Shaun Murray | Professional Wakeboarder of 25 Years

He is a 4 time world champion, has won multiple pro tours, is a National, Masters, and Gravity Games champion, and the only rider to ever hold World, Pro Tour, and National Championship titles at the same time. He even has a video game based on him. Shaun shares with us what it means to do something well, the importance of goal setting, and prioritizing play and having fun in our everyday lives.

Feature Image Photo Credit: Rodrigo Donoso




Below are some of my fav videos featuring Shaun, demonstrating his fun goofy nature, dedication to sport, and wakeboarding style.

Below are a few really great throwbacks. First up is his section in Retrospect, followed by an episode of the show Pull where he does a house call to fan in southern california and finishing off with him and some of the pro riders discussing the video game Wakeboarding Unleashed.

Shaun Murray – Retrospect from Sidewayz Films on Vimeo.


Shaun Murray 0:04
Anytime that we learn something new, when we progress, when we grow our knowledge, or grow our abilities, It’s a pretty cool experience.

Kevin Oates 0:16
From Dirigo Collective This is Renegades and Mavericks, sharing the stories of people interrupting the status quo and breaking new ground in their field.

Benn Marine 0:33
Ever wonder what it’s like to be a successful professional athlete for over 25 years? Shaun Murray can answer that question for us. He has been a professional wakeboarder since 1995. And what is wakeboarding you might ask? Only the most fun you can have behind the boat ever. Of course I’m biased. Picture snowboarding behind a bow. The rider stands sideways with their feet in boot like bindings connected to a board and holds a handle that is tied to a mount on the boat, usually a high tower and is pulled at speeds between 19 and 23 miles per hour. The rider uses the wake from behind the boat as a ramp to get air. But you can also have a lot of fun just cruising around and shredding the water. It’s a sport that is a total blast with the whole family and all ability levels. So back to Shaun, Shaun Murray is a four time world champion. He’s won multiple pro tours as a national masters in Gravity games champion and the only writer to ever hold World, Pro tour, and National Championship titles at the same time. He was the first wakeboarder to land a heelside 900 in competition and has invented a laundry list of tricks. By 2005 he received the Legend Award from wakeboarding magazine even has his own video game as part of the action sports lineup from Activision called Wakeboarding Unleashed with Shaun Murray. You may have even seen him a few times on American Ninja Warrior. At the age of 44, he is still going strong. He’s been in Wakeboarding Magazine’s favorite rider poll for over 25 years and always makes the top list even as recently as last year. In 2019 he came in second for wake fans favorite professional athlete and for good reason. While Shaun has over 24 Pro model boards and has innovated some of the sports most iconic boats, ropes, handles life jackets and apparel. He’s also a fun goofy down to earth Family Guy. for 25 years. He’s broken the mold on what it means to be a professional athlete. This is Shaun Murray, and he is a maverick.

So why wakeboarding and thinking about like all the sports that you’re into, you know snowboarding, skateboarding, all of the things what what do you think kind of moves you towards wakeboarding?

Unknown Speaker 2:46
You know wakeboarding is something that I kind of just naturally grew into because when we had gotten a boat I was, I think about 10 years old, and this is in Southern California. And it came With a pair of skis and I remember they’re called Captain kids. And I remember just like being super stoked on having my own. You know waterskiing is something that I kind of grew up with. My dad bought a boat when I was about 10 years older in Southern California and we would go down to my grandparents house and we would stage there and I remember being in their driveway and and grabbing my captain kids skis, like at the boat came with a pair of skis for kids and adult pair. And so that’s kind of how we got introduced into it. And then when I was 12 years old, we moved to St. Louis, Missouri, because my dad’s work and we moved on to a lake. It was at that same time that to soften the blow of moving from Southern California to the Midwest. The nice thing was moving on to a lake was awesome, but my parents got me a skurfer. And the surfer is something that is like the grandfather to wakeboarding imagine kind of a surfboard thickness board. With a strap like you’d see on an old wind surfer to put your foot underneath, and it was pretty narrow, but I really liked the feeling of standing sideways. And so something that I just found myself doing more and more, went down to go to college in Florida. That is where I was kind of walking the line of between going to school and starting to ride the wakeboard a bit more. And so we can get kind of into some more of those details. But that’s, that was the beginning for me.

Benn Marine 4:27
That’s awesome. Did you always aspire to be a professional athlete growing up? Or did that just kind of happen organically?

Shaun Murray 4:34
You know, I really don’t remember having the thought like, Oh, I’m going to be a pro rider. Like I didn’t even think it was necessarily a possibility. But just a few months ago, I found this paper that I’d written when I was in middle school, and it said something about I’m going to be a pro wakeboarder and it’s weird because for years I’ve never like recalled having that thought growing up and then I found this piece of paper like very recently that said, I’m gonna do that. But I don’t know how much I guess I wholeheartedly believe that because I went down to school and I was on my way to getting you know, working on a marketing degree and being professional wakeboarder Actually, I’m very much in marketing now.

Benn Marine 5:19
That’s awesome. So yeah, so take us back to that decision to go to school and the decision to pursue a professional career and wakeboarding versus continuing with school. What did that look like?

