Interview with 30A Local and World Champion Wakeboarder Andrew Adkison in Inlet Beach, FL
Andrew Adkison is a professional wakeboarder originally from Panama City, Florida. Over the course of his 14-year professional career, he has competed in big events all over the United State and the world. With over 25 pro tour wins including a couple World Championships, it was super inspiring listening to him share his story with us this past summer.
Andrew’s professional wakeboarding resume is nothing short of incredible, however, I walked away from our interview even more impressed with him as a person. Friendly, knowledgeable, humble, kind, laid-back are some of the words that come to mind when trying to describe the vibe I got during the 2 plus hours we spent on Lake Powell shooting the interview videos you’ll see at the top and bottom of this article.
Today, Andrew is a South Walton area resident and owner of a service-based business called “Experience Wake” which aims to help get all types of people out on the water. No matter your age or skill level, Experience Wake has something fun to offer everyone in your group. From wakeboarding to wakesurfing to flyboarding and more, you’ll have a blast out on the water with this 30A local World Champion.
Conversation with Andrew Adkison Pro Wakeboarding Champion
30A Prime: Thanks for taking time to meet with us today Andrew. Please give us an overview of your amazing wakeboarding background.
Andrew: Sure no problem… I’ve been riding a wakeboard for about 20 years and that originally started right here in the SoWal area of Northwest Florida. Of those 20 years, 14 of them have been spent riding professionally. In that time I had over 25 professional wins including a couple of World Titles. Won the Gold medal in the Pan American Games, multiple Golds at the World Games and have been really fortunate to have had that run.
30A Prime: How did you get started with wakeboarding?
Andrew Adkison: Growing up I was like most every other kid in that I played team sports and when our baseball season wrapped up at the end of summer we would go to the lake. During one of those lake trips I got on a kneeboard and the first time I did that I said to myself… Yep this is the thing for me, watersports is it.
Now fast forward a couple summers, same baseball team at the lake and I saw someone wakeboarding, going across the lake and I said wow what is that? I mean, at the time there was no YouTube and no social media outlets, there was nothing of the sort that would have allowed me to previously discover wakeboarding. When I saw the guy going across the lake I was hooked before I even tried it.
Fortunately enough, I flagged that person down and he let me give it a try. I tried it about 40 times and swore it off that day and said I’d never wakeboard again. However, the next weekend we went back to the lake and I got up the first try and was completely hooked. My first time up on the board I decided for sure, this is what I’m going to be doing with my life.
30A Prime: It sounds like it dawned on you right away that you could be good enough to make a career in wakeboarding. Is that a correct assumption?
Andrew: So when I realized I was good enough to do something with it, I had actually already done something with it. My first time up on a wakeboard I was like… I want to be the best in the World at this.
Again, being pretty much pre-internet, I didn’t know what that meant, I didn’t even know if there were other wakeboarders out there or if it was just me and the guy on the lake.
30A Prime: Tell us about how you went from a kid in Northwest Florida riding a wakeboard with his baseball buddies to making it on the Professional Wakeboarding Tour.
Andrew: The main problem for me at the time was that I didn’t have a boat so I would ride with whoever I could get on the water with. So I got in with a group of people that did have a boat and as a way to provide value, I began coaching and helping out in any way possible. So it was really coaching that brought me into the sport, that got me on the road with a wakeboarding sales rep traveling during the summer months putting on wakeboarding clinics.
I did that for years and then one summer it all started happening… I came across Shaun Murray who is the greatest ambassador for our sport and he’s a good friend to this day.
Shaun and the sales rep for the wakeboard company were doing a clinic tour in the Southeast so I tagged along with them and they said… Hey, you can drive a boat, help clean up the boat and you know how to coach too. Come on the water with us for a couple months.
So we traveled around the Southeastern United States doing just that and it was the first summer that I got consistent time on the water. Every single day we were on the water. I would coach people for a couple of hours and then go do my demo ride and then we’d get to it with the clinic.
At the end of that summer, the second to last pro tour stop Shaun Murray and the sales rep Gary Morrison said to me… Hey, do you think you’re ready to go to the pro tour?
I said… Ya, I think I will be ready next year.
They replied… Well, we think you’re ready for the pro wakeboarding tour now and we just paid for your plane ticket, your entry fee, and your hotel.
So here you have the sales rep whos traveling all over the country to make ends meet and a guy who would be my competitor, pitching in to make this happen. They made it possible for me to go up to the MasterCraft Pro Wakeboard Tour in Detriot.
