Mike Dowdy 4Hi Res - soden
“Dirty” Mike Dowdy has still got it.  Photo: Soden

Alliance: How hard was it to have the 2013 you had and then miss almost all of 2014 with an injury?

MD: I think something that has struck me within the last month or two after going through the injury last year was actually how this injury was good for me and my career. If you’d asked me six months ago I would have said it was the worst thing, but as I’ve gone down the road I’ve realized it’s made me a stronger and better person and ultimately it will make me a stronger and better rider. Being injured actually allowed me to take care of some personal things, too, like buying my first house; and that gave me some personal security and a place to call my own, relax and chill.

So I think the injury is going to help my career more than hurt it. I was able to focus on getting in really good shape, and it’s also helped me focus on the basics of my riding as I got back on my board. Growing up in Michigan with short seasons I wasn’t always worried about the basics, I just wanted to get out there and land all the hardest tricks. Coming back from an injury you have to take things slow, so that’s really helped me work on some basic things, which is going to make me a better rider in the long run.

Although it sucked to be injured it gave time to find some balance in myself and allow me to grow into the person I want to be. I stopped thinking about being the best wakeboarder and being better than every guy next to me, I just want to be the best Mike Dowdy I can be, and nobody can take that away from me.

A: Your interview comments in Prime caused a little bit of a stir amongst some of your fellow pros. Did you receive much backlash from riders or sponsors?

MD: I think some people were bothered by them and some people weren’t. Some people gave me flack and some people actually told me it was cool that I spoke my mind. Kilgus actually called me the day before the premiere and asked me if I was cool with it and I said yes. When we were doing the interviews I was just answering the questions as they were asked and I didn’t really think it was necessary to push my opinions aside for the sake of making other people feel better.

Some guys think that my comments meant I didn’t like or respect guys like Parks, or Danny, or Byerly or the riders who helped make wakeboarding what it is, but that’s not true at all. I even heard some people say that I hate wakeboarding and other wakeboarders, but that’s crazy. Why would I dedicate my life to trying to be a pro wakeboarder if I hated wakeboarding and wakeboarders so much? (laughs) What I am saying is that I want to leave wakeboarding better off as a sport than when I came into it. Saying what’s on my mind is in my blood, I guess, and I have to stay true to myself no matter what anybody else says or does.

A: How do you deal with some of the labeling that goes on in the industry? You’re still a young rider early in your career and you seem to have been labeled as a contest guy who doesn’t care about other riders.

MD: Yeah, the labeling is weird, but I don’t think it’s ever going to go away. It’s human nature to compare things, I think. We can’t compare apples to oranges, but we do it anyway because they’re both round. People compare riders to other riders, or they try to label a guy a boat rider or a cable rider or something. I think it’s just something that comes with growing up a bit in the industry, but in the end we’re all wakeboarders and we’re all riding our boards because we love it and we love the sport.

I think the only time I’ve ever seen the industry not really label each other is when Brad suffered his injury. We all rallied around Brad and it was unbelievable to see that kind of support. It didn’t matter what kind of rider you were or if you had problems with any other riders. That’s when the labeling stopped, and we were all just wakeboarders trying to help one of our own. I think the sport should worry more about being like that all the time and being supportive and stoked for each other, rather than worrying about insignificant gossip or labeling guys as certain types of riders.

A: Coming off of your injury, what are your plans to stay relevant in 2015?

MD: It’s crazy what an injury and not riding can do to your presence in the sport. I didn’t make it in the Reader’s Poll in 2014, sales of my pro model didn’t do as well, and stuff like that. So just being on the water and being out there is huge. You don’t have to be winning everything to do well and to stay relevant, you just need to be out there being proactive. I’d like to have a solid year and stay healthy ­ do a lot of photo and video shoots, too. I’m working on a video project for alliancewake.com, which I think is going to be really cool. I know I’m still a ways off from charging like I was and trying new tricks that are in my head, but I did just land my first mute mobe 5 the other day, and just yesterday I landed my first double off the wake since my surgery. It feels really good to start getting some of those tricks back.

A: What has you stoked about wakeboarding right now?

MD: I think wakeboarding is headed in a great direction overall. Honestly I don’t pay too much attention to trends or what other people might think is cool. Especially after being off the water the past year I’m just focused on riding how I want and getting back to where I was. I actually get inspired to ride and be the best I can be from outside sources these days ­ like art, or music, or even world leaders and powerful speakers, you know? Things like that can motivate me not just with my riding, but in life in general. And having a strong focus and perspective on life is only going to help my wakeboarding that much more.

A: As a pro in the sport, what has you bummed out about wakeboarding right now?

MD: I think the term “professional athlete” is thrown around pretty loosely in wakeboarding. Being a professional isn’t about being good at wakeboarding, it’s about being on time, taking care of your responsibilities, and being the ambassador your sponsors want you to be. I think a lot of guys lack that, and I’m not saying I’m perfect by any means, but I think if your job is to show up at a certain time to ride for a photo shoot or a demo and you’re two hours late because you’re hungover, then what kind of “pro” are you? Professionalism is something that’s off the water. There are tons of guy that have professional skills on the water and can ride insane, but there is a huge aspect beyond that in terms of being a professional wakeboarder ­ and that’s off the water. I guess it’s not something that bums me out, but I think it’s something that people need to realize because in the long run it reflects on every rider who calls himself a “pro wakeboarder”. I’m just not wired that way, I guess.

A: Do you feel any pressure from the industry or fans, or even yourself, to get back to where you were and pushing the sport in a crazy way again?

MD: Not really. My sponsors have been really supportive of me through the whole process. It’s really been about me taking my time and making sure everything is going well every step of the way so that I can get back to being 100%, but there hasn’t been pressure to get there fast or anything.

A: The landscape of wakeboarding contests has changed dramatically in the last couple months. What are your thoughts on those changes and what are your plans for competing?

MD: I think it’s cool to see individual boat companies do their own things and break away from the pack a bit. It gives riders more opportunities to compete and prove themselves and it also gives fans more opportunities to come watch the best riding in the world and interact with people in the sport.

I feel like the long term future of the sport is more uncertain though. There is a lot of shaping that needs to be done. How this year’s events go will be a big factor in determining the long term vision of contests. I feel like a lot of the riders want wakeboarding to be as legit as the next board sport, but I haven’t heard anybody come up with a plan or a course of action that gets us where we want to go, you know? I’m really excited to compete this year because I missed all of it last year, but I’m not worried about doing well or winning. I just want to do as well as I can and execute my game plan. I’m not going into this season trying to win every event. My ultimate goal in my career is to be at the top of the food chain, but I know worrying about winning everything this year isn’t going to help get me there.

A: What is your vision of leaving a wakeboarding in a better place than when you started?

MD: That’s tough because everybody has an opinion. One person is gonna think wakeboarding needs this and another is gonna think wakeboarding needs that. I just want to be the best wakeboarder I can be and I hope that that positively impacts the sport and the fans. I don’t know, maybe I don’t have the right idea ­ or maybe I do ­ it’s sort of early to say, I guess. I know I’m going to keep pushing myself to progress and to land new tricks, and to do well at contests, and to be at events interacting with fans and hopefully that leaves wakeboarding in a better place when I’m done. Maybe I won’t be the most revolutionary rider in the history of the sport, but maybe I influence a kid to become that. Who knows?