KLarich was recently interviewed for a 2 page feature story that appeared in the June, 2015 issue of WaterSki Magazine. This is the unedited and complete interview:
Q&A for Tony
- When were you first introduced to water sports and who introduced you to the water world?
In 1965 I learned to swim before I could walk. As a fulltime water baby I made the switch to competitive swimming from age 5-12. As soon as the diapers came off I was cleared for weekend water skiing trips with my grandparents to the Carlsbad Lagoon near San Diego, CA. I started skiing in 1969 at age 4 behind my grandparents’ boat.
- Tell me each spectrum of waterskiing you are involved in and how you got involved in so many different types.
It would take a book (and I have written 3 so far – all available for free download) to tell you about my many “Adventures in Water Skiing.”, but it really started with uncle Mike (Murphy). He’s known as the “Father of Hot Dog Water Skiing”, co-inventor of the kneeboard and innovator of early tricks, and one of the world’s best show skiers in the early 1970s. He also won the 1978 Endo’s International Speed Ski Championships at 118.92 mph. He has more hydrofoiling experience than anyone in towed watersports – our family rode stand up foils for years, Mike went on to co-invent the kneeboard hydrofoil (1985) and Air Chair (1989). He has set world records for Big Air, consecutive flips (708 in one ride without stopping or falling), and tallest hydrofoil at 11′ 3″. He blazed a trail and I gladly followed.
WEB LINK: Mike Murphy’s Watersports Timeline
- How did you train for, and get good at, so many different events. Which ones were/are your favorite?
Since I have been willing to embrace every ride in towed watersports, and have been actively doing it for decades, the skills in one area are often applied to something else. For example, I have been riding an ice chest for at least 10 years and it has always been with both feet forward. This year I have joined the Founding Board of Directors for the Wakeboarding Hall of Fame on the, and it has me thinking about riding side stance. Once that thought occurred to me I just wiggled my feet around in the cooler to ride wakestyle, and within the first few sets started doing 180s. My years as a Hyperlite team rider and top Master’s competitor made the transition easy. As far as “normal” training now I always take at least 6 different rides every time I go out. I like to mix it up to stay fresh. I’m also always working on both classic and new rides. In the history department that predates water skiing, I’m just about to launch an aquaplane built from 1932 plans. In the new and “never been done” department I’m working on a garbage can so I can get wet as Oscar the Grouch. In a recent blog post at WaterSkiersLife.com I ranked my “Top 10 Water Ski Rides” and gave short descriptions about each one. #1 is definitely the sit down hydrofoil. It really does feel like flying and it is by far the easiest thing to do big tricks on – my goal is to still be flipping at 100 years old! My solid #2 favorite ride is the slalom ski, and with the new HO FreeRide, I’ve never been more excited. Tricks like tick-tocks and backwards starts are easier than ever, and I have even gotten fairly consistent with 720 landings for the first time ever. For the rest of my favorites you’ll just have to check out the blog!
BLOG LINK: Top 10 Water Ski Rides
VIDEO LINK: Slalom Ski 720 Landing
- Who do you ski with the most? Do you go to any coaches?
Once or twice a year we take a weeklong family trip to the Parker Strip on the Colorado River. Mike Mack, inventor of the Bodyslide, is my go to guy there. Back home in Canyon Lake it’s ski time with uncle Mike. His boat is always ready to go on the lift across the way, and our good times just keep rolling after more than 45 years. At the Marine Stadium in Long Beach it’s the weekly “Waynesday” excursion with Wayne Wilms. All these guys are at least 10 years my senior and are still active in watersports at a high level. That has always been an inspiration. My main guys who provide hours of towing as I lead up to the California Skier 50 for 50, have been Kevin Morris and Davy Weeks.
- You won national and world titles in kneeboarding, wakeboarding, and hydrofoiling . How did you manage to become a highly ranked competitor in three completely different events?
