In 1989-90, while managing my store in Colorado, Tony Finn of Skurfer called me and we talked about taking the sport up a notch with a real televised event for Skiboarding. We had finished my little backyard event around 1986 at Soda Lake with nine guys on Skurfers and now we have a whole field of competitors from different backgrounds that Tony had brought together with his phenomenal promotional skills. My girlfriend and I arrived early in Hawaii and we got to meet each competitor and spend quality time with them talking about the sport and what was needed to advance it to the next level. Eric Perez was really excited about all the new shapes he had was developing with famous surfboard shapers. Eric gave me a tour of his tiny shed filled with early wakeboard prototypes, raw fiberglass and fins. I was in awe!
During the practice runs in the newly acquired Ski Nautique, Eric was showing off his new move, “The Blender.” Eric had real style from his surf background and he looked more natural than the other riders. Off the water Eric stayed to himself and opined rarely unless he was asked crazy questions from yours truly. During the next few days Eric stayed at the top of the heats. All the local guys were so proud of Eric and a huge TV camera operator named Moot from ESPN said, “Eric has the Island mojo on his side,” and he was confident as we watched the finals from the bridge together. Eric won the event and there was great excitement all night.
Soon, Eric Perez was on the Water Ski Tour again thanks to Tony Finn getting him more time on the water and he also set up interviews by the local and national news agencies. This led to more excitement and a personal relationship with Herb O’Brien, where he was eventually able to make his “dream” boards. Eric went on and won the second World Championships in Hawaii but was de-throned by Darin Shapiro in Colorado Springs at the third Worlds. Eric took the defeat with honor and began to work on the next generation of boards using a new construction method that would eventually launch a new sport — wakeboarding!
Many years later Eric was bypassed by people half his age at the annual Wake Awards “Legends” ceremony. He just dug into his creativity more and more and let the scars heal. Many of us were extremely disappointed that Eric was not even nominated for this is an award he should have owned early. We at the WHF know he deserves the Legend Award and we’re proud to feature a brief excerpt of his story here. Look for Eric Perez, “The Flyin Hawaiin” in our brick and mortar location in the future. We are so proud to bring you this exclusive interview with the Legend himself. Here is the story of the first World Champion.