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EP22: Ski Talk with Thomas Degasperi

EP22: Ski Talk with Thomas Degasperi

Interviewer: Matteo Luzzeri
Published on The Water Ski Podcast
Released on March 17, 2020
Transcribed by Sasha Danisheuskaya, Sam Horne, Matteo Luzzeri, and Kevin Roundhill


Thomas Degasperi 0:01
I remember this. Will came up to me and you know, yeah, he came up to me and he was like… because you know, he was a previous world champion and he said, You know, he said to me, it was really cool. He said, “You're world champion, and that's forever.”
Like, you're gonna be a world champion forever. You know that was an idea and realize that back then, because there's like, so many people come talk to you and interviews and this and that, million phone calls and you don't. You don't get to sit down for a minute and take it all in yet. But yeah, when it came when we're out at the bar, and we're partying and he's like,”Enjoy, enjoy this time” he said “because this is the best two years of your life” you know?
And it was pretty cool.
Matteo Luzzeri 1:09
Hello everyone and welcome to The Water Ski Podcast, Episode 22.
This is an interview with Thomas Degasperi, arguably the best water skier in Italian history and one of the best water skiers of all time. I had a chance to sit down with Thomas about a month ago, or maybe even a little bit more on a trip down to Central Florida, where I got to be at his home and we had a chance to sit down and have a good chat. Me and Thomas have known each other for a long time, since I was a little kid. But for whatever reason, in the last few years, we didn't really have a chance to connect as much as we used to. So it was really a good opportunity to sit down and chat and hear his story. Which I think is a very good story, a story that will entertain you and will give you something to think about whether it is from Thomas's early days on the ski, to his successes, to how he runs his ski school. We have a lot that we cover in this episode. Before I let you to the interview, I just hope that you are safe. Obviously there's a very intense and dangerous situation going on worldwide. So if I can hope for anything it’s that this podcast will help you. Maybe get your mind away from what's going on or if you're already in some kind of lockdown like it is going on back home or in other countries. If you are forced to stay home, or if you're forcing yourself to stay home, I hope this will give you an hour and a half of entertainment.
With that said, enjoy the podcast, and we'll catch you next week.


Matteo Luzzeri 3:15
Thomas, welcome to The Water Ski Podcast, man.
Thomas Degasperi 3:17
Thank you. Thank you for having me. Honor to be here.
Matteo Luzzeri 3:21
Well we're here at your house after a day of skiing. How's it been going? Everything good?
Thomas Degasperi 3:25
Yeah, everything's been good. Been working a lot, coaching. I was down in Mexico for a couple of weeks. And now it's time to get serious and get back in training mode. And Moomba is approaching. So yeah. Moomba is coming up quickly. Yeah, yeah, it's gonna be a busy season this year. Lots of pro tournaments in Europe. Some in the US so yeah, we're traveling a lot. Yeah, very excited. Very happy. Hopefully I'll be competing good this year.
Matteo Luzzeri 4:03
Nice. Good, good. Well, pleasure to be here in your home having a little chat about you know, you as a skier and I will ask whatever I asked my guests. Why water skiing? How'd you get into it? What were the early days? How, how'd you get exposed?
Thomas Degasperi 4:20
Well, my dad started a ski school over 45 years ago in northern Italy. And in the summers, he you know, he was a teacher in physics in high school and his best friend took over the ski school a long time ago and he needed some help back then to kind of run to the place and my dad kind of got dragged into it and he started liking it and he did that for combining teaching and ski school in a summer for a few years and back then you are allowed to retire whenever you want to kinda in Italy so he retired early from teaching because he fell in love with water skiing. And he took over the place and his friend at some point he didn't want to continue and so my dad volunteered to take over and since then it's been his life. When I was a young kid you know, we were kind of stuck at a lake because my parents were there working so running a ski school so when I was five years old, they asked me if I wanted to try and I tried and it started as more as a game and you know, just a fun fun time with my friends and then, first small results start coming and first small tournament wins. And I think the breaking through point was more like when I was 14 when I won my first Junior European title. And yeah, from there kind of like went up to leading to be more serious about it and you know learning more about the sport and there anymore what it could be doing for me.
Matteo Luzzeri 6:11
And, so when you started, like you were five or six, had your dad already taken over the ski school at that time, or was it still that transition period with your dad's friend. Do you remember?
Thomas Degasperi 6:21
No no. He already was the owner, and it was full of my family, only my family. And my mom was kind of, like, dealing with a little restaurant, kind of type. She was cooking for the students. And we moved to another place, when I was about seven or eight and that's the place that we are now. Same spot on the lake, same lake but different spot and yeah... You know, he brought many champions to the waterskiing world from Italy and you know. Marina Mosti skied there, Christian Rampanelli skied there, Irene Reinstaller skied there, yeah. I ski there, Marco Menestrina skied there, you know. So yeah, I think he put his knowledge of physics into water skiing and it worked out pretty good.
Matteo Luzzeri
I had no idea your dad was a physics teacher. At first I thought, no lie, I thought you meant like PE. But no no like physics physics.
Thomas Degasperi
Physics. Yeah, like physics labs and stuff, yeah.
Matteo Luzzeri 7:24
So cool!
Now, I know your dad for a while. Like, obviously, the season at home is a bit shorter, and you live next to the mountains. So, a lot of snow skiing. Wasn’t he sort of alternating, like he was on the slopes in the winter?
Thomas Degasperi 7:36
Yeah. So, even me growing up. My dad has always been involved in many many sports. So, he did when he was younger. He used to, like, practice every sport like: he was in soccer, cycling, skydiving…
Matteo Luzzeri
Thomas Degasperi
Skydiving. Yeah! He did tennis... He, I don’t know, every sport he probably did it. And so, he’s always a very active person. And for me, I play a lot of sports. I play Judo, I play tennis, I play volleyball, I play soccer. I competed in snow ski racing for seven years. You know, I did a lot of sports in the winter, but it was always in preparation for waterskiing. So the main focus was always waterskiing.
Matteo Luzzeri
Thomas Degasperi
But you know, it was also a way to stay with my friends, because my classmates were kind of doing the same thing. Like we're either snow skiing together or playing soccer in a team together. But then in the summer we're always waterskiing together.
Matteo Luzzeri 8:35
Yeah. And where you are from in Trento, like Trentino as a region is notorious for being very athletic. A lot of people are always outdoors, even just like hiking and doing all sorts of activities.
Thomas Degasperi 8:46
Yeah, we're very blessed because, I think, like the way that the city, and the way they promote sports, it is a very active lifestyle. Like, you gotta get your kids out. You got, you know, you have a beautiful surrounding of mountains, lake, rivers.. anything, and a lot of places to spend time outdoors. And they really try to push to, you know, people to be out and enjoy the scenery around.