Shaun Murray 5:29
So that was a pretty pivotable pivotal moment when I moved from St. Louis down to Florida. And the reason that happened was I found out that if you go to certain colleges, you can be on a water ski team. And I didn’t really know this growing up that like they have water ski teams, and so we researched some of the different schools and ended up moving down to Central Florida, so that I could go be on a ski team now the thing is, is they were competitive. He teams, but once I got there, then I found out they weren’t that competitive. It was just the traditional sports of wakeboard, sorry, of slalom trick and jump is what they’re titled. And so that’s one where you’re going through a course and other that you’re writing this little tiny ski doing flips and stuff like that, and then going off a jump on a pair of skis. And so I learned how to do that by going to coach at a ski school before I went into college. And it was when I was at that ski school, I started to find out that you could also go to some wakeboard competitions. And so I found out there was one down the street from the ski school that I taught at, and so I went there, and I did okay, at the competition day, one day, two, not as much. But it was the moment that I was leaving the parking lot of day two, that this guy comes up to me and introduces himself as the editor of Wakeboard Magazine. And he’s like, Hey, I just want you to know like, I think you’re good and you should go try to compete on the pro tour. And the guy’s name was Tom James and I so I went over to my dad who happened to come down to watch me compete at this event. And I go Dad, this, this guy just told me that I should try to compete on the pro tour, and he’s the editor of Wakeboard Magazine. So, we set our sights on going and and go into some of these stops. My dad was a commercial airline pilot, so we had some flight benefits so we could go and jump around to some different events, and it was about four to five stops into the season that I made it into the finals. At the finals, I had the guy, Herb O’Brian introduce himself who is HO Skis and also O’Brien water skis. Also the owner of Hyperlight, his son, Paul O’Brien, and all the uppers from Hyperlight. I remember standing where I was in the parking lot and they are introduce himself and said we want to sign you. I was like, are you kidding me like hyperlight these are the boards that I grew up riding like No way. So the next weekend I was in Seattle where their headquarters were and I signed a contract. I like it was a contract and to where I was super stoked on it like, This is crazy. I’m going back into school for my second year. And so at that point, I still had a big competition to train for it was Worlds. Worlds is always in the late season. So it’s like in the fall. So here I am going into school. Here I am, I’m trying to train for worlds coming up. I just signed with Hyperlight. I was toeing the line. This is where I really started to toe the line of I’m trying to wakeboard professionally and go to school. And both. I could tell I was neglecting it to some capacity because if I focus on something I can do, I knew like if I focus on one or the other, I’m going to do better. And so I told my dad I as I’m kind of wrapping up this fall season, I said I feel like this is a once in a lifetime chance. If I take a semester off school actually I said, Can I take time off school? And this is the important thing. And I want other people to kind of get this because it was a good insight from my dad. Looking back. I said, Can I take time to do this and see if I can make a go at it? He said, Okay, well, what we’re going to do is we’re going to write down some goals. And if you don’t attain those goals within a certain timeframe that we think is reasonable, you’re going right back into school, so essentially was you need to get make it to I can’t remember how many final rounds on the pro tour. You need to get top maybe 10 on the for the season, and be able to compete in like nationals and worlds so we had like tangible goals like I want to make this I gotta do this. Nothing crazy, but just you need to have some some success. And so here’s your intentional steps of what you can do to get there. So I was able to take the spring of 96 off spring in 96 was my first give it a go. And that season went better than I imagined I won some pro tour stops did really well at like nationals like and so point being is I got to the end of the season my dad goes, let’s take another year off. Let’s write some goals down. Let’s see what happens. And we’ll we’ll kind of track through the year and and see where that goes. He says it but if if if you don’t attain these goals, you’re going right back into school is the point. Like if I didn’t make that year one transition, he said you’re going right back into school. I haven’t gone back to school yet. So we’ll see. We’ll see. But this has been 25 years now in the making. It was nothing that I really ever saw coming. But it was something I was like, well, I’ll just take it kind of one step at a time and see where it goes. My my dad had the foresight to say, let’s set some goals.

Benn Marine 10:50
And I’m curious, did that goal setting carry forward like do you still say; Okay, like, these are my goals for this year or like that. Did that, because it was part of your beginning, has that kind of carried forward?

Shaun Murray 11:05
Yes. In fact, I’ve got, I mean, you guys at home can’t see it. But I can show you I’ve got my list here of these are things that I want to do things whether it’s within my home things within my job. And within my job, I break things down into social media, and I break down the social media to different platforms. And so I have things so I can track along like, I need to check this off, I need to keep going with this. And I like having that because it gives me something to look at the way that I like to break goals down our you’ve got long term and you’ve got short term, and the short term help you reach the long term. Right? So if I want to be here, I this is how I’m going to break that up. And you give yourself attainable goals and not just say, Well, I want to be a better wakeboarder or I want to be a better podcaster because when you say better, how do you measure that right? Well, for me to be a better wakeboarder, I need to do this trick, this trick and this trick. And here’s the thing, the steps I’m going to take for this trick. And for me to be a better podcaster or a better employee, what does that look like? Like, what would make that happen? And so, yes, goals for me are essential, and it helps me move forward. And when you check something off, it feels awesome.

Benn Marine 12:22
That’s super real. That’s awesome. Well, with over 25 years on the water and kind of trips around the globe, what are some of your most memorable moments on the water?

