Getting to know Dylan Miller
So, there’s this soft-spoken but slightly intimidating wakeboarder from southern Saskatchewan who’s making big waves everywhere. Back in the day he worked oil rigs part-time to make money so he could wakeboard in Florida, but now he has a steady income and mega sponsors so he just lives in Florida – Clermont, near Orlando, to be exact – and wakeboards ALL THE TIME!
If you’re remotely familiar with wakeboarding you’re probably familiar with Dylan Miller, if only because everyone still wants to know why his stance is narrow when everyone else uses a wide stance.
“People ask me why my stance is so narrow,” he said casually, “and I ask them why their stance is so wide.”
And that’s Dylan – famous for making every remarkably hairy run look easy; equally famous for telling it like it is. Always. Like this:
“There’s a weird thing in society right now; if you get hurt doing something or you just don’t succeed, you just move on and try something else,” he said. “I think it’s an ‘internet state of mind.’ Everything is so fast, and everything is so accessible people aren’t as patient as they used to be or as patient as maybe they should be.
“Wakeboarding is so much fun no matter how you do it. But maybe people aren’t willing to take the time and pain to progress and learn over time.”
Dylan recently worked with Mercury Marine and Heyday Boats at the massive annual Summerfest music extravaganza on Lake Michigan in Milwaukee. He rode demo boats with consumers and talked with them about wakeboarding, boats and music, and people listened . . . because he’s Dylan Miller. When asked if he’s considering a career in the strange and burgeoning world of “influencers,” Dylan winced a little.
“I guess I’m already doing that, and holding that position is really important when it comes to social media and sponsors.
“But to be honest, I don’t want to be that guy. I want to stay involved in the industry and sell products, but I want that to happen because I’ve been there and people know what I can do.”
If Dylan Miller is new to you, maybe you should check him out – he might just be the coolest cat ever to carve water. He is, in fact, recognized as one of the most talented, skilled and daring wakeboarders in the world. That’s a fact, even if he rarely competes against the other most talented and daring wakeboarders in the world.
“I’ve never really been a ‘competition guy,’ ” Dylan said. “Competing was never my thing. I preferred making videos.
“There are a lot of wakeboarders as talented as I am, but some guys get there (to the top) with their personality. I never wanted to do that. You have to be respected by the guys around you. Drake (the artist) said we ‘start from the bottom’ and work our way up. I’m trying to get street cred. I’ll keep doing new things.”
If any boarder has “street cred” it’s Dylan Miller. He’s dripping with it. He’s unassuming and wears T-shirts and long shorts when he rides. But he’s magical when he takes flight over water.
Rather than competing for titles, Dylan has always preferred to ponder and attempt – with cameras rolling – the “what ifs” of wakeboarding. Like “what if I was running a river lined with concrete walls, then boarded right up those concrete walls, then skated across the rails of an overhead bridge and finished by jumping something big, like a building? Seems like that would be cool.” That’s not an actual quote, but it could be, though he would say it way cooler.
His tricks are rarely seen on TV but they’re all over the internet, not to mention movie screens and cell phones. Google him. He does a lot of spooky stuff.
Surprisingly, Dylan’s list of ambulance rides is short. He keeps it that way by mentally slipping into something like a meditative/visual preparation process before attempting anything crazy.
“I like to do urban wakeboarding,” he said. “And before I go, I try to picture virtually everything that could go wrong with that run, then I work backward from that point and envision what I need to do to avoid bad stuff from happening.
“I haven’t had any real terrible injuries . . . knock on wood. There have been a lot of small things, like ankle injuries that resulted in surgery. But I sat out for a few months, didn’t push it, and everything worked out.”
Dylan grew up in Oxbow, Saskatchewan, a farming community of about 1,500. For fun, he started out doing what everyone north of the 49th parallel does for fun:
“I played hockey for 20 years and that was my career sports path,” he said. “But I also watched a lot of skateboarding and snowboarding videos; when I saw wakeboarding, I loved it from the get-go. It’s kind of an addiction. I ride hard every day to get to midsummer, then start taking more risks. I feel it’s a risk/reward calculation.
“I still like team sports, but I always try to do what I want, and it’s worked out so far.”
Wakeboarding was invented more than three decades ago (about the time Dylan was born) by surfers looking for alternatives to surfing when gnarly waves were lacking. The first wakeboard was called a "Skurfer" – a combination of a surfboard and a water ski.
Skip ahead 20-some years . . .
About the same time boarders started asking Dylan about his narrow stance, he noticed a few things about boarding: (1) the sport attracts the occasional poseur and (2) poseurs seem to crash often, usually in spectacular fashion. So he created an Instagram page called WakeZeach with the stated mission of “Calling out the wackness in wake . . . one post at a time.”
His Instagrams, as they say, went viral, and WakeZeach became the go-to site for videos of wild wakeboarding crashes that make you squint your eyes and flinch.
Side note: Why “WakeZeach?”
According to Dylan’s Instagram page: “We got the term from pro snowboarder Zach Leach (zeach). Zack was the greatest zeacher this world has ever seen. Seeing as snowboarding already has a website solely dedicated to zeaching, we can’t claim all the credit for this, but we can claim being the first zeach site dedicated to wakeboarding, and that’s what wakeboarding is all about – claiming! Now, a zeach is any boardslide or fifty-fifty that is crooked or turned … or just looks (bad). Not only will we be calling out the harshest of zeachs in wakeboarding, but we will also be calling out un-legit grabs … nelons, tindys, nutes, or tailfish. Wakeboarding – it’s time to clean up your act!”
“It served its purpose,” Dylan said of WakeZeach. “And I found out that people on Instagram dig watching other people get hurt.”
Dylan said a lot of boarders get signed for low-level sponsorships, but few reach elite status.
“It’s hard to be a pro,” he said, “maybe because it’s too easy to be a pro.”
With his “meh” approach to competition and fame, Dylan was OK with staying under the radar – for a while. Now he’s a team rider for Heyday, he has a pro model board from Slingshot and he was featured in Formats, a full-length film by Taylor Hanley about boarding Down Under.
“I think I’m the oldest person to get a pro model board,” he said, “but it means a lot to me. Would it have been nice to have one earlier? Of course, but I’m so stoked to have gotten it, and to have that relationship with Slingshot is incredible. Such a rad company. Been with them since 2011. I feel fortunate to be part of that team.”
His board, of course, is unconventional.
“It’s narrower,” he said, “like boards used to be before they got wide. I like going from edge to edge to have fun carving the water. It’s more like snowboard style.”
Dylan is also sponsored by Heyday, the fastest-growing boat brand in the tow-sport world. His Heyday is powered by Mercury Marine.
“Wakeboarding boats are typically so expensive, but Heyday is going against the grain,” he said. “They don’t load up their boats with unnecessary bells and whistles. They build boats that work. They’re boats that do what I need them to do. And I think they’re bringing more people into wakeboarding.”
Dylan is married, and his wife Aerielle is also into watersports. She’s also the daughter of former NBA star Vernon Maxwell, known for his intensity on and off the court.
Dylan isn’t rushing toward retirement, but he is considering a path that will offer new challenges.
“I’m 32 years old and still in great shape, and I get better at wakeboarding every year,” he said. “I want to wakeboard as long as possible, but eventually I’ll need to do something else. I feel like I’ve done a lot to market the sport. I want to use my knowledge about the sport and the industry and the athletes to make a difference.”
And, yes, he was named after Bob Dylan. Pretty cool.