SHANNON BEST: PRO KITEBOARDER, WAKEBOARDER and AVID ENTREPREUNEUR
When I began riding a wakeboard back in the early 90’s, Shannon Best was ripping it up the wakeboarding scene. He was throwing some of the most incredible moves on a wakeboard. He created a number of different tricks, perhaps the best known was the “S-Bend”. He left wakeboarding for kiteboarding in the early 2000’s. I had the opportunity to speak with Shannon last week. When I spoke with him, I was impressed with how “Stoked” he is as a person. He is a man that sets a goal, is constantly re-inventing himself, and pushing himself
to world class excellence in everything he does.
Shannon Best got his start in wakeboarding clear back in 1991 at the Cable Ski World ski park in Runaway Bay on the Gold Coast of Australia. Saying that he was instantly hooked would be an understatement as he would go on to board for more than twenty three hours over the next three days. He said that he still remembers how sore and sunburned he was after that time. He would continue to work at becoming more proficient as a wakeboarder. Once he did, he left home as a teenager with lofty aspirations to become a professional wakeboarder.
That move would prove pivotal as he landed at the Quiet Waters Cable Ski Park in Fort Lauderdale, Florida in May of 1993. In those days, “ski jumping, freestyle, slalom skis and even knee boarding were all bigger than wakeboarding.” It was then that Best started competing on the wakeboard tour in 1994. He couldn’t have started at a better time as in September of the same year; the first twin tip wakeboard was by WakeTech, changing the face of wakeboarding, and allowing Best to take his wakeboarding into and even more advanced level
With all of the improvements in wakeboarding gear and Best’s riding improving on a steady basis, the year 1995 would prove to be a breakout year for Best. He placed in the top five of the wakeboard tour and stayed in the top ten for over six years straight. 1995 was also the year Shannon threw the first ever S-Bend. As he would say, “Basically I was trying to do a front flip, back on the cable parks in Australia. Everyone laughed and thought it was ugly so I put it away and didn’t use the trick until 1995. Everyone freaked out when they first saw it on the tour. Darren (Shapiro) asked me to do it ten times in a row to figure it all out.”
Shannon’s influence in the wakeboard industry would pave the way for other Australian riders down the road. Most, if not all professional Australian wakeboarders can trace their wakeboarding genealogy back to Shannon Best. Before the end of his wakeboarding career, he would amass some of the biggest sponsors in wakeboarding including: Connelly, Rip Curl, Liquid Force, Jet Pilot, Moomba Supra Boats and others. His success can be attributed to something that Brandon Wolf, one of Best’s original sponsors noticed about him, “professionalism and desire”. Wolf further mentioned that, “Shannon had trained a hundred laps around the park before work every morning. He didn’t drink, didn’t go crazy and party too hard. By the time we woke he had mastered another trick.” Such a work ethic would pave the way for
further success in another industry.
So what do you do when you’ve conquered one sport? You get into another one! In the winter of 1999, Tom James, the editor and creator of Kiteboarding Magazine, was pushing the new sport of kiteboarding with the release of the first Kiteboarding Magazine in America. Seeing not only the future in the sport itself, but also the crossover potential from wake to kite, Tom invited Shannon to try the sport for the first time with Lou Waiman and Elliot LeBoe in Corpus Christi, Texas, along with fellow wakeboarders Zane Schwank and Chase Heavener. Tom recalls, “I wanted the wakeboarders to see a cooler side of kiteboarding, not just going big, but within 10 minutes, Shannon and the boys were doing raleys, surprising everyone by how fast the crossover learning could occur.
That would prove the day that Shannon made the decision to become a world class Kiteboarder. After that experience, he began a rigorous kiteboarding training routine and entered the amateur division of the kiteboard competition at Waddell Creek in 2001. Soon afterwards, Waiman invited Shannon to come and hang out with him in Maui. Best recalls the different factions at that stage. “The Oahu guys were into the big jumps and transitions whilst we were really into wake style, as well as going big and wave riding.”
After spending three years in Maui, Best would create a very successful kiteboarding DVD set, Kiteboarding 101 and Kiteboarding 201. This happened in 2003. 2003 would also be the year that he met his business partner, Jeff Beige. He approached going into business cautiously, especially having seen “shady deals and behind-the-scenes politics” in the wakeboarding industry” which left him with little to show for his hard work and creativity.
This cautious business approach led to the successful launching of Best Kiteboarding in February of 2004. Best’s business model caused quite a controversy in the development period with several brands colluding to push Best out of the market because of Best’s online tactics and outspoken marketing approach. “Back then the companies were all scared of our new approach,” says Best. “It was only natural that they fought us.” Despite the initial start up blues, Best Kiteboarding now stands as an industry leader.
Shannon Best has an extreme love for kiteboarding and wakeboarding and still does both sports. He still travels the world and can be found riding in Brazil throwing ridiculous moves on his kiteboard including Double S-Bends to blind, double back rolls to blind, toe side S-Bends to blind, giant butter slides, nose presses and many more.
Having had the opportunity to ride in Brazil also opened the avenue to Best’s latest passion Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. It is Shannon’s latest “re-invention” of self. He has trained with the legendary Gracie family including Rickson, Royler, and Royce Gracie. Though Shannon has no intention to compete in the Octagon, he has every intention to earn his black belt (currently a blue belt) in the sport and practices on a regular basis with friend Fredson Alves) a huge name in the art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu). Knowing of his work ethic and drive, I have no doubt that he will master the sport and move on to master something else.
Shannon Best’s determination and focus are exemplary. He is friendly, as well as unflinching in his focus upon the goals he sets for himself despite what opposition may come. Stokemeter is pumped to work with Shannon Best!
Interview Shannon Best – 4/1/2011