2002 Rider(s) Of The Year: Parks Bonifay & Randall Harris
By Tony Smith
Yes, it’s a tie. Think of it this way: If you could have only one power, would you be the irresistible force, or the immovable object? The irresistible force sure seems more exciting at first. But the strength of an immovable object is also subtly attractive. That’s what trying to vote for the Rider of the Year was like for the members of the Alliance staff this year.
Our decision, in case you were wondering, is based on many criteria, the most important of which always end up being feeling and instinct. We talk to professional riders, watch the videos, see the contests, look at the photos and take into account all that a rider has done in the last 12 months — but in the end it inevitably comes down to just having a sense of who represented the past year of wakeboarding the best. This year, it was impossible to come up with just one.
For starters, Parks did too much not to win. Every time he entered a contest, stepped in front of a video camera or went flying across a big gap, you knew you were about to see something like you’ve never seen before. Did you catch the end of his section in All or Nothing, when the 15-foot foam ball is sure to swallow him whole yet he still manages to bull his way out of it? Things like that separate good riders from great ones, if only by fractions.
And Randall simply f***ed it up so hard he was, well, irresistible. How about riding with one arm at the Worlds last year and landing moves that the other pros didn’t even try? That was one of the single most extraordinary and inspiring things ever seen.
But there were other riders that did a lot in 2002 that were also in the running. Could Erik Ruck have possibly had a better year for himself? Chad Sharpe didn’t exactly hold back either. To be honest, the discussion went round and round for a month. We talked and talked about it a million times, and every time it was Parks and the Vandall who came out on top. But respect and congratulations go to all of the riders who made 2002 the most revolutionary year in wakeboarding to date.
Parks Bonifay By Randall Harris
“I do not like to share. Had it not been Parks himself telling me that we were the recipients of the 2002 Alliance Rider of the Year title, I would have been chapped.”
– Randall Harris
I do not like to share. Had it not been Parks himself telling me that we were the recipients of the 2002 Alliance Rider of the Year title, I would have been chapped. Not because I felt I deserved this award solely, or any award at all. There is just not enough room on this pedestal for myself and most other riders. They would just look bad, sooo bad, next to me. Parks does not look bad. He just does not look quite as good as me.
Parks’ rise to the top has been a slow and steady ascension, not an overnight crowning. Everything he has done for the sport was earned, and he has done a tremendous amount. The X-Games victory. The Pro Tour victory. The double flips. The 1080. Switch. The incredible adapting to and mastering of rails. Every achievement has been a monumental step forward, each stride solidifying his stature in the history books. All these things have made Parks one of the top moneymaking athletes in wakeboarding, yet he still remains unaffected, not greedy, and only slightly cocky. What has helped Parks earn the utmost respect in my eyes was that as his belly and hair grew, so did he. He grew into his own “I don’t give a f***, I know I’ma land this shit” laid back, yet aggressive, style. This doesn’t contradict my theory that “you can’t learn style, you’re born with it”. As Parks’ hair and stomach matured, his specific way of wakeboarding grew outward as well. This brings up the question however; could big hair and a belly to match be conducive of style? Hmmm.
2001 was an amazing year for Parks with 12 Honkeys, a toy at Burger King, and winning too many contests to name. Due to the fact that it’s harder to stay on top than to reach the top, many expected Parks to slow down in 2002. Not only did he manage to maintain after accomplishing so much, he held his ground and rose higher! He effortlessly took first at the Masters, the Red Bull Depth Charge, and the Big Air contests. He also had three masterful video sections including Free4All, All or Nothing, and the prestigious Pointless Posse’s Incomplete. Parks also unleashed great technical contributions on the sport with the release of his Hyperlite signature series boards and bindings, as well as his own series of Accurate handles. To top all of that he will be featured in Shaun Murray’s Playstation game and he has been working alongside yours truly and many others on the Scott Byerly X-BOX game. And let’s not forget his collaborating with legendary rappers Spiccoli and Vandall on some classic tracks, as well.
If all of these things do not equal Rider of the Year, then they must equal Rider of the Decade. Which makes me start to wonder who looks not quite as good on the pedestal … NOT! We’re both sittin’ pretty right now so Bow Down whether East or Westward bound! Now if I haven’t talked Alliance into deciding that Parks should be the only recipient for this achievement, I would like to thank Alliance and say that I am most honored to be sharing the 2002 Rider of the Year with you PB.
Randall Harris By Parks Bonifay
“His stuff just comes from somewhere else. I have no idea where that is, but if you see him ride and watch all the tricks he does … you just know it’s not like normal wakeboarding.”
