The Winning Drive
By Ted Sensenbrenner
Hang on! We're getting behind the wheel with one of wakeboarding's top professional drivers, Travis Moye.
As a tow-boat operator at major wakeboarding events and co-owner of The Boarding School, Travis Moye's job description includes cool titles such as professional driver, research and design consultant, and wakeboarding coach and mentor. But that's not where it all began. Travis started water skiing at age nine, made the U.S. Water Ski Team at age 13, and captured several national championship titles along the way. In his middle years at the University of Alabama, he was Captain of the Collegiate All-American Water Ski Team. When wakeboarding became the de rigueur water sport in the early 90s he transitioned easily and has been holding down a job in the industry ever since.
There's not much behind the wheel of a performance-oriented ski craft, or behind the boat, that Travis Moye hasn't experienced. And that's what makes the 39-year-old Florida resident so good at what he does. What exactly does he do, you ask? Well, a lot of it is what he doesn't do; that's what matters. When asked about his driving philosophy he doesn't take boat and rider safety for granted and he never forgets, or let anyone else forget, that he's responsible and in charge when he's behind the wheel.
Moye's philosophy is that if he can concentrate on driving, the rider can focus on the important things like learning a new trick, or winning a competition. "No matter how good a driver you think you are, there's always room for improvement. Never get complacent behind the wheel. You're directly responsible for people's safety, fun, and ability to improve. One thing I pride myself on, is the rider never having to worry about anything other than their ride. If you can do that, you've won the battle."
To help drivers be the best they can be, Travis shared with us some of the small things that make a huge difference when it comes to getting the proper boat set-up for maximum fun and enjoyment.
Where do you work now? Tell us how it all started.
TM: I co-own a wakeboard camp with Shaun Murray called The Boarding School (www.theboardingschool.com) on the east side of Orlando, Florida. We've been in business for eight years now and it really just started from a couple of guys interested in working together to provide a unique learning experience for all levels of riders.
What type of boats does the school use and what makes them ideal?
TM: We use a 2011 MasterCraft X Star at the camp. I've been working with MasterCraft for years, along with our team of pro riders and engineers. I've been providing feedback on what I think would be the ultimate wakeboarding boat, and that is exactly what we have in the X Star. The boat drives amazingly well whether you're just cruising around or are fully-ballasted. And, the wake is unparalleled in its shape and consistency.
What's on your pre-departure boat checklist before hitting the water?
TM: I'm a little different than the average user. I use the boat eight hours a day, but most people should be checking the basics such as gas, oil, and transmission fluid levels, as well as your basic safety equipment. Other than that I always have a big hat, tons of water, sunscreen, and snacks.
Are you dialing in anything or making certain adjustments to the boat?
TM: I constantly adjust the boat depending on what level rider I have behind me. For beginner riders I keep the boat as light as possible with slower speeds (17-22 mph). With more advanced riders I add ballast to the boat and usually go a bit faster (23-26 mph). And, no matter what level the rider is, I make certain the boat is properly balanced side to side. No one wants to ride a washy wake, so I keep a 50-pound lead weight in the boat that I can move to make sure the wake is always great on both sides.
What questions are you asking the rider to help you gauge set-up?
TM: If I've never seen someone ride before, I usually ask them what type of tricks they're doing, what boat they usually ride behind, as well as what speed and rope length they're accustomed to. These answers will vary, but at least it gives me a good starting point. The main thing is to communicate with the rider before, during, and after the ride so you can always make improvements.
Rider down! Now what? Do you have a set pick-up pattern?
TM: As soon as the rider falls, I pull the throttle back to a low speed and simply idle back around slowly to pick them up. This way you don't throw rollers all the way down the lake as well as surrounding the fallen rider in a bunch of rollers. It's actually quicker than powering back full speed to get to them. When I make the circle around them, it's always done in neutral. Editor's Note: The April, 2011 issue of Seaworthy, the BoatUS Marine Insurance damage-avoidance publication, suggests turning the engine off when near a skier or wakeboarder. Here' why: A wakeboarder received 100 stitches because the prop was still turning though the engine was in neutral as that person tried climbing back into the boat. Approaching the rider from the lee is also a good idea.
Can you tell us about the R&D you do for MasterCraft?
TM: I've been fortunate enough to work with MasterCraft for many years. I sit in a boat more days than not, so I pick up on a lot of things the average person might not know. I do a ton of product validation. I put a bunch of hours on different components of the boat to make sure they really work, and this prevents issues from occurring later on.
Back To School
Summer camps for wakeboarding provide not only expert instruction and guidance, they provide structure in a controlled environment that's safer with less risk of injury. Coaches offer unique tips and help break old habits and tend to keep you on the water longer than you'd stay on your own. There's also peer pressure from the other campers to push yourself and to increase your arsenal of tricks.
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