A local Texas hero, Bret Little, was one of the first guys to really hold it down for Texas wakeskating. He was pushing the boundaries of what could be done on the cable back in the early 2000’s. He’s been traveling all around the US and the rest of the world ripping cable contests and getting kids stoked on wakeskating. This was especially important locally when there were few Texas wakeskaters to look up to in the beginning. Back in the day you didn’t have a slew of pros coming to your local cable park, and contests that brought decent wakeskaters into town were few and far between. So staying motivated and focused on wakeskating in an otherwise struggling and sprouting scene was tough. But if you were lucky enough, one calm evening you might see Bret casually walk up to the start dock after his shift at the Texas Ski Ranch, grab a handle, and take off around the old cable carousel. And in that first short lap Bret would do enough to inspire your sessions for the rest of the summer. Bret hasn’t stopped inspiring the youth around Texas and even other professional riders alike ever since. He’s kept the fire burning in all of them, what started as a crackling little flame for wakeskating in its beginning is slowing building to become a roaring fire and it is thanks to pioneers like Bret.
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How old are you? Where are you from? How long have you been wakeskating? What is your primary riding stance?
I’m about to finish my 32nd lap around the sun (03/12/1984). Austin, Texas. I’ve been wakeskating for about 12 years and I am regular footed.
That is a pretty long time spinning laps on the cable and shredding winch drops. The amount of different skates that you have ridden is probably too long to list, but can you remember what your first board was?
Absolutely, the first board I bought was a Cassette Thomas Horrell with the transformer graphic, I think it was a 2003 maybe. I loved that board, it’s currently hanging on the wall of a bar in San Marcos, Texas. The first wakeskate I ever rode was a 2003 Hyperlite Byerly 107, I learned backside shuvs on that board, but it wasn’t mine, my homie Ty would let me ride it while he wakeboarded.
You learned to wakeskate primarily riding at Texas Ski Ranch. What is it like there? How have they supported you and has it changed much since your first time at the cable?
It has always been my home park, it’s a great place with great people. I believe it has been one of the best cables in the US for a very long time, it has a nice pull and they try to change things up on the water whenever they can. They’ve treated me like family from the beginning, I can’t thank the Bialicks and Blake Hess enough for always providing me a place to escape to my wakeskate when I needed to, and a place to have my wedding [laughs].
Do you think Cables are good places to learn to ride? What sort of benefits came along with learning on the full-cable system?
Definitely. The pull is obviously a good bit different than a boat/pwc/winch, but it’s pretty hard to beat the amount of time you can get on the water. Not to mention getting to ride at the same time as all your buds. Depending on the park, you often have a variety of rails and/or ramps to play with as well. And if you live close to a park, a season pass there can make it one of the cheapest ways to get on the water.
Which guys’ riding back then got you motivated to pursue wakeskating? What old wakeskate sections were you constantly watching?
Thomas Horrell and Brian Grubb were the first people I saw wakeskate aside from my cousin Greg, Thomas really really grabbed my attention, so I found and bought Cassette’s Linier Perspective on VHS for $1 on eBay. Then Sfumato came out, and it was over, I was hooked. Aaron, Thomas, Danny.. I watched that video so many times. The music and editing, everything was so good. Byerly’s part in All or Nothing really got me stoked on wakeskating around that time too. My favorite “old” part is still one of my favorites to this day, Aaron Reed’s pro spotlight in Volume issue 2, the riding/music/editing were all on point, this one always gets me amped to ride.
You became recognized in the larger wakeskate scene after claiming your first Byerly Toejam win. What did the Byerly Toe Jam mean to you? and where did the Toe Jam take wakeskating?
It was awesome, some of the best times I’ve had were at Toe Jams. It was a contest by wakeskaters for wakeskaters, and it embraced pretty much every aspect of what we do on wakeskates at some point in its life span. It was a much needed departure from the Pro (wakeboard) Tour. I believe the Toe Jams provided a path to what we have now.
Contests in wakeskating have gone through a drastic evolution over the years and you were around for a great of deal of their transformation. Can you give a rundown of how wakeskating competitions began, progressed, and where they are today?
