The King of Wake Speaks: Harley Clifford Talks 2012, Trick Development and the Future
Harley Clifford won King of Wake, but he’s also, as far as the contest scene, the king of wake. In 2012, the 19-year-old superstar of wakeboarding dominated the sport. World champion and trick of the year; pro tour champion and favorite of the fans in the readers’ poll. It was the year Harley had been aiming for ever since he turned pro in 2008.
Early in 2013, he’s off to a similar tear, with three consecutive wins to start the season. The thought is already on everyone’s mind: how long can the winning streak go?
We sat down with Clifford when he stopped by Oakley HQ during his annual wakeboard season migration from Australia to Florida and hit him with all the key questions.
You had one hell of a season last year, winning pretty much everything imaginable.
For the last couple years, it’s pretty much what I’ve wanted to do: win the King of Wake as well as the Pro Tour, and then I won the World Championship, which is a pretty big deal to me. When you grow up doing anything, you think, ‘Wow, what if one day I’d be world champion?’ So it was unreal to win one. And then “Trick of the Year” is something I’ve been so close to every year, like every year I do two or three new tricks and then someone will do one trick that just beats mine, so to win that last year, that was definitely one of the proudest moments to be able to say that up to now, I’ve done one of the best tricks in wakeboarding. It’s a pretty crazy feeling. It was just a fun year. To have the MTV show and to be filming for that, it was definitely something I never thought id be able to do.
How was that for your Q rating? People start recognizing you a bit more on the street?
Yeah, especially back home in Australia, it was pretty funny.
How was the process of being apart of a television show?
It was pretty hard. Like the amount of filming that we did that wasn’t on there was just insane. The amount of filming that I did and I’d get like a minute in every episode was just insane. Like I swear every day was like 9-to-5 for three months straight. But it was cool to be apart of it.
How did you spend your offseason?
I got back to Australia in October and I got my new boat, and then in November I was in a car crash and totaled my truck and the boat. I didn’t have a boat for like five weeks after that; and three days after the crash I broke my tailbone, and I was out until like January. So, that was pretty much most of my offseason; I was just hung out in bed. I broke my tailbone and then mid-December there was a contest in Indonesia and I hadn’t ridden in like two months, and ending up winning still, which was cool. Came home, more bed-rest and then January just got busy with traveling around and doing contests and wakeboarding. While I was off I just spent as much time my brothers and my family as I could.
This will be your fifth full season as a pro. How do you wrap mind around an upcoming season?
Every year you come into a season thinking you want to win all the contests. That’s obviously a big focus, trying to get all your new tricks consistent, but there’s always different things to look at, like trying to get in the magazines more, organize more photo shoots or go on more trips and do all that cool stuff. Like last year I was so busy with contests that I sort of missed out on a lot of the trips, like Europe and different parts of the world. This year I want to try to make it to some of those trips. I guess now with the contests, I’ve won everything that I wanted to win, obviously I want to keep winning, but I also want to have time to try to invent new tricks and push wakeboarding, so that’s a pretty big focus this year. There are so many tricks that I’ve sort of been working on but haven’t landed yet and this season I feel like I’ll do it at some point.
What’s the process of developing a new trick?
For the past couple years its just been adding an extra 180 onto stuff. But last year I did the first wake-to-wake double flip, so now since I’ve done that that’s a big thing in wakeboarding, a lot of people are trying to do double flips wake-to-wake and since that one, I can do five different ones now, so that for the next couple years is going to be the thing everyone is going to need to be able to do in competition; you’re going to need to be able to do double flips to beat someone. A lot of people can do them off the double-up, but there’s like three of us who can do it off the wake. There’s actually people who are trying triple flips, which is pretty insane. I’ve been working on double flips with 360, but we’ll see how that goes this season.
What sort of training do you do to stay sharp?
While I’m in America I don’t do much training because I’m just wakeboarding so much. If I train, I’d wake up the next morning and be sore and be unable to ride the whole day, so while I’m in America I take like three sets a day and that’s really the only training I do. But while I’m in Australia, it’s sort of the off-season, so I do a lot of training. For the last three months I pretty much did personal training every second day, just like core stuff and hip stuff. Getting knees strong. More stuff just to prevent injury.
Any expectations or goals for the season? You’ve mentioned shooting and traveling more. Anything else in mind?
I don’t know. It’s the start of the season so I haven’t really planned anything. Coming to Oakley, that was cool. The place is unreal. It’s so big and the stuff I saw on how the product is just mind-blowing. It’s unreal how much better the product is than anything else.