Sean Sliv Silveira is one of the best wakesurfers you possibly don’t know. He qualified for the Supra Boats Pro Wakesurf Tour in his first competitive season and finished third overall in the PWT against pro wakesurfers like Keenan Flegel, Noah Flegel, Jake Caster, Hunter Sims, and Parker Payne. Some might say Silveira came out of left field with such an accomplished first season but he didn’t podium by accident. Silveira is the six-time Flowrider world champion, five-time Flowboarding national champion, and winner of the Flowbarrel best trick contest two times. We had a chance to sit down for an in-depth interview with Silveira to talk about his professional career in Flowboarding and Wakesurfing, and what he has planned for the upcoming 2018 CWSA and PWT season. But first, a word from Andy Hasse, one time national Flowrider champion: "Sean is literally the guy who invented the Flowrider trick book… no one else is on his level but he did lose once to me in Alabama".
Tell us how you got the nickname "Squid"? When did it change to "Sliv"?
During middle school, the animated television series Rocket Power was trending on Nickelodeon. There was a character on the show named "Squid" who was the token new kid to the crew. I began skating with a group of kids who hung out together all the time. One of them finally determined I would be dubbed Squid because I was the new guy, and it stuck. I am still friends with a few of them and they actually still call me Squid. The name is near and dear to my heart because it reminds me of fond memories during my skateboarding days. The nickname "Sliv" manifested years later when I was living on Lake Holden. At the time, most people referred to me by my last name but Rory Kramer eventually shortened it to Sliv, and it stuck.
What started your passion for boardsports?
When I was about nine years old, my neighbor took me skateboarding for the first time. Mike Choyama and his friends were about ten years older but he would bring me out skateboarding every time they went. I have been focused on becoming a sponsored athlete ever since - it was my childhood dream. Mike pretty much paved the way for that dream and he and I are still good friends to this day. He follows my career and is stoked on what I’m doing. I’m really appreciative he took time to befriend someone much younger, brought me everywhere skating with him, and fostered my skateboarding nature when I was growing up.
Do you remember your first skateboard?
My first complete setup was a Bam Margera Element skateboard from Phat City Skatepark. I had been skating on a bunch of garbage Walmart-brand boards because my mother refused to purchase a new setup. I begged and pleaded and begged some more until she finally caved… and it was the best thing ever! The board had so much pop in contrast to what I had been riding. I started jumping over fences and it just grew from there.
How did you get into Flowrider?
I worked at Vans Skatepark in my teens trying to log as much skating time as possible while regularly teaching lessons. When I was about seventeen, I had a pretty bad fall breaking an elbow on one arm and a wrist on the other arm; wearing two casts wasn’t fun at all. I really loved skateboarding but wasn’t a pro and realized it was beating up my body. I had been hanging out with a few friends at the Florida Mall one afternoon and saw a sign for a “surf machine” opening inside a store the next day. So, I came back to Adrenalina the next day and tried Flowboarding for the first time… and I was horrible at it! I could not grasp standing on the Flowboard and eventually gave up opting to bodyboard the wave instead. I was so frustrated not being able to master standing up on the board that I returned to Adrenalina every day for nearly two months straight determined to learn. Eventually, everything I had learned from skateboarding directly transitioned to Flowboarding - it just clicked - and then I began trying every trick I could imagine on the Flowrider.
What led you to begin competing on Flowrider?
I started getting pretty good on the Flowrider and chatted with my friend, Rory Kramer, who was really into videography at the time. We produced a film edit to try gaining the attention of sponsors. I still have people talking to me at competitions about that video over five years later… I guess it made an impression. At that time, Fuel T.V. hosted a television show called Adrenalina. The show was based on the shop owner’s son and his friend who were professional sky divers going around doing crazy stunts. When the store (also called Adrenalina) hosted a televised Flowrider competition for the show, I took a shot and won it. That was really the start of my competitive career.
You are currently the six-time Flowrider World champion… that isn’t by accident. What separated your riding from the rest?
My first out-of-state competition was in Alabama on a Double Flowrider, which was different from what I had learned, so I stayed on only one side hurting my final score. All the other competitors were carving back and forth while doing spins. I did ollies, shuv-its, a sketchy kickflip, and threw a lot of tricks no one had seen done before while Flowboarding. I still lost to Andy Hasse at that first out-of-state competition but went undefeated for the next four years. I have been told that linking every trick to another trick while utilizing the entire wave is what has set my riding apart. You can’t waste time or space on the wave setting up for the next trick; there is never a moment you can be standing still... AND it has to look pretty.
What led to a custom pro model Flowrider board and what was the development process?
The popular model at that time was a 47” board called the “Outlaw” also known as “Big Red” because of the red EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate) top. As more riders with a skateboarding background entered the Flowboarding arena, shorter 39”, 40”, and 41” models began to appear on the market. Many people really latched on to the smaller sized Flowboards but I preferred the OG. Skill level can take you so far but equipment can truly make the difference at the professional level between champion and everyone else; you have to really like the equipment you are riding or it simply won’t work. Eventually, popularity of the smaller sized Flowboards led to the obsolescence of the 47” model. Flowrider came to me with the project of redesigning a 45” model that would function well at the various Flowrider venues. After a few months, we were able to design a board that felt and performed the same as the 47” Outlaw. That was followed with the development of my pro model. We began prototyping various channels and concave to allow for smoother landings and to increase ease of flicking the board. With a few adjustments, we found the perfect feel but I can’t tell you those details… top secret stuff. I began using the board in competitions and winning with it. The quad channel 45” Outlaw with a custom cut concave is still my pro model to this day.