Matteo Luzzeri 9:13
Yeah. This is gonna be a little strange, because I'm asking you a question that I already know the answer to. But go ahead. Tricks, jump, like were you just slaloming? What were the early days?
Thomas Degasperi 9:24
No, I started doing everything. Tricks, slalom and jump was definitely my agenda every day. They say, tricking was my worst spot, because that I was pretty decent in hands, but terrible in toes. I could never figure out toes. So, it was kind of like my weak spot. And jumping, since I was a little bit overweight back then, and I like the food more than anything. I was never really good, until almost the last two years before I quit jumping. And I don't know, I think I jumped like 40 meters or something.
Matteo Luzzeri
Oh, there you go! Yeah.
Thomas Degasperi
But yeah. I remember I enjoy, I really enjoy jumping. And I remember, one time, I almost went 45. And it was like, oh that's pretty good, but it was practice, of course, but yeah. I really enjoyed jumping. But you know, being almost six-four, and pretty heavy guy, it was definitely not my best thing to do.
Matteo Luzzeri 10:27
Yeah, like it wasn’t the event that your body was leaning towards. But I could, I mean, obviously jumping is super exciting. But you're also around pioneered by, obviously Bubu was still active, so you also had some models to go after.
Thomas Degasperi 10:40
Oh yeah! I remember, when I was younger. Like, seeing Bubu Alessi it’s like, he is like a god. It is like he just won the World Championships in Singapore. And back then, like the Italian Federation was like, doing a lot of VHS cassettes covering mostly, like, every pro tournament that they were doing (the Italian team). And kind of follow them around. And, I remember, like, watching him at home. Like over, and over, and over, and over, and over again. And I knew every single result, and, like, Europeans, Worlds, and some other tournaments. And I knew more probably then they did. Yeah, like the results. Oh Bubu, yeah, he won the award! I still remember now, the World Championships in 1993 in Singapore with 60.5, you know, second Scott Livingstone, third Jim Clooney. You know, I still remember everything, because the cassette! Like, I was watching it over, and over, and I was like: I want to be that!
Matteo Luzzeri 11:30
Yeah! We had, when I was staying at Claudio Benatti’s, when I was a kid. We had the 1991 Villach Worlds.
Thomas Degasperi 11:37
Oh, yeah, I was there.
Matteo Luzzeri
Oh, you were there?
Thomas Degasperi
I was there. Me and my parents and some students took a drive, since we're very close to Austria. We went up. And I remember, I actually got sick on the way back down, but went up there. And I was like, it was, like, a massive amount of people, and lots and lots, like, thousands of spectators. And my dad was just all he wanted to do is watch the slalom event. Like, the slalom finals was the thing that he's like, “I want to. I don't care if we miss anything, everything else, but I want to watch them in slalom finals“. And Lucky Lowe, you know, won the event. And I just have this glimpse in my head where it's a sunny day, and tons of people, and people screaming, TVs and.. Yeah, it was pretty memorable.
Matteo Luzzeri 12:22
Yeah. Was it a Kjellander, Mapple and Lucky Lowe runoff for gold?
Thomas Degasperi
I don't remember the results because they were not in a cassette, but I know that Lucky Lowe won. Yeah.
Matteo Luzzeri 12:34
Yeah, it was unbelievable. But yeah, I understand that. That's sort of like watching. You're young. You're trying to learn. And then obviously, if the Italian Federation was doing that then, there was a good chance that you were seeing the skiers at some tournament. So even at like stardom, but often in the summer, you know.
All right. So, and then you said the first moment you figured out you were getting good. Was that U14 European Champions?
Thomas Degasperi 13:03
Yeah, I think that year I broke the European Junior champion record. And I don't remember if it was 1 at 39 or 1 at 38. I don't remember. I might be wrong, but I remember breaking it. For sure the Italian record. And yeah, that kind of gave me a boost a little bit. But then, the following years, I was… Uh, I went to the culinary school. And, you know, I was eating a lot, and learning about cooking. And I was a little bit overweight, and nothing really happened after that as far as big results. And then, I think the big turnover was in 2001, when we went to the European under 21 championships in Portugal. And Tanguy Benoit was the coach back then of the Italian team. And I remember, I was top seed in the first round. And I remember there was Tom Asher, Will Asher and me at the starting dock in the finals. So, it was like them two and then I was the last one off.
Matteo Luzzeri
Pretty crowded dock.
Thomas Degasperi
Yeah, yeah! So, I'm just sitting there, getting ready and trying to get pumped or something. Listen to music, and I remember that the Open World Championships were going to be two weeks later in Recceto, Italy. And I was not even thinking about, like, going there. You know, it's like the team has been made, you know. Everything is set ,you know.
Matteo Luzzeri
And it's a process at home.
Thomas Degasperi
Matteo Luzzeri
There's so many slalomers.
Thomas Degasperi
Yeah, there was, like Italy was, like, full of slalom skiers. And very competitive! And, you know, a spot for me was not even in my mind. And I was just concentrating on the tournament. Here goes Tom Asher. Runs like 2 at 39. Will is about to get in. And Tanguy is, like, trying to pump me up on the dock. And he goes, “By the way, Thomas. If you win today, and you prove to me that you can win today, I'll bring you to Recheto to the World Championships.” So, in that moment, I didn't have enough pressure of that tournament. But I was like, okay. If I screw this up, I'm not going to the Worlds. And I wanted to go to the Worlds, because that, for us, is like the Olympic Games.
Matteo Luzzeri 15:30
Thomas Degasperi
And at that point, I was like.. Ah, I don't remember what I thought. But it's like, I gotta do it. I just get to shut everything else out and just win this. And I went out. I think Will ran 3 at 39, and I ran four or something. I don't know. Anyway, I won, and I was so happy. And I called my parents. I said, “I'm going to the Worlds. I'm going to the Worlds in two weeks in Recheto”. I'm so happy and, you know, as a young kid, I was 20 years old. And for me, it was very humbling to be part of this tournament. And I know I made a lot of people mad. And Tanguy made a lot of people mad. Because, the team was made and people were preparing for this tournament, you know? And I had to take the spot of somebody else. But yeah, that's for sure was the turnover for me. I went to the World Championships two weeks later. I was probably one of the youngest kids. And I made it to the finals and I got fourth place. And you know, from there, I was like, “Okay, this is gonna be my life. Yeah, this is my path. This is my road. And this is what I got to do.”
Matteo Luzzeri 16:37
Yeah. And, I know, we talked about it several times of how that moment, and you've said it several times: That moment, that opportunity. And you took advantage of it. You were able to ski well, because remember 4.5 at 39 like Yeah..
