(Monday, July 6th, 2009)

Scott Byerly

Byerly and family

Not all interviews go as planned.

I wanted Scott’s interview to be perfect, which is silly because I know perfect doesn’t exist. Still, I wanted it—perfection. I wanted people to read this interview and think, “Wow, Jana. Good job.” More important, I wanted Scott to be proud of it. So in preparing for this interview, I became apprehensive, like the little girl that wants approval of those around her in order to define herself. The ending result I feared: less than perfection.

There were many factors that complicated this interview. The submission would be my second to Playground magazine (with a hunch it was to be the cover story), and also the follow-up interview to Jacqueline Siegel’s article, which received a great bit of attention and press. I knew the editors expected colossal things from me, yet my time was limited. I was in the middle of finishing my thesis and consequently, nuts—it’s what happens when you lock yourself in your room, cut yourself off from society and attempt to put what’s rolling around in your head into 38,000 words. Another issue was that I’ve known Scott for a long time (from way back when I was the managing editor of Wakeboarding magazine). He’s a man of few words (which has always made me shy to interview him). So in order to showcase Scott—a wakeboarding legend, father, husband, and overall extraordinary person—I’d have to get him to open up. Not easy.

Kim, Byerly’s wife of eight years, is the more outgoing one. She’s much easier to draw information from usually. However, at Dexter’s, the place where this interview was conducted, I noticed even she seemed to be holding back. She’d later tell me she was nervous because this was the first time the family as whole would be in the limelight. “It’s always been Scott, not us.  So I guess I’m a being a little protective.”

Respect. Scott and Kim’s unique understanding of each other is what has made their relationship go the distance.

Anyhow, with all this being said, this is the unedited version of the interview—the one before it made it to the publication. Reading it again, months later, I think it is perfect. I’ve decided interviews are simply conversations captured, and perhaps the perfection can be found in the imperfections (even when they’re my mine).

NOTE: You’ll notice Scott’s answers are shorter in this version of the interview, more like how he is in person (much more got added to the interview by those at Playground during the photo shoot and its preparations).  It’s also more about how Scott is a father figure to many of those in the wakeboarding industry—an angle that got cut during the editing process. So if you get a chance, read both interviews, this one and the one in Playground magazine (if anything for the pictures—they’re amazing).

Jana: At what age did you go for your first tattoo?
Scott: My first tattoo? I don’t know—20.

How many times do you think you’ve been back to the parlor since?
A lot—too many to count, I guess.

What do your tattoos mean to you?
I have my kids’ names on me—and those are the only ones that mean anything. Well, I have my name tattooed on my back. Everything else is kind of meaningless. Oh yeah, I have my wedding ring tattooed on my finger—that’s not meaningless.

What do the girls think of your tattoos?
I think they’re used to them. I’ve always had ‘em. So …
Kim: They say they look past them.
All the kids look at me when I drop them off at school though. Whatever.

At what age will the girls be allowed to make their first trip to the tattoo shop?
I don’t know. They’d have be at least 18 … and ask their mom.

Some people stereotype those that have their body covered in ink. Has that ever happened to you?
I think it’s accepted more these days—everybody has tattoos. I don’t really go through it that much; and if I do, I ignore it.

What are benefits to being a professional athlete? Like, do you think you’re able to spend more time with the girls this way?
When I am home I get to spend more time with my family—that’s for sure. I don’t have a regular 9-5 job, but during the season I can be gone for four months out of the year and not see them. It goes both ways. When I’m home, I get to see them a lot. When I’m gone, I don’t.

What is the hardest thing about being away on tour?
Being away from my girls. I’m so used to taking them to school, being around the house and being dad. When I’m on the road, I’m being a dad in another way—I’m taking care of my team. They’re pretty hard to care to take care of sometimes.
Kim: And you miss out on a lot of things.
I miss birthdays and anniversary’s and stuff like that—it sucks. I make up for it when I’m home.

What kinds of things does your family like to do together?
Ride our bikes, I guess. Hang out at the lake and on the boat. Watch Kirra play volleyball. Stuff like that.

Are there any places in Orlando that you enjoy going to?
Lake Eola.
Kim: It depends on what’s going on around town. If the kids learn of something they want to do, we go and do it.
I take Kirra to the Magic games.

Yeah, that’s one thing I didn’t know about you—I’ve known you for awhile now—you’re a huge Orlando Magic fan.
When they’re doing good. [Laughs] No, I like basketball a lot.

How do you think the Magic will end up this season?
They’ll either get beat quick or stay around. I don’t know. The past couple games they haven’t played that good. If they play that way, they’re not going to make it.

I was told that the wife of Stan Van Gundy, the Magic’s head coach, put in the highest bid at a live auction recently, winning board package as well as the opportunity to ride with you on your boat.
Yeah. We did a charity event—the Magic did with Ski Nautiques of Orlando—and they had a live auction [the winning bid for Scott’s board package was $2000]. She has some kids and wants to take them wakeboarding. So we’re going to take them and go out on our Nautique.

So they’re family gets to come ride with yours?
I think I’m just taking them riding. I don’t know that my family is going to come.

Are you going to give him/her any tips?
I don’t know. We’ll see how they ride.

What about basketball tips?
I don’t have any basketball tips—I’m not good at basketball. I just like to watch, and Kirra and I will play in the front yard.
Kim: Scott just installed a hoop for them.

Nice. So Kirra is in to sports?
Yeah. She plays soccer, basketball, volleyball; she wakeskates—she’s pretty athletic, way more than her older sister. Chelsea is trying out for the dance team at her school, but she’s into boys.