In many ways I feel like the “Forrest Gump of Towed Watersports.” Uncle Mike co-invented the kneeboard in 1972 and the sit down hydrofoil in 1989. I was right there as an active participant and innovator. Tony Finn brought his very first Skurfers to my uncle’s shop on the River in 1985, and the following year dropped a few Skurfers off at the Magic Mountain water ski show, where I was working. I was one of the very first to be paid to ride those boards every day. I was also one of the top HO Team Riders in 1991 when Herb O’Brien first started manufacturing the first modern day wakeboard – the Hyperlite. I spent years on the road and in boats with iconic wakeboarders like Darin Shapiro, Shaun Murray, and Dean Lavelle. Since I access to these rides and innovators as the sports were literally being created, it was naturally to come up with new moves. Once competitions started springing up it was time to apply those skills. But in each discipline I only spent a few years in competition. After winning a title or two I moved on, always looking for a new mountain to try and conquer.
VIDEO LINK: Sky Ski Demo with Tony Klarich, GoPro
- You were known and featured in the WATERSKIER magazine in the 80’s and 90’s as a hotdog skier. Tell me about your involvement with that especially in regards to being the nephew of the Father of Hot Dog Skiing.
I always idolized Mike and his skiing while growing up, especially his hot dogging. In the early days most everyone still spent time on a slalom ski, and could appreciate how hard his moves were. Crowds always had an electric response to his live demonstrations. I was an impressionable teen watching uncle Mike do promo movies and photo shoots, travel the world to do shows, and date many beautiful women. I wanted to “be like Mike,” and became obsessed with learning all his hot dog moves like the backwards start, wake 360, and tumbleturn. Once that was accomplished I just kept going with my own new moves.
The Mike Murphy – Tony Klarich Connection
VIDEO LINK: Mike Murphy: A Water Skier’s Life Montage (3 minute career overview)
VIDEO LINK: Tony Klarich: In the Wake of Mike Murphy (3 minute career overview)
- What were some of the tricks you invented in hot dog slalom skiing. What were the hardest or craziest ones you came up with?
My breakthrough move was definitely the slalom ski front flip in 1984. Once I could perform that one on cue Mike made the call to Herb O’Brien while I listened. “Herb, the kid’s ready,” said uncle Mike with twinkling eyes. In a matter of minutes I was on a monthly salary with HO, picked up new equipment in Mike’s ski shop, and had airline tickets to Orlando for a WaterSki magazine photo shoot with Tom King! Learning the front flip took years of effort, from springboard diving and gymnastics classes to mastering front flips on trick skis and on jumpers off the ramp. Then there ware at least 300 front flip attempts on the ski itself. My side slide was another big move. Uncle Nick (longtime show skier for Tommy Bartlett’s and Marine World) told me about a guy in Texas who was making it, and I was young dumb enough to believe him. It took about 2 weeks to start making them, and only then was I told the Texas thing was made up – then the joke was on Nick! The Tick-Tock-Toe is another difficult move I’m proud of. I saw a photo of a barefooter riding one foot backwards and something clicked. I could already to one foot BBF, but how could I transfer that to the ski? The answer was a high speed 180 in the flats, where I just held the backwards position. The next step was to whip out the “toe” and away you go. Through the years I’ve invented about 20 new moves on a slalom ski, give or take a few.
VIDEO LINK: Hot Dog Slalom Skiing with Tony Klarich, Opening Montage
VIDEO LINK: Hot Dogging with Commentary, 1992
- Tell me about your Cross-Fit Training. Is it off season/winter training?
CrossFit has been a total game changer. Turning 50 years old was looming, and I was increasingly asked if I was going to repeat my birthday stunt, but with 50 rides. My sister was a collegiate water polo player, and she suggested CrossFit as a way to prepare for the challenge. I was instantly hooked and have been actively participating 3-5 days a week for more than 3 years. I am stronger than ever, more flexible, than ever, and have developed a new mental toughness that will help carry me through my upcoming event. The most effective movements that have had a direct positive effect on my skiing are probably pull-ups and weighted squats. I train heavy from October through March to compete in the yearly CrossFit Open, then cruise through the summer while applying my winter gains to water skiing.
VIDEO LINK: Pukie the CrossFit Clown on a Plyo Box
- You have a pretty cool Instagram called “waterskierslife,” that has quite a few followers. Are you trying to reach a certain niche of people? Is it for promotions or is it just to share the awesomeness of the lake life?
