They say youth is wasted on the young. For Travis Belsito that old saying could not be further from the truth. One of the most happy-go-lucky and grateful people on this roster, Travis appreciates everyday he is able to go live his extraordinary life. Belsito was adventuring around the world and wakeskating its most beautiful and tropical waters beginning at just fifteen years old. Travis has been doing more living in his short twenty years than the vast majority of us. There’s something remarkable about Belsito’s wakeskating. Taken under the wings of Andrew Fortenberry and Nick Taylor, Travis was gifted with a fast lane to progressing his wakeskating, but he conscientiously took his own path. Instead of being a cookie cutter remodel of his mentors’ riding he made something much more personal. The young islander has as much comfort and control on a board as anyone else yet he is conservative about how he shows it. He refrains from extravagant technicality and carefully crafts the direction he wants to take his riding. It is hard to guess where his riding will go in the future but it is apparent style comes first for Travis, and that is all that matters for Istudiomo.
What’s your date of birth? Where are you from? How long have you been wakeskating? What stance are you?
09/29/1995. Holmes Beach, Florida. 8 years. Left foot forward.
You started off in the scene a quiet little kid from the island (Anna Maria Island). Do you feel like you are still that young quiet kid in the scene or have you grown into your own man and are more outspoken?
I have grown a lot since first being introduced into wakeskating and “the scene.” I obviously have opinions on different topics, as everyone does. I don’t know if I would call myself outspoken.
What was it like learning from Nick (Taylor) and Andrew (Fortenberry)?
It was cool learning from them. I rode with Andrew a ton growing up he is always having a blast and rips. He taught me how to get up behind his skiff when we were really young. It was awesome having him be there since the very beginning, he made sure I was learning the basics and built my way up. Nick has taken me so many places I probably never would have gotten the chance to go to, or experience wakeskating the way I/we did. He has helped me a bunch in and out of wakeskating. They both have done a lot for me and I am grateful for it.
What is so special about the island? Because it seems that so many of wakeskating’s greatest talents come from there?
I don’t know, we just like to cruise around on the water and have fun. Growing up a lot of us had small fishing boats we would take out and wakeskate and mess around on every day.
The Island has its many perks, the salt water pops you higher, and the narrow passages in the mangroves can make for perfect stretches to shred. But it also comes with it’s own difficulties, specifically the Authorities. Can you explain what it’s like living the life of a wakeskate vigilante?
[laughs] Yeah there are absolutely some perks, no one really mentions how frustrating it can be here though too. Most of the “perfect” stretches here are extremely short. Also the whole island is basically a no wake zone. There are four different kinds of water police patrolling the island waters just about every day. You have the Holmes Beach police dept boat, and the Coast Guard. You also have the Sheriff, and FWC who both are ticket happy. They love ruining your wallet. I have had countless tickets ranging from $10 to $150. Wakeskating on the weekends are near impossible to get away with trouble free between all the boat traffic, and police. It can be a bummer at times. When everything goes well though, it is a great, and beautiful place to ride your wakeskate [laughs]. I would say a bigger difficulty for me in trying to “Live the life of a wakeskate vigilante.” With not owning a boat, jetski, or winch of any kind, and the closest cable being an hour away it’s tough. And It’s hard for me to rationalize spending a lot of money for that cable. I haven’t even had the opportunity to get tickets, and deal with authorities for wakeskating, in a real long time now [laughs].
What is it like being the third generation of wakeskaters from the Island? Is there a fourth generation?
There are younger kids that wakeskate… No one taking it that serious though. At least not that I am aware of. Growing up on the island and having Fortenberry and Nick always being there for my friends and I was too good. I was and am very fortunate to have them around.
A few years ago you joined the Pastura brothers at Water Monsters Wakeskate Company. At that time your two ‘mentors’ were riding for Integrity Wakeskates. What made you want to join WM and not follow in the footsteps of your island homies?
Wakeskating for Integrity was something that I wanted for a while. I also thought it would be cool to go my own way. WaterMonsters has been my favorite thing in wakeskating, even before it was an actual board company. Back when it was just those guys making internet videos and the WM blog [you’re welcome]. Their style of wakeskating, the videos, and photos they put out were all very influential to me, and my wakeskating. Andrew and Austin talked to me for a bit at the Toe Jam contest I think it was 2011, about joining their company. They shipped me a board and it all worked out from there. Best case scenario [laughs].
How has it been riding for the Ohio based company? What is the rest of the team like?