Well they were pretty much just on the boat in the beginning, judged by wakeboarders or industry members, as kind of a side show to wakeboarding contests. But at that time wakeskating was nothing, so them showing it any love at all was pretty cool. Eventually they kind of phased it out of some major competitions, but grass root and local events held onto it. As wakeskaters started making a little money and a name for themselves they funded their own competitions to showcase wakeskating the way they wanted it to be seen. This paved the way for the Toe Jam to grow into a tour, and then for the formation of the Wakeskate Tour that we have today.
You got picked up by Byerly Boards after that first place at the Texas Toejam back in 2007. What’s it like being a part of the Byerly brand? How does it feel being supported by one the biggest pioneers of wakeskating, Scott Byerly?
It’s been a wild ride man, because of Scott I’ve been able to do things in my life that I definitely would not have had the opportunity to do otherwise. I couldn’t be more thankful for the chance he gave me back in 2007. Not only is Scott the godfather of style in wake-sports and a pioneer of wakeskating, he’s also just one of the raddest guys around, and an awesome dad. He’s hilarious. Definitely one of my favorite people to chill and travel with.
It was sort of the cool thing to do back in the day, when people first started to take their riding seriously, to move to Florida to pursue their wakeskate careers. You ended up taking the path less traveled and stayed in Texas, what made you want to stay? How has that decision changed your riding?
I think I just never wanted to leave central Texas, it’s beautiful here, and we have plenty of warm weather and fresh water. Plus, my family is in Austin and I like being close to them. At the time that I first went pro I was also going to college at Texas State University in San Marcos, so leaving wasn’t an option. I actually spent a summer living in Orlando on the infamous Lake Nan in 2009 I believe. It wasn’t for me. I loved being close to Scott and all the homies, but I rode way less than I did at home, and I spent more money while making less. I suppose it could have hindered my progression being in Texas with fewer ‘top-level’ riders, but honestly the scene here has always been strong, and I couldn’t ask for truer people to ride with.
You’ve traveled all around the world riding different cables. From European cables in the U.K., France, and Germany, to exotic cables in Abu Dhabi, Thailand, and the Philippines. How are these cables different scattered throughout the world, which would you recommend a wakeskater to visit first? And what place, not necessarily a cable, do you want to travel to next to wakeskate?
No two cables are the same, they all have their unique characteristics, even at the parks with multiple full size cable systems. Box End was my favorite park in the U.K., and Langenfeld in Germany. But if you’re really into cable parks then you have to check out CWC in the Philippines and Thai Wake Park in Thailand, they’re both really varied and exciting setups in two of the most interesting places I’ve never traveled to Bali, that’s where I would want to go next.
What do you think the role cables play for wakeskating? Do you feel it is having a bigger impact on wakeskating than the other modes of riding (e.g. boat riding, winching, etc.)?
I think wakeskating needs every opportunity it can get to be seen by new and interested consumers, and I believe cable parks are one of the best ways to get new people onto a wakeskate. And seeing as how most of the boat companies are funneling all of their money into wakesurfing, I think it’s safe to say that our future doesn’t rest in their hands anymore. Winching is a great way into it too, but while it’s financially accessible to more people, it’s also not really a functional option for everyone, and can be relatively tough way to learn as a beginner.
Where do you think is the next breakthrough scene for wakeskating? What gives this place the potential to be another hotspot for the sport?
That’s difficult for me to predict, but having a place like Valdosta Wake Compound and riders like Ben Horan in the area, I could see some young talent coming out southern Georgia in the near future. Or maybe it’ll be Arizona or Indiana, who knows? [laughs]
For all the young groms coming up on cables, lakes, rivers, or lagoons all over the world, what important thing should they always keep in mind throughout their careers in wakeskating? Did you have any misconception about wakeskating when you first started riding that you know now is not the truth?
I’d just say have fun with it, and don’t expect too much. There’s only a handful of guys out there fully supporting themselves on wakeskating, and luckily for everyone else those guys are putting most of that straight back into wakeskating. When I got into it I thought it was bigger than it was, but watersports in general were just more popular and that momentum naturally carried over into wakeskating. Now wakeskating has pushed to differentiate itself from the rest of water sports, and in doing so will need to generate its own momentum. So have fun and spread the love, and take the time to encourage someone new to get on a board!
What are you expecting from Istudiomo?
A lot, so I hope you’re ready to deliver! But seriously, I’m really excited about this project and can’t wait to see all of the absurdity that these guys are gonna bring to the table.
Cinematography by Andrew Roehm
Photography by Andrew Roehm