The Watercraft Journal: Rob, prior to becoming the Pro-AM Naturally-Aspirated Runabout National Champion (what does this year make? Three years in a row?), and four prior Pro-Stock National Championships, what sports did you participate in before you picked up PWC racing?
Rob Greenwald: Sports have always been an integral part of my life; 21 years now of racing PWCs, I also road raced for years, both AMA and WERA racing 600 Superbike, 750s, and 250GP. As a teen I raced motocross. Played football in college for Tulane and then played semipro until I was 38 years old. I still play in a Rough Touch Flag League (all contact but no tackling). I played rec hockey for most of my life, and I also still compete in USATF Masters Track in the 200m, 400m, shot, and javelin. And as hokey as it sounds, I also throw darts competitively in leagues and tournaments.
WCJ: You’ve famously powered through some serious injuries and surgeries. Care to list all your war wounds? (To make all those younger guys look like pansies!)
RB: All of them? We don’t have the time! But to start, I have had 17 orthopedic surgeries, the biggest being five knee surgeries (four from football and one from moto), cracked two vertebrae and ruptured discs from football, broken wrist, leg, and ankle, have raced PWCs with broken hand and fingers, and even raced last years Worlds with full blown pneumonia. The part that really sucks is I currently have spinal arthritis and seven compressed discs (that won’t go away) and my cervical vertebrae have become vertically stacked which limits neck mobility. My throttle hand has nerve damage which has also triggered arthritis; I wake up every day with a stiff tingly right hand. That said, I wouldn’t trade my sports or racing for anything, we have to make sacrifices for the greatest enjoyment of our lives… If I could do it again, I would have pushed even harder.
WCJ: You recently got married. (Congrats!) How does your better half feel about your PWC racing life? What role does she play in getting you ready/keeping you motivated all weekend long?
RG: I will start by saying that my wife loves to see me happy and enjoys watching me race…but she does not enjoy coming to too many races with me. She says it’s great to watch me race, but hates sitting around most of the day. She further says,”you then get together with the same guys, tell all the same stories, tell all the same jokes, it’s a big repeat… It’s like Groundhog Day”. So most of the time she says “Go out, have fun, and win!” We agreed that once we have a baby en route, I officially retire from doing tours and chasing titles. My work keeps me gone enough! Don’t get me wrong, she loves seeing me happy and she is quite the rider herself on a PWC!
WCJ: Given your skill and experience, the Pro Naturally-Aspirated class seemed to be a surprising choice. What drew you to this class?
RG: Pro-Am N\A bought the fun back to racing for me. Smaller, better handling PWCs that are reliable, tight turning, passing…it’s very reminiscent of my Pro 800 Runabout days. I enjoy it much more, it’s a lot less expensive. When I won my first four Pro Stock Runabout titles, Pro Stock was a very affordable competitive class to race before our sanctioning body turned it into Pro Stock Limited because they wouldn’t spend the money to actually tech and police the class. They just made everything legal! I love N/A because I fuel my ski, race it, wipe it down and put it away. Then I get to enjoy my time with my friends at the races. Racers all screamed for affordable competitive racing, and this is it! Heck, my VXR is a bit faster than my old 800 Super Stock was. Would I love to race Open? Hell yeah, you find someone to foot the whole bill and I am there! You bring it, I will ride it!
WCJ: Because of your partnership with Factory Yamaha, RIVA Racing and Dean’s Team, we’re guessing you get to see a lot of stuff before it goes public. What’s it like to be a guinea pig for some of the brightest minds in the sport?
RG: Working with Yamaha has been nothing short of amazing! They made me feel like a Pro again. Scott Watkins is a godsend to our sport and really cares about the sport itself and especially his racers. I can’t thank Factory Yamaha enough for what they have done for me. Plus living near R&D and getting to ride and test product is amazing. The engineers really care more than you can imagine about the product and what your input is. Also, I have the utmost respect and so value my friendship with Dean Charrier. He is truly the master of the 1.8L motor and these new Yamahas. His dedication and hard work, backed by his love of this sport shows in every front running Dean’s Team runabout! And for Dave Bamdas and RIVA? Where would our sport be without them? They are awesome to ride for!
WCJ: We gotta ask, you’ve been on the new 2015 Yamaha VXR. What did you think of it? How did it ride versus the previous model – and will we be seeing you on a 2015 model next year?
RG: As always Yamaha works to make better product and the new VXR is one of the most amazing handling PWCs I have ever thrown a leg over. The engineers really did their homework. It hooks up incredibly in the chop and rough, and turns and cuts razor sharp. It will definitely be an animal in closed course. I Love it! Of course the old VXR was excellent (four championships to show for it), to do an actual pro-and-con comparison would take a while. How competitive will it be? Just wait ’till you see it in closed course next year! (wink, wink, nudge, nudge).
WCJ: Shameless plug time! Go ahead and give some shout outs to all the people you’d like to thank for getting you where you are today!
RG: Big thanks to my gorgeous wife Amanda for being there for me while I live my dream. And of course to the companies and people who have made it happen for me: Factory Yamaha especially Scott Watkins, Andrew Cullen, and all my boys at logistics/R&D (Todd, Mike, Russ, and Nick), Hydro-Turf (Mikey and Arno), Dean’s Team and Dean Charrier, RIVA Racing (Dave Bamdas and Pat Weekly), Klotz Lubricants, Kali Protectives (the best, lightest moto helmets you will ever protect yourself with), VP Race Fuels, VonZipper goggles and eyewear (Dan-O and Peeeeelo are Über Bros!), ODI grips, and Skat-Trak!
Also the biggest thanks to Jeffrey Decoite and Ady “Tiny” Tworek who have been the world’s ultimate holders and crew and best friends ever; Tiny has been with me since Day 1 and I owe the world to these guys! And the ultimate behind the scenes make it happen guy, great friend and of course teammate Dennis Mack. Phil Farthing for being a great help through my career too! There are many other wonderful people who helped build my career over 21 wonderful years of PWC racing and I thank you all for the help and happiness you have brought me, know I appreciate all that everyone has done. Happiness has no price and is truly irreplaceable. A bad day of racing is still better than a good day at an office. I cannot forget thanking the wonderful sport of PWC racing for all the amazing people and friendships it has brought into my life, I can’t imagine how different my life would be without it!