Being a professional rider, you’re always thinking about the next step because you know that you won’t be able to ride forever. Luckily in this industry, there are plenty of different avenues that a rider can go down to stay close to the sport that they love. Whether it be taking on a new role with an old sponsor, crossing over into sales, starting a brand new company or whatever else, opportunities are out there outside of riding. In this section, we’ll see what some of those athletes are up to so they can stay close to wake and give back to it in a way other than shredding. We start off with two OG’s: Jimmy Lariche and Shawn Watson!

photo: Hansen

Jimmy Lariche (Sales Manager at Lifestyle Wake)

Alliance: What’s the name of the boat dealership you’re working with now? It’s run by your good friend and ex-pro rider Jack Blodgett, right?

Jimmy: The dealership I’m working for is Lifestyle Wake in Bend, OR. Tim Baggs and Jack Blodgett started this place two years ago and it’s taken off. Jack and I have been friends for a long time, and I knew I always wanted to work with him on some level. And once I met Tim moving out here was a no-brainer!

A: What’s been the biggest obstacle in your transition from a professional rider to boat slinger?

J: It honestly hasn’t been that big of a change for me. As an athlete, we’re supposed to generate sales for the companies we ride for, and market their brands. In many ways I’m still doing that, just with a different job title. We sell Nautiques, Never Summer and Roswell … aka, my three sponsors. So it’s easy to sell what you believe in!

A: What’s your day-to-day as the Sales Manager at Lifestyle Wake?

J: Ensuring no boat goes unsold! But really, it’s all about promoting and selling fun times. A “day in the life” is always changing, but usually I show up to the shop around 9 am, check in with the guys, following up with customers and leads, and then often I’m off to the lake for boat demos and deliveries. I feel like I’m on the water way more now out here than I was in Florida, which is awesome.

A: Do you miss Orlando? How’s the Northwest treating you?

J: I miss my girlfriend, my friends and family, and my dog, Carl, but overall the NW is a nice change of pace. I never thought I’d leave Florida, I’d never lived anywhere else, but the change was good for me. Bend is a hidden gem and I’m looking forward to enjoying everything it has to offer!   

A: Having been sponsored by Nautique for so long, I’m sure you already know the boats inside and out. Has that made it easy to step into a sales role with them?

J: Knowing the product is half the battle with any sort of sales position. I really don’t consider myself a “sales man” as much as still a wakeboarder. That really helps when it comes to selling boats with that kind of price tag. Customers want two things from a sales person: the truth, and knowledge. Fortunately for me, having been with Nautique for such a long time, I know the product and history well, and truly believe in it. I’ve been wanting to do this for a while, so I’m stoked to be in the position I’m in!

A: You and your long-term board sponsor, Hyperlite, went your separate ways this year, and you got on with Never Summer, who are big in the snow industry and are now breaking into the wake scene. What’s it like getting in with a company on the ground floor? Do you have a lot of influence with them since you’ve been in wake for so long?

J: Working with Never Summer has been so amazing. I’m stoked to be a part of their team, and I think even after one season in the wake industry they’re killing it. It’s a good feeling to be a part of growth in the industry and see more involvement from brands, people, etc. I can’t say much, but I think people will recognize the NS name in the game more these coming seasons as I work closely with them on their wake line.

A: It’s much shorter wake season in Oregon; are you still trying to ride a good bit? Are you going to be snowboarding as much as you can in the off-season?

J: With a shorter season, it pushes people to ride even more out here. When it’s good, it’s really good! You have to respect the short season and make the most of it. I’ve been lucky to have my G23 moored at Lake Billy Chinook. I don’t ride every day, but when I do, the days are long and it’s set after set. One of the perks of Bend is having the mountain 30 minutes away. I think that will be a nice change of pace. Like last winter, I plan to be on my snowboard as much as possible. Obviously, I’m riding a Never Summer snowboard and I love it.

photo: Mathis

Shawn Watson (Assistant Team Manager at Liquid Force)

Alliance:You’ve been with Liquid Force for quite some time as one of their biggest riders, with more pro model boards than most. What’s it like being able to stick with them and help mold the up-and-coming riders in your new position?

Shawn: Well, first off, thanks for the love! It’s been such an amazing experience with LF the past 21 years, crazy to think that I signed with them at Surf Expo back in 1997! I’ve been riding for LF longer than most of the new kids on the team have been alive (laughs)! The crew at LF have created some amazing experiences and memories throughout my life, and also gave me the opportunity to work with Jimmy Redmon to create some pretty killer board designs over the years! I’ve seen guys like Daniel Grant, Raph Derome and Harley Clifford come up through the ranks on the team, and now the new blood with young rippers like Luca Kidd and Guenther Oka. I’m stoked to get the opportunity to continue my relationship with LF and help mold these guys and the rest of the LF team!

A: How does this new role work with your schedule? You already travel a lot so is there going to be even more air time now?

S: It’s funny you ask because every year I think my travels are about to slow down, but they continue to grow even more as the years go on. Thanks to WiFi on planes, I can multitask now and get work done, like making sure the other riders on the team are good with product and anything else that goes into this new role! I’ll actually be gaining a bit more air time now by making quarterly trips out to the LF headquarters, and to more wake events.

A: Will you be hands-on in scheduling team trips/shoots/etc?

S: At the moment, my role is Assistant Team Manager to Aaron Grace so I don’t have control over all of that. I primarily work to ensure that the riders are set on product and help coordinate travel for select riders. However, my role will continue to grow in the coming years if I can prove I’m capable of organizing things like team trips, photo shoots and other things like that.

A: Will you still have a pro model board for the time being?

S: I do still have a few pro models in the line like the Watson Dose wakeboard, the Form binding and the Dart wakesurfer. The ‘’Classic” wakeboard that Jimmy Redmon and I designed back in 2006 is still in the line and continuing to kill it as a price-point board. I’m not sure how long these products will continue to stay in the line but I’m stoked that LF has continued to push them!

A: Does this move mean anything for your other sponsors? Are you still on board with them as a rider?

S: My new role hasn’t changed anything with my other sponsors. I’m still out on the water everyday and continually on the road repping all the brands that support me and I’ve been fortunate to stick with most of my sponsors I’ve been with since Day One. Until I decide to call it a day as a professional rider, I’m confident they’ll stick with me.

A: Do you have plans to move out to California or do they want you to stay in the heart of wake in Orlando?

S: I don’t have any plans to move out to California. The idea is that it would make the most sense to have a team manager that is located where the heart of wake is, here in O-Town. Being in Orlando, I’m able to interact with most of the team riders daily, which makes sense for the brand and for the riders. So I’m not going anywhere!