The Watercraft Journal: For those of you, who do not know who Tanner Thomas is, tell the audience about yourself.
Tanner Thomas: Friends call me Tanman, I’m 25 years old. Born and raised in Ketchikan Alaska. I have been riding jet skis now for ten years. Five of which have been involved with professional competition. I started off riding 550’s in AK for a few months out of the summer and each winter with the support of many great people and influences upgraded jet skis. I’ve worked my way up from 550’s and 650’s to SJ’s and SXRs and then to Rickters. I started off traveling from Alaska and doing summer tours in 2009 with my Ford Ranger to race my SXR and freeride my SN SJ. I drove all around the west coast from Washington to California chasing Freeride and Racing events. Couch surfing with great friends to make it possible.
WCJ: You were born in Alaska? How does a guy from Alaska get involved with riding stand ups let alone competing professionally? What obstacles have you overcome living there?
TT: I was given the opportunity by my Dad’s great friend Brent Johnson in AK to ride my first JS 550 when I was 14. In Alaska we didn’t have motocross tracks or anything other than being surrounded by water. So in the summer time when we couldn’t snowmobile anymore, jet skis were about the best thing to get to ride. Living on an island in Alaska is great for a lot of people, for me it was tough with shipping challenges, lots of rain and cold weather, and the jet ski scene was very small. Thanks to the support of an amazing community I was able to work hard and venture out into the big world to chase jet ski competitions. That in turn allowed me to travel the US with a purpose and meet a ton of amazing people in the jet ski community. Jet ski forums like X-H2O.com and PWCToday.com was the source for a lot of my excitement and knowledge in the early days.
WCJ: You offer your own riding school, but not only that you give up-and-comers or expert riders the chance to flip your own $35,000 Rickter. Tell us a little more what your school offers.
TT: TNT Freestyle school is my way of offering the 10 years of knowledge and experience that brought me my first World Championship to other people. My team and I have spent years developed world class equipment for the rider who wants to accelerate their abilities and take jet skiing to a whole new level of fun.
I now offer different levels of freestyle training. For years I’ve been working with people like Rick Roy, Taylor Curtis, Hiro “Ninja” Ogino and learning along side team mates like Mark Gomez and Abraham Ho. I have worked hard to find the right techniques and input to help people improve their riding. This DOES NOT substitute the 100s of hours you will need to truly perfect these techniques, but for most people we can speed up the process and allow them to enjoy the sport of freestyle more. It is best if you have your own ski, but I do rent my Rickter XFS Ninja 1200 to clients for guided training.
The Backflip clinic is for riders with stand up riding experience that have always wanted to do a flat water backflip but do not have access to a capable ski. I have offered the Backflip Clinic to 5 riders so far, all of which have completed the rotation of a backflip. It is like a bucket list item for most and something that I am happy to be able to share with people. For more information on the TNT Freestyle School and Backflip Clinic visit Tanner-thomas.com/school
WCJ: What else do you like to do besides riding your jet ski?
TT: I have recently been getting into riding motocross and have backflipped my KX250F thanks to FMX Rider Jimmy Fitzpatrick. I would like to continue riding my bike and doing more freestyle on 2 wheels. Otherwise my time is mostly invested in my new job working for Renu Chem Inc. the makers of Jet Renu. I am an International Factory Representative opening up a distribution network of distributors and dealers of our products.
WCJ: What do you do to prepare for an event or competition? What type of training do you do before the big day? Do you have any rituals you do the day of?
TT: Every location you go to ride at can hold its own set of challenges. Talking with other riders and experiencing these events first hand is the only way to know how to fully prepare for them. The water can be very unpredictable, so hope for the best and prepare for the worst.
Nothing makes you a better rider than actually riding. Riding as much as possible in the weeks/months leading up to an event. Then allowing your body to heal and be in good health for your best performance. Then most of your ability will be almost muscle memory. Having a good positive attitude and faith in all the hard work you put in beforehand, will allow you to do the best you can do. When you know you tried your best you’ll never regret a thing.
My biggest advice to riders before a contest is stretch especially in cold water or weather conditions. I have thrown my back out of alignment 3 times in the air doing big extended tricks that my brain was ready for but my body was not. That ruins weekends for sure.
WCJ: Tell the audience some of your major riding accomplishments?
TT: 2015 IJSBA AM Freestyle World Champion; 2015 IJSBA AM Freestyle National Champion; 2016 IJSBA Pro Freestyle National Champion; First in the world to do Double Backflips off a V-wake
WCJ: Congratulations that is quite the list of accomplishments. I saw your video online of that double back flip. Awesome! Is there any one you would like to thank?
TT: The list of people to thank is truly 10 miles long. Everyone in the jetski community has supported me in one way or another. Whether I slept on your couch, you sponsored me directly, or you just clapped your hands after watching me ride. I appreciate this sport for what it has given me. That has been many life lessons and exciting experiences to hang onto.
For some people who don’t know, I have mostly made my jetski career possible through working commercial construction in Alaska. I do not get free jet skis, I rarely receive free parts. In order to be good at anything you have to make a full investment. The top guys in the world are there because they love the sport and love to push themselves individually. The ultimate personal challenge of man/woman with his/her machine.
With that said though there are some people that have given me the non-stop support and opportunities over the years to reach the level of riding I am at today; Taylor Curtis of TC Freeride, Kyle Kennedy at Dasa Racing, Hiroyuki Ogino “Ninja”, Rick Roy of Rickter, Skat Trak, Jet Lift, KMG Racing and Jet Renu.
I also want to thank the people that supported me whether I was good as jet skiing or not. People that wanted to see this small town kid from Alaska go out into the world and live his dreams. Nothing I have done would be possible without you.
My entire family who would come to every event they could; my friends who rode with me and traveled with me chasing the same dream; and companies in Alaska that sponsored me to actually make ends meet after what I worked for just wasn’t quite enough: BAM Construction, Tyler Rental, Alaska Diesel Power, Dawson Construction, Hoyt Enterprises, Azeo Vodka, Sign Pro, Alaska Marine Lines, Eichner and Eichner, KH2O and Swinburnson
Some people go to college, I went jet skiing.