11 Dec TONY FINN | Inventor of wakeboarding
TONY FINN The Wakeboard Inventor
SFR SPORT 3 the french Extrem Sport TV channel come to surf Expo last September and Bruno Detente get a change to interview the Inventor of Wakeboarding, Mr Tony FINN Founder of LIQUID FORCE Company
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Back in 1985, two great minds thought alike. They were the minds of Southern California native Tony Finn and Texas native Jimmy Redmon, who separately and simultaneously thought along the same wave length to create the foundation for what would eventually evolve into a globally renowned sport.
Looking for alternatives to waterskiing and surfing, the two created waterboards that could essentially “surf” the wake behind a boat. Finn’s model, the “Skurfer,” was shaped very similar to a surfboard; Redmon’s water ski board produced by his Redline Designs was a bit lighter and the first to have foot straps.
The two met by chance when they were placed in adjacent booths at a trade show—the first time they would see their personalities complement one another.
Finn’s energetic personality as a natural salesman attracted much interest to his product. Redmon, a more soft-spoken designer, had a better product, but a less aggressive sales approach.
Tony observed Jimmy talking to a buyer for several minutes—making no progress in a sale. He strolled over to the booth and whispered to Jimmy “Are you gonna close this guy or what?” “What’s close?” Jimmy asked. Finn looked at him and said, “Ask the guy for his money.” Jimmy did, a sale was made, and a competitive friendship was born. The two acknowledge that in the beginning they were competitors, but it was a friendly competition and to this day they are aware and complimentary of each other’s strengths. As they sit recounting the history of how they came to be business partners it is almost as if each is as much an advocate for the other’s skills as they are for themselves, if not more.
In 1988 Redmon founded the World Wakeboard Association (WWA), a governing body for the sport known then as “ski-boarding,” which created several contests and affiliations as well as outlined rules and guidelines for the sport. Finn acted as an announcer for several of the contests and the two continued to cross paths.
In 1991 Finn and Redmon joined forces and started Waketech. They gathered a roster of riders that pioneered the style of the sport. Although board models continued to evolve, there were still inefficiencies with the design of the Skurfer, mainly its buoyancy and surfboard shape that made it difficult for riders to initially stand up on the board. Redmon’s original design was a bit better and lighter, however, it lacked proper durability, and was unable to withstand the beating riders put on it when competing.
In 1993, after much research, testing, and innovation, they produced the first twin-tip board, which would change the sport forever.
The twin-tip design ended up being a total game-changer. They put three of their team riders on twin-tip boards for the championship while everyone else was still riding pointed tip boards, and they won the whole thing. At that moment Finn and Redmon recall seeing the sport change before their eyes and they knew it was never going to be the same.
In 1995 Finn and Redmon—challenged by a dare that they couldn’t launch a company by the time of the World Championships only three weeks away—created Liquid Force, a company that the two say was “launched on stoke, faith, and a lot of energy.” The pair hustled to get boards made, and outfitted their riders in Liquid Force branded gear. When they showed up to the contest, they were able to get people stoked on this mirage of a brand that barely even existed. It was risky, but it was successful, and there and then the Liquid Force brand was born.
To this day, Liquid Force continues to reflect its name as a strong force in the wakeboard community. They work closely with their athletes to achieve the right designs, and their constant innovation has driven them to stay one of the leading manufacturers in the wakeboard market. Based in Encinitas, California, the brand is staying close to its roots and continues to sponsor numerous initiatives to grow the sport, including their Free For All Cable Tour that brings wakeboarding to cable park locations around the country where people can learn to wakeboard and ride alongside Liquid Force pro riders for free.
Tony and Jimmy are genuinely passionate about what they do, it is evident in their excitement and expression when they tell their story. From competitors to collaborators, they have watched their ideas foster a successful brand and a successful sport.