Put style first and the rest will fall into place (photo: Donoso)

by: Trever Maur

There has and always will be the argument of style. What is style? Who chooses if someone has style? Does anyone really get the right to dictate if you’re a stylish rider or not? And if so … who are they? For me, I tend to look at the way a rider executes a trick, the whole trick, not just the spinny, flippy, poke-this, poke-that part. I’ve always thought finishing your trick is just as important as the trick itself. It’s called the “afterbang,” and it makes a difference! Before we get into this opinionated topic, remember that these are exactly those: my opinions. Doesn’t make them right or wrong, just my perspective of riding on the water. But I’ll be damned if, after you read this, you don’t catch yourself watching a web video thinking about the approach and afterbang a rider has.

What is the “afterbang”? It’s all about how you land a trick – the squat, the hook, the lean. Let’s just say it’s the swag you portray on the water in between landing a trick and setting up for the next. It’s what sets you apart from the others. Great example: Scott Byerly. The “hook” was and still is one of the most recognized ways to finish a trick … afterbang. Or Randall Harris. The way Randall would land with his knees shifted forward leaning over the nose of his board is still my favorite landing to watch … afterbang. Immediately, those riders created a signature for themselves and proved that maybe there really is more to style then what happens in the air. Both these guys are obviously legends for way more reasons than the way they land, but watching them ride when I was trying to find my own style, I found myself studying every aspect of the way they rode and the landing definitely stuck out to me.

Let’s take the West Coast (Nelson, Wright, Aubrey, Smith, Schwenne, Cook, Fisher, Twelker). This is just a small list of influentials that resided on the west side of the nation. The West has been called out for their “style” again and again, no matter what generation is on the water. I hear it a lot, “you’re from the West, you got that Cali style.” I’ve been trying to figure out what that actually means. My guess is, for the most part, we just slow everything down. It could very much be from the environment we grew up in and the lakes we ride on. My favorite example of this is riding the California Delta on an October day. You can literally ride for 45 minutes straight without crossing your own wake and, in some cases, not even passing another boat, leaving nothing but untouched water ahead. This creates a very cruisy and nonurgent approach to riding which produces more of a freeride mentality. That’s different from the majority of wakeboarding locales, where the size of the lake often dictates the urgency of the riding. (“Gotta get this trick in before the boat turns around again.”) See, when your focus is getting the trick done or training for a competition where you’re going from trick to trick in a hurry, you may lose sight of being attentive to the trick in full. So really what is West Coast style? Do you only find style in the air? Because it seems to me it is about the whole damn trick start to finish and that’s where you’ll see a small difference that makes a big impact.

As I said, this is a very opinionated topic and I’m not pointing fingers because, to be honest, the sport is just too damn small to pinhole creativity and say what’s right and wrong, unless of course, it’s just flat out obvious. There are certainly some things you’ll never see me do; approaching the wake cuffed, for example. Today, we are blessed with instant review and the ability to self-critique. Everyone has a phone with a camera and has the ability to see themselves ride. I personally watch footage of myself regularly and some days, I just flat out don’t like the position my arm is while slashing the wake. Or maybe I stood too tall on my landing. Or didn’t squat enough with my back leg tucked just a bit on my approach. The list goes on. Instead of ignoring these small details and saying, “Well, I landed the trick”, I take myself to school and make minor changes. For example, there are many people who can build a house but a true craftsman makes every cut with acute attention to detail, ending up with a true piece of art worthy of leaving their signature. The goal is to create a flow that leaves a lasting impression. Like the saying goes, “You are your own worst critic.” And at the end of the day, you’re riding for yourself and everyone finds fulfilment in different ways. So who really cares what I have to say, right? But remember, if I’m scrolling through web videos and I notice you don’t care about how your riding looks, why would I?