The legendary wakeskater competes in wakesurfing and judges wakeboarding
Reed Hansen is most famous for his legendary career as a wakeskater, where he has amassed so many accolades and awards it would be near impossible to list them here. But to summarize, he is the nine-time (and current defending) world champ. He won the overall Byerly Toe Jam title four years in a row. He's won Nationals six times, the Battle Falls stop of the Wakeskate Tour four out of five times, and the Masters once. He has also won Wakeskate Trick of the Year and Wakeskater of the Year at Wake Awards three times each. Pretty good, right? The funny thing is if you were to meet Hansen on the street or at an event, you'd never know it. He is as humble as they come, which is probably credit to his country-boy roots.
That humility has been a necessary trait over the past two years as Hansen has started competing on the water in an entirely new way — as a wakesurfer. As wakeskating competitions have continued to dwindle, Hansen began to miss the competitive atmosphere, the one he's thrived on for so long as a wakeskater. That is when the opportunity to compete on the Supra Boats Pro Wakesurf Tour presented itself. For Hansen, it has filled a void (and being on tour has also allowed him to step into another new role as one of the judges for wakeboarding), but the transition hasn't been the easiest. At the first PWT stop of the season, Hansen failed to make it through qualifying, but that didn't stop him from smiling and enjoying the moment — these days he's just happy to be on the water and having some fun. To him, that's all that really matters.
What has it been like competing on the PWT as a wakesurfer? It's been really fun, but it's definitely been humbling. I guess that's to be expected when you open yourself up to trying something totally new. I've basically only been wakeskating for the past 14 years, so to try to compete in a different sport is like starting the process all over again. It's definitely humbling, but it's also been really fun, not just to get out and compete at something, but also to be on the tour and hanging out with all the guys. I've known the wakeboarders my entire life, and a lot of them are good friends, so that's fun.
What made you want to do it? I like competing; it's really fun for me. There has been a lack of contests recently — there are only four wakeskate contests this year. It's hard to fill your schedule with that. But I really like the aspect of competing and pushing myself to do my best against a bunch of other talented people. The opportunity to do that as part of the PWT came up, and I thought, 'why not?'
Are you as competitive with wakesurfing as you are with wakeskating? Do you get upset or frustrated if you don't do well? Being competitive like I am, I do take it to heart if I don't do well, but I'd say my mindset about it is a bit more casual than my mindset at a wakeskating contents. That being said, I've made a career out of wakeskating, and wakesurfing is something I just recently started doing. As long as I go out and ride to the best of my ability, then I'm happy. That's all that matters to me when I ride in a contest, no matter what kind of board I'm on.
How did you feel after the first PWT stop? My first heat was absolutely horrible. I don't think I've ever ridden so poorly in my life. But then I got put in an LCQ (Last Chance Qualifier) heat and had one of my better contest runs. That still didn't get me through, but I was happy because I rode how I knew I could. Had I been able to put down that LCQ run in my first heat, I would have qualified, but it didn't work out that way.
What's been the hardest part about putting together a competitive wakesurf contest pass for you? The hardest part for me just learning tricks in general was not landing on my back foot. In wakeskating I land almost everything on my back foot, and I relied on the rope, obviously. I never did that consciously, but when I started wakesurfing, I realized I was landing all my wakeskate tricks back-foot heavy because when I'd go try to do something, I'd land it and immediately lose the wave. You have to land a lot more evenly or front-foot heavy on a wakesurfer so you can stay with the wave, especially with the smaller skim-style boards.
Why do you prefer a skim-style over a surf-style board? I think it's just a comfort factor. It feels closer to a wakeskate than a surf-style board, so some things translate better for me that way.
Are we going to see a kickflip from you anytime soon on that skim-style board? I've come really close a lot of times, to be honest. I need to get back out there and try it a bunch more, just so I can land it. I'm surprised it hasn't been done more. I've talked with Sean Silveira about it because he's the FlowRider king and does all sorts of flip tricks, and I'm surprised he hasn't done it yet. But it's a different animal with a bigger board on a wave like a wakesurf wave. He's gotten so good at wakesurfing the past couple of years, though, so I wouldn't be surprised if he gets it soon.
What's the biggest surprise to you about the growth of wakesurfing? The growth of wakesurfing. I think that has surprised a lot of people. When you take a step back and look at it, it's a bit easier to see why. Boats are better than ever, making it easier for a lot of people to do it. It's low-impact, and it really is a lot of fun. Personally, I still enjoy riding my wakeskate more than a wakesurfer, but it's easy to see why so many people really enjoy wakesurfing.
What's the biggest surprise to you about the Pro Wakesurf Tour? I've been surprised with the crowds. The attendance has been really strong; a few stops have even had pretty packed houses. And it's not just the general public strolling by; there are some legit wake fans there. I've had people come up to me at several stops and bring up things they remember me from: video sections or another contest or something. So it's been really cool to see that kind of engagement for the sports.
Will you ever get to a point where you compete in more than the Pro Wakesurf Tour? Maybe Worlds or some of the one-off events, perhaps? Maybe if I start winning! If it starts becoming a cash-positive endeavor, then I'd definitely look into it more.
Is there a wakesurfer you really enjoy watching? It's always fun to watch Noah Flegel. He's so talented and aggressive. It's totally different to watch him ride because you never know what he's going to do, which is only crazier when you add in his consistency.
What's it going to take for somebody to take down Flegel on the PWT? A lot of good, consistent riding, that's for sure. He's a beast. His brother, Keenan, could definitely do it. Sean could too. And people should watch out for John Akerman. He didn't do great at this first stop, but he's really, really good. Parker Payne is right there too. Like the Flegel brothers, he rides both style of boards, which I think has an advantage in the way the PWT is set up.
What's next for you in terms of wakesurfing, wakeskating and where your career is going? To be perfectly honest I'm playing it by ear. There are the few wakeskate contests this year that I'll be doing. Hopefully getting World Championship number 10. And I'll be at all the PWT stops to compete and judge. Other than that, who knows? But I can tell you that no matter what the future holds, I'll still be on the water enjoying what I'm doing and pushing myself to keep getting better.
While Hansen didn't advance through the first stop of the PWT as he wished, much of the contest played out as many in the know might expect. The finals were filled with three of the most talented wakesurfers on the planet: Noah Flegel, Keenan Flegel and Parker Payne. Each guy came out swinging.
What makes these three stand out is that they are almost all equally adept at riding both surf- and skim-style boards. Because the PWT doesn't separate them into divisions and allows riders to change boards between passes, riders can showcase a wider variety of tricks and trick variations. Whether it's boosting giant airs on a surf-style board or 540 shuv variations on a skim, the Flegels and Payne can do it all, and it's an intense and fun competition to watch go down.
Noah Flegel managed once again to take things to a new level with his riding in Arizona, though. He became the first rider to transfer from one board to another while transferring from frontside to backside behind the Supra SA 550, helping him take the top spot on the podium. The win marks Flegel's fifth on the Pro Wakesurf Tour as he looks to become the three-time reigning overall champ.
The Pro Wakesurf Tour and Pro Wakeboard Tour make their next stops in Acworth, Georgia, on May 19. If you’re in the area, be sure to come out and enjoy the fun. If you’re not, you can tune into the livestream via the Wakeboarding magazine Facebook page: facebook.com/wakeboardingmag.