When was the first time you wakesurfed? What was your initial impression about wakesurfing?
I was in my early twenties when I lived on Lake Holden with a roommate who owned a Super Air Nautique 230. We wakesurfed just for fun on an older 4’6” quad-fin swallowtail board similar to the Ronix Powerfish. We would remove all the fins and try three-shuvs with no real worry of getting hurt. I was heavily involved with the competitive Flowboarding scene during that period so injuries were a major concern. It was legitimately the most fun I could have behind the boat. We would sack out the 230 with Fly High Fat Sac plug and plays, go tubing, build wakeskate rails in front of the dock… just really good times and some of the best memories.
Why did you make the transition from competitive Flowboarding to Wakesurfing?
I moved to California to work in conjunction with Flowrider building new sites, have the opportunity to ride Flowbarrel, and - of course - get in on some west coast surfing. While living out there, I met Danny Braught and Sean Reavis from Boarders Magazine who suggested competitive wakesurfing as a great crossover from Flowboarding. I had been considering their suggestion while working in Texas when a CWSA competition came up not too far away. I took a quick flight to compete in Outlaw division and won. Winning that competition was the real catalyst but that presented some inherent problems. Practicing wakesurfing in California proved to be difficult, which prompted a move back to Florida despite my affinity for the 31st state. I really want to thank Danny and Sean because they both really stepped up to the plate at this moment in my life by setting up connections that ultimately led to success in my competitive wakesurfing career. I was introduced to Tim Cameron of Triple X Surf who became my primary board sponsor and also Sam Langley who has become one of my good friends and made the connection with Tommy's Boats happen.
Were you surprised with your 2017 rankings at the end of your first competitive season as a pro wakesurfer?
No. My goals were exactly what I did... My first goal was to qualify for the PWT - I qualified first place. My next goal was to make the podium on a PWT event - I did twice.
What have been some of the more difficult aspects in transitioning between the two sports?
Initially, the greatest challenge was learning to land the tricks - both regular and switch - because the transition behind the boat is vastly different from the Flowrider. Because the transition is so much shorter and intense behind the boat, there isn't as much leniency with landings to "save yourself"; you have to stick the trick in the correct spot at the right time or you slip out and lose the wave. The biggest challenge I currently face is riding time behind the boat... not having my own wakesurf boat has limited access to practice time. Practice leads to consistency; consistency leads to victory; victory leads to happiness. I have started training with Wakesurf Orlando this season working on a lot of new tricks I haven't landed before. We are formulating new competitive runs and I'm super-hyped for the 2018 competition season to begin!
What are your favorite wakesurf boats to ride behind?
I have been spending a lot of time behind the Malibu 23 LSV. Right now, it is my personal favorite... Capt. Tarzan has that boat dialed. I have also been riding behind the Malibu 24 MXZ with Jeff and Sam Langley, and I catch a few rides behind the Malibu M235 as well as a few Axis boats models. I enjoy everything from the Malibu boats family. I have ridden behind a few Centurion boats including Keenan Flegel's Ri237 as well... I like riding behind any pro rider's personal boat because they are very particular about setup.
What are your goals for the 2018 season? Are we in for any big surprises?
One of my biggest goals is to make first place in a PWT event - probably my biggest goal this season. I also want to make worlds this season with the CWSA. Most importantly, I want to develop solid sponsor relationships in the wakesurfing industry. When you have a great team in your corner, anything is possible. I really want to bring some Flowboarding into the competitive wakesurfing scene... there are so many tricks that have not been approached behind the boat I want to see happen.
Do you have any advice for up and coming riders looking to follow in your footsteps?
Three simple words, “Practice, practice, practice… And don’t forget to smile, damnit!”
Nickname: "Sliv" or "Squid" or more recently "Silverado"
Hometown: Orlando, Florida
Favorite Foods: Italian anything
Favorite Movie: The Sandlot
Favorite Pro Wakesurfer: John Akerman
Favorite Trick: Madonna
Favorite Off-Boat Activity: Golf
Most Difficult Trick Learned: Bigger Spin Mute
Competitions Won: 2017 Supra Boats Pro Wakesurf Tour 3rd Overall: PWT 1 - 5th; PWT 2 - 4th; PWT 3 - 3rd; PWT 4 - 3rd
2018 CWSA Results:
Parker, Arizona - 2nd Place
Lake Anna, Virginia - 3rd Place
Koocanusa Wakesurf Challenge - 1st Place
Rocky Mountain Wakesurf Open - 1st Place
Tommy's Open - 2nd Place
Canadian Nationals - 1st Place
2018 PWT Results:
Chandler, Arizona - 4th Place
Acworth, Georgia - 1st Place
Mooresville, North Carolina - 1st Place
Warsaw, Indiana - 2nd Place