harder. I mean trying to edge in with one hand wrapped around your body is not the easiest thing to do. I don’t know why more people don’t use that wrapped handle, it’s a whole different part of wakeboarding that a lot of people haven’t tapped into. Doing tricks wrapped will change the way you do a trick, not only spins but mobes or whatever. They will definitely come out different, hopefully a lot more fluid. I don’t think it’s, I mean, gay or whack or makes it easier at all. So I don’t get why more people don’t use the wrapped handle.
A: You’ve been to your share of rail jams lately; do you feel they are good for the sport?
KM: Like huge rails? Not really. I think they’re cool for the whole crazy video section, just to hit a gnarly rail, that’s cool. But if you’re trying to set up a contest, especially a lot of these pool jams, they’re getting a little out of control. Maybe it’s a little too much. Snowboard rail contests are the same thing. They have this one in San Diego every year that’s called Beanies and Bikinis, and it’s straight up the same thing as wakeboarding – there’s scaffolding, a set of rails, a set of stairs, and there’s snow at the bottom and snow at the top, as opposed to a pool. It’s getting a little ridiculous. I think if you’re going to do a rail jam it needs to get mellowed down a little bit. I went to a couple contests this year where I saw some rails and it kind of held the contest back because they were so intimidating. People weren’t really into it; it was kind of like if you made it, it was cool. If you’re going to do a rail jam you should be able to do some things, put your own style into it, instead of, “Oh, here it comes, I hope I don’t die.” We need to let people get creative.
A: Rank these things in the order you would choose them: A perfectly glassy day on Lake Powell, a helicopter and a fresh backcountry run, a perfect South Pacific wave all to yourself, a day alone at your dream skate park.
KM: Man. I don’t know which one I’d want to do more. Being winter right now I’d probably do the helicopter snowboard setup. But I don’t know, that’s pretty tough. I don’t think I could choose.
A: If you were stranded on an island for the rest of your life, besides food, name the five things you’d want to have with you.
KM: Definitely my girlfriend, my friends, and my family. That’s probably it. People that I really like hanging out with. I mean a boat would be cool, or a surfboard, but that only lasts so long. I mean, yeah, I’d like to have a surfboard if there were waves. But mostly just people who I enjoy.
A: If somebody paid you twice what you are making right now to ride professionally, with the stipulation that you would have to live in Orlando for the rest of your wakeboarding career, would you do it?
KM: No, and not because it was Orlando. But like, to me, money doesn’t persuade my decisions at all. To be honest with you I’d rather work and be able to ride with my friends, where I want to ride, with the money that I worked all day for. Plus, I just get burnt out on certain areas and I know what area I like. I am definitely influenced by Southern California and I think it shows in my personality. So I don’t think I could live anywhere else for that long.
A: You live with Melissa Marquardt, but who wears the pants in that house?
KM: Definitely me … no, I don’t know. I mean, she’s the landlord. It’s pretty equal though. Except I don’t pay the mortgage, I just pay the rent.
A: Name your top three West Coast riders of all time.
KM: I’d have to say Randy and Steve. Randy, just the way he rides, he always seems to amaze people. Every time I go on a boat if there’s somebody new they freak out. Like when he does that first cut out people are like, “Where’s he going? What’s he going out there for? What’s he going to do?” You really don’t know how gnarly it is until you’ve been out on a boat with him. And then Steve Wahlman because he’s always been so fluid; even when he wakeskated, everything was just effortless. I mean, yeah, Randy’s railing in and going crazy, but Steve just makes everything look so easy, almost like the rope wasn’t even pulling him. And then I’d probably have to say Josh Smith, because if you don’t know Josh you probably can’t tell which way he rides, and I’m a big fan of people who can ride regular and switch. Who cares if you can do a 9 or a couple mobes, I think riding switch is a big thing in wakeboarding that more people need to be able to do, and since Josh has been wakeboarding forever you literally cannot tell which way he is going.
A: Okay, how about top three East Coasters?
KM: Scott, because he’s almost the same as Wahlman to me. He just made everything look so easy when he wakeboarded, he’d grab everything right, really smooth. And wakeskating too, I think he’s super bad. And then, I really like Shane Bonifay. He definitely controls it in the whole rail situation. And he’s gnarly behind the boat too, I like his style. And past that I don’t know … there’s so many in Florida. I’m gonna’ have to go with Tim Kovacich. He wakeskates like I wakeboard, I mean, he rides at 88 feet, 26 miles an hour doing 3’s and kickflips just huge. So yeah, those are my top three.
A: Okay, last question, do you think about the future much?
KM: I didn’t for a while. But once I turned 21 I started thinking about it a little more. I try not to though, because if you think too much about the future you’re not going to enjoy the present. If you’re always worried about what’s going to happen, you’re not going to enjoy what is happening. So I do think about it a little more, but probably not as much as normal people do, definitely not. I try to live day by day, because you could stop at any breath.
By: Tony Smith