Shaun Murray 12:32
You know, there’s, there’s different moments that I have that I get to experience within myself. And then I’d say some of the biggest moments that we have in our lives when we share moments with others. Right, like if, like community is so much and some of the biggest moments for me that I can remember. Internally, one of the most beautiful moments for me was a physical feeling that I had I got to wakeboard in Bora Bora. And I was riding over crystal blue water. And there were manta rays flying underneath the water. And it felt like I was like, in the sky and I just remember just sliding over the water doing the side slides where I’m just sliding 90 degrees. And I’m looking at the manta rays just like tracking underneath me and I was like, I’m always going to remember that, right? That was an inner experience, then being able to back in 2000, I won a series of contests called the Van’s triple crown. And the prize for that was winning a Ford Ranger. And my dad at the time had been driving my, his mom, my grandmother’s Honda Civic for a while, just because he’s frugal like that. And I was like, you know, and I had the opportunity they handed me the keys on when I was standing on the podium. And it wasn’t anything that I planned but it just popped in my head. I was like, I’m giving my dad these keys to the truck. And so they had the truck parked out on the water on a floating dock. And I was able to hand him the keys and say, here’s a truck for you. Obviously an emotional moment for us. And then we both got a swim out to the dock and stand on there and you know, just kind of, you know, have this moment and that was in 2000. He still drives the truck to this day. He won’t get rid of it. That’s awesome, he’s frugal, and sentimental. So no, he’s not getting rid of that.

Benn Marine 14:42
Oh my gosh, that’s awesome. You know, as part of the Tony Hawk Pro Skater, action sports video game lineup, I know Activision chose you as part of their kind of wakeboarding arm of that series, with Wakeboarding Unleashed with Shaun Murray. And you actually had the opportunity to meet Tony Hawk and wakeboard with him. I’m curious. What is impact did meeting Tony but also just the production and seeing this video game, have you come to fruition?

Shaun Murray 15:08
I felt out of place. Um, you know, when they came to me Of course, I was like, completely honored like, Wow, you guys out of this entire sport you want to choose me. That’s crazy. And I’m very thankful for it to this day. Like that’s such a huge thing. Um, but it was really fun to be part of. And like the the momentum that gets behind video games is on a whole nother scale. And Activision actually created a whole platform of action sports titles, because Tony Hawk’s was doing really well. And so they said, Well, we want to do a wakeboard game and we want to do a BMX game, and a surfing and a moto and a snowboard game. So here I am sitting at a I’m sitting at what’s called E three it’s like the video game Expo right where they get All the video games, and I’m at this crowded Expo Hall, and I’m at an autograph table and I looked down the line and I see Tony Hawk, Kelly Slater, Matt Hoffman, Shawn Palmer, and Travis Pastrana and me. And I’m like, really? Like, I’m here right now in this lineup, like not only just Tony Hawk, but you just put me in the lineup with all these guys. Like I’m getting goosebumps talking about it was crazy. Like, I felt like, No, I don’t belong here. But I appreciate the invite guys like, this is cool. And actually, at that time, Shaun White was a young kid just getting started. I remember watching him skateboard on the halfpipe they set up in the show is was really cool thing. So you’ve got like, all these all stars that I felt completely out of place. But I mean, just like the things that went along with it, you know, the limos and like the hotels like it was just on another level. So to answer your question I felt really out of place.

Benn Marine 17:03
You know, and I think that really speaks to, you know, I myself as a big fan of you and your riding, you know, I think one of the attributes that really kind of sets you apart is how authentic and approachable you are both on and off the water. And I don’t think I’m alone and feeling that way. I know wakeboarding mags rider of the year poll, you’ve ranked in the top 10 for the past 25 years, I think usually in the top three. In fact, even just last year, I think you’ve got a second right in 2019. What experiences or values have helped shape you to be so welcoming and supportive to fans of the sport?

Shaun Murray 17:37
Yeah, it’s it’s weird in my shoes, because I see myself like I’m the middle of three boys. I’ve got an older brother, younger brother. And so we always grew up just hanging out doing goofy stuff. I like playing with my kids and the neighbors and our friends and whatever. And so to me, I see myself as I’m just another guy likes to go out on the water, but I’ve been put in this position of a lot of people watch me do what I do. And there’s tons of things that I am not able to do on the water. So, like, I can do some things, but there’s a lot of things I can’t do and people like, Wow, it’s so impressive what you do. I’m like, Yeah, but I’d like to be able to do more, you know, but at the same time, I it’s another conversation, but I really like to show people like, how to enjoy yourself with low risk, high reward. We can talk about that more later. But to go along with your question is that yeah, it’s been it’s been weird in my position, but being approachable. Number one is just I like to meet people, you know, and when they’re excited to meet me that makes it that much more fun for me to meet them. And I think the other part of it is that I remember when I was young. If you remember Andre the Giant the wrestler, massive dude. Okay, this is WWF in its heyday, Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant was this huge personality. Physically and like, you know, in the world, and my brother and I saw him sitting, kind of at this restaurant bar at an airport as he and I were walking through it, and we were pretty young. And you can’t mistake him even from behind. Like, you know, this is Andre the Giant. And so we went up and we kind of got his attention. And my brothers, you know, asked, Hey, can we get an autograph? And he turned around and went off. And I get like, hindsight, I get it. But he went off like, can’t you guys just leave me alone? I’m trying to just have a moment please just let me be let me be like, basically just telling us to leave me alone. And it gave us such a feeling of being this tremendous fan. To complete opposite of, man, this would be amazing to meet this guy to I hope I never see that guy again. And you can really change someone’s outlook within seconds. My dad’s always told me like it takes something like three seconds to give someone a first impression, and it can take 15 years to undo a bad one. And it’s not it’s I don’t know if I’m getting the numbers, right, but it’s really true. Like you can give somebody a great first impression or a bad first impression. And it can take a long time. So I never want to give anybody a bad impression. And there’s times that let’s say, I’ve been out in the sun all day, at an event just completely worn out and sunburned. But I still got to remember like, this may be the only time that they have an interaction with me. So I generally try to stretch myself and be approachable all the time. But like I said, also fun for me.