Thomas Degasperi 16:50
Yeah, I was actually in it. I was actually running 39. And I just, I don't know what I did at 5 ball, you know. It was like skiing, and I was, like, on the dock with Mapple. And, you know, all this guys. It was like, Fabrizio Ciapponi was in the finals. Like, Steve Cockeram and Drew Ross, Chris Parrish. And I never met these guys. Only, like, seen them in magazines and videos. And I'm, like, now I'm just sitting there, sharing the finals of the World Championship with these guys. Share precious moments that, you know, they will stay forever in my life. And yeah, I was like, I was one of, I think, mysterious into the finals. And I ran 4.5 at 39. And it was like leading. And then, it was like, people start going down, going down. I was like, oh, top, you know, top five.
Matteo Luzzeri 17:38
Yeah, because I think Andy. Did you ski before or after Andy?
Thomas Degasperi 17:43
Me? I skied before. Before Matt, before Andy. I skied before Parrish. I skied before everybody that beat me that got into the podium. Yeah. So maybe, but I remember it was a... What's his name? I don't remember. Anyway, Steve Cockeram, Fabrizio, Glen Campbell, Jody Fisher, those guys ran 2 at 39, 3 at 39. I was like, Oh, I'm holding up here. And then, it's like, I can't believe it! I was almost making the podium. And then it didn't happen. But yeah. Drew Ross…
Matteo Luzzeri 18:17
It was close. Because, I think Andy skied after you. He did that famous three. Oh, it was early ..
Thomas Degasperi
He's smoked 39!
Matteo Luzzeri 3.He smoked 39. That famous “picture” two ball with just, like, two fingertips. And then he's early at 3. And he is just, kind of, turns easy, takes his foot off the kicker and just says hi to the crowd.
Thomas Degasperi
Matteo Luzzeri
And then just people started falling, and falling. And everyone thought, because I was there. I was like, 12 or 13. And we all thought, Man, he's gonna make it, he's gonna make it. And then, I think Drew got like...
Thomas Degasperi 18:48
Drew got five. I think or something. Or no, ..
Matteo Luzzeri 18:50
No, one. One and then Parrish is up off the dock. Last two. Yeah. So it was up until the end you were pretty much on the podium.
Thomas Degasperi 18:58
Yeah. So that was a pretty good moment for me, you know, and that year, I got signed with Nautique. And you know, it was definitely an incentive for me and I got offered a scholarship to go to study in Louisiana and…
Matteo Luzzeri 19:18
Oh so you weren’t at ULM at the time?
Thomas Degasperi 19:20
No, no, I was still in Italy. And I was like, Okay, what I'm gonna do now? And that year, I, after the World Championships, I said... Well, I talked to my dad and my parents, I said, I got, you know, I have to find a place where I can go train in the winter. So I packed my stuff and I went to McCormick's in December, to train and work and kind of coach, and learning English because my English was very bad. And then yeah, I went there and that year was, I remember, was particularly cold in December and January, so there was not much skiing there. So I kind of went home for another month and then went back there. And then I received an email or a letter from University of Louisiana Monroe offering me a scholarship to be part of their ski team. And I was a little bit not sure if I'm going or not and but at the time, there was a couple of Italian guys, Marco Riva and Federico Minelli that kind of gave me a push to like, you know, help me direct myself in which direction. Kind of, learn how the school system works and everything and so, it was it was good because I could combine studying with sports, so that year in August, I packed my bags and left everything behind, not behind, but I kind of left and went to study in Louisiana
Matteo Luzzeri 20:49
So basically the winter between ‘01 and ‘02 you were at McCormick’s a little bit then you got home, did the season again and then moved in 2002.
Thomas Degasperi 20:57
Yeah, in August I went to school for two weeks and then I came back because I was still under 21. And I remember I went to the under 21 European Championships in Greece. I won that one. And then a week later, I went to Roquebrune and won my first European Open title.
Matteo Luzzeri 21:17
Yeah, I remember that year was. I won the under 14 Europeans, Matteo Ianni the Junior Europeans, and you won the U21. Yeah, it was a good Italian year that year. So yeah boom, you came back you did the U21 you did the open and then off you went to Monroe.
Thomas Degasperi 21:35
Yeah. started this new experience. I didn't know what to expect because you only see university life in movies in Italy and you don't know and it's pretty epic. Yeah, I met good people, you know, got through college. And then there was also like, another decision to make is like, what do I do now after college? Do I go back home to Italy or do I continue to pursue my career as a water skier? I need to find a place in Florida and that's where I came.
Matteo Luzzeri 22:08
Yeah. How were those four years in college like? Let's stick to skiing? Like, were you able to work on your skiing? Were you able to go to tournaments? How did you grow as a skier in those four years?
Thomas Degasperi 22:20
Yeah, we did a lot of collegiate tournaments, but fortunately enough, like our school, let us miss time from classes by, you know, we’re excused to go into some pro events and big events like the World Championships or the European Championships. And, yeah, it was good because I got to meet a lot of good skiers that are still in the circuit now like Ryan Dodd and Natalia and Brianne, and Regina was there. So it kind of created a close group of athletes that really got integrated into water skiing and we are growing together to be better and so Alexei was there too. Yeah, so, yeah, a lot of skiers that you know became who they are now like multiple world champions and world record holder or you know, yeah, their name speaks, you know, their results. I remember, like, we were trying always to help each other and try to ski together between classes and the good thing is like we always had full access to the lake and the lake was very close to school and we could go there anytime we want to so yeah, it was definitely a good learning experience for me.
Matteo Luzzeri 23:33
Did you enjoy the collegiate skiing part like the aspect, to go to nationals, the cheer?
Thomas Degasperi 23:39
Yeah, because you never get to experience that anywhere else. So the first nationals that we went, that we won in 2002 I wasn't expecting to have I don't know how many skiers are there maybe a couple hundred or...
Matteo Luzzeri 23:52
Yeah, nowadays is like 400.
Thomas Degasperi 23:54
Yeah, I thought about 400. But yeah, I didn't want to shoot too high. Yeah. It was insane because we don't get to experience that in Europe you know, I know and not everybody takes it serious but that's the fun of it. You know there I remember is like people going over a ramp with a superman suit and a Batman suit then people that never, people that never jumped in their life, they went over to ramp the first time at Nationals, and they’re teams like this going crazy after you know
Matteo Luzzeri 24:28
...and classic recruiting on campus. Hey, have you ever water skied? Come over with us? That's a ramp, you go over it.
Thomas Degasperi 24:33
But even then, like you get to meet so many good people and most of the people are there to have a good time and you know, and spend a good weekend together and that's what it's all about, sharing experience about the sport, and meet new people.
Matteo Luzzeri 24:48
And I think a lot of it is also, because obviously we went to schools that took it a little bit more seriously. We weren't paid to do it. I mean, we had a scholarship, but it becomes a team thing right there where...
Thomas Degasperi 25:01 get involved like crazy. I remember when we went to the national title in Bennett's in Louisiana we won to Lafayette for five points out of what is it 8000?
