When Raimi Merritt first strapped on a wakeboard at the tender age of 11, she had no idea that she’d soon be following in the formidable wake of her father, former World Champion and professional barefoot water-skier Steve Merritt. Now 21, Merritt is an eight-time World Cup champion and is sponsored by Nautique Boats, Hyperlite Wakeboards and a host of others. She lives and trains in Orlando, Florida.
How, and when, did you discover wakeboarding?
When we were growing up, my dad taught me, my brother and my two sisters to water-ski. We learned two-ski, one-ski and barefooting, and I did that until I was 11. My dad had seen the wakeboarders and had trained some of them in barefooting back in the day. He saw a lot of potential in me, so I tried it. It clicked right away, and six months later, I was competing.
When did you realize that you were destined to go pro?
I would always win the amateur tournaments. I earned five national titles and five worlds. I’d go on the podium, and the announcers would say, “Raimi, when are you going to go pro?” I trained with Tara Hamilton, and I knew I really wanted to do it.
How was pro different?
The pros are doing tricks that haven’t been done before, and they’re pushing harder. I had to step up my game and train harder to make it to the final round. And I had to train harder for conditions, because there would be days when it would be rolling, rough, raining. You have to be prepared.
What kind of boat do you usually ride behind?
For me, the best wakeboard boat in the world is a Super Air Nautique G23. I use a 77.5-foot rope, and our speed is usually around 23.7 miles per hour.
You’ve traveled all over the world. What are some of your favorite spots?
I loved Dubai and Australia. In fact, I’m leaving for Australia for the first tournament of the season in a couple of weeks. I’ll be in Canada this year too, and I’ll be going back to Indonesia.
What does your offseason look like?
In the offseason, everyone’s training and learning new tricks. I try to ride two times per day, five or six days a week. I work out every day and have a trainer three times a week. I also use the trampoline and practice yoga. Because I participate in the U.S. and international pro wakeboard tours, my season usually runs from the second week of March until November.
When you have some time off, do you like to get away from the water?
No, I play in the water. I love surfing and going to the beach. And the cable parks make wakeboarding with friends so much fun.
After more than six years on the pro circuit, do you still love wakeboarding?
I think I love it more now than I did in the beginning. I want to do it for a very long time. It’s something different, something new. It’s an up-and-coming sport, and it feels like it has no limits.