Behind The Coalition: The Movie / by bradlee rutledge

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I recently wrote a story for Alliance Wake Mag about some good friends of mine who I have known for nearly 10 years.  It has been crazy to have been apart of what was once only an idea to one of the most talked about web series and movies in recent years.  Here is "Behind the Coalition" from the Oct/Nov Issue of Alliance Wake Mag.

As the local park dogs scrap along the mile-long gravel road that leads to Valdosta Wake Compound, Wesley Jacobsen, Quinn Silvernale, and Austin Pratt are sitting on the custom-built porch of Wesley’s $750 Craigslist-find trailer with a Pinterest paint job talking about the session that just went down. Bojangles wrappers line the porch, along with the requisite Evan Williams Green Label, bugler pouches, raw papers and park-worn wakeboard gear. Wesley gets up to grab his laptop from inside his trailer when he smacks his head. Again. This is a recurring thing when you’re a solid six-foot-three and your home’s ceilings are lucky if they reach six-feet. Inside there is a table that doubles as the kitchen, office, desk, safety meeting table and a twin size mattress that Wes can’t even lay flat on because his head and feet hit the walls at the same time. There is no running water, a mini fridge big enough to hold a 12 pack and definitely no bathroom. Why, you’re probably wondering, does he live like this? Because he loves wakeboarding.

Almost 12 months ago Wes and the Coalition crew decided to start making a movie. But a wakeboarders’ paradise wasn’t always 50 yards outside the front door.  Valdosta Wake Compound started about three years before in a pond with a couple System 2.0’s and some homemade rails. Quinn Silvernale and Luke Tilt lived in the pro shop on beanbags for months because they had put everything they had into the park and couldn’t afford to rent a normal residence. They had a dream of owning their own wakepark and that dream took them to the thriving metropolis of Valdosta, GA... You’ve probably never heard of the little town just north of the Florida state line because it is better known for country concerts, high school football, and mud bogging.

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On paper - and in many of the city officials’ minds - they wouldn’t give Quinn and Luke the time of days, because how would some foreign sport ever survive in the most stereotypical southern town? The answer is easy though, because there was a vision from the start of what it could become with the right crew to help push what was possible. The goal from the beginning was always to have a full size cable, but not just any run-of-the-mill one. There would be in-ground pool gaps, long straight sections, something to hit around every corner, bi-level pool gaps under a System 2.0, a mind numbing four-pool setup under another System 2.0, custom skatepark, RV parking and more. As soon as word started to get out about what was going to be built a buzz began to hover around the property.

Valdosta has always been one of the few parks that had a work-to-ride program, which encourages people from all over to work for a pull when they otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford it. Rather than turn people away, they opened the grounds for people to park an RV, or a car and a tent, and camp. Mow the lawn, perform maintenance around the park, teach a lesson, or help out with whatever else needed to be done and you can get some solid time on the water. This is about where Wes comes into the picture. A long-haired, tall, lanky, goofy kid from South Carolina who got made fun of having a skinny stance, but still rocked it because it felt good. He had worked a summer at another cable park, but having known Quinn and Luke for a while, he waited for VWC to get finished before jumping on the opportunity to come stay, work and ride. His title upon arrival? Unofficial RV park manager.

With the endless possibilities of what VWC had to offer, it wasn’t long before videos flooded the web and photos regularly appeared the pages of this magazine from the dream land that was tucked away in south Georgia. More people started showing up to ride, build, and film; and that’s when Wesley started making Coalition the video series. Every episode had its own theme and variety of riders, rails, music and vibe. At Surf Expo last year Coalition Vol. 6 dropped and had everyone talking not only about the riding, but the park as a whole. Quinn and Luke may have been the driving force for the park, but without the crew that have become residents there none of this would be possible.

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The Coalition: The Movie isn’t about the guys who ride at the park daily.  It is a mashup of all the faces that come to the park from all over the world. There are riders from all over the States, Canada, Australia, Germany, England, Austria and more. It was created to show the side of wakeboarding that may not be as glamorous to most. The crew and idea may have started at VWC, but the video takes a few trips to friends’ parks and the ditches documenting the past year with some of the most stylish and innovative riders out there. This movie isn’t about a singular outlook on the sport, but what an entire group of riders are doing and what the future is like for wakeboarding. All for the love. You won’t find five-star hotels, gourmet meals, or team vans to chauffer the riders in. Plain and simple, The Coalition movie is wakeboarding at its purest. Not just the riding that is possible with some creativity and fun, but the culture that surrounds all of that. There may not be any boat riding, but that doesn’t mean the movie can not or does not represent wakeboarding.

More than anything else, The Coalition: The Movie shows self expression and the limitless possibilities of what wakeboarding was, is, and will become. Wakeboarding isn’t just something you do on the weekends anymore. It is a full fledged culture and movement. That culture and movement aren’t confined to just little ol’ Valdosta, either; they can be found around the world at places like CWC, BliBli, Thai Wake Park, Turncable, and more. Tune in, you’ll feel it to. Then whenever you get a chance head to VWC and live it.

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