In 1985, Tony Finn, a surfer from San Diego, was studying marketing and film at San Diego State University. “I was not a good student...but I could still get up for a morning surf,” he says. That same year, he left SDSU and developed the Skurfer, a surfboard/water ski hybrid. Although he denies claims that he invented wakeboarding, he does acknowledge proelling it.
“We were the first to really get the sport going and bring it to a wider audience,” he says.
Before the introduction of the Skurfer, intrepid surfers tried riding their surfboards while clinging to water ski ropes pulled by motorboats or, in some cases, trucks driven on shore. With foot-straps adapted from windsurfing boards, the Skurfer allowed riders to tow more safely behind a boat-without falling down at every turn-and to use the boat’s wake like a ramp to launch into the air.
A year after starting Skurfer, Finn landed on the cover of Water Ski Magazine, giving wakeboarding the dose of legitimacy it needed. A few years later, he met Jimmy Redmond, who Finn calls “the most prolific wakeboard designer of all time.” In ’93, Finn (with Redmond and friend Rob Hyatt) again revolutionized the young sport by introducing the Flight 69, the first ever twin-tip wakeboard. The new design enabled wakeboarders to ride and land switch (opposite foot forward) maneuvers, which led to wild new spins and grabs inspired by snowboarders and skateboarders.
Riding that wave of success, Finn and Redmon founded Liquid Force, which has dominated the world of wake ever since. These days, Finn still judges the occasional wakeboard competition, wakesurfs in the San Diego Bay, attends trade shows, parties like he’s in Van Halen and is generally acknowledged as the charismatic, curly-haired icon/ambassador of modern wakeboarding. Not bad for a San Diegan just looking for some skurf.