2001 Rider Of The Year: Brian Grubb
By Tony Smith
Some people might argue that we’re doing this backwards, that it would have been easier to pick a Rider of the Year a few years back when the sport was still young and headed in (seemingly) only one direction. Back in the days when everybody pretty much knew who was the best just by looking at the competition results, or the magazine pages or the video clips. People might claim that in recent years wakeboarding has become all about being less predictable, less explainable, making the decision as to who’s the best an almost-impossible one. And they’d be absolutely right, thank God. The sport has branched out in so many new directions that there are now multiple places to turn to find the guy who stands above the rest. But if the act of riding has become less about structure, and more about possibility and exploring new realms, then it’s not such a hard job to pick a Rider of the Year – all you have to do is look for the person who looked like he was on his way somewhere. And if Brian Grubb wasn’t that guy in 2001, I don’t know who was.
The fact that he did it on a wakeskate is even more impressive. “He’s good at anything he does,” says longtime friend Joey Meddock. “I think he was just kind of late with the (pro) wakeboarding thing and he started wakeskating, and of course he was good at that like everything else.”
In fact, Grubb was so good that he drew the attention of Scott Byerly, who was looking for someone to ride with and push his limits. What has resulted is a blitz of Brian Grubb media attention that is impossible to ignore. Every month there are at least one or two photo submissions from Maloy or Letchworth that have a sequence of Grubb doing something new. He’s been impossible to miss in 2001, and impossible not to run in almost every issue of Alliance. Make no mistake; some of Grubb’s Rider of the Year title is because he got the most exposure. But you don’t ride that much without loving it. And you don’t keep making the pages of magazines without inspiring others to love it, too. Whether we felt like granting Grubb the Rider of the Year title because he got the most exposure, or did the most for his sponsors, or landed the most new moves, or even just mastered ones that had already been done isn’t important. What IS important is that in this year that we’ve all anxiously been waiting for; the year that wakeskating has finally arrived, Brian Grubb will be remembered as the one who carried the torch more often and more skillfully, and progressed more than anyone else.
Tony Smith: Do you feel like you accomplished some things last year?
Brian Grubb: Just that I’ve gotten to do a lot of things because of wakeskating, you know? With wakeskating, I never thought I’d get to travel or make money or anything like that, like all my friends were doing wakeboarding. It’s been great. I guess I’ve just been lucky to have those opportunities.
TS: But you’re a pretty decent wakeboarder, right? You might have gotten some of those things through wakeboarding.
BG: I was a B-team rider for Hyperlite. In like ’98 when the Juvi came out, I was working at Performance and Bill (Porter) was like, “Why don’t you ride this board?” And then Paul O’Brien came to town and saw me ride and I guess he was impressed with how I rode a wakeboard, so I got a contract for that year. Just for product and stuff. I did that for about a year and when I graduated from high school I went to Florida State. I stopped riding because there aren’t a lot of lakes up there but I really wanted to come back and keep riding. After my first year I transferred back to Orlando and I was still getting boards through Hyperlite. So even through all of that they still supported me — I could always call them and they’d hook me up. But it wasn’t until I started wakeskating that I got the support from them that I’m getting now.
TS: Did you ever want a wakeboarding career?
BG: Well, in high school I rode every day and went to all of Dishman’s (Extreme Productions) contests, and I went to Nationals once or twice. I tried to get into it as much as I could. But I guess in the contest part of it, at a pro level, I didn’t have all of the technical tricks to do really well. But I always wanted to try. I guess school got in my way a little bit. Like, when I graduated high school I knew I wanted to go to college and if anything happened with wakeboarding it would just be extra. I’m still in school now, and I have to finish that, I want to finish. But it’s been hard this last year juggling everything and filming with Artie, but it’s something I’ve got to do.
TS: Where do you go to school?
BG: University of Central Florida. Studying computer information technologies (laughing.)
TS: Joey Meddock says you could have been a player in the slalom ski world.
BG: Yeah, I did that for a while. You gotta’ get up too early and it’s too much work. It’s fun, I mean, I can still run what I did when I stopped — like deep 35 … off. But my dad still skis and stuff so I’ve skied with him a little bit and I pull him all the time.
TS: Your parents live in Orlando?
BG: Yeah, they live at my house … or I live at theirs, or something. I’ll be out of there soon.
TS: You’re getting ready to move?
BG: Yeah, hopefully if we get a house big enough, I’ll be living with Chad Sharpe, Andrew Cairns and Shawn Watson’s moving up from West Palm. It’ll be good if it works out. Hopefully we can get a good place on the lake close to school. I lived with Andrew for a while after I came back from Florida State, but our landlord was an idiot.
TS: So if you had to guess, do you think you’re going to become a better wakeboarder or are they going to become better wakeskaters?
BG: (Laughing.) Uh, they’ll probably become better wakeskaters. I know that’s the case with Chad and Danny (Harf). They ride all the time now and they’ve learned a lot of tricks. We go out and wakeskate doubles all the time … play horse.
