The Watercraft Journal spoke to Billy Dearman to ask about his new hull and how racing went at the Pro Watercross Round 6 tour stop in Racine, Wisconsin.
The Watercraft Journal: The Pro Watercross Tour has been splitting fairly evenly between ocean and lake racing lately. Which is your favorite?
Bill Dearman: That’s a hard question. This new hull we’ve got does really well in choppy water, so basically (the Racine race weekend) wasn’t to my advantage because the water ended up just being really flat. On Saturday, the water was kinda choppy and we had real good water for our hull, but for Sunday’s race, basically the water was flat and when we’ve got the younger kids in there racing against us on the Wammers, the Wammers just turn so hard.
I’ve got one of those as well, and when you’re racing those things, you just don’t have to lift the gas. And on these new boats, basically it just won’t corner like the Wammer will. It’s got more top end and it handles the chop better, but when we’re out here on flat water, it’s just not going to run through the buoys like they will. So we were fighting a battle with that (at Racine.). We got out front in every moto, but then the younger kids were chasing us down and right on me after four or five laps. It just works out that way.
I love surf races, I think they’re fun, and then we’re really good at flat water too because we’ve got the big motor. Some days go better than others, but any time we can get out here and race and nobody gets hurt, it’s a good day.
WCJ: The younger racers are definitely giving everyone a run for their money. How does the age difference impact your training and your racing, and do you find yourself running more of a mental race and focusing on strategy?
BD: As I have gotten older, I’ve had to do way more training than I used to. I remember back when I was doing this and I was 16 years old and back then it was ‘okay, we’re going racing,’ and you didn’t have to change up anything in your daily routine, you just go and get on the jet ski and go racing. Now, you’ve got 30 miles worth of running you do every week and two to three day’s worth of lifting and so many days of riding your bike, and VersaClimber, and all that.
It becomes more of a full-time gig to be able to race at this level, but I’ve been doing this almost 30 years now, and these kids are coming around and there is no way to get around the fact that they are 26-28 years younger than I am, and if I want to compete on their level, I’m going to have to put in the work. And some days, it doesn’t matter how much work I put in, I’m still not going to be able to run with a 16-year-old kid.
As some of us have gotten older, we’ve learned to race smarter, and that’s a big part of the game out here. But at the end of the day, you can only do so much to try and make up for that much of an age gap.
WCJ: Let’s talk about your new hull. Why build a new hull, and what is unique about it?
BD: We wanted to improve the game. This is a boat we have been working on for three years, and Judge Motosports teamed up with Jerry Marquis of Watusee Hull Designs, a guy that has been building hulls for decades. I approached him with an idea of what I wanted to do and basically, we took a race hull of Jerry’s and made it to fit under a lightweight WaveBlaster 3 copy.
We molded the WaveBlaster 3 top deck, made it a lightweight top deck, and then we put one of Watussee’s race hulls underneath it. So, it’s a completely different design on the bottom of the boat – larger intake grate, deeper chines, you know, better handling and things like that; things that will help it get off the line harder and hook up better in rough water. The bad thing is, for the class that we built this hull for, we just don’t get a lot of attendance during the year at the Pro Watercross races or the AquaX races or the Powerboat Nationals. There’s just not a lot of attendance for Sport GP. But when we get to World Finals, or you go overseas and you race over there, Sport GP is the race everyone wants to be in.
So that is where all the competition is, so basically going and running the tour, we’re just training for World Finals – I wish everyone would just start showing up like they used to instead of just trying to start arguments online and bicker and moan instead of showing up to the races to see what they can do to help improve our sport.
WCJ: Do you see any way to bring this sport back to what it was in the 80s and 90s?
BD: Well, yes. There are ways to bring it back, but unfortunately, in my opinion, it has to start at the top, because we’re not the ones, the racers are not the ones running these events. So, in my opinion, it has to start with the people sanctioning the races. Basically, they need to hire a marketing department. It happened again at Racine.
We’re in Racine all weekend, the city is paying us to come here, we show up, we have an event, and I have people walking up to us on the beach and saying they live here and had no idea there was anything going on. Without marketing, without the guys in charge putting the effort in and doing what it takes, putting money back into our sport, advertising, letting people know this is what we do, this is the event, stirring up new interest for new riders to come on board – until something like that happens, we’re just spinning our wheels.
WCJ: You’ve been racing a long time, are you still learning new things?
BD: Oh absolutely. Especially when we break out new boats like this. It’s basically that we’re starting from scratch all over again because nobody knows what this boat is going to do. We haven’t seen it on the track before so we don’t know what it’s capable of so all we can do is take it out, test it, push it, push it and push it. You just keep pushing the limits till something goes wrong, then you know, okay, that’s what it can do and that’s what it can’t, and you learn where you need to back off a bit and you learn where you can push it harder.
WCJ: What advice would you give to a young kid, or even an adult, who is just coming into the sport?
BD: Show up. Get to the races. All of us here that have been racing for years are more than happy to help you guys, just come to the races. We’re never going to grow the sport and we’ll never get the big money back into these events unless we start getting larger events and more people showing up. As much as anyone else, I want to see 300 riders showing up at an event for a regional race. I want to see that happening again. I want to see qualifiers at regional races. In the early and mid and even into the late-90s, regional racing had qualifying.
You might show up at a regional race in Region 7 where our home is; you’d show up, for example, to one of Mike Young’s races in Fort Walton and you might not race the main because you didn’t make it through the qualifier. You would show up and it would just be a typical regional race and there would be 25 people in one class, and if you didn’t hit the top 15, you weren’t going to race the main. I would love to see our sport get back to that, but for us to get there, we need some help. We need some help from the leadership. We need some money put into marketing.
WCJ: Last question. Who do you want to thank?
BD: Same as always; Tim Judge, Judge Motosports, Jettrim Jetpilot… I’ll even throw a little shout-out to my company because my company keeps the bills paid for those other guys – Dearman Corp Properties/ Vacation with Dearman Corp.
But primarily, Judge Motosports, Jettrim, JetPilot, Skat-Trak, all those guys that have been helping me for so long – I can’t do this without them. My kids are just now getting to the point where they’re about to start racing, and those companies are already throwing stuff at them to help them out. We can’t look forward enough for the next generation to get out there and do the same thing.