Benn Marine 20:40
That’s awesome. I feel like that’s just such a great attitude to have about it. That’s so good. You’ve always done things your way from like wearing costumes of flares on during a concert. I’m also kind of curious about how that even manifested, thinking back to earlier in your career, but also to sticking with your values. Have you ever been put in situations where you felt like You had to choose between your values and what your career wanted from you. And how do you navigate that?

Shaun Murray 21:06
Um, the the costumes. It’s funny. No, I mean, people have mentioned the costumes, but where have they come from? And I have to think back and I guess I can point it to growing up. My dad was in theater. And he actually like, all the way back to he did some things with Bette Midler at one point. And so he was friends with her a long time ago and, and I remember him always having costumes around. He would always he knew how to do like mustaches on as I actually went, and before I could grow facial hair when I just got my license. He gave me a theater worthy mustache, and I went and took my government driver’s license picture with this goatee, like no joke, and I don’t know how I had the guts to do this. But I went into the DMV with this thing on my with this thing on my face. And I took my photo that was my driver’s license for the longest time. So, point being is we always had costumes and I always dressed up and I was always like, I remember for neighborhood parades, I would dress up as a clown and be on my rollerblades and just always goofy. So like dressing up was always second nature. And we did a lot of drama, whether it’s at school or at church. So being in costume or something, I was just kind of normal. The first time I ever did it was at I believe, 95 nationals. Maybe Yeah, I think 95 nationals. And we had two different divisions of the competition. The reason I’m telling this because this was like the pivot of it all. We had to freestyle that was where you wrote your tricks down. You had to write 10 tricks down. You did those tricks exactly how you wrote them down. If you didn’t get and get credit. Then we had expression session. That was where you just got to go ride. Like that’s how you normally like as close to as normal riding as possible. I thought expression session, well I’ll express myself. So I found a an apron from somebody who is cooking on site at one of the tents or something like that. So I took this apron, turned it around, wore it as a cape and then found and then I had some aviator sunglasses. And that’s how I wrote I don’t know why I can’t tell you why, but that’s what I did for expression session. And then the next year, or maybe at Worlds that year, I decided for expression session. So there’s a couple months later expression session. I’m going to dress up and I wore plaid bell bottom pants, a Hawaiian shirt. I wore a giant black Afro and I think blacked out goggles. And they called me welcome back Kotter and it was an old TV show and But anyway, so I did that. And then the following year I kicked it up a notch and wore this. I had a custom made silver suit and had rocket flares. So I wanted to have rockets on my hips. So we created my buddy, who’s still a good friend of mine created rockets that went on to my sides. And I went as Rocket Man, like, did I never practice with it and I burned my arms. When I went to do a handle past 360 my arms went in front of the flares and burn my arms. But I don’t know I still dress up to this day, I’m actually getting ready to shoot a YouTube video where I think I’m going to do a character that I have in mind. And because it’s fun, and why not. If people want to think I’m weird, whatever, don’t watch. It’s fun for me. Like honestly, that’s why that’s why I do YouTube stuff is it’s entertaining for me to create a lot of the content and I laugh while I’m editing it. So if I’m laughing, mission accomplished by the people want to laugh along. Awesome.

Benn Marine 24:56
Have you ever been in situations where because I think a huge part of your authenticity to is like really sticking with your values. Have you been in situations where you felt like your career and values might have been at odds? Or how do you navigate those situations?

Shaun Murray 25:11
Yeah. And I mean, you could say it and go as far as like career or even just the world, you know, because like we’re putting positions no matter what career you’re in, as you’ve always got the world that is there that can potentially be competing with your values. Definitely, as you get into the wakeboard world where you’ve got time on your hands as a young guy where you’re able to make money, wakeboarding, and it’s never been crazy money, but it’s enough to call it a career. And so you’ve got time and you’ve got trips, and you’ve got parties and people want you to party with them when you show up at their location wherever you’re going. And yeah, there’s definitely been times that I’ve had to say, you know, I got to step away, but I’ve found that I’m not gonna say I always made the right choice. But But once I decided, like, you know what, like, I’ve got to realize the long term effects of good decisions, bad decisions. Once you establish with people or a group like, Hey, this is what I’m going to do, they kind of stop hounding you. You know, hey, when it comes to late night, everybody’s going out, they know that I’m not going to be going along with them for phase two of the evening. Like, I like a good night of sleep. If I find myself up past 1130, I’m saying what good is happening at this point, the only thing that I like to stay up late for is ice hockey, because we have late night games. So aside from that, I like a good night’s sleep. So to answer your question, have I been put in a position with with challenging my values? Yes. But like I said, is it’s establishing like, who you are. And then people start to say, Alright, you know, we know we know who you are, and they stop hounding you.

Benn Marine 26:53
Yeah. So sounds like maybe some good like boundary setting is helpful for folks.