TS: Do you always win?
BG: Well, they don’t let me play, but they play each other. I get to drive for ‘em.
TS: Would you always win?
BG: I hope so, haha. Yeah, I’ve got a few tricks I could probably take them down with.
TS: Are you making money wakeskating?
BG: Just starting to, yeah. I just started getting money from Hyperlite at Expo. I’ve been making photo incentives from Billabong and DC and Smith for the past year, so I’m getting money from them. I’m in the process of signing with Malibu right now, so I’m pretty excited about next year, for sure.
TS:What’s the last thing you bought?
BG: Gas for my car.
TS: No, the last good thing.
BG: A new skateboard. It’s a Zero, ‘cause Matt Staker has my board from Wakestock and I went out to Utah last weekend and went to all these rad parks so I had to buy a deck.
TS: Did you skateboard before you wakeskated?
BG: Yeah, I’ve been skating since I was like … I got a skateboard for my seventh birthday. I’m not that good at it but I have a lot of fun doing it. But it definitely helps wakeskating. Like this past weekend we went out to this park in Utah and I learned a bunch of tricks when I was there. I could totally see taking some of them over to wakeskating.
TS: Can you do more moves on a skateboard or a wakeskate?
BG: Probably a wakeskate. I don’t know, like hard tricks, yeah, on a wakeskate.
TS: Did you make a conscious choice to become a wakeskater so you could make a living, or was it to make a name for yourself, or was it just what you were into?
BG: It was just something I had fun with. I’d still ride everyday even if I wasn’t getting exposure from it, or money or any of that stuff. I just have so much fun doing it. Everything that comes from it and everything that happens for me because of it is something extra. So to be able to make money from it and not, I guess, have a real job is just cake for me. I like going out and learning new tricks and taking good crashes and all that stuff.
TS: What’s the worst slam you’ve taken … have you blackballed yourself or anything?
BG: I took a pretty good one out at the Wakeboard Camp.
TS: The one that’s in the movie?
BG: Yeah, the one that’s in the new Pointless video. Yeah, I straddled that one at about 25 miles per hour. The bar was like 140-feet long and we were going pretty fast so I could get down it. That one felt pretty good. I had bruises from my knees all they way up my thighs on both legs. Luckily I didn’t tag the jewels but it definitely hurt. I took another good one out at Scott’s house … on that “up/down” thing … I rammed my arm into the front of it. I’ve got a nice scar from that one.
TS: But at least you didn’t have to worry about your shins being all marked up from grip tape on your board, huh? The Hyperlite boards are changing some this year, right?
BG: We’re basically going to keep everything we liked about last year’s deck, which is like a wakeboard core … and last year we made those tips and tails with a lot of concave. It works really well because you can get a lot of leverage from them, you have a lot more control than with just a flat deck. But for sliding, wood is kind of slow when it gets wet, so we’re going to keep the PBT base on the (wakeskates) this year. So that’ll protect it from getting beat up jibbing. And we’re gonna’ keep the soft top too, because grip tape tears you up some and it doesn’t last too long in the water, where foam does last.
TS: But the core is changing to wood?
BG: Yeah, Hyperlite is going to do two series– one is called the Platinum, which is just the basic, entry-level deck, and then Scott and myself are getting pro models that are gong to be 17-ply decks that will be all dished out and they’ll have added kicktails on the end.
TS: And that’s the “SBG” model?
TS: Who came up with that name?
BG: I guess I did. We’re just sharin’ the name … sharin’ the “B.”
TS: The foam wakeskates seem a lot harder to ride than the wooden ones … don’t you think?
BG: Well, I got really comfortable on it, you know, that’s what I rode for like a year. But when we first started making the new wooden ones and getting prototypes and stuff, I knew I liked wood better. It’s way more responsive; it pops way better off the wake. That’s why we’re going with the wood, because it DOES work better. You know, it might not last as long as a foam core, but it definitely gives a better ride.
TS: Do you like to compete against people, or do you just go to contests to show people what you can do on a wakeskate?
BG: I guess when I’m riding with all of the wakeboarders it’s something like showing them what I can do. Obviously I can’t keep up with them on wake tricks or whatever. But when there are sliders thrown into it, I kind of like to think I can hold my own. Like at Wakestock this year I made it to the finals in the slider contest … I got like eighth out of 25 riders. But competing’s fun, it’s cool to go out there and ride against your friends … but it’s never super competitive for me like, “I’m gonna’ beat you.” It’s cool just all getting together and seeing what everyone’s got?
TS: Do you “compete” against Thomas? I mean, are you rivals?
BG: I don’t consider him like a rival. I totally respect his riding. He does tricks that I can’t do … and I’m not sure if I can do tricks that he can’t (laughing.) I love watching him in videos — it’s rad, he’s super-fluid and smooth and does really technical tricks and he slides good, rides behind the boat good. Thomas is like where everybody started seeing wakeskating where it is today. I’ve looked at half his tricks and tried to figure out how to do them. I have all the respect in the world for Thomas.