Matteo Luzzeri 25:14
Yeah, something like that. Yeah.
Thomas Degasperi 25:16
For five it never happened in the history of, you know, National Collegiate water skiing and five points is like, is less than a placement? Yeah, you can't even you can't even equate to a half a buoy or...
Matteo Luzzeri 25:30
Or less, you know? It says you get 10 points per placement, but if you tie they split the points and that's where you get the five sometimes. So literally everyone skied, like, it could have been up to anything.
Thomas Degasperi 25:43
And I remember it was like, ULM team on the dock at the end of Saturday. And ULL team on the same dock. And I remember Regina trying to figure out if we won or not with this, all these numbers. And are we just waiting, waiting, waiting. And then Tony Lightfoot just then announced it. And for five points and of course, very, very exciting for us, very disappointing for them for five points, you know, because at the end of the day, we're pretty much at the same level.
Matteo Luzzeri 26:13
But I heard the next year they got you back.
Thomas Degasperi 26:15
Oh, big time. Big time. So we started off in Paducah, and that was my last national. I won the slalom event. And we started off pretty good. Like we were like, I had big timr coming into the jump event. Yeah. And we had a pretty good team. We had Fred Minelli with Joey Blakley, we had Ryan Dodd and, but for some reason the ULL team just crushed it. And they destroyed us. And they won. And maybe we got too cocky. I don't know. But they won and they deserved to win, you know, but yeah. This was like: 2002 we won, 2003 they won, 2004 we won, 2005 they won. And yeah, and it was equal so that's good.
Matteo Luzzeri 27:04
Yeah. No no, you know in your career it was equal. In mine, we got a streak of seconds and then, the last year, we managed to get it. But I think, it becomes so much more meaningful when it's a team event you know. Because you know, because you pulled Natalia in toes for so many times and you needed her toe pass, or her hand pass.
Thomas Degasperi 27:23
Oh, Alexei for an hour and a half!
Matteo Luzzeri 27:24
Or Alexei, or you know. Like if someone's skies bad, so you're going there to help them. You're going to replace the buoys. Like, it becomes so much more than just your own skiing, right?
Thomas Degasperi 27:42
But also, like, the bond that you create, during this time. That you don't get it anywhere else, right? Like you don't, you don't get to experience, the intensity, the adrenalin, the happiness or the sadness that you get to these events. Because of course, we go to win, Lafayette goes to win, other teams go to win, and many other teams go just to have fun and participate. But for us, because we're paid as far as you know, scholarship. We go to win, because that's why the university invests in us. And it's just so much tension there, but it's so fun. It's so fun because like, you bond with everybody you become brothers for, you know, for that time and just, it's really, really fun.
Matteo Luzzeri 28:17
Yeah, yeah. And no, those are a good four years. And then ..
Thomas Degasperi 28:37
Oh, I'll do it again right away.
Matteo Luzzeri
Oh, yeah. Yeah, same here. The best four years. But then they get to an end. And you say, Okay, well, now it's time for you to make the decision. Well, you said you were trying to make a decision, right?
Thomas Degasperi
Matteo Luzzeri
And the decision was to go down to Florida to train.
Thomas Degasperi
Matteo Luzzeri
What? How did you figure that one out?
Thomas Degasperi
So, that was in 2000. I graduated in 2006. In December, I went to Moomba.
And then I came back to Italy, spent a summer in Italy. And in 2007, I won my first world title in Linz, in Austria. And again, it pushed me to say okay, I gotta go back to Florida and ski, because I'm getting these results. And now it's really time to..
Matteo Luzzeri
Thomas Degasperi
Yeah. To look forward too, to be a professional. So after winning my first World title, I talked to Drew Ross, and I asked him if he needed somebody to go and help him out and if I could go ski there. And he said, Yes. And so I packed my bags again in September, October 2007. And I moved to Florida and worked there for five years, skied there for five years, learned a lot from him. Great coach. And yeah, so then I started living. I was living in a trailer on a million dollar lot. I will say that over and over like, a beautiful place, beautiful view - in a trailer. And then the time came where kind of the economy crashed. And it was a good time to buy a house. And that's why we're sitting here right now. And then in 2011, I won my second world title, and I got opportunity to move to another lake, where I could kind of do my own thing. I took the ball and moved away from Hancock, where I was for five years. And now I'm there. I purchased the house a few years later. And I'm sitting here. And yes, spend the winter here. Summers in Italy. It works out pretty good. So far.
Matteo Luzzeri 30:40
Yeah, yeah. Well, I mean, we got from basically what was it? The university days to now?
Thomas Degasperi
Too quickly?
Matteo Luzzeri
I mean, yes, in like a minute and a half. But a lot of things happen.
Thomas Degasperi
Yeah, right. Yes, yes.
Matteo Luzzeri
And I'm going to ask you this question. I don't I don't know the answer, actually. So you won two worlds. Which one is the one that is your favorite?
Thomas Degasperi 31:05
I'll say the first one.
The first one what came more as a surprise. Because, again, you’re sitting on the dock with all these guys. And I knew I was skiing good. I will say equal. Because the first one came we were surprised, and the uphoria there was insane. My parents were there, my friends were there, my you know, it was like, it was insane. It was such a good memory. The second one, it was equally good because it was not as a surprise, but in the eyes of many other people, they expect you to do good. So the first one it was like, Oh, this guy won the world's. Maybe it just was his day, you know? And then, that was in 2007, I got second in 2009 in Canada. And then in 2011, I won again in Russia. So, as far as happiness, instant happiness, instant gratification, maybe the first one. But confirming on the second one, in a long run, was better for me. Cuz the first one is like I was jumping up and down it was like I cried. And you know, my parents are there.
Matteo Luzzeri
Give us the story. Give us the Linz World's
Thomas Degasperi
Linz. So..
Matteo Luzzeri
Thomas Degasperi
Prelims. I don't remember what I ran. I don't remember. But I remember that in the finals I was sitting in fourth place, fourth place. Fourth or fifth place. And then go out in the final, ran 3 at 41. I was like, “This must be podium”.
Matteo Luzzeri 32:58
The TGas score, man.
Thomas Degasperi 33:00
The TGas score. Yeah, ran that few times. Yeah. So 3 at 41. And I was like, and I remember my parents being on the shore. And I wanted to go talk to them, but I was like, I gotta sit here, because if there's a run off or something happens, I gotta be here.
Matteo Luzzeri 33:15
Yeah. And in China, it turned out that 3 at 41 was run-off for the podium.
Thomas Degasperi 33:19
Yeah. Glenn and..
Matteo Luzzeri
Yah, Glenn and Will.
Thomas Degasperi
Yesh, anyway. So yeah, that was not a good trip for me. But anyway, so yeah. I sit there, and it was remembered as Marcus Brown after me. There was Jeff Rodgers, Chris Rossi, and maybe Glenn. I remember Marcus then ran.. I don't know if he ran 39 or not. Anyway, so and then it goes Chris Rossi, and Rossi ran 1 at 41.