Shaun Murray 26:57

Benn Marine 26:58
And you’re family guy, right. Well, I’m curious what is balancing family and your banana schedule like? Like how like thinking about, you know, I think a lot of people can relate to, you know, career demands being high and then but also really wanting to be there for family. Like, I’m curious, how do you navigate that?

Shaun Murray 27:15
Yeah, you know, the The difficult thing with wakeboarding as a career is so much of our sport for the masses happens on the weekend. And that is when my girls are either going to be not in school, or they’re in cheer, like competitive cheer, like you see on Netflix like that kind of tumbling round stuff. And so I have to navigate through that balance of missing some competitions or saying no to work when I want to make it to a competition and also trying to play outside with them a lot. You know, after I’m done here, I’m going out there they want to go out on the boat, and some middle middle of the day where I could say, now I got to work. I’m gonna say no, I’m going out in the water. I’m going to give you guys some time let’s have some fun on the boat I’m going to ride too so it’s me checking off a little bit of work, we’ll say work in air quotes. I that’s what I try to do is like keep myself in check, where I do need to keep that balance because I have to work at home a lot of saying, hey, I need to be doing these things for work now. But then at the same time, say what really has to get done now and when can I go after spending spontaneous time with my kids? You know, let’s go out for a paddleboard let’s go rollerblading or let’s go do something. Because those moments you’re not gonna be able to get back. And the moments for work generally can be made up at some point. So I do, I do wake up really early in the morning so that I can get into the office and then I can dedicate a bit more time to them when they’re up.

Benn Marine 28:52
And you’ve been a professional athlete for over 25 years, which I feel like is nearly unheard of, especially in a sport with such high physical impact. Can you walk us through a little bit? Like what do you do to stay healthy? Like what does a, you know, typical week or day look like for you? And do you have goals around health and wellness and fitness? or?

Shaun Murray 29:11
Yeah, number one, I think that eating is a bigger part than our activity level, like what do we feed ourselves with. And I’m not going to tell people like, eat one way or the other. I just generally will tell people eat how you want to feel. You want to feel like pizza, eat pizza, right? If you want to feel like a burger, eat a burger. Now. I eat pizza sometimes because it’s delicious. And I love a burger. But I also try to keep things in check. So I try to fuel myself with energy with food that’s going to give me good energy. And sometimes I’ll even eat a little bit more because I want to have more energy. And I think that’s where we have to keep ourselves in balance where some people like I’m not going to eat as much but then what happens I think with that is when you don’t eat enough good food, you don’t have good energy, and then that spirals you the wrong way. Right? So then you’re like, I can’t get to the gym or I can’t go play basketball or I can’t do this, like, you know, I just don’t have the energy to do it or when you do it, you don’t feel well. And so I think eating a good amount of good food is important. At the right times for your schedule as well. The other thing that I would say is I’m not going to say one workout or one thing is better than the other. But I can tell you that as we get older, we tend to not play. Play becomes something that kids do. Right? And what we do is we find hobbies that we like to do when we can schedule them. And then we go to the gym to clock in and make sure that we are counting down the time on the treadmill or whatever you’re doing or pushing metal around. My, I can’t tell you the last time I went to a gym, but I feel like I’m in generally speaking, better health than I ever have I than I have been for the past five years. I’m 44 now. And I’ve been doing this for a long time and wakeboarding is very demanding. And so one, I just try to wakeboard, I try to get out and do things behind the boat, it’s a really good workout. The other thing I do is I swing around in my backyard gym that I built, and it’s basically like an adult jungle gym. So it’s a it’s kind of that American Ninja Warrior, obstacle kind of stuff. And everything is bodyweight. We have some things that we do with weights. But if you can go to a playground or find a pull up bar, it’s amazing what can happen on those kind of things. So it’s working on balance. And the reason I created it is because I just had this feeling I wanted to be able to swing around like a monkey because it looks really fun when you see the monkey swing around like that. And so I wanted to get like called monkey strong. That phrase is now on a bunch of my boards and equipment is monkey strong. And so that’s how I frame up what I do is I try to play. My kids or go on the trampoline, or we’ve got an air track or we’ll throw a baseball or football kick soccer ball. I think that we just don’t do that enough. I think we got to go swimming and hold your breath for as long as you can swimming underwater and like do the things you used to do as a kid that we think is not really what we do anymore. But I think that’s why everybody gets hurt when they pick up where they left off on the sport that they like to do those hobbies that we talked about, is because you, oh, I used to play baseball, while the sudden would not be able to do this. And then we blow an ankle out because all of a sudden we’re running full speed. And we haven’t done any kind of cross training kids or cross training all day. Well. Kids these days, not as much. They’re on devices a lot. So I tell my kids get outside, come on, let’s go play. You know, we as kids, we would be doing everything from swinging on a rope swing to swimming to whatever it may be. And then we do our sport. You go to baseball practice after that or whatever it is or soccer and so That’s why I think there’s not as many injuries but now kids are so like, just driven into you’re going to be the best travel baseball player and I think that’s where they can get kind of beat up or then they’re on a device and so there’s not as much playtime. So as adults and kids, I’m telling people go play, like it’s okay. And it’s actually a lot of fun.

Benn Marine 33:17
That’s awesome, actually. So you’ve been on American Ninja Warrior, I think on anf off for the last like five years ish,right?

