LOL with LF’nA – Thailand
words & photos: Garrett Cortese
As soon as we stepped off the plane and onto the jetway it engulfed us. Like that sweaty, fat uncle who always wants to wrestle and just makes you feel awkward, the humidity in Bangkok couldn’t be avoided. It was 11:00 PM and most of us had been traveling for over 30 hours. Delirious, we went for it and started grappling with the inappropriate relative that is Thailand’s climate. It was a battle nobody would win over the next eight days, but that everybody collectively would learn to deal with.
By the time the trip to Daniel Grant’s homeland came about, the LF’n Awesome video was limping to the finish line and in desperate need of quality, fun footage. Trips to Australia, the Philippines, and Canada had been marred by bad weather, bad injuries, or just bad days at the office. Of course some great footage had been compiled, but not nearly enough to satisfy the riders, filmers, or producers. Thailand was the ticket everybody was hoping would have the winning numbers.
Despite the near suffocating humidity, which wasn’t alleviated every time a local told us we arrived during a record-breaking heat wave, Thai Wake Park was the perfect location for the crew. Each day of riding the riders were able to work with park employees to modify existing rails or build new ones. But you can’t go to Thailand for a week and expect every day to be full of nonstop, action-packed riding. This was LF’n Awesome, after all, and everybody knew there needed to be ample time left for the F’n Awesome part of the video. Screw “one night in Bangkok”, let’s do eight! And damn the humidity!
The first days of riding were filled with sunrise and sunset sessions on both the full size park and the System 2.0 bi-level pools. Nico, Daniel and Bob all killed it, of course, but they also made sure to keep it light hearted and fun. Whether that was riding doubles or even triples together or going into town with Daniel as a tour guide and exploring temples, markets, or the view of Bangkok from a high-rise rooftop; the guys squeezed in a lot to get clips for the video and have a good time. Despite some rain and the constant threat of being suffocated by the wrestling uncle, clips were coming at a steady flow and the stoke was high. Plus, Thai Wake Park has pretty good food, and three days straight of fresh coconut and Pad Thai hadn’t grown old yet.
By Day 5 Raph arrived, which meant the whole crew for the Thailand trip was finally in Thailand. That called for “one night in Bangkok”. And if there is one thing Daniel knows better than wakeboarding or wakeskating, it is how to spend one night in Bangkok. We headed for the infamous Khao San Road, and truthfully speaking, it’s just like what you see in the movies. Lots of vendors, lots of people from all over the world, lots of loud music, lots of weird, and lots of opportunity to get weird. In fact, if there weren’t such a large group of us looking out for each other, one or two guys might have ended up in a Hangover type situation. And yes, it feels weird to party that crazily, into that late of an hour at night, to get that sweaty, and only to feel extra sweaty because of the humidity. Thanks, Thailand.
The next couple days really summed up what LF’n Awesome was all about though, and justified the trip after having several of the previous international trips not go according to plan at all. From progressive riding in the park with gnarly setups, to simple stylish riding that looks rad on video, to getting out and doing the ridiculous; the guys did it all. The gnarly could be found in the pole-jam-esque pipe kicker Raph created to do a hand plant off of from the top pool to the bottom. Each time he tried to plant his hand and dropped to the bottom pool I thought his board or knees were going to explode – or both. The simple and stylish was watching Daniel session the frame that was built to hold the pipe. By going up the spillway and jumping up onto it, he started dropping insane trick after insane trick like it was nothing. With each hit the crew would cheer and shout “Clip!”recognizing that it was good enough to make the video. At one point Bob just stood on the side of the pool and started bowing. The stylish could also be seen in Nico’s super unique hand drags up the spillway and spinning backside 180 or 3 out of them. There was a reason the LF’n Awesome riders were comprised of the young bucks, because all of them are at the top of their respective paths in the sport and all of them bring something totally unique to the table.
The different and hilarious came on the sixth day of filming, when we hooked up with the local Skateway Winch crew and drove a couple hours to Ayutthaya, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Ayutthaya was founded in 1350 and was the site of the second capital of the Siamese empire. Many of its ancient temples, monasteries, and spires still stand today. And there is water near or in much of it. We were able to find a small canal along the edge of one of the sites and, with the help of sweet talking a couple guards, have Daniel winch through it with his wakeskate for some flat water tricks. Following that, we found the local elephant ride tour and, again with the help of a generous tip, were able to convince the driver of the elephant to let it take a longer than normal water break next to another canal. With Raph and Bob on board the elephant for the ride, Daniel winched past on his wakeskate and threw up a spray. The elephant didn’t get wet, but it was a bit startled and stepped backward, causing Bob and Raph to scream like girls and everybody else to laugh hysterically. That awesome Thai experience lead to another hilarious choreographed fight scene between Raph and Bob – a tradition they had started for some random reason during the trip to the Philippines. With the ancient ruins of Ayutthaya in the background the shots literally looked like a scene out of the Street Fighter video games.
In the end, those few days of riding came to symbolize what everybody wanted to get out for and out of LF’n Awesome all along. Yes, it is a wakeboarding team video, but through all the mishaps and road blocks it became much more. The quote “a film that was supposed to be about wakeboarding” came to symbolize so much more than just what the guys had gone through to make it. Really, wakeboarding itself is about a whole lot more than the riding and the tricks. It’s about the lifestyle and everything that comes with it. For the LF’n A crew it took a lot of trips around the world with a lot of hiccups, but the Thailand experience really brought the crew closer together and marked the start of the end of the process, and everybody knew just how special the end product was going to be.