Matteo Luzzeri 33:50
5.5 at 39
Thomas Degasperi 33:51
Oh, okay. Five and a half at 39. Okay. So I was on the podium. So I was happy. And then Rossy went down. I was like, oh, only Jeff Rodgers, who won Worlds what 2003 World Championships in Florida? I was like this guy. And I said, I might be a World Champion here today. And then he goes out, smokes 1,3,5 at a…
Matteo Luzzeri
Thomas Degasperi
Like bangs his 1,3,5 at 39. He runs it, and I think he rans two. He runs two, and remember sitting on the dock was Bubu Alessi, the coach at the time. The coach, the other coach, Betta Galli, and the president of the Italian Federation, CBO back then. And it was just exploding. I was like, and that you know, the thing that I remember is like even 39 and 41 in the finals I had both times I mean on both passes, gate reviews. Oh, and it was intense because you know, I talked to Marcus afterwards like, did you go through the gates? I was like, man, I think I did. But you know, that speed. Like, maybe I touched it. I don't know, you know. But they reviewed it for a long time after, and it was clear. But I remember that was pretty intense. And then yeah. When I won, I cheered, I screamed over there. But then I changed very quick and I ran to my parents, you know. Yeah, it's pretty epic to me to share that, because I'm very close to my parents. And you know, my parents, my dad is a hero for me, my best friend. And my parents are always been supportive. So, for me, that was a pretty, pretty memorable time.
Matteo Luzzeri 35:26
yeah. Yeah. And I had an interview with Adam and Cory. What was the first few hours like, the first day after, the first three months, the first you know.. how did that develop?
Thomas Degasperi 35:40
Well, remember that night, we went out to dinner with Dave Goode, and my parents, and my ex-girlfriend back at that time. And Glean Stadlbaur and his family. And then my parents, I think took off and went back to Italy. And then we went out partying, because it was a Saturday still. It was Saturday. Yeah, the finals are Saturday. So there was still jump the next day. And we went out.
And I remember this. Will came up to me and, you know. Yeah, he came up to me and he's like, because he was a previous world champion. And he said to me, it was really cool. He said, “You’re world champion. And that's forever.” Like, wow, you're gonna be a world champion forever. You know that that was an idea and realize that back then. Because there's like, so many people come talk to you, and interviews and this and that, million phone calls and you don't get to sit down for a minute and take it all in yet. It takes a little bit of time. Like, even when I got home after, it was like, people were,like, contacting us. Like, Okay, what did I do here? But yeah, when he came when we're out at a bar, and then we were partying, and he's like, “ Enjoy, enjoy this time". He said it’s, because this is the best two years of your life. Yeah. And it was pretty cool.
Matteo Luzzeri 37:04
So yeah and hearing it from him like, oh yeah through your arch rival you know, like, I mean, the rivalry between you and Will is probably one of the you know, along with Wade and Andy...
Thomas Degasperi 37:19
Yeah, that's what yeah, that's what people said you know, they compare us to Wade and Andy and because it's been going on for a long time and I'm at my house in Italy I have the pictures of my European and junior and under 21 and you can see me and Will on the podium a lot of times together in the pictures and like you see us growing, growing growing as men.
Matteo Luzzeri
That's so cool.
Thomas Degasperi
Even after the pro tours and collegiate tournaments and this and that. Yeah, it's I think it's kind of cool you know, it gives a little more pepper on the plate, you know?
Matteo Luzzeri 37:55
Of course, and it pushes you. You guys were on top of the worlds - Back and forth for like 8 years yeah you know four World Championships
Thomas Degasperi 38:05
Five, seven, nine, eleven, I got second in 15 yeah so yeah, yeah, yeah many years, yeah.
Matteo Luzzeri 38:14
That’s cool. So okay, so he tells you this thing the evening of the day that you win so obviously you have like a moment of like, Oh shit, wow
Thomas Degasperi 38:21
Oh yeah,
Matteo Luzzeri 38:22
What was the first month after like, do you have more tournaments afterwards like?
Thomas Degasperi 38:27
Yeah, we actually had a European Championships two weeks after in Recetto, I think. Yeah, in Recetto. So there was not really time to sit down and go on vacation. So we get back to Italy and time to train again. You know, back on the saddle and...
Matteo Luzzeri 38:48
You show up on the dock you’re a world champ I mean, what was that like?
Thomas Degasperi 38:51
Yeah, you know, like everybody's looking at me with different eyes and like everybody “Oh, he's gonna win” but it’s not that easy. See, because now you have pressure on your head, you know on your shoulder and, and every tournament is different. It can be your day, it can be not your day, but I ended up winning that one too.
Matteo Luzzeri 39:17
Also you won Europeans also that year.
Thomas Degasperi 39:19
I won that - Worlds and Europeans. Yeah. And it was in Recetto I think I ran 2 @41 and, yeah, it was a pretty good month for me.
Matteo Luzzeri 39:28
Yeah, I guess, that's a pretty damn good month. When was your first pro win?
Thomas Degasperi 39:35
First pro win I think it was New Zealand pro am 2006? No, no, no, no, no. Yeah. 2006 my first, maybe Ski Westborough. Ski Westborough just west of Paris. I went there. I remember sharing a room with Todd Ristorcell and I didn't even know that guy, but it was actually pretty fun. So, pro tournament everybody's there, you know, everybody from the US, everybody. I ran 3@41 in the final, tying for the lead with Glen Campbell and Jason Paredes. So three way ties runoff for first, second, and third. Starting at 39 cold. I ran 39 and I ran 41. And I got one at 43 and didn't count because it's a runoff right? It’s pretty good for me. I won that pro tournament. I think that was my first pro tournament that I won. Hop in the car with Wade Cox, Billy Susie and Nick Parsons on Sunday, drove to Lacanau. And the following weekend, there was the Malibu Open in France. In Lacano. Went down there, won that one too. So back to back, pro tournament. Yeah, back to back pro tournament in a week. It was pretty good. And that year, I remember I met Lani Farmer which she was the marketing manager of Malibu boats. And that year I signed with Malibu, and I've been with them since then, since 2007.
Matteo Luzzeri 41:28
Before 13 Yeah, 13 years. Yeah,
Thomas Degasperi 41:30
That's crazy. Best company in the world.
Matteo Luzzeri 41:33
Like, I mean, wow, like, first pro win, followed by another pro win. I'm sure I'm sure you had your bag of like, not making the semi finals, going to pro tournament and struggling so like..
Thomas Degasperi
Oh my gosh, so many.
Matteo Luzzeri
Yeah. Like everyone else.
