2005 Rider of the Year: Ben Greenwood
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. The one-and-only Ben Greenwood (AKA Benny G) took the honors in 2005, but not without a few ruffled feathers. The win was more than deserved though and over the years proved to be the perfect choice.


Wakeboaridng used to have two kidns of guys: skiboarders and freeriders. Today we have all kinds. There are contest guys and video guys. Travel veterans and camp rats. Big air guys, wake-to-wakers, spinners, flippers, huckers, rail masters, and crazy gap chargers. There are tour bussers, cable experts, Euro circuit dogs, surf specialists, West Siders, long liners, and rock stars. And then there is Ben Greenwood.

And so a new category: the technically perfect guy.

It’s a little hard to explain without being there to see it. Technical proficiency is a subtle, underappreciated art in our realm, for sure, but there’s no getting around it with Ben. Every grab is exact, every movement controlled and every move made to look easier than it is. There’s no case to be made for or against the way Ben rides, it is what it is – the real thing, without doubt. That’s the major reason he was voted the 2005 Rider of the Year by this staff and the former winners of that title.

For those of you not fortunate enough to ever have spent much time watching professionals ride, particularly a rider the caliber of Ben Greenwood, it is an awesome display of both daring and subtlety. The most extreme example our sport has ever known would probab by Randall Harris, who walked the fine line between chaos and control every time he hit the wake. At any given moment when Randall was (or is, nobody really knows) riding you may see the most amazing move of your life. Ben’s riding over the last year has to be considered in the same ballpark. While the audacity is noticeably more toned down, the control factor is that much more demonstrative. A typical day’s freeriding session includes the following: heelside 5’s grabbed in every legal spot on the board (switch and regular), a perfect, never-missed nose grabbed Pete Rose, an actual method backside 180 into the flats, toeside nose grabbed backside 360, (poked) melan 720’s from both sides of the wake, indy olé 720’s (switch and regular), (poked) mute 720, on-axis indy backside 540, melan backside 3, etc. And all while passing the handle to his front hand before he lands. The list goes on and on like that and though it seems weird to explain it that way, that’s the picture that needs to be painted in lieu of actually seeing it live. It is an exercise in both athleticism and poise, without mentioning just being correct. In 2005, a year when the nuclear grab inexplicably became in vogue, someone was heralded for doing a backflip over a rail, people were still doing batwings in competition, and something called a whirly dick was invented, Ben blazed a path in the opposite direction by slowing things down instead of speeding them up.

The Future
How do you follow up a year like that? By doing what you do, of course. As Ben admits, when other people tell him that he rides with style, no matter who they may be, that’s the most satisfying thing to him. And while that seems a trivial concern, it is ultimately what he represents as this year’s Rider of the Year. Not chasing the Tour dream or having wild desires, making plans or accomplishing goals, just riding with grace and letting that be enough. It’s a nice luxury to have, provided you do it as well as he does.

We are sometimes accused of being too concerned about the perception of our sport in the eyes of others, but isn’t it better that way? Put more simply: Who more than Ben Greenwood represents wakeboarding at its finest right now, and who more than him would you want to ride like? Because everybody daydreams about riding a certain way, and those thoughts have got to be suspiciously close to how Ben actually rides.

“He’s basically a modern day Collin Wright,” says Keith Lyman. “Everything he does is correct, and the thing about it is that people go out and try to mimic it, but they can’t really, because they just don’t get it like he does. His style of riding is wakeboarding at its best.”

As for Ben, he has a more worldly outlook after his whirlwind year, “I found that I’ll never be satisfied with my own riding. This whole Rider of the Year thing is more motivating to me than anything else. People are appreciating what I’m doing, but I want to exceed those expectations if I can.”