2004 Rider of the Year: Chad Sharpe
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 at the 2004 ROTY, Chad Sharpe.


I apologize to Phil Soven for what I’m about to say, but Chad Sharpe should have won the X Games this year. Soven probably did the tricks technically deserving of the gold medal, at least by way of the current judging format in professional events – he spun the extra 180’s and flung himself a bit higher of the wakes and longer across the rails, and he did it all with an amazing amount of composure for a 15-year-old kid. But Chad’s run was better, and the one everybody watched.

You could say that latter part about any run Sharpe was in this year, in competition, for video, or just in his backyard. He was the rider whose combination of fearlessness, commitment, and humor had us hanging on the edge of our seats and rooting for him from the shoreline every time, as much as our past Riders of the Year did in their respective seasons. Alliance is in its fourth year, picking out one rider who best represents the state of the sport, and the state of the art within it. This year we expanded the voting process to include votes from all the former winners – Brian Grubb, Parks Bonifay, Randall Harris, and Aaron Reed – in addition to our own. The result: Chad Sharpe by a nose, mostly because he never let up, which has been his M.O. from day one.

Sharpe actually had the best competitive season of his career in 2004, but that’s only one of the reasons why he was chosen. He was on or near the podium every Sunday of the Pro Tour, won the big air division of Parks Bonifay’s Double or Nothin’ event, won the Best Trick at the Ambush/Buywake Slider Slam and of course, that notorious second place in Long Beach. Add to that the intangible things, the ones you haven’t seen on all the websites or in the magazines, and you’ll begin to understand how the voting panel came to a decision. Grubb and Bonifay, while obviously holding some bias as fellow Hyperlite teammates, said his name almost before we got the question out. “Chad. He just pushed everybody to do everything a little harder this year,” was Grubb’s comment. That statements was probably tied to one particular trip, the Hyperlite team trip to Radar, during which Sharpe was the first on a team of legitimate superstars to put on a show on the biggest gap/rail on the lake, one that riders had to hit at 30 MPH and to travel 50 feet or so before landing on a down rail that was 10 feet above water. “Yeah, just the way Chad was bombing at that rail was pretty crazy,” Bonifay said. “It made everybody else step it up.” Shaun Murray was more philosophical about it, “Chad is all about shock value sometimes. He likes doing the things that he knows are the hardest and that people will take notice of. That day there was a whole group of people out there for a BBQ in the middle of the day, and Chad knew that everyone would see him set the bar. He was the one who made all of us sack up. That’s just the way he is. Where I might be thinking exactly what I want to do and how I want to approach something, Chad’s just ready to go and throw his body into the wind and get it done. That kind of makes everyone more inspired to be better.”

Past just the one-rail-to-glory fame, you can hold Sharpe up to the sport as a whole right now. As much as anything, 2004 needed someone who we wanted to see ride, because the sport tended to look the same every time it was viewed on a public stage. With Sharpe, the fact that you were never quite sure what you were going to get may have made his accomplishments seem that much more meaningful. But isn’t that better than expecting perfection and being disappointed when it doesn’t come? In 2004, as with all of our past years of voting this award, being real was just as important as being real good. With Chad Sharpe this year, we got both.