Thomas Degasperi 41:50
You know, like I heard for many times, you know, going to a tournament. I remember flying to Sacramento in 2004-2005 to the Malibu Open. So, leave Italy on Thursday. Get there Thursday night to Sacramento. Skiing on Friday, didn't even make the first cut. Calling Delta Airlines and flying out on Saturday to go back home. I did it for two or three years in a row. And I was like, but I never gave up. I never, I always continued. Because I love this. I love it so much. And until now, like, even now, like people ask me,” What? You won every major event, that possibly can be won, multiple times and what makes you keep going?” I said,” I just love it”. I love getting in the water, even practice, and it doesn't matter... It does matter. Of course, if I win or do good, it's better, but that there's no better feeling for me. And that's, I think, why I'm still on top of the game. Because I love what I do. I enjoy it, I seek it, I seek good feelings in the water. I just enjoy it very very much.
Matteo Luzzeri 43:11
Yeah, so is it because, that's an interesting point, like, as you said you won everything multiple times. So obviously winning always feels good. But what is it that pushes you right now? like, I mean it's February. I mean today's a great day, but I'm sure two days ago it was cold and you were in the water trying to run buoys, trying to prepare. What? Is it just, like, trying to understand it? Is it pushing yourself and see where you can get?
Thomas Degasperi 43:37
No. I think, it’s I always try to improve myself and I always look forward to trying new things. So either is a technique, skis, movement, you know stance on a ski, different things. And for me, that's what makes it fun. Learning what the movement can do, learning what the ski can do. Trying something new. But definitely the love of the sport, but, you know. Moomba is approaching and for us it's time to get serious. But when I try something new on the gate and I either like it or don't like it... That is the feeling that I want to see later on, I look for. It’s like try something different all the time. Yeah, try to improve, try to make myself better, seek for perfection. There's no perfection, but, you know, you always try to find something better, because there's no end goal. You can never stop improving in water skiing no matter who you are, world record, world champion... There's no end, there's no finish line. Yeah, you know, and that's what makes it fun.
Matteo Luzzeri 44:49
There's always an extra boy.
Thomas Degasperi 44:50
Yes. That's, that's the fun part. No matter how good you are, there's always something more to do.
Matteo Luzzeri 44:58
Yeah, Yeah, no, that's that's pretty powerful. All right, so two Worlds. You won a Masters.
Thomas Degasperi 45:06
Matteo Luzzeri
How was that?
Thomas Degasperi
That was one that I always wanted to win. The Masters.
You know, that there's so much hype around the Masters. Because it's hard to qualify, It's a tough place to go ski. It's hard to qualify for the finals, because they take from seven to four. And it's really hard to win. You know, and the Masters have been around forever, 60 years, 61 years. And the thing I just learned is it's only two sports in the world that can be called the Masters, the golf of Masters and the water ski Masters. There's no other sport that can be called the Masters, so it gives, adds a little bit of more prestige to it.
Matteo Luzzeri 45:47
I had no idea.
Thomas Degasperi 45:49
So yeah, the Masters I won in 2004. I think I've been to the Masters 15 times. And got second places, I got third places, but only one win. And it was pretty epic, because it's hard. It's a tough field. It's super adrenaline rushing. And I remember in the finals, me... Well it was Will, me, Aaron Larkin and John Travers qualified top seed. Will went out, ran three and a half at 39.
Matteo Luzzeri 46:27
You remember who was on the dock with you?
Thomas Degasperi 46:28
Oh yeah. Will went first.
Matteo Luzzeri
No, no like was on the dock with you?
Thomas Degasperi
You were! I remember after for sure, but I haven’t before. And yeah everybody went out. And, like, I was like, I gotta take a different approach here. And I went out at 35 off instead of 32 off. And my 39 was, wow, a real rodeo. Was a rodeo. I remember almost losing the handle, but managed around 39. I was, like, I got to get a good gate here at 41. Pull like a bull through the gates. Got to one ball. Pulled hard to injure my back really bad at two ball, but I didn't let go. Went around three, s-turned.
Matteo Luzzeri
Tgas score.
Thomas Degasperi
Back to the center. Through the fist, because, like, this is it. This is in the books. And I wasn't hundred percent sure, because I still had Aaron Larkin and John Travers behind me. But..
Matteo Luzzeri
That's a big score
Thomas Degasperi
At Robin lake that is a big score. Yeah, that's the winning score. And if you look at it, it's that or less. A few times is more, like, I think only Chris Parish ran 4 one time in a preliminary round. But yeah, that was an important moment for my career too, because that was one that I wanted to add to it. And, of course, the Moomba is important for me, and Malibu Open, for sure.
Matteo Luzzeri 47:55
But you had won Moomba prior to the Masters, so.
Thomas Degasperi 47:58
No, that year. I won the Moomba in ‘14. I won the Moomba in March, and I won the Masters in..
Matteo Luzzeri 48:03
Was that your first Moomba?
Thomas Degasperi
Matteo Luzzeri
So, basically you show up to Masters. I mean, I'm assuming your thought was, this is the only one left.
Thomas Degasperi 48:12
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, I did. Yeah.
Matteo Luzzeri 48:17
Assuming I mean. You two Worlds. You won a gazillion Europeans. You just won Moomba like, come on, what's left?
Thomas Degasperi 48:23
Yeah, that was the
Yeah, that was awesome. That was pretty good. But too bad. I didn't get to party that night, because my back was really bad. Nah, it's good. It's good.
Matteo Luzzeri 48:34
There you go. What is it? Is it true that only you and Andy did Moomba and Masters the same year?
Thomas Degasperi 48:40
I heard that too, but I don't know if it's true. I don't think Will did it that year. Because Will won the Masters, I mean, the Moomba in ‘15. But I don't think.. I think Nate won the Masters that year, and I don't know who else could have done it.
Matteo Luzzeri 48:57
I don't know. I was thinking maybe like CP? The year that he won Moomba, maybe... I don't know, like I've heard it's only you and Andy that did it the same year. The same year Moomba and Masters.
Thomas Degasperi 49:09
Well, I like that.
Matteo Luzzeri 49:12
That's a pretty high achievement, you know? And it’s early in the season, like the season hasn't technically even started yet but you've already skied the two biggest pro tournaments of the year.
Thomas Degasperi 49:21
Yeah, you know you can always hang the ski on the wall. I'm done. I'm going to pizza.
Matteo Luzzeri 49:30
All right. So I guess one of the things I wanted to ask you and I know this story, but I gotta say I don't know it fully: Your ski, the ski that you ski on.
Thomas Degasperi 49:45
Lots of questions around that ski
Matteo Luzzeri 49:46
But I don’t remember how it came about. Would you want to share it?