It’s been good, everyone on the team is cool. We have been on some really fun trips, and have had some great times together. I am happy to be supported by a company that has such a rad people behind it, and supports wakeskating.
You have had a progressive and unique experience in wakeskating from an early age. You were traveling with Nick around the world from Australia to the Philippines only a couple years after you started riding. What was it like going on these long international trips at a young age and with only a little experience under your belt?
There wasn’t too much thought put into it from my end. Other than knowing that I had those opportunities right then, and that I may not have them again in the future. I just went. I was living my dream. I enjoy new places, and seeing new landscapes, different parts of the world. I may never get the chance to go to some of those places ever again. Having an opportunity to travel overseas for extended periods of time, while wakesating with one of my best friends… Sign me up.
You were still very young and taking these long trips abroad living your dream, while everyone else were stuck in reality back home. How did you handle school during your frequent trips?
I just did my last two years of High School online and through a school called Inspiration Academy. I didn’t really log in to it much while on trips though. When I was home I dedicated a lot of time to it. That’s the whole reason I did it online, you can do it at your own pace and not deal with all the problems that comes along with a regular public high school. I do owe Inspiration Academy a huge thank you. Such nice people and I couldn’t have gotten through school without them.
You’ve been to pretty much all the wakeskate tour stops. What is the competitive scene like for you? Do you enjoy it? It’s hard to think you are taking it too seriously with a smile on your face the whole time.
I view it as a fun weekend camping, wakeskating, and hanging out. A good time to catch up with people I may not have seen in a while, and getting to watch some great wakeskating. I try to just focus on enjoying the time spent wakeskating with friends. That’s what it’s all about.
You’re not just an adventurer abroad, you’ve done some serious road tripping domestically in the U.S. You have traveled from coast to coast and everywhere in between. How are those long van dwelling trips? What is a typical day in the life of a road tripping wakeskater?
They are fun. One of my favorite parts of wakeskating. The typical day on a wakeskate road trip would be wake up, hangout, pack the tent, eat some breakfast, drive to a spot, a couple people session it, eat a late lunch and try to get to another spot, or go skate, or find somewhere interesting to check out. Then setup camp again. For me personally there is usually a random nap thrown in there too [laughs]. That may not sound like much, but it can be pretty long day.
What is one of the craziest experiences you have had on the road with the crew?
In Michigan, on the “Up the Middle” trip we stopped on this dirt road for a while. We were hanging out taking some photos and stuff when some police officers pull up. Long story short they put Ben, Trav [Doran], T-max [Tyler Maxwell], and myself in the back of separate police cars and completely strip searched the van looking for drugs. They didn’t find anything and we were able to leave and go into Canada. At the Canadian border, maybe two hours afterward, we were pulled to the side and the van was cleared of all our belongings and everything ripped apart once more, searching for drugs.
Wow the skater stereotypes never die do they? You’ve done a great deal of winching throughout your time in wakeskating and surely you’ve come across a few cops interrupting a winch session. How have the authorities generally treated you while at a winch spot?
It’s normally a pretty mellow experience. Usually if you’re respectful and understanding they will be nice. In the U.S. they are normally confused about what’s going on and tell you to leave and not come back. I think I have a trespassing warning at a spot in Orlando, and maybe in Texas? That’s the worst I have had with Authorities. In my experience its normally regular civilians that will be more hostile, and rude; I will say on my trip to Australia a few years ago the people, and police were all really cool with us and I don’t think we were kicked out of any spot.
There are a lot of strange and sometimes aggressive encounters with locals. Do you think wakeskating will get to a point where people will become more accepting of it and let wakeskaters just do their thing?
I mean if we are in someone’s yard, on their property, or private community, and they are mad and want us to leave that’s totally reasonable and we should respect that. It really just seems to me though that people don’t understand what’s going on, what we are doing, and that it is harmless and probably will be fun to watch. Also specific to the U.S. we have the issue of people thinking we will sue them if we hurt ourselves. There are a lot of factors. There are plenty of spots in parks, and areas that are public, or shouldn’t be an issue that we have been kicked out of though. Most important thing if we want to come back to spots, and let wakeskating to have a good name is that we need to try to be respectful, and understanding, and not trash spots.
Winching words of wisdom from the youngest rider on the film’s roster. What are you expecting from Istudiomo?
A Cole Kraiss part!!
Cinematography by Andrew Roehm and Tad Mathews
Photography by Andrew Roehm