On Board With: Mark Gomez

A PWC freestyle champion and movie stuntman gives us the lowdown on some of his craziest rides.
Mark Gomez with PWCs
Mark Gomez uses a custom-built PWC for his tricks. Courtesy Mark Gomez

As a kid, Mark Gomez would fashion a standup Jet Ski from his Dad’s workout bench and a broom and pretend he was riding a standup personal watercraft alongside videos of his favorite freestyle riders. Years later Gomez would get the opportunity to be on that TV himself, backflipping his ski in a pool while doubling for Hangover star Ken Jeong in an Adidas commercial. What followed was a surreal decade where Gomez got picked for the opening scene of the Michael Bay/Steven Spielberg film I Am Number Four, doubled for actors in TNT’s Animal Kingdom, starred in music videos and earned no less than seven Freeride and Freestyle World Championships. His latest role lands him directly in the path of a speeding rally car driven by Travis Pastrana in the viral Gymkhana video series. Thankfully he survived to tell us his tale.

So how does one go from being a kid who fashioned an imaginary Jet Ski out of a bench and broomstick to a guy whose aerial exploits on a real ski pop up on TV and movie screens?

I went to work at a Jet Ski shop to learn and support my love for riding with parts, repair knowledge, and to meet like-minded people. That passion brought me to the World Finals in Lake Havasu. Networking allowed me to meet childhood heroes such as (World Champ-turned-Hollywood stuntman) Larry Rippenkroeger. He tossed my name in for the Adidas ad. Doing that job made me SAG union eligible to work on the film I Am Number Four a couple months later. Talent and ability do matter, yet authenticity and the commitment to a trade will help you stand out over others. To this day, I don’t feel entitled to every PWC gig that comes about, but those who work with me get the very best from my heart and soul. When the cameras are rolling and the stunt coordinator or director says action, the little kid in me doesn’t take one moment for granted.

The latest Gymkhana video had Travis Pastrana coming at you at about 115mph…and you casually spinning and backflipping off the wake the car kicked up as it crossed what was essentially a big puddle. What are some of the craziest stunts you’ve been asked to perform?

Playing chicken with Travis was definitely interesting to say the least! I’ve been asked to throw my $50,000 competition ski out of an Infinity pool while wearing a deflating T-Rex costume for the film Hot Water. That was probably one of the more sketchy stunts I’ve done. Fortunately, my other stunts were a bit more simple as I was stunt-doubling the talent. Dressing up like a Zorro character for Rob Riggle’s Ski Master Academy was pretty entertaining because I simply got to rip like I do at home. The absolute funniest thing I did was realizing my costume for a music video was an all-yellow fat suit, with “bank-robber” mask and dishwashing gloves. I had to jump off of my Jet Ski in front of a boat that was later blown up in post-production.

Ever drawn the line and said no?

I don’t like to say no but during my original call with Travis for Gymkhana 2022 he asked me if I could jump over a Subaru—using no wake and from a standstill—while he was driving at me around 115 mph! The thought of viral videos of guys running in place trying to jump over an exotic sports car coming head-on only to see a yard sale of shoes flying through the air when they clip the windshield immediately came to mind. We adjusted and still made a rad sequence.

My guess is you’re not doing these tricks on a showroom ski. What kind of modifications do you rely on?

Unlike surf riding, the key to the bigger flatwater freestyle tricks is absolutely the equipment. I ride a carbon-fiber hull called a Rickter XFS as well as a Ninja Pro Model. They are shorter than the average production standups, wider, and much lighter. In addition, my Torrent competition pump is much larger than stock for maximum efficiency and output. All powered by an aluminum billet, two-cylinder 1200 cc engine built by DASA in Riverside, California. The entire ski is assembled by my builder Taylor Curtis of TC Freeride in Lake Havasu, Arizona. I have a lot of trade secrets honed in thanks to my mechanic Hiro in Japan who is a lifelong dedicated freestyle specialist who comes to my house every September prior to the World Championships.

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Okay, be honest…do you ever get dizzy?

I absolutely get dizzy which is funny because they used that line in a Black Rifle Coffee Company commercial I did two years ago. I often get asked how many flips I’ve done in a row. I believe my personal record is somewhere around 32. I definitely get tired but mostly I get lost on the water—and don’t want to end up being the guy that landed the new backflip record into the side of some person’s boat.