The main focus @waterskierslife has been to document my journey to 50 different rides in one day. It has been tremendous fun to explore new ways to ride and to find creative ways to capture all the action. Instagram has been a great way to connect with other like-minded people, share ideas, and to be actively involved. My event has become something more than just a crazy stunt. As a longtime writer, researcher, historian, and guy willing to ride anything I have the skills and motivation to document the complete history of skiing in a profound way. It’s become a personal mission that will keep me busy for years. Instagram supports that, as does my blog, website, and other social media outlets.
WEB LINK: Instagram: @waterskierslife
BLOG LINK: Top 10 Instagram Pics, 2014
BLOG LINK: Top 10 Instagram Pics, 2013
- Tell me about your 50 for 50 event, what it is, and how you came up with the idea.
The journey to becoming “the guy who skis on anything” began with my grandma Murphy. Every year from age 79-88 she rode a sit down foil 52+ miles across open ocean to Catalina Island and back to celebrate her birthday. When it came time for my 40th birthday, I was inspired by grandma to do a birthday challenge of my own: 40 miles on 40 different things and 400 tricks. The initial list had just 27 items, so I had to get creative with wild rides like grandma’s picnic table, a suitcase, and my car hood. The MasterCraft 40-40-400 was a success, and I just kept going, always finding new things to ride on. It’s been a engaging way to stay creative on the water. Riding on alternate objects is not as hard as a double front flip or a mobius, but it still requires just enough skill to keep it personally challenging. Once I master riding each new device it’s time to start seeing how far I can take it with new tricks. Even during that first event in 2004 several people mentioned my 50th. It will soon be here featuring 50 unique ski rides in one day to celebrate turning 50 years old. But before that’s even in the books my friends are joking about 60, 70, 80…
VIDEO LINK: 40-40-400 Highlights
VIDEO LINK: 28 Ways to Ski (short slideshow montage)
How will the 50 for 50 be different from your 40-40-400?
I learned so much from the MasterCraft 40-40-400. That’s why I have moved the 50 for 50 to the warmer weather of summer. I also have a private rental of the Marine Stadium in Long Beach, CA on August 22, 2015 for the day so that I have controlled conditions and the freedom and to get creative. The warm weather and smoother water should be better for photos, video, and riding in general! Last time I just rode each item in a full wetsuit without a costume change or much of a story line. I spent too much time and energy riding for a mile on each item last time around. This time it will be just enough water time to document the action and put on a good show. I’m thinking of it as more of a photo shoot and historical presentation for each item. I will be wearing costumes for several tribute rides; performing a fashion air on a Skurfer skiboard dressed as Tony Finn, shoe skiing in a green sequined jumpsuit to honor Hall of Famer Skip Gilkerson, and jumping on a plyo box as Pukie the CrossFit clown, etc. I will also be including other skiers as much as possible. I will ride show boards as the center of a human pyramid built by my local club, the ShowCal Skiers. On another ride I will include nine skiers, all on different rides to represent the nine-sport disciplines of USA Water Ski. For the race ski I am planning a 3 or 4 laps competition with a few past overall champions of the Catalina Ski Race. So why a race, you may wonder? One of the “rules” I have created for giving myself credit for each unique ride is that the device must be used in the manner for which is was designed. A race ski implies race. Another example to get “credit” for a ride is the back barefoot flip turn ski, It’s not enough to just ride it – I have to do a 180 turn and step off to backwards barefooting.
WEB LINK: The Every Ride Master List
Here’s a several more recent videos leading up to the 50 for 50
VIDEO LINK: Water Skiing on the Guinness Book of Records
VIDEO LINK: Water Skiing on Grandma’s Picnic Table
VIDEO LINK: Water Skiing on a Disc and Ladder
VIDEO LINK: Tony the Tourist Rides a Suitcase
VIDEO LINK: How to Ride a Paddle
Maybe you guys could run some of these videos on the website leading up to the event?
- How are you training for the event?
