An apology is in order.
While I was talking with Melissa Marquardt at the most recent Surf Expo trade show, it occurred to me that, for whatever reason, we haven't done a feature on her in the history of WakeWorld, despite the fact that she's been a pro wakeboarder for nearly the whole time we've been in existence! Not only has she been on the scene for eons (in wakeboarding terms), but she's arguably the most complete rider that female wakeboarding has ever seen...and I think she's still getting better!
I really have no good excuse (other than stupidity) for not having Melissa featured more prominently throughout the years. The fact that she has been living less than two hours north of me lo these many years only compounds the egregiousness of my dereliction of duty. As you can see from the interview below, I've deprived our readers of some insight into an interesting and funny person that has pushed women's wakeboarding like no other...and has the scars to prove it, literally.
So my sincerest apologies go out to our readers and, of course, Melissa. Hopefully, I've packed enough good stuff into this interview to start making up for my transgressions. Enjoy.
WW: Most people know you’re a west coast girl, but where are you from exactly?
MM: I was born in Mission Viejo, California.
WW: Do you find it hard to be a pro wakeboarder when living on the west coast?
MM: The lack of water in the south and short seasons up north definitely make being a pro wakeboarder more difficult on the west coast. Also, having accessibility to some of the best snowboarding, surfing, skateboarding and motocross spots, there are more options to become professional at other sports that are more accessible to different people than wakeboarding. The new cable in Sacramento is a huge step for wakeboarding on the west coast and will create more opportunity for kids to become professional wakeboarders.
WW: How did you end up in wakeboarding?
MM: My parents moved from Orange County to Canyon Lake when I was a baby because it was more affordable, and so my brothers and I scored growing up in the best place to ride in southern California.
WW: How long have you been wakeboarding professionally?
MM: 12 years! Wow, never thought this is where I would be, but I just kept doing what I love and trying to live every day to its fullest.
WW: You have had the longest and one of the most successful careers in the history of wakeboarding. To what do you attribute your longevity and success?
MM: Thank you. I would say what I said above. Also, yoga, riding bikes and spinning are the best things I found to maintain fitness and being flexible for wakeboarding. Working out and physical therapy to stay strong and heal injuries. Snowboarding, surfing and skating are what really keep me motivated and my mind creative.
WW: The most amazing thing about your longevity is that you probably subject yourself to more dangerous situations than any other female wakeboarder. Can you give us a run-down of your injuries and the number of stitches you’ve had?
MM: Haha. Well, being in the industry for the last 15 years and being a part of the progression and innovation of our sport, trying new things is always a risk. In my early years I tried pretty much every trick possible and have been really worked. I wish I would have waited to try these maneuvers as I gained control over my board and to have them dialed. I feel the most fit, have the most control over my board and am more confident than ever to learn new tricks! I have had ACL surgery, about 15 concussions, 55 stitches on my thigh, a few minor surgeries, many stitches and lots of scrapes, bruises and scars. I would say I'm a little rough around the edges, but sweet on the inside.
WW: What would your ideal day of wakeboarding involve?
MM: Probably today here in Bacalar, Mexico and every day I wakeboard with my friends wherever I am.
WW: What are your favorite kinds of hits?
MM: Hitting Shane Bonifay in the face. It was a long time built up but it rekindled our friendship
WW: What’s your favorite trick to do behind the boat?
MM: Toeside 3's.
WW: What riders do you look up to and inspire you?
MM: My inspiration comes from all board sports and many different aspects of each sport. To me they are all similar with different elements. Snowboarding is most similar to me and I like to think about the elements of snowboarding when I'm wakeboarding, skateboarding when I'm snowboarding, wakeboarding when I'm surfing, etc.
WW: You’ve been doing some filming and editing with some friends lately. Tell us about that.
MM: I've been on quite the mission lately to travel and take advantage of any opportunity I get. Nicola and I have been working with GoPro, traveling together, and really trying to do as much as we can for the sport. I'm really excited to get home though and rest my poor body. I feel like my life has been non-stop, but I know I probably won't relax and snowboard. My friends are always like, “You need to chill. You’re crazy!”
