2002 ROTY – Parks & Randall
2002 Rider(s) of the Year: Randall Harris & Parks Bonifay
by Tony Smith
Editor’s Note: Leading up to the announcement of the 2015 Rider of the Year we are re-releasing pieces of each of the past 14 ROTY articles from the magazine. Here’s a look back at 2002 when two riders stood head and shoulders above the rest and ended up sharing the ROTY title: Randall Harris and Parks Bonifay.
Yes, it’s a tie. Think of it this way: If you could have only one power, would you be the irresistable force, or the immovable object? The irresistable force sure seems more exciting at first. But the strenght of an immovable objet 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 ends 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 as 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 acorss 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 the good riders from the great ones, if only by fractions.
And Randall simply f***ed it up so hard he was, well, irresistable. 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 and could also be 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 wen 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.
by 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 MPH 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 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 he 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, then that’s what he’s going to do. And I think there is 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 this stuff over the next few years because it’s the obvious thing to try to 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.
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. 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? Hmmmm.
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 hard 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 board 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 Spicolli and Vandall on some classic tracks, as well.
If all of these things don’t 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… 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 ROTY award with you, PB.