TS: Anybody else that you think is really good?
BG: There’s this kid that’s been riding out at the cable, his name’s Mike Decato. He can do a lot of tricks and he’s really comfortable out there.
TS: What about pros?
BG: Scott and Drew. I mean, Scott’s doing crazy tricks like making kickflips and a bunch of cool stuff wake to wake. I haven’t really been riding with Drew that much lately. I heard he’s got a rad section in the new Cassette video, though.
TS: What’s the last new move you did?
BG: Uh … uh … I don’t know. I’m trying to think. I don’t know, that’s a good question. I usually get more excited if I make like four or five tricks in a row wake to wake, or something like that. Like if I make a frontside 3 … I don’t know, I get more stoked linking tricks together than just doing one at a time.
TS: So I just saw the Pointless Video (Incomplete) this weekend … did you have to work harder on your part than the wakeboarders?
BG: Filming it? Well, yeah, we’ve been filming for like the past year-and-a-half and in most of the early stuff, I was still wakeboarding. Like, we built that big slider at Danny’s and I only got to wakeskate on it four times but I wakeboarded on it a bunch. That’s when I was kind of doing both a lot. But when we started dumping everything on the computer, all the footage, I definitely had a smaller folder than everybody else. Luckily, a lot of the shots that I wanted we just went out and got, so it turned out well.
TS: What’s the song you chose for your part?
BG: It’s a song called “El Presidente.” Andrew found it on Napster back when we lived in that house a couple years ago and I’ve always kind of liked the beat of it. It’s about Fidel Castro … I guess that guy’s pretty cool. No, I’m just kidding (laughing.)
TS: What’s your favorite part in your own section?
BG: Probably that big slider at Park’s house … which is just one shot, but that thing took me so long to figure out. I was totally stoked when I finally made it. It doesn’t look that hard in the shot, but it was hard because the step up was like a foot lower than the flat part, so that definitely made it a little bit more difficult.
TS: Yeah, the riding in it is the best I’ve ever seen, not just from you, but from everybody. People were cheering for it when we watched it at Jimmy Redmon’s house this weekend.
BG: That’s cool. There’s definitely … I don’t know … I guess the way other people look at wakeboarding is that it’s gay or stupid compared to skateboarding or snowboarding, but when you’re out there doing it everyday and getting worked on tricks and even just the sliding part of it … it’s come so far in the past year with Chad and Danny and Parks and Shane. Like Chad doing that huge gap, hitting the kicker … there’s no way that somebody that snowboards or skateboards can look at that and say, “That’s not hard,” or “That’s just messing around.” And Parks doing backside 450’s … I mean it’s ridiculous … it’s got to be showing other people that wakeboarding isn’t associated with rollerblading anymore. That was part of our thing in doing the video, we wanted to show people how rad it is and also how fun it can be.
TS: Who’s the boss of the Pointless crew?
BG: I don’t know if there’s a boss, but I guess you could call Shane the founder. I mean, he’s the one that got the first camera, and he’s always been stepping it up when we need new ones or editing systems or stuff like that. But if we make a decision it’s normally all of us … or anyone that’s around at the time, haha. We’re trying to keep it a team thing.
TS: Do you think there needs to be different equipment for wakeskating, like a wakeskate specific boat?
BG: No. Wakeskating should be done at 22 miles an hour on a 70-foot rope. It doesn’t need to be done on a short rope or with a different wake.
TS: What else do you do for fun?
BG: I play quite a few video games. If I start playing one I just want to play it until I beat it.
TS: Oh, what about the Xbox game, are you going to be in that?
BG: Yeah, I was actually just out there last weekend in Salt Lake. My girlfriend, Ashley, lives out there so I went to hang out with her but I met up with those (Microsoft) guys and went to their offices and saw all the guys that were working on the snowboard game and it’s pretty cool. Xbox is gonna’ be so sick.
TS: You have a character in it though, right?
BG: Yeah, I do. There’s going to be quite a few Pointless guys in the game. It’s so realistic, I saw them building characters for the snowboard game and it’s going to be crazy to see the computer-generated version of yourself. Something I never thought would ever happen.
TS: That’d be pretty cool since you’re a computer major to go into class and give a presentation on your own character from the X Box game. You might get some play that way.
BG: Play from who? There’s no chicks in the computer science department (laughing.)
TS: I’ve got one last question: Is it true that …
BG: I already know what you’re gonna’ ask.
BG: If I’d ever tried out for a boy band.
TS: Oh shit, I forgot about that … did you?
BG: No, that was just a rumor (laughing), and I didn’t date Britney Spears either but that was another rumor.
TS: Well, I’d keep the Britney Spears rumor alive, that’s a pretty good one.
BG: Yeah, I don’t know where it started but I kinda’ just started going with it for awhile like, “Yeah, when she was on Mickey Mouse Club we used to hang out a little bit.” But the boy band one seems to be the one that’s lasted the hardest (laughing.)