The response to the Matters column in the June issue of Alliance has been pretty strong on several sides of the debate. We’re curious to read the reactions of you, the readers and fans, so we’ve brought it from the magazine to the website. Feel free to read, think, and write an opinion below — we might just publish it in a future issue of the magazine. If you truly want to stand behind your opinion, log into Facebook and post under your real name. We all know an anonymous opinion doesn’t carry much weight, so put your name on it as a true fan and let us know what you think. Enjoy.

Something was different at this year's Wake Games...

Matters: June 2012

By Garrett Cortese

Over the years we at Alliance have regularly found ourselves comfortable on the other side of the so-called “status quo” in regards to certain parts of our industry. Many times people enjoy our differing opinions; many times people do not. Sometimes our differing opinions can have a noted effect on the status quo; sometimes they can have no effect at all. One area where we have been quite vocal, but have seen very little change at all, is that of contest riding. To surmise the last 11-plus years of Alliance’s views: we think contest riding can range anywhere from kind-of-bad to downright close-your-eyes-and-try-not-to-vomit-much. In those last 11 years of expressing opinions, writing columns, publishing photos, and other magazine-like things, we have seen contest riding (and, maybe more importantly, riders’ approaches to contest riding) change very little. Some might argue it hasn’t changed at all. Compare a contest pass from 2008 to 2012 and you might find more fluctuation in a mouse fart.

The 2012 competitive season kicked off with the seventh annual Wake Games, and other than an occasional extra 180 being thrown into a pass, the overall riding and approach to riding did not seem very different from the first ever Wake Games years ago. The biggest difference was a new boat – the Nautique G23 – and a full TV production crew chasing around the Soven brothers for their new “reality” show. Aside from the reality show though, Phil’s 2012 Wake Games display wasn’t much different than his 2008 Wake Games effort: he won. Obviously that goes to show what kind of competitor Phil is and what he is capable of doing at any moment from the start dock of a contest. Phil has built an amazing career out of being able to do those things. For the sake of this column he just happened to be the winner of the oldest Wake Games finals video I could find on Google, as well as the winner of the most recent Wake Games, as well as the brother of the one rider who did things totally differently this year at the contest (and almost won), as well as the subject of the reality show being filmed by the crew at the contest. It’s as if my opinionated stars are aligning to bring up arguments against the status quo.

Here are Phil’s finals runs (excluding rail hits) from 2008 and 2012, as well as Bob’s run from 2012.

Phil’s Finals Run (2008)

  • Dumb-dumb
  • Switch nose grab crow 5
  • Toeside nuclear roll to blind
  • Whirlybird 7 (or is it a whirlydick? Pretty sure we don’t care)
  • Moby Dick
  • Batwing
  • Heel 7
  • Switch nose grab back mobe


Phil’s Finals Run (2012)

  • Switch heel 7
  • Stalefish glide (into the flats)
  • Switch nose grab back mobe
  • Moby Dick 5
  • Toeside nuclear roll to blind
  • Whirlybird 7 (the announcer in the video called it a whirly 7… we still don’t care)
  • Switch nose grab crow 5
  • Pete Rose
  • Switch toe 9

Phil is stomping this moby dick 5 every run

Bob’s Finals Run (2012)

  • Toeside melan backside 180 rewind
  • Toeside melan backside 3 (into the flats)
  • Backside 180 late stalefish grab (into the flats)
  • Nose grab crow 5
  • Heel 7
  • Stalefish toe 3 (into the flats)
  • Tantrum to blind (into the flats – fall)

Bob's backside 180 late stalefish

Some might argue that Phil Soven is just a smart competitor and he’s doing what he needs to be a successful competitor and win. Nobody can fault him for that. But Bob is very smart, too. Bob knows that trying to beat his older, extremely successful brother at his own game is foolish. Bob knows that to make a name for himself he has to be his own rider, his own person. For all intensive purposes nobody is going to remember Phil’s winning run from this year’s Wake Games, and Bob knows that. Phil has done very similar passes many times and won, to the point where it has become somewhat expected. People don’t always remember the expected, even if it is effective. But people will more than likely remember something that was different or out of the norm. People will remember the new boat, the new rails, and the TV crew because they were different from years past. People will also remember Bob’s riding (and my guess is Bob knew that before he even hit the water). It was extremely different, and therefore extremely entertaining for the crowd – and probably to the fans who will see it on the reality TV show that was being filmed (and Bob probably knew that, too). When it comes to competitive strategy and success, to each Soven brother his own, but if we’re ever going to see boat-riding contests legitimately change in the future, hope may just lie in that crazy ginger fro Bob’s been rocking for a somewhat awkwardly long time.

Bob most likely didn’t do better at Wake Games because of his falls. He easily had Phil and Harley beat in the amplitude, rail, and style categories (if a style category indeed exists in most of today’s contests). Had he landed his tantrum to blind into the flats and not won the title, this column would have been directed more at the judges and the system than the riders. But if the contest scene is ever going to see much change (other than adding 180’s), it is going to be up to the riders. Judging from Bob’s approach to the finals of the first contest of the year, he is more than happy to try to bring about some change, and for that we applaud him. After the contest Bob came up to me and said he got some inspiration for his riding from the Alliance Less Than 5 contest, which we had organized six weeks earlier. He also said it would be awesome to see the king of truly unique riding Randall Harris make a contest comeback and be on top of a podium this year (Randall narrowly edged out Bob for the Less Than 5 title). By no means are we saying every contest needs to be a Less Than 5 contest. It is great seeing the best riders in the world do some of the most technical tricks in a contest setting – but we are saying a little diversity never hurt anybody, and if there is anything boat-riding contests could use a little bit more of these days it’s definitely diversity. Seriously, we can’t be the only ones who are tired of seeing ungrabbed moby dicks, KGB’s, dumb-dumbs, and two-handed crow 5’s taking guys into the finals of a contest, can we? (Actually we know we’re not. Go see Steel Lafferty’s interview on page 44). Maybe if we organize a few more contests on our own terms we’ll actually see a shift in the way riders approach “regular” contests. Maybe we’ll see more emphasis on amplitude, style, and creativity. Maybe Randall Harris can make a comeback and stand on top of a PWT podium. Maybe pigs will start flying too.

For now some people will probably read these opinions and think about change, while others will read these opinions and think I’m being a total a-hole. If you read this column though and thought I was just calling out a particular rider, then you’re missing the point. Regardless, we will continue to publish opinions like this, but you should be used to that. Don’t like it? Write us a letter ( and maybe we’ll publish your opinion, too.



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