Shaun Murray 33:25
Yeah, I’ve done it. I’ve competed on there I believe four times. Yeah.

Benn Marine 33:28
What got you into what kind of sparked the American Ninja Warrior interest and got you started there.

Shaun Murray 33:35
That gym that I told you about, in my backyard, just happened because I had this idea of I want to be able to swing around. Well, within a month of me starting to do those workouts and he’s just seeing like, the benefit of feeling how strong I was getting and just a fun practical way. I happen to be sitting on the couch, have my computer on my lap and I see the show pop up on TV. I googled it. I see you can apply for it. And like that’s kind of crazy. Well I’ll start this application, I got a call from him the next day. And they said, Hey, we think we may have a spot for you. But you got to go through these things and do this and do that. And the short version is is there, I found myself on the course and ran through it. And so I’ve had some chances to do it. But I’ve also not made it every year you have to apply. They only take 100 competitors per city, and they usually do five to six cities, but they generally get about 100,000 applications.

Benn Marine 34:30

Shaun Murray 34:31
So it’s a really tough cut to make. And they’re always looking for a good story. There’s been some times where my story didn’t make the cut. And I’ve gone through a couple times where I’m not getting accepted to the show, but then I have some friends who compete on the show, and they would get a spot. And it’s like, Man, what the heck, why am I doing this anyways? And I’ve had this conversation with my wife. And it’s the same thing that I tell people when they’re wakeboarding and she had to tell me this is, why are you doing it? Are you doing it so you can compete on the show? Or is that something that happened because you like to do what you do? And so I did have to step back and go, yeah, I’m doing this because I like to do these workouts. This is what I like to do. I like the community. I like the challenge. I like everything that about it. And the show is a byproduct of that. And we tend to do that with almost anything. And you can attest to wakeboarding is a huge magnifier of that, because when you’re out there, there’s eyes on you. And it’s hard to not feel those eyes to the point where you remove yourself from that experience. And you put yourself into the other people looking at you and you’re thinking, what are they thinking of me? And you’re not even getting to experience that moment because you’re thinking how are they experiencing this moment? I have to constantly remind myself that when I’m on the water, I am out there for my enjoyment. And I want to find how can I get there? Like how can I experience today in a fun way. And so I look for that. And that’s where that low risk high reward. It doesn’t have to be the days that you go out, you’re going to try your hardest trick. No, you go out, say what would be fun for me to do right now? And a lot of times people skip over the fundamentals of activities and sports, because they think it’s not going to be fun. But the fundamentals are actually low risk, high reward, and they actually allow for better progression. And so I look for an experience within myself, that’s going to be fun. And if somebody else enjoyed me, having a good time, that makes my experience after that much better. Though, I really ask people like, why do you do it? Are you doing it for other people’s reactions? Are you doing it for your own experience?

Benn Marine 36:36
Talking about that, like low risk, high reward? You’ve touched on that a few times. Can you talk a little bit more about whether it’s wake, you know, I think especially in wakeboarding, but also kind of like outside of that how people can apply that to either their riding or even outside of wakeboarding just everyday life.

Shaun Murray 36:51
Well, it goes back to why do we do what we do. The reason that people get into Golf is because they think, well, it’d be kind of fun to take this small white ball and then go hit it through this course and see how many times I can get it down to and see what happens, right? Well then what happens other people get introduced into that group that you’re playing with. And when you are standing on that first tee box of a new group of people, it feels like such an out of body experience. You almost feel like you’re watching yourself hit and it just, you physically don’t feel the same. It’s because all of a sudden you feel like it’s eyes on you. And it’s hard to shake is one of the most nerve wracking places you know, you’re at the first tee box everybody’s watching you. And so I tell people like, No, just enjoy what it feels like to swing this club. See how straight you can hit it, and if it doesn’t work out, not a big deal, right? But I get it like you want to perform you want to do well. And the reason that I wakeboard and the reason that people start wakeboarding is because it seems like it would be fun to go out and ride on top of the water. You can even get air and maybe even do a flip one day. But the way that most people go about the sport is they think that wakeboarding is four big moments. You have day one get up. Right? You get up that is awesome. You’re part of the crowd, or part of the part of the family of wakeboarding right then it’s get air. People think if you get up on a wakeboard, all right, now it’s time to get air. That’s actually a very risky thing for beginner, and you know that, like to send somebody wake to wake is what we call it. There are a lot of things that have to happen, right and a lot of things that can go wrong More importantly, but they think if I can get up well, now it’s time to get air. Once somebody learns to get air and most people are going to spend a pretty long time doing that and beating themselves up, they think it’s time to get upside down. You can jump wake, Well, I got enough time I’m gonna try a flip. Right? Well, once they do that, and they beat themselves up for at least a season usually. Then they think it’s time to get the rally. The rally is that Superman layout trick that’s like you’re flying through the air. And yes, that is one of the most fun things that I can do. But it’s very risky, right? So they think that you can for you to have fun, you need to go after those four moments. But what I like to show people is in between getting up and getting air, I’m going to teach probably about 40 steps. Okay, each of those steps are actually going to be very low risk, because I’m gonna start with slow speeds, I’m gonna make sure that anytime we go from one step to the next, it’s actually a very controlled process of Okay, well, it’d be comparable do if you don’t know how to swim, I’m not going to push you into the deep end. I’m going to have you stand an ankle deep water. Right. And then we’re going to go a little bit deeper to your shins, and we’re going to go a little bit deeper and we’re going to go a little bit deeper until like, now we’re not even going to go to where you can’t touch you’re actually going to have you let you put your your face underwater. And so there’s there’s ways to grow your comfort zone, rather than jumping into the deep end and see if you can swim. Cause, If you can’t, like right away, it’s going to freak you out, you’re never going to want to do it again, you can actually have some bad things happen. And I see people do that with their kids or like, just get out there, but kids are going to give you a window of opportunity of, Hey, I’ll try something. But if it doesn’t go, Well, I’m done. But I’ve also got steps of introducing your kids into sports so that or the watersports, so that is actually a good experience. And so, those 30 to 40 steps from getting up to getting air. Those are actually a really good foundation. So when you get to that point of getting air, it’s no longer high risk, because it’s just another step. Because we’ve already practiced a bunch of things up to that point. The best thing about it is not only have you had this good foundation and so when you get there, it’s low risk. Each and every one of those steps was actually a lot of fun. Just as much fun as when you go wake to wake for the first time. Because at anytime that we learn something new when we progress when we grow our knowledge or grow our abilities. It’s a pretty cool experience. It can be something small, I can show you Hey, did you know your phone actually can do this little trick? If you type this, this pops up and you go, that’s pretty cool. And you want to share that, right? So I want to share those things where you show people like, Hey, you can actually have a lot of fun with very low risk.