– Parks Bonifay
I definitely admire Randall Harris. People have overlooked his talent, his power and his prestige for so long and I think it’s great that somebody is finally recognizing him like this, giving him the Rider of the Year award. To be honest, he’s so far ahead of the game he probably deserves the Rider of the Year award for 2005. His stuff just comes from somewhere else. I have no idea where that is, but if you see him ride and watch all the tricks he does — riding at 27 miles an hour and doing all the variations of wrapped moves and grabbing differently – you just know it’s not like normal wakeboarding.
The funny thing is, I hadn’t ridden in a boat with Randall in about two years until we went on a trip through Northern California this summer. And it really dropped my jaw when I saw where he was coming from in 2002. I can’t even describe it except to say that everything he did just kept building up and building up the whole time. I was about to jump out of the boat I was so excited. His double ups, dude, he’ll huck down harder than anybody. I’ve seen that kid eat some shit as hard as possible and get right back up and try it again. And that’s nothing for him because I’ve watched him try kickflips down a 5-stair and eat shit way harder than that, and he’ll get up twice as many times skateboarding. That’s where a lot of my respect for Randall comes from, just the way he throws down, because you know I’m all about that. There aren’t too many guys in wakeboarding I respect for their ballsiness, but I definitely respect him. Doing wrapped mobes the size he does, bombing in on an 85-foot rope, that’s where my hat’s off.
But Randall’s also got a lot of knowledge; he’s a really smart kid. And to stand up for what you believe in for so long, in all of your methods, that’s really admirable. The thing about wakeboarding is that you have all these opportunities. Opportunities to travel and go to contests, make money and ride for a lot of people. But the biggest one is the opportunity to live your life at your own pace. And I think Randall is taking full advantage of this, and this is his contribution to the sport other than just wakeboarding really well. If he feels like staying at home and riding at Canyon Lake and not going to a contest or something, then that’s what he’s going to do. Or if he wants to go down to Argentina and get his video part together so it’s really how he wants to be represented, than that’s what he’s going to do. And I think there’s plenty of room for this in professional wakeboarding, now more than ever. I’m sure this is what he enjoys the most, just pushing it and charging it.
The stuff that I do, that Pointless is doing, we’re progressing the sport right now, but I think everyone is going to learn that stuff over the next few years because it’s the obvious thing to try and do. The stuff that Randall is doing is going to take a long time for people to catch onto. It’s kind of like he’s started his own revolution, which is cool. That’s what I like about this award being a tie; it’s two totally different sides of the spectrum. I’m happy and honored to share it with him.
The Runners Up
By Scott Jobe and Tony Smith
There were really about 15 guys that could have qualified for Rider of the Year at any given point in 2002. There are just so many things to take into consideration. Guys like Collin Wright, who barely faltered when a back injury kept him off the water, and turned his attention toward making videos and promoting the sport at clinics and boat shows. And guys like Billy McKee, who despite going to college still managed to charge traditional wakeboarding as hard and progressively as any member of the Pointless crew, when he got an opportunity to put the books down. Here are some of the best of the runners up for the year.
CHAD SHARPE — The craziest and most talented Canadian this side of the border. Chad’s style is all about giving it a try, and usually making it. He went off the side on a big road gap at the Projects this summer, landed on his feet, tumbled down the rocks about three times, and still got up five minutes later and tried it again. He’s about as tough as they come in wakeboarding.
ERIK RUCK – The new contest king. He won the Pro Tour and the Worlds because he has skills; he’s just better than a lot of people. At the slider contest after Worlds this year, Erik boardslid a 70-foot rail the whole way … while chugging a beer. Ruck is really smooth but, oddly enough, when he crashes it’s like a ton of bricks coming down from the top of a skyscraper. Serious contender for the 2003 award already.
MIKE ENNEN – A virtual no name making his own personal mark on wakeboarding from the frozen shores of Oregon and Washington. And he only rides for six months a year. Nobody has noticed much though because he’s from Bellingham, and the only notable thing that usually comes from Bellingham is good weed.
DANNY HARF – Everything Danny does while wakeboarding is worth taking notice, he’s the most athletically talented of the bunch. He won the X-Games with a broken knee, and came in third at the Worlds with the same broken knee. Not to mention he gets the Scariest Crash of the Year award for that gap to body block from Boombox, and he got up and walked away. He’ll probably win this award next year when he returns from knee surgery with something to prove; he’s that talented. In fact, Jobe would be so bold as to say he’s going to be the best wakeboarder ever.
SHAWN WATSON — Shawn Watson was hurt all last year, and then he came back and won the first Tour stop in Orlando. He is also better on a wakeskate than most people realize.
THOMAS HORRELL – He needs to be mentioned, although he may not like it. He’s the best wakeskater, period. He took a step away from the spotlight this year, focused on his company and promoting his team riders, but he still silently had a great year of riding.