Each year we recognize the best and the brightest in our sport for their accomplishments on a wakeskate. I could wax poetic about the state of wakeskating and the difficulty of choosing, but at this point, we all know it's never easy to select a few riders to represent the whole sport. But after much debate, we present the 2008 Alliance Wakeskate Awards. Be sure to check out the new issue of Alliance Wakeboard for even more pictures and the full Rider of the Year award.

Rider of the Year: Danny Hampson

Photo: Soderlind

No need to reiterate this one again, we gave him his own write up and interview yesterday. Check it out here. 

Rookie of the Year: Andrew Pastura

photo: Lugo

It’s not really that hard to see why Andrew would be receiving this award after the season he has just finished up.  Andrew is exactly what wakeskating needs right now.  In a “coming of age” time in the history of the sport, Andrew is the quintessential example of the potential of it all.  He wasn’t a wakeboarder, he isn’t from Florida, and he’s not caught up in the sponsorship race or competition craze.  He simply rides because he has fun and he loves it, and the talent he clearly possesses exudes itself from him every time he hits the water.  Andrew has his head on straight and is probably the humblest guy you could ever meet; all the more reason to appreciate his straightforward approach to wakeskating.  Midwest roots run strong in the Pastura blood; he is a hard worker and a friendly face.  Andrew is pretty much a prime example of what kind of talent wakeskating can attract nationwide, and it’s really exciting.  The truth is, Pastura’s riding that was seen this past season is only a fraction of what he is doing under the radar.  He is very likely the most consistent, controlled, and fearless wakeskater I have encountered, and is no doubt in the front of the progression train.  I have been to winch spots with him that no one else will hardly 180, and Drew just rides them like he’s doing tricks in the flats.  Andrew is doing what he loves and everyone is happy to see it. – David Hanson

Most Improved: Stu Shinn

Photo: Aslanian

To say that Stu is the most improved rider doesn’t mean that he wasn’t good before, quite the contrary in fact. I just believe this is the year that he finally took his riding to that ever-elusive “next level.” Stu did stuff behind the boat this year that many people would have deemed impossible not too long ago.  It is not just bangers, like the first ever backside 360 bigspin landed, that set Stu apart, but it is his consistency behind the wake as well. I don’t know many people, let alone anyone, that can do three shuvs and back bigs wake to wake first try almost every time. This year Stu went from having a standard bag of tricks, to having maneuvers on lock that most people would be stoked to land just once in their whole career. It feels like not even two years ago that a toe back big was a pretty big deal, now Stu has even taken that trick to the wake and shown everyone how its done.

From making some noise at the big contests, to joining CWB and designing his own board, it is safe to say that Stu has had an epic year. But he did not only improve his own riding this year, he really pushed the sport to the next level, ultimately improving the riding of others as well, and that is why we feel he is so deserving of this award. So congrats Stu, we hope that this is only just the beginning and that you continue to push the sport for years to come.—Adam Aslanian

Female Rider of the Year: Jen Gilanfarr

Photo: JAM

When you look back over the year Jen is the one who has proved to be pushing the sport for female riders to a new level. I first met Jen back in ‘06 and as time went on we have had many fun sets and photo ops together. During that time one word sums up what went on. Progression. It’s no wonder that she has dominated over all the others this year. For Jen, wakeskating is a passion. That is what keeps her riding as much as possible and charging it every time she goes out. She rarely holds back and does things full throttle.

This year I've seen her tear up gaps like metro west, M gap and watched her do some gnarly stuff at the first Raging Pull. I think she proved her skills to everyone there by landing a front 180 and a shuv down the 6.0 pool gap. If that type of progression isn't enough for you, her boat riding skills have soared to a new level this year too, by stomping the first wake to wake shuv ever landed by a female wakeskater. During the summer Jen traveled to Wisconsin and took first place at Nationals. Shortly after that she gained herself the World title by taking first in the pro womens wakeskate division at the World Championships in Oklahoma.

Her dedication to the sport shows. Setting other things aside and using her own time and money to get to these different events. As new tricks are emerging and her consistency behind the boat, jetski and winch are increasing there is no doubt in my mind that Jen is pushing the sport in the right direction. Congrats Jen, you deserve it.– JAM

Video of the Year: Homeless

There was little debate on choosing video of the year this year, and not just because there were very few wakeskate-specific releases this year, but because for the short time running time the video was, Homeless packed a punch. Even though there was some wakeboarding in the video, the wakeskating was top notch, especially for an all-winch video. Putting together lines can be difficult when winching and is not often done but these guys made it happen. And the variety of winch spots was great, including the first documentation of riding UP a spillway, using it as a sort of kicker. Ben Horan's section definitely stands out, but overallt he use of the different spots is really creative, which is what made this one a must see. These guys took whatever they could find and shredded it to bits, then editing into one neat little package! — Vince Whiteman

photo: Geery

Video Part of the Year: Nick Taylor, Volume Videos Issue 6

When Nick Taylor surprised everyone at the Wake Awards last year with his never-before-seen frontside bigflip (which went on to win the Trick of the Year award), it was the first glance of what would go on to compile the best video part of this year.  There was a good amount of debate among the staff here about who should win this, especially after seeing George Daniels in Push Process, Ben Horan in Homeless, and Danny Hampson in Issue 7, but it became pretty clear that Nick set the bar the highest with this part.  While Nick was working on filming he told me he didn’t want anything in it that he had gotten on film before, a demonstration of his honor to progression.  Nick was in a stage of big ideas and the capabilities to make them happen.  It ultimately attested to his ability to wakeskate extremely well in all different environments, and to create new tricks and push things to another level.  Nick continued to prove his focus on proper and solid wakeskating, all while exemplifying a signature style of fluidity and complete control.  This section probably introduced the most new tricks to wakeskating this year, such as his aforementioned frontside big flip and a handful of other impressive lines and winching action.  While most parts still seem to necessitate “filler” footage, or get a little sketchy on the big tricks, Nick stomped banger after banger with ease, and his style beamed through at its brightest.  Hard work and pure talent; that’s why Nick won this award.– David Hanson