Yeah, so she’s dating now. How is that going for you?
It’s going fine, I guess. She’s had the same boyfriend for awhile now. We try to teach her to be a respectful lady. We only have her for half the time—she lives with her mom. We only have two girls under our roof at all times, an 8-year-old and 2-and-half-year-old.

Are there any plans for more children?
Kim: Absolutely not.
No. We have enough kids already with everybody that’s around the house all the time—all my riders.
Kim: That is true. [Laughs] I didn’t get any boys, but I have plenty of wakeskaters.

So you’re not the only guy stuck in a house full of girls?
I kinda am, and kinda am not.  A lot of my team riders come and ride at the house. We’re always riding, filming or doing something there. There’s never a dull moment—that’s for sure.

Your bus tour is starting again in May. What does this mean for your family?
I’m leaving again. My kids don’t want me to go, but it’s what I have to do. The girls know what I have to do. They get upset when I’m gone for their birthdays, but I’m coming back for Kirra’s birthday this year.
Kim: We extended the bus tour longer this year, but it’s so that he can come back several times throughout.
It means mom is going to have to take the kids to school everyday, not me.

And she also will have to hold the fort down?
Yeah, there’s a lot more stuff she has to take care of when I’m gone. It’ll be quieter around the house, too.

Kim, how do you handle Scott’s absence?
Kim: It’s not really an absence because we talk so much throughout the day. We are very connected. Where it gets stressful is when the children start to act out because he’s gone. The first three weeks are the hardest. They have to get acclimated to his not being there, and so they challenge me on everything. Then they settle down.
It’s a little different for me than they guys on the bus. They’re fighting with their girlfriends—we’re already passed that.
Kim: And we have Skype. Dad can discipline through the computer screen. [Laughs]

Describe a typical day on the bus tour.
Kim: Is there a typical day?
You wake up to being in a new place every day, new lake, different people. Everyone wants to ride behind the boat, try all the new product, hang with me and the team—that’s pretty much the typical day. Just being out on the water all day. It’s cool to wake up in a new city, new lake, new atmosphere and everyone being there for the same reason.

What age groups are coming out to ride with you?
Last year, we had younger kids’, from the age of 7, to guys in their 50’s come out. Anyone can do the sport. There are people who have been following me since I first started. They hear that I’m coming to town and turn out just to see me. Then there’s people who don’t know who I am. They have a Byerly board because it was at the shop. You get all different types of people.

How does it make you feel to know there are many people out there who are still a big fan of what you’re doing?
I’ve been in it for a really long time. It makes me feel good that people still like to see me out there in their towns and in the magazines.

Now that you’ve taken on more of a business aspect with your board company, has your views of the sport changed?
It doesn’t make me look at the sport any different—I just have to act differently. I’m in charge of everything. I have to make a good example for other kids, and those who look up to us. Before, I kinda did whatever. Now, especially with the bus tour, I have to be on time. There are people waiting on you. There are schedules. We have to have the boat in good condition, with gas. It’s a lot more responsibility. That’s for sure.
Kim: And each rider has responsibilities too.
I’m responsible for their responsibilities.

What’s it like to be a father to all your riders?
It’s stressful sometimes. It’s really cool to watch these guys learn and become the riders that they are. And as for me helping them out—if I wasn’t helping them out it’d be hard. It’s hard to make it in this industry, especially when you’re not doing all the contests. A lot of my riders don’t do contest … I don’t know. I’m getting a little lost in the question.

It’s okay. Another event you have coming up is the 2009 Toe Jam. Do you want to explain what that is and where the name came from?
I used to wakeboard a lot—that’s what I did. Then wakeskating was something I did on the side. I started wakeskating a lot, and there wasn’t any real contest for it. So, myself and Sean Dishman, started The Toe Jam. It’s a wakeskate only contest, started out at The Projects [a private-owned lake in Bithlow]. This is our sixth year coming up. It’s grown huge every year, with more and more people riding in it. More tricks are getting landed. It’s on FUEL TV—it’s been good.

How did wakeskating evolve from wakeboarding?
You ride on a wakeboard strapped in all the time. It kind of got repetitive. I started wakeskating to get away from it. We always kind of copied skateboarding stuff when we wakeboarded—wakeskating is more like skateboarding now, with all the tricks that are being landed.

Is there one or the other you enjoy doing more?
I enjoy wakeskating more, I think.  It’s like I said before, I used to skate when I was kid. Wakeskating is more like it—it’s free. You do fall more, and it requires more practice. But it’s more like skateboarding.

Are families welcome to come out and watch The Toe Jam?
It’s definitely a family oriented contest. All of my kids will be there. Half of the kids entered in the contest are under 18-years-old.
Kim: And all four contests are held in Orlando this year. People can go to byerlywakeboards.com to learn more about it.

What direction do you see these sports heading?
With the economy right now, they’re not doing too well. [Laughs] But with the economy like it is, people are doing more family stuff. I think we’re going to see a lot more people going on the boat with their families. I don’t know. Maybe X-Games one day. I know it was in there before, but maybe we can get that kind of coverage again. I just want to keep doing the contest, keep it simple, and keep it to the roots.
Kim: Progressing the sport and the awareness of it.
The kids are the future, especially in wakeboarding and wakeskating.

Could you imagine life without kids?
I couldn’t. I like it just the way it is. If I didn’t have kids, I probably wouldn’t be where I’m at right now. I definitely wouldn’t be where I am without my wife—that’s for sure.
Kim: You’re sweet.
[Laughs] I’m serious.
Kim: We make a good balance.

Posted Monday, July 6th, 2009 in Orlando InterviewsTags: ,
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