I have already built a strong foundation with 3 solid years of CrossFit and lots of water time on dozens of objects new and old. Now it’s time to ramp it up with supersets. I’ve apologized in advance to my fellow skiers and boat drivers for being a “ski diva”, but I have to get multiple practice sets that are at least 60-90 minutes long several times each week. I’ve been limited by how much gear I can stuff into the back of my truck, but my title sponsor California Skier, has just provided an enclosed trailer so I can store and haul most of my gear. Now I will be able to take 2-3 hour sets on 20-30 different rides to get ready
Nutrition is a big part of my preparation too, even more so at 50. I’ve learned so much about the proper way to fuel the body for fitness through CrossFit. I experimented with supplements and have tried various eating approaches like Paleo, and gluten free. What works best for me is a combination of counting calories while trying to hit specific macronutrient percentages (proteins / fats / carbs).
- I’ve heard that the promo is a 100% charity event for Boys Town California. What type of organization is that and are you raising money for them or just putting on a fun event and show?
In 1917 Father Flanagan founded Boys Town in Omaha, Nebraska. His mission was to save children and heal families. The local branch of Boys Town California carries on his lifesaving work by providing family homes, in-home family services, and community support services. My dad loved this charity and I am following his lead to help make a difference in the lives of troubled youth in my area. We already have at least $5,000 in donations committed to this worthy cause. The 50 for 50 will be free to the public and an event T-shirt will be available on site for a suggested $20 donation, with 100% of that going to Boys Town. To honor the youth I will also be teaching a young person how to ride a single ski that day. That ride will be on double tricks skis for me, and should crate some great memories.
- It sounds like the 50 for 50 promo is an event that will give back to the sport. However, what are you hoping to gain from it personally?
My biggest gains have always been a sense of personal satisfaction. I love being on the cutting edge of towed watersports, inventing new moves, and doing things that no one has done before. This new chapter in my skiing career has been a way to continue that tradition while staying active and maybe even relevant. It’s been great to reconnect with past sponsors and industry friends. In just the last few months I’ve realized how I can help honor and preserve the rich history of all towed watersports through my research and writings. In many ways I’m starting to feel like this is one of those big things in life that I was born to do. I may be the best-qualified person for the job, and am willing and able to accept the challenge. Along the way I’ve discovered old rides, brought classics back to life, and continue to search for every ride ever done. I’m documenting and organizing all this stuff in my books, website and blog. My one personal dream is to find a way to extend what I am doing beyond the watersports media to a wider audience much in the same way that my mentor Banana George was able to do. I’ve got big plans for the next 50 years!
- Do you have any goals for the turn out? It is labeled as a media event. What are you hoping to achieve from that?
A few hundred spectators always provides great energy for any live performance. I always do better with a crowd. I don’t really know what to expect with turnout, but that is not my main focus. In fact it might even be hard to administer a very large crowd. I am focusing on the media; press releases, video features, magazine stories and the like. The day of the show is important as a live event, but in the bigger picture I am trying to create classic images that can live on as long as people are looking at water skiing. Dick Pope, Sr. was the master of creating timeless images to promote Cypress Gardens. He was a marketing genius and I have taken many cues from his legendary work. That is why I have been active in giving away many of my photos to use for free personal or commercial use, and I will continue to do so. I would much rather have them out there than buried in some file on my computer.
WEBLINK: Free Water Skiing Photos
- Tell me a little bit about you personally. Where you live, family, hobbies, etc.
I live in Canyon Lake CA with my wife of 22 years and 16-year-old son. We love sports and have been active with my son’s baseball and football. I am a member of the local show skiing team and traditional 3-event ski team. My uncle Mike lives across the lake and is also a member of the show ski team. My mom has a condo here to so she can keep up with all our antics. My hobbies include music (I have recorded numerous songs playing guitar, banjo, mandolin, bass, flute, drums, etc. I give many of my songs and photos away for free personal and commercial use via the Creative Commons 2.0 license, just like my ski photos. The real job is as a hammerhead crane operator in the Port of Los Angles, but I have been paid as a pro skier, SAG actor, author, event producer, publisher, director, script writer, photographer, videographer, web designer, etc. Once I am finished with this event skiing ON various items I think I will switch to riding BEHIND as many things as possible. Items on that dream list include a person sprinting, airplane, blimp, dog sled team, snowmobile, etc.. I also just heard of a 65 year old man celebrating his birthday by doing 61 different sports in 24 hours. I have already made a list for that and am excited about the prospect of attempting something like that. Hit me up on words with friends too: username: wordshound
WEBLINK: Adventures in Water Skiing (Free Interactive eBooks)
BLOGLINK: Adventures in Water Skiing: Part 2, Hydrofoiling (sample post, about half of Adventures has been made available as chapter posts with photos and video links)
WEBLINK: Free Music
- When did all of the crazy skiing (on anything but skis) come about and how did you come up with the idea?