It’s a few days later now and I’m finishing this interview on the plane on my way to snowboard in Tahoe. So predictable!
WW: Why are you so fascinated with fireworks?
MM: I think it's something you’re born with. Spencer Smith has the same problem. Fireworks are like Jet Skis, the minute you get a hold of one you automatically become an idiot.
WW: What’s the best looking move in wakeboarding and who makes it look the best?
MM: Randall Harris' tail grab backside 180 to switch tail grab backside 180.
WW: Do you have any desire to do a 1080?
MM: No, my brain doesn't work that fast
WW: Who do you usually ride with?
MM: Eddie and Jacob Valdez, Chad Lowe, Justin Fisher, Kyle Murphy and Li’l Kim Kirch. Grant Roberts, Trevor Maur and Rodrigo when I'm up north.
WW: You do a little bit of coaching on the side. Is that something you’d like to do more of in the future?
MM: I like to coach a little bit, but mostly private lessons. I like to take people out wakeboarding in a fun relaxed environment so they can get motivated by loving the lifestyle of the sport. I couldn't just coach ‘cause I freak out if I'm on the boat too long.
WW: I know that you do a lot of snowboarding. What other sports do you do when you’re not on a wakeboard?
MM: I love to wakeskate, surf, skateboard, mountain bike, dive, spearfish and lobster dive.
WW: Do you do any cable riding?
MM: Yeah, the System 2.0 is the most fun! I wish we had a cable closer. The closest cable to our place just got put up in Sacramento, which is seven hours, so I hope to get better at cable this summer.
WW: Can you tell us about your latest pro model board and bindings?
MM: My 2013 Liquid Force Melissa pro model board and boots are definitely my favorite board and boots so far. The boots are the most comfortable boots I've ever put on. They are perfectly snug but never hurt my feet. They’re like feet pillows. The shape of the board is awesome for boat riding, cable, winching and on rails. The board is stiffer in the middle and flexes more toward the tip and tail, which creates lots of pop on the wake and still allows the rider to press on rails. The flex in the board combined with spine on the hull makes landings super soft and forgiving.
WW: Despite having a reputation as an amazing freerider, you’ve held your own on the competitive scene for a very long time. Do you have just as much fun at the comps as you do when riding in your backyard?
MM: I have most fun traveling on photo/video trips, but contests motivate me to keep up with the level of riding. When I go home I want to learn so much no matter what place I got. I just want to improve my riding for the next weekend. At contests I have so much fun hanging out with friends that have the same interest and goals. We are very blessed to have this opportunity and should make the most of it, take care of ourselves and give it our all.
WW: How do you think pro wakeboarding tournaments could be improved?
MM: Contests like the Wake Open are going to help our sport grow in a positive direction.
WW: Which accomplishment in your career are you most proud of?
MM: Traveling the world, making lifetime friends, designing product and working with and having great relationships with my sponsors.
WW: What would you still like to accomplish before your pro wakeboarding days are over?
MM: Landing and perfecting technical tricks. Also, reach the goals I've set to grow women's wakeboarding.
WW: Do you have any plans for what you might do after your wakeboarding career?
MM: There are many goals. I have to continue growing women's wakeboarding after my career as a pro. Also, I am going to finish my degree in business and marketing. Then I hope to work for one of my sponsors in design and marketing.
WW: Any words of advice to the young girls out there that look up to you?
MM: The only way to accomplish something you want is to know you can do it.
WW: Does anyone on earth have more fun than you?
MM: LOL. Nicola Butler, Kim Kirch, Kim Woo and all my other friends I detract from reality. I try to have a balance with fun, peace, giving, working, being thankful and loving.
WW: Is there anyone you’d like to thank?
MM: There are so many people in my life I couldn't thank enough. God, my mom, dad, brothers Charlie and Tommy, my grandmas and grandpas for showing me what life is all about, all my friends for always being there, my sponsors; Liquid Force, Monster Energy, Spy Optics, Freestyle, GoPro, Body Glove, Kicker, Cobian, Mahfia and Boardco.