Thomas Degasperi 49:49
So it was the 2009 World Championships, actually starting 2008, Nick Parson calls me is like I got a fat ski for you. Because Nick was with Dave Goode and kind of working on something. Short and fat. I”m like, ‘Okay, send it down.’ And he sent me down this thing. It looked like a table. It was so wide and everything, something like that. And he's like, ‘Just try it.’ I was like, ‘Okay, I'm gonna go out and try it.’ And I remember because the way I ski people know: on one-three-five, I'm really famous to jump on top of the ski. And so I tried it, I was like, ‘This is pretty good.’ You know, and I rode it for about a year. And then in 2009, the world championships in Canada. I rode that ski again. And I got second. Got second at the Europeans that year too. And then I was like, ‘Okay, the ski is good. But it could be something better.’
Matteo Luzzeri 50:55
Well, sorry, sideways. You won those Europeans in Denmark. 1 at 41.
Thomas Degasperi 50:59
No, that was in 2009. Oh yeah, 2009! Yeah, yeah, bravo, you remember. I won the Europeans then. So yeah, I called Dave and I said, ‘There's any way we can do…’ Because I said I like the ski on one-three-five, on my offside, because there is a lot of support. So it’s wide, it supports me. Two and four is a little slow. Fat tip, wide ski - kind of tip came up a little bit.
And talking through a little bit, I was like, has it ever been done? You know and I think only Kris Lapointe was the only one that actually did a cut up ski and made it asymmetrical. So I said, ‘Dave, I like my, at the time it was a 9900, on my on side, I like the wide ride on my off side. What can we do? Can we cut it ‘em up and do it?’ He's like, ‘Yeah, it's a little tough challenge because you know different rocker, different positioning and stuff.’ So I went up and those guys just cut a ski in half, cut another ski in half, glue them together kind of press it and then he sends it down. And I remember the time Bubu Alessi was here, and I was like - I'm a little cautious because it's like a glued ski. Like you don't know what's gonna happen if it breaks. Anyways, I go out and I was at Drew’s and I ran like 5 at 41, first set, I was like, ‘This is it, bingo.’ And then Dave made a mold out of it and we cut it. And throughout the years - I'm still on that ski. We've been playing so much with rocker, stiff, softer and bevels, and positioning of the bindings because my bindings are not completely center, fin settings… Because with fin settings, you have nothing to relate or compare to because there's no ski like that. Yeah, it's been working pretty good so far.
Matteo Luzzeri 53:02
Yeah. Well, I mean, you would say, right? Because I remember the story that Bubu always said that you were like: With the wide ride, you could get to 1 at 41 like o'clock work,. But 41 was hard, whereas with the 9900, you weren't as consistent at 39 but you could go down 41. So now you have this decision to make, right? And the idea.. I remember the conversations about combining the two and see what would happen, has it ever been done.
Thomas Degasperi 53:32
Actually, it was also Bubu’s idea. It wasn’t just mine, I gotta give him credit. He kind of like started the buzz in my head at the world championships in Canada. And it kind of started like developing to this project and brought me to the ski where I am now.
Matteo Luzzeri 53:49
Yeah. And how, so I'm assuming that by now you know the flex that you like, you know what works…
Thomas Degasperi 53:55
No, actually we keep playing with stuff. Yeah. We added more rocker to the tip last year and then, I liked it. And I got a ski coming now so hopefully it will be good. They change the core of the skis they use now so I'm kind of anxious to try this carbon core. Seems better. I mean to many other skis that I've seen other people riding, seems like the end of the turn looks better, maybe it’s a little bit lighter so it comes around quicker.
Yes, I'm excited.
Matteo Luzzeri 54:31
Nice. Nice.
What do you think happened? Because obviously, you then won a Worlds in Russia with this. Right? And you had good years. I mean, remember, ‘09 to ‘11, you were dominating, you were doing well at tournaments. So naturally, and you were already on that ski. So my thinking is, ‘Why didn't other companies pursue this idea properly? Why didn't…” Do you have any thoughts?
Thomas Degasperi 55:00
Maybe because nobody knew at the time. Nobody knew what I was riding. And a lot of people kind of asked, but I was like, ‘Just a new ski.’ I wasn't too secret about it because, like, Nick and everybody knew, and Goode, but… Now it's more out there, and I don't really don't know why people don't think that's a good idea. Yeah, you know, people that tries my ski, rather they try my ski, they end up loving it.
Matteo Luzzeri 55:33
Yeah, I mean I remember when you started that in you kind of came to me because like we're both right foot forwards. We are, maybe I'm slightly lighter than you but not that much lighter. And you said, ‘Dude, just get one.’ I mean the mold is there. Right? But I don't know, maybe it's a fact that it's a lot of cost in molds because you would have to have two molds per size. I don't know.
Thomas Degasperi 55:57
Maybe, yeah, that could be it. But people like it. People that try it like it. I like it, it's stable, it's fast, it supports you, it reacts always the same for me. So I know, if you're sitting on a dock in a tournament and you don't have to worry about your ski, that's better. That's a good start. You know?
Matteo Luzzeri
I think that's a massive start.
Thomas Degasperi
Because you know, a lot of people, not a lot of people, but knowing what to expect from the ski, it's a really good point in a tournament, and I know that my ski performs the way I want it. I know what's going to do underneath me.
Matteo Luzzeri 56:36
It makes a lot of sense. I mean, it's, there's so many… I’ve said with so many guests: There's so many variables in our sport. And the fact and I think equipment, especially my own ski, I've gotten realize, equipment is a humongous variable in our sport. You know, and the fact that you feel you're at a point where you don't have to worry about it? I think that's a great point to be.
Thomas Degasperi 56:59
Oh, yeah. I don't like to try like a million skis at a time because then I think you lose your base point, you know, your reference point. Because if a ski works and then I try another one and another one, which one? Okay, which one is good? But that's my personal idea. I'm not judging or anything. I try stick to one ski that works for me. And then, ya know, I'm confident with that one.
Matteo Luzzeri 57:23
And so given that, I mean, equipment is a humongous variable, but it's one of the many, and you've kind of been consistent in that one. What have you been working on, let's say in the last three to five years? What are the things you're trying to redefine in your skiing? Is it the physical? Is it the nutrition, the technique, the balance in general? Like what have you been sort of striving to improve?
Thomas Degasperi 57:50
I think physical. You know, I've been struggling a little bit, the last five years with back injuries, but always at the same time of the year, and I didn't understand what was going on. Until I changed my bed. But mostly yeah, physical try to you know, you always, as I said earlier, you always try to look for something better - to ski better. You always want to try to get an extra buoy - how you gonna do it? You analyze this and that and… Mostly physical and mental because it's you know? Healthy mind is a healthy body, it's a good combination to have. So if one of the two is missing then you create unbalance, you know?
Matteo Luzzeri 58:37
To have to have a healthy mind and not so much of a healthy body and vice versa.
Thomas Degasperi 58:42
Yeah, so try to stay healthy. And, you know, I don't think at this point I have to prove anything to anybody. It’s more a game of me enjoying what I'm doing and I'm still enjoying it very much and I don't think I ever quit skiing completely. So, they always stay with me.