I am constantly looking for new ideas, and often get suggestions from people. Just last week someone suggested a block of ice. But I have also discovered that just because you can does not always mean that you should.
- Do you have any funny anecdotes either about learning/performing you’re tricks or skiing at national and international tournaments?
In the late 1990s and early 200)s I was part of an international ski and stunt team who did a series of about 10 singles shows in Moscow and the French Riviera, Our sponsor was Vladimir Potanin, a Russian oligarch worth billions. It was a dream team of skiers, being allowed to put together amazing skiers and friend to get together for a week once or twice a year to do a crazy show. We had snowmobiles on water, guys jet skiing on fire, wakeboarders jumping four skiers. At one celebration dinner the producer wanted to figure out how many world titles were held by the team of 10 participants. It was something over 40! David Reinhardt, Matt May, Dean Lavelle, Rick Roy, etc etc Anyway during one of these event with my uncle Mike we were under extreme secrecy leading up to the big day, That was because is was an economic summit trying to get western capital investment into Russia in the late 1990s. We were the evening entertainment. The previous night’s entertainment was the Bolshoi ballet. Once on site we learn who was in attendance and why security was so tight, Guests on hand included George Bush, Al Gore, CEOs of multinational companies, and more heads of state. That’s; why the great secrecy. The site was the former Russian Tsar’s summer home, which had a giant man made lake, basically a giant cement pond with walls all around. The main platform with all the big shots was center stage and raised, so you could ski really close. Uncle Mike has this trick called the Flying Chicken with Sound Effects that he unleashed on everyone. He fly by the big shots at eye level and let out a cockle doodle do. We’ve laughed about that one for years…
- Tell me about the long beach marine stadium. Why are you hosting the event there?
The Stadium has been home waters since the early 1970s. It is also closer to the LA media and is available for private rental. Perfect. It was originally built in 1932 to host rowing for the Olympic Games. To honor this date I have commissioned an aquaplane built from 1932 plans found in Popular Mechanics. I have never ridden on one, but this id the device that was the forerunner to water skis. I plan to eventually donate my aquaplane to the Water Ski Hall of Fame, with the unique request that it be available for use during special events. The Marine Stadium has a rich heritage of events including drag ski event where I watched my uncle Mike win an event with a skiing speed of 118+ mph in the ¼ mile. The LBMS hosted the World Water Skiing championships in 1961, and several X-games for wakeboarding in the early 2000s.
- Tell me about your acting experience with commercials and television as well as with the screen actors guild.
I joined the Screen actors guild in 1985 after performing a slalom ski front flip and wake 360 for a Nabisco Better Cheddars commercial. Since then I also appeared in spots for Stanley Tools, Juicyfruit gum, Selsun Blue shampoo, Anheuser-Busch, and several more. One of my toughest rides ever was hydrofoil bike. It took about 5 days on the water and two weeks to figure out how to get this thing to fly. It was a proof of concept project for Poweraid. I did not get the actual commercial but had a great time getting paid to learn a new way to ride!
VIDEO LINK: Water Skiing on a Hydrofoil Bike
VIDEO LINK: Better Cheddars Commercial
VIDEO LINK: Anheuser-Busch Drink Responsibly Commercial
Many of my former ski buddies have made it big time in Hollywood including 2 fellow Magic Mountain performers Tim Trella and Mickey Giacomazzi (both a stuntmen, stunt coordinators and assistant directors. My longtime friend Mark Vanslow has been working as Liam Neeson’s personal stunt double for the past decade or so. It’s so cool to see your buddy on the big screen, getting punched out by Indian Jones or barefooting off the side of a boat doubling Nick Cage. Mark Vanselow and another long time friend Peter Nelson and Co, have founded Action Horizons Stunts, producing the Waterworld live shows at Universal Studios, TV, movie, and more. I have enjoyed working with them in that realm ( I designed their current website), and enjoy doing it periodically, but it is a tough life with long hours and lots of travel.