I was sort of caught off guard but I was like… Well, here it is. So OK why not. I’ll go and test the waters for next year.
So it was 2002 and I went up to Detriot. At that same event, there was also an X Games qualifier / Gravity Games qualifier on the Friday before the Saturday professional tournament. I was walking around kind of star struck but pretending not to be and we show up to the event and there was a rail that went up over a Ford Ranger truck and I had never hit rails behind a boat before. Rails on the water were something that I just had not yet had access to at that point in my life.
I thought to myself… Ok, this is going to be interesting.
So I decided to enter the X Games qualifier as practice for hitting those obstacles in the pro event on Saturday. There were 90 people in the X Games / Gravity Games qualifier and they only took the top 2 wakeboarders. Friday evening finishes and I’m at the top of those 90 people of which included some big-time names.
At the end of the day, I’m like… Wow, that’s really weird, but I just won the X Games qualifier.
It just didn’t really register with me right away in terms of the magnitude of winning that qualifier. So we went into the pro tournament the next day, and this event had been prefaced as a 5-minute format. In comparison to today’s tournament formats which are 4 tricks down and 4 tricks back, this was 5 minutes which means you can get in about 30 tricks as opposed to just 8.
So all year in the media this specific event had been pitched as… Anyone can put together 8 tricks. Let’s make this event unusually long at 5 minutes so we can really determine the best wakeboarders in the world.
Fast-forward through the weekend and I keep winning my heats.
We get to finals which is the top 10 and I’m thinking… What am I doing here among the top 10 wakeboarders in the world?
It was just bizarre because I went from a Thursday where I said… I don’t think I should be here.
To qualifying for the X Games, Gravity Games and really making an entrance on the pro tour. So I woke up on a Thursday a little nervous to be there and I went home on a Sunday just in a daze, there.
So at that point, I’d been chasing my wakeboarding career dream for over 6 years without a boat, without the means to do it. Shaun won the event and was just as happy for me with the results of that special day. There were a lot of happy tears that day for sure.
I got home and some prize money showed up in my mailbox and I was like… Oh my gosh, I can go to the next event. I’m doing this!
30A Prime: Please tell us more about your business “Experience Wake“.
Andrew: The reason I named this business “Experience Wake” is because I don’t want people to go… There’s a multi-time World Champion and this and that.
In other words, I’m not looking to compete. You know, about 98% of what I’m doing is just getting people out there on the water for an experience. Whether it’s wakeboarding or wakesurfing we may even stick you on a SUP behind the boat. We’re going to go have fun on the water.
30A Prime: In terms of group size, how many people can to fit on your boat?
Andrew: Your group could be a single person all the way up to 14 people. We even did a party recently with over 25 people. So, in that case, we had maybe 10 or so people on the boat at a time so they could spectate and watch. The really great thing about them being out there on the boat is that’s part of the experience too. There may be 3 or 4 people in that group that just want to be out there on the water watching and enjoying themselves. They think, hey let’s take a boat day and why not have something entertaining to watch while we’re doing it.
30A Prime: What are some of the other things you offer?
Andrew: Some of the things we’re offering bigger groups is… I have a friend that brings his flyboard out to the lake. So we get people scooting around on the flyboard, we’ll have floating waterslides and more so there is plenty of fun stuff to do for everyone in the group.
So if you want to spend a full day on the water but don’t want to be in the boat the entire time, we’re going to make sure that you have fun in other ways. Then, when it’s your turn to ride, we’ll get you out there. So there is no idle downtime at Experience Wake. You’re always having fun.
30A Prime: For individuals and groups interested in your services, what is that average length of time they will spend out on the water with Experience Wake?
Andrew: It usually ends up being about a 3-hour on-water experience but often times those turn into 5 or 6 hours because people want to stick around. When you get a group of about half-dozen people in 3 or 4 hours, it’s action-packed the whole time. Everyone has a blast and a real experience that they typically end up sharing on social media. If you’d like to get in touch, come out and give it a try, the link to my website is right here… ExperienceWake.com
Please feel free to give me a shout or send me an email and we’ll get you out there on the water. No matter your ability level… First time or first World Championship come on out, we’re going to have a blast on the water. You can wakeboard, wakesurf, anything you want to do we’ll get you set up. Bring your friends and we’ll teach them too and why not… We’ll even give you a “get up guarantee”.