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A Decade of DVS In WakeAuthor: Wakeskating.com Staff
View the DVS Wakeskate shoe gallery here
View the DVS ad gallery here
One characteristic of evolution is “changing into a different and usually more complex or better form.” In the late 90s, wakeboarders and wakeskaters changed what were accepted styles and attitudes in their respective boardsports. Some wakeboarders recognized that wakeboarding was struggling to advance in the right direction due to the competitive personalities and closed minded mentalities from the water ski industry that dominated wakeboarding’s formative years. The forward-thinking snow and skate influenced riders decided a change was in order for the sake of wakeboarding and its future. These riders encouraged a greater respect be placed on how you did something on your board, as opposed to what you did. Also, many of these riders sought inspiration from skating and snowboarding. This brought stylish, snow influenced spins of all sorts into the forefront of wakeboarding, along with proper, skateboard influenced grabs, with a classic example being a proper method grab. Riders also found new ways to utilize their aquatic landscape by building and hitting rails, kickers and funboxes.
While wakeboarders were forging ahead with years of experience and a recognized need for change, dedicated wakeskaters were just getting started. Wakeskating was still in its infancy, but wakeskaters built momentum in the late 90s as more riders began to experiment with bindingless riding by chopping down the ends of their wakeboards and applying various forms of surf-inspired traction to the tops of their newly converted wakeskates. Most riders chose to ride barefooted as well, since shoes and water didn’t seem to make sense at the time. But rider trends quickly evolved the surf aesthetic in a skate influenced direction, with grip tape replacing the surf traction and skate shoes supporting the riders’ feet. For many wakeskaters, skateboarding would also prove to be a defining influence when it came to what would become possible and stylistically valued from the act of wakeskating.
Dedicated and passionate riders who pushed for a new standard and an evolved model create one similarity between the two distinct boardsports of wakeboarding and wakeskating. And in the late 90s, the Dunlaps and the DVS Shoe Company recognized some of these revolutionary riders and the art forms they were working to change, ultimately forming the DVS wake team. Today, many wakeskaters respect the presence of the DVS wake team, since the program is dedicated solely to wakeskating and they support some of the most influential riders in wakeskating. So few people today may realize that the brand entered the wake industry quietly and at first had nothing to do with wakeskating.
DVS's Early Involvement: A Team Begins to Form
The DVS Shoe Company was founded in 1995 by the Dunlap family (Brian, Kevin and Mike) and former professional skateboarder, Tim Gavin. The Dunlaps shared many interests beyond skating, one of which happened to be wakeboarding. As a result, the family got the brand’s feet wet in the water sports industry. According to Jim Leatherman, current DVS wake team manager and former rider for DVS, “DVS has always been a long-time supporter of the wake industry. The owners might not admit it, but a couple of them are closet wake fans and might be able to throw a scarecrow and a clean roast beef grab wake-to-wake.”
The DVS wake team began in the late 90s when Aaron Grace, a stylish wakeboarder from Idaho who re-located to San Diego, became the first rider to join the DVS program. Grace, now the current team manager for Liquid Force, recalls his start with DVS: “When I first joined the DVS team, I believe it was 98 or 99, I was working for Rusty Surfboards and had just started to ride for Rusty clothing and wakeboards. The Southern California Rusty rep was also the DVS rep, and he is the first guy that started hooking me up. Shortly after, I met the team manager. His name was Simon, and he started to take care of me.”
Soon after joining the team, Grace was quickly earning media coverage for himself and his new sponsor through his spin and grab oriented riding style, and not through the traditional method of contest results. Grace helped illustrate that wakeboarding was evolving and riders didn’t need to depend on contest results to earn sponsor support, even though many companies in that era of wakeboarding deemed contest results to be important. “I was getting some photos in the mags and some video parts with the DVS logo getting shown quite a bit, so they were pretty stoked. Plus, I wasn’t a big contest rider, and I think DVS kind of liked that,” says Grace.
After Grace got his foot in the door, Thomas Horrell soon followed by joining the DVS wake team on the opposite coast. Nowadays, every wakeskater who knows their history regards Horrell as an innovative pioneer of wakeskating, so it may surprise some riders that Horrell originally joined the DVS team as a wakeboarder. Horrell was introduced to the prospect of joining the team through an industry friend. “After being on Mutiny [Freeboards] for a little bit, Duane Pacha came to me and said that his friends from 118 boardshop might be interested in hooking me up. Duane just gave me Brian Dunlap’s phone number, we talked, and he sent me a box,” says Horrell.
When Horrell joined the DVS team, he added a certain presence to the wake program that is difficult to define but easy to recognize. And the relationship that developed between the DVS family and Horrell is completely unique in the industry. It is truly rare to find a family who have been as loyal to a rider and a cause, and it’s just as rare to find a team rider who has the same genuine loyalty to a sponsor. “It’s funny, but looking back, maybe it would seem like a gamble going with a much smaller company at the time, but they treated me like a part of the Podium family from the very beginning,” says Horrell.
The earliest published DVS wake ad, found in the first wakeskate specific periodical titled Butter 2002+1. (View a larger version of the ad here)
Stay tuned for part two of "A Decade of DVS in Wake."
Read part three of "A Decade of DVS in Wake" here.
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