Benn Marine 41:18
That’s awesome. And then I think folks can can access that through Detention, right?

Shaun Murray 41:24
So yeah, my YouTube channel, you go to the playlist called detention and it’s basically taking you through those and I tell people at the beginning Look, you’re gonna want to jump I get it, you’re gonna want to jump all the way to where you’re getting air, like you’re gonna want to skip all of this. But I’m telling you for your own well being and your own enjoyment. Learn all of this because it’s gonna help everything makes sense and you not take hard crashes.

Benn Marine 41:44
Awesome. What have been some of the most challenging aspects of your career?

Shaun Murray 41:50
I think the most challenging thing is what I find the most enjoyment is staying engaged and keeping it fun and staying relevant But, but that’s been kind of like how I have I think stayed in the sport is okay, how can I? How can I find enjoyment today? All right, am I going to learn a new wakeboard trick? Am I going to try to ride something goofy? Am I gonna teach something today? So I tried to like just have like within this list that I showed you, you know my big To Do List I’ve got not just here but then I have a whole nother Word document of ideas that I want to share with people of different things that I can teach people in the water. So that’s a challenge. That’s the most difficult thing I would say. But that’s where I also find the most enjoyment. The other thing is the physical demand of things where I’m trying to keep my body fit enough to do what I can do on the water. But I also know me staying fit in that way is just good for me. So yeah, staying relevant, which I like and staying fit, which I like, but it’s work.

Benn Marine 43:04
What have been some of the most rewarding experiences of your career.

Shaun Murray 43:08
So that was rewarding.

Benn Marine 43:09
Yeah, some of the most rewarding experiences,

Shaun Murray 43:11
You know, like working on big projects, whether it’s YouTube videos now or video parts in the past, I really enjoy working on like, those kind of video projects because it takes a lot of time to put together a lot of content and conceptualize and produce it and, and, you know, trim it up and everything I really like those, those are fun because you can look back at those at any point say I remember all of the work that went into that, because to create, you know, a one minute piece can take hours and hours and hours of not just shooting, but editing and all of the work. So I like having those markers in time. Those are really rewarding. I’ve done a lot more things for companies and TV shows where I’m hosting or doing a walkthrough on a boat and I, I’ve, a lot of the things that I do are going to be just freestyle, like, hey, just speak from your heart and talk about it. versus what I’m doing now a lot of days is they’ll give me a script. And I need to learn the script verbatim. And get through this thing and read it word for word, because it’s very important that we get it within a certain timeframe. And there’s also certain marketing terms that we need to make sure are in there for the customers to understand what we’re referring to and talking about. So that is really challenging. But when I get my lines and get it, to where it doesn’t sound like I’m reading a script, because I don’t really use teleprompters, and things like that. I love that feeling. That’s really rewarding. Oh, wait, but also flying through the air on my wakeboard is really fun.

Benn Marine 44:52
How I’m curious, how do you so you’ve been doing this for 25 years, constantly innovating, You and I feel like you’ve touched on this a little bit, but how do you stay sharp Like after 25 years of innovation, like you’ve come up with boards and lines and boats and helped with all of these things.

Shaun Murray 45:08
I think that it has to do with if you see room for an for improvement, go after it. Right? Like if I if I see that I can have a better feeling between me and my board, or me and the water. Is it my board? Is it my bindings is it the rope, I’m going to look for any kind of opportunities that can enhance that experience. For the longest time, we’ve been trying to figure out how to make the waves and waves as big as we possibly can. Right? Like making big more air bigger tricks. But I’ve actually had a little bit of shift in my head to say we’re actually missing something by making these waves so big, or the wakes so big, especially that you don’t necessarily need that for people to have a good time. There’s so many experiences that are missed because people are scared to wakeboard, because the weights have gotten so big. It’s like no, we can actually, you don’t have to hit the wakeboard user setting on your boat to go wakeboard, because that means the weights gonna get massive, you can actually keep all the weight out of the boat because we have these tanks, you can fill with a fill up with water and makes the boat really heavy, which makes for a big wave. No, actually leave it out, go see what you can do without it, and really have fun with that. So that for me, I’m always looking for how can we get a better feeling out of this and there’s always room for that.

