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Chestley Vann: Givin' It All He's Got

May 24, 2005
Interview by: Chad Beery

He's got a lot of hobbies including soccer, mountain biking and Ultimate frisbee, but the one that ranks at the top is kneeboarding. Chestley Vann started kneeboarding and competing in the early 80's. He's still at it, showing his talent from as far away as England to his home town of Columbia, SC.

Chestley is very active in the promotion of our sport as well as a member of the Lake Murray Rough Riders who support boarding and waterskiing sports on the South Carolina lake.

Kneeboard World went dockside to talk with Chestley. It didn't take long to realize that this man has a huge heart for kneeboarding and for making the sport grow.

How did the Lake Murray Rough Riders get started?
I moved back to my home state of South Carolina in late 2001, and had really hit the water hard in Memphis, TN with some hardcore ski friends that summer.  Upon arriving back, I started contacting old friends and finding out what was going on with some of my old contacts I had either ridden with or competed with in my younger days here in SC.  During that time I met up with Kent Hartshorn & heard about the INT Amateur Tour.  I found it really hard in 2002 to find like minded riders on Lake Murray to ride and train with.

I finally met Terry & Drew Conroy at the first SC stop at Devil's Fork. Terry and I really shared all the same views and the next thing you know the Rough Riders concept came to fruition.  We started linking or friends and colleagues together & found out the who's who on the lake.  Then we started practicing and going to events together. It all just started out as a riding crew. But the next thing you know Scott Truitt and Chris Farr have given it a name, logo, T-shirt, hats, boots, and buckles.  The rest is still history in the futuristic making.

Can anyone join?
We have a style and a theme that is important to us (See the Mission Statement on our Website) as it pertains to how we grow and what we are about.  Riding is what brought us together, but it's our hearts & minds that help us grow together.

We consist of a Tour team that trains regularly and has a pretty set regimen as far as competitions go, & then we have the at home growing and riding for fun club.

If you are in search of some water sports adventure, like the water, sun, and have an upbeat attitude, contact us. We have formed some great bonds doing this & hope to continue to grow the sport we love.

Upcoming events?
June 4 &5, 2005 Shawn Murray & Gerry Nunn will put on a Wakeboard Clinic at Lake Murray.

June 11, 2005 Kent Hartshorn is putting on a Kneeboard Clinic at Lake Murray.

We will ride in the SC INT Stops all summer, the first on is May 22, 2005 in Anderson at Devil's Fork.  See the INT website for the other stops.

We want to put on more clinics this summer but it is based on support and interest. So let us know and we will do what we can to make it happen.  We have been very blessed to this point and only see this getting better and better.

What's your favorite trick?
I have always been a big fan of spin tricks, so I have to say the Off Axis Handle Pass 360.  That trick seems to just kind of sneak up on spectators when I throw it.  I don't complete it until right at the very last second, so it is somewhat of a surprise to those watching when you come around and cruise away with a big cheese grin going.  The grin comes because I am usually just as surprised as they are to get that handle in my hand and ride away.

What's the kneeboard scene like in South Carolina?
SC and NC really have their group of riders that have stuck it out through the tough times in the sport.  It is so cool because even the guys who have put it up for one reason or another still burn with the desire to help others learn and grow in the sport.

As far as the INT goes if it wasn't for SC and NC they would not really have any upper division riders on the tour.  Kent has won Kneeboard Outlaw for a really long streak now. Chris Farr gave a run at him last year, but Kent is just so strong and consistent.  Tim and Julie Richardson are such good people and great friends to our sport here in the Carolinas as well as US Championships.  We owe them many thanks for all there hard work and diligence to our sport.

Team Carolina and Dave Brunt have really been instrumental in keeping the old AKA family together in SC and NC.  God Bless Him for all his energy and enthusiasm.

I think as a whole we have got to do something to unite under one banner and strived to keep our sport.  We are not growing like we once did and our young ones are starting on a Kneeboard but as soon as they are comfortable on the water they retire it for other boards.  Why is that?

We had the Palmetto Invitational here for years (big air tournament for Kneeboard, Wakeboard, & Foil, which is all about style and going big) but it lost one of its supporters in 2003 and has not happened again since.  That was one of the last money events for Kneeboarding I know about.

What are your kneeboarding accomplishments?
2004 International Rider Cup Team that went to England to get the cup back from the UK team.  What an awesome group of folks those guys are over there. They have enthusiasm for the sport like we did her in the 1980's.
2004 International Rider Cup Team, 3rd in tricks for my division
2004 SC INT State Champion, Kneeboard
2004 SC INT 1st Runner Up State Champion, Wakeboard Masters
2002 SC INT State Champion, Kneeboard
2002 NC INT State Champion, Kneeboard
2002 INT US Champion, Kneeboard
2002 Florida State Champion, AKA Kneeboard Men's II

Any Sponsors?
Salty's Board Shop, Gunnells Marine, Java Grande, Discount Inboard Marine, Hyperlite, HO, Accurate, Tri Angle City Bicycle Center, Dr. Troy Martin Chiropractic Care, Off Axis, Pleasure Craft Marine Engine Group, Air & Water Purification of the Carolinas, Air Centers of SC, Inc., Ingersoll-Rand, Lake Murray Rough Riders, and of course my family.

Who do you ride with?
Kent and Victoria Hartshorn and their adopted daughter Christy. This has been a different year for Kent and I. With his family addition, he is not getting to far from home much, but we have still gotten together a couple of times so far this year.

Chris Farr, Drew Conroy, Terry Conroy, Scott Truitt, Sean Hart, Dustin Johnson, Jim Parr, Keith Simms, Jim Miller, Ben Brelland, and Mark McKinney.

Do you coach?
Of course!  Kent and I usually work together when we can. He puts on a great dry land clinic, which I learn something from every time I see it.

We can accommodate groups or do privates, depending on your desire and level of riding you are aiming for.

What's your outlook on the sport of kneeboarding in general?
I am very encouraged by the number of clubs getting together.  I love your website( and how it is bringing us together. The UK is so excited about the sport; I see it as the next big wave of growth for the sport. The International Rider Cup is an awesome concept.

Here in the States, It is really up to us as Kneeboarders.
If I was to make one point it would be that if we do not unite under the banner of kneeboards soon, we will not be able to support national events in the future.  I hope that energizes you, because it could be done so easily.

To make this work though all riders and promoters have got to stop saying I am only riding in this format or I am only supporting ____ style rider and not an ____ style rider.  If you excel in kneeboarding you should be encouraged and supported by your peers to ride in everything you can: i.e. clinics, promos, boat shows, big events at your home lakes and water ways, exhibitions, INT, AKA, Rider Cup, and anything else you can think of to promote the sport where you work, live, and play.

Let's put our voices together to promote and encourage the organizers, movers & shakers, and decision makers to lose any and all blinders they may have in keeping events and formats separate from one another.

The sport is not growing fast enough right now to be able to overcome divisions right now.  Let pull together and get kneeboarding back to it position of prominence it deserves.

Think about this for a minute, what else can a little one ride at a young age, where they can balance themselves & hold the handle on their own? Almost every family who has boat has a kneeboard.  It is up to us collectively to encourage them to get it out of the garage and back in the boat.

Ted Bevelacqua has created the next level in board technology.  It needs riders and supporters.  Let's go teach, ride, promote, and show them what this sport is all about.

Only together can this happen, one event at a time, one voice to unite them all.

"Grip it and Rip it, Spinning and a Grinning" -Chestley Vann

For more information about the Lake Murray Rough Riders visit:

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