Benn Marine 46:33
So just kind of to wrap things up at the end here. I like to always ask folks about pursuing, you know, something different like like you’ve said in previous interviews that before you got involved with wakeboarding professionally, the pro circuit seemed unattainable. However, you still went for it, and have been arguably the most successful professional wakeboard athlete in sports history, and have helped design some of the most iconic boards, boats, life jackets, ropes and accessories. I’m curious what advice would you give to someone who has a passion or an idea, but it’s perhaps feeling a bit intimidated by pursuing it.

Shaun Murray 47:04
I mean, it’s, it’s a pretty big thought is like, how can you inspire people to be the best version of them, right? Like, like how can you inspire people to tap into their talents, their abilities and find joy in that? Because that’s, that’s what we really want to do is we want to figure out what can I do? What can I do well, and what can I enjoy doing? Right? Um, for me, I heard a quote from Mike Rowe. He’s the the Dirty Jobs guy. He said that he actually challenges the thought of pursuing your passion. Because that while that’s a good and noble thing, he said, I actually like to bring passion to whatever I do. And I’m like, yeah, that’s that’s what I like to do is. It doesn’t matter what I’m doing, but whatever that is I’m doing I’m going to do it as well as I can. If that means it’s time to rest, how can I rest well, right? If it means it’s time to wash a dish, how do I do it well. And when you bring passion to whatever you do, which means just like, like, put everything you have into it, but when you do when you bring passion into something like that, or into anything that you do you actually enjoy it more, I find that I enjoy it more. The other thing that I have really started to try to hone into within the last year is the phrase Do Now Well. Meaning right now do that well, and it’s kind of what I was just saying, but it means I’m not gonna be able to control really what happens tomorrow. I can plan. Right? Now if that means doing now means planning for tomorrow in some aspect, but there’s so many things that are out of our control. But it’s whatever I’m doing at this moment, do it as well as I can. And a good example of that is while we’re doing this interview, I’ve got a family in the background and the dogs barking and it distracts me and it makes me to where I’m not doing now well, but that’s okay. I can I can refocus. So if you’re all the sudden you find yourself getting off track, you go, Okay, hold on. Really what? Like, let’s put it in perspective and make sure that I’m doing now well, so I actually wrote it in sharpie on one of my wakeboards is do now well. That just means if you’re wakeboarding, how are you going to do it well? If you’re doing a podcast, how are you going to do it well? If you’re prepping for it, if you are going into work, whatever it may be, if you’re talking to someone, if you’re listening to someone, how can you do that well?

Benn Marine 47:24
Thank you so much for tuning into this episode of Renegades and Mavericks. You can follow Shaun on Instagram @ShaunMurray, and you’ll definitely want to check out his YouTube channel. He has lots of great videos for helping people learn how to wakeboard. For those, check out his Detention playlist. Of course, as always, we have links to All these goodies at Visit the Show Notes for this episode to see some bonus photos including unpublished photos of Shaun from 2009 when I worked with him on a cover concept for wakeboarding mag, plus a whole slew of photos from that time frame, I’ve also picked some of my favorite Murray YouTube videos and put those on there for you as well. If you’re enjoying this podcast, please subscribe wherever you listen and leave a review.

Shaun Murray 50:25
The YouTube stuff for me is a lot of fun if people want to check that out. I’ve got a channel out there and I actually tell people Hey, if you got questions and comments do that below. So if people have questions and comments, they can go onto my channel and and actually ask a question Hey, I’m getting new into the sport and I don’t know what board to get or a boat. How do I go ride? So I like to help people out because I know the fun that can happen within wakeboarding because it’s really unlike almost any other sport out there because of the social atmosphere. I love to do other things. I love snowboarding and surfing and a lot of Good moments in those but very few places Can you have a huge age range out on the boat and have such a great time where the kids want to be out there with the with the parents and with the family and friends and like it’s a really unique environment that I encourage people to check out.

Benn Marine 51:26
Renegades and Mavericks is a production of Dirigo Collective music and the production of this episode are by our very own Kevin Oates interview by yours truly, Benn marine. To learn more about Dirigo Collective visit or follow us on social media @dirigocollective


Before coming to Dirigo Collective, I (Benn Marine here) worked in the wakeboarding industry as a professional photographer and had the opportunity to work closely with Shaun a lot. Below are a few of my favorite unpublished images of Shaun that I created as a photographer.


The following set of images are from a cover concept Shaun had for Wakeboarding Mag. It was a land gap on the Alligator Chain of lakes in St. Cloud, Florida. Shaun wanted to see if he could gap the land while bonking one of the trees and asked me to be the photographer to capture it. He was able to borrow a kicker from the pro tour and we set out to get these shots. After working with the editor of Wakeboard Mag (I think it was Kevco at that time), it was decided the concept wouldn’t work for a cover because there wasn’t enough context to see what was happening and to change the angle to get the context we lose Shaun in the background with the trees. So these images never saw publication but were a blast to create. Also pictured is Aaron Perkins, driving the jetski that we used to pick up Shaun after each take to reset the shot. The masterful Travis Moye drove the boat pulling Shaun.