Matteo Luzzeri 59:01
Yeah. No, and I think I think it's a marvel. It probably says a lot about your upbringing, how you got into the sport, like, you strike me as one of those skiers that will always be skiing, like in one way or another, you know?
Thomas Degasperi 59:15
But also the way I think that I got fell in love with the sport is because I never was pushed to do it. I never was forced to and my parents always said, ‘Hey, if you want to do it, you do it if you don't want to do it, do something else.’ And unfortunately, nowadays, you see, people that... kids that ski because they're pushed by the parents. And as soon as they have the opportunity to decide for themselves, they quit. And it's a bummer because, you know, this should be... I never got pushed or forced to do it, this sport. Always wanted to do it because it also kept me close to my family.
Matteo Luzzeri 59:48
Yeah. Because your brother was skiing, right?
Thomas Degasperi 59:50
He was skiing. It was actually much better than me. But then he had back problems and he was not really into it too much and kind of quit at a young age of 14 or 15 years old.
Matteo Luzzeri 1:00:01
Thomas Degasperi
But he was pretty good. Pretty good back then.
Matteo Luzzeri
That's what I've heard. But yeah, it goes back to say it was a family thing. Which that's a lot of water skiing, right? Like it's a family sport of more often than not you get involved because of family.
Thomas Degasperi 1:00:16
Yeah. And also, I see it with my ski school, you know, like, I'm sure there’s a lot of sports that are great for family, but this is a sport that keeps families together, keeps kids off of the street, you know, and it makes you grow in a better way. And it creates a bond with friends and family and I think it’s great.
Matteo Luzzeri 1:00:37
Yeah, I mean, you're outdoors, you know, so I mean, I don't care… Because we always talk about the difference between say where we grew up and in the US, right? We grew up in a club environment, a lot of people around, right? Oftentimes in the US it’s like maybe private man made lake or like camping on a public lake but not a lot of people around. But it is still outdoor sport. There's still breaks between sets that you're gonna have to find something to do and you're next to water. You know, like all the time. So certainly a healthy way of spending your summer days. And generally you need someone to ski with, right? I mean at least one person you need it? So for sure. Nice. Let's get to talk a little bit about ski school because I mean, from what it sounds - as you progressed as a skier I mean, you had already won Worlds. You had already worked at Drew's for a while. You were still becoming better and better. And then this new challenge of like, now you have your own lake. Your own boat. You’ve got to pull your own sets. You have to really... now you have a ski school. How was the early days with that? How did it start? Any challenges?
Thomas Degasperi 1:01:48
Yeah, my life has always been a challenge because you know… I grew up, I mean, when I went to ULM in Louisiana, my parents were not super rich. I couldn't afford to do what everybody else were doing and buying fancy things, and I always find myself working or trying to find work to sustain myself. And working at ski school at Drew's was very, very good. I think I learned a lot and defined me a lot as a coach as I am today. But at that point, I was okay, this is the point of my life, if I don't do it now, I'm never gonna do it - to be on my own. And it again was another challenge to me to see if I could do it by myself, if I could survive if I could, you know, be successful or not. And I like challenges. That's the way I am. I've always been challenging my life for tournaments, for life, competing... And this was another addition to the challenges I wanted to try. I wanted to see if I can do it for myself. And of course, you start with not many people because nobody knows and you still learning and this and that. But step by step improving, people start liking it. And that's where I am now.
Matteo Luzzeri 1:03:16
Well, let's talk about a little bit like, you've been coaching for a while now. What are some of your like… Let's say I'm a 28 off skier, right? We're all different, of course, but what are some of your tenants like, what are you looking at in a skier? What are some of the fundamentals that you try to make sure they're there? You know?
Thomas Degasperi 1:03:41
Well, I mean, you can look at different things. You want to look how the body position is behind the boat, if the ski’s doing the right thing, what's the ski’s doing a round turn. I think my strength in coaching is I try to adapt to the way the skier skis. I heard many, many coaches, not many, many, but I heard coaches explain the same thing and trying to, to coach the same thing to every single skier that pass through. And to me, my challenge is, Okay, I can work on your hips, I can work on your arms, I can work on your posture, I can work on your stance, and equate always to the same movements at the end. But I got... My challenge is to find what works best for you. If you cannot move your hips, I’ve got to find another way to move your hips. And that's what makes it for me challenging and more fun. ‘Cuz I'm never saying the same thing to people. Whatever works for you it might not work for somebody else and that's the fun of it. You know, and it's instant improvement. Because once people does it, it’s like you can totally see. Mostly people drop their hips. 99% of the people drop their hips behind the boat. So how do you fix it? Well, somebody might tell you just try to keep the hips up. Well, yeah, thank you.
Matteo Luzzeri 1:05:17
Right, exactly. You know that thing that you do wrong? Don't do it.
Thomas Degasperi 1:05:19
Or just like, Oh, I'm narrow. Yeah, get wider. Oh, yeah, thank you. How do I do that?
Yeah, so for me, it's trying to find a way to make it easier in the right time in the right spot and maintain that position all the way through.
Matteo Luzzeri 1:05:36
Yeah. Okay. And I think it’s... I mean, I would fully agree that there's a lot of coaching out there that is like, the same six things that they say all over again. And I mean, from a personal level, it will get so boring, you know? That would be so boring, like you’re a tape at that point. But I think he's also counterproductive, right? Like I mean, their movement and their way of say, doing the pull out will not work for another skier and now you have to find the challenge of like how do I adapt it to this like six five dude 220, as opposed to like this young 97 pound girl. Like the fallacy is the same, but how do I get them there?
Thomas Degasperi 1:06:16
And that's the thing that makes me having more fun to find that challenge trying to find that moment that works for the person behind the boat.
Matteo Luzzeri 1:06:25
And I think as you said, it's more effective.
Thomas Degasperi
Oh for sure.
Matteo Luzzeri
I mean, to me, a sign of a great coach is when you take five athletes that grew up skiing with that coach and they all ski differently, but you can't say they ski bad. Like they're all skiing good, but they look very different at doing it. And that's when I can, at least that’s proof that I've used lately is like, Okay, that's a good coach. As opposed to the coach where the athletes will look the same, like they were pressed, you know?
Thomas Degasperi
In a mold.
Matteo Luzzeri
Exactly. In a mold.
All right, any kind of like any coaching pride that you want to share? Someone that you managed to help and you know, like, anyone? Could be anyone. Maybe a story of someone that got through your ski school and improved and...
Thomas Degasperi 1:07:16
Oh, man, I don't know, because...
Well, I coach the Garcia kids for seven years. And I'm not saying that I'm the one that brought them to be who they are, but I definitely helped because it was the early stage of their career. So, you know, you kind of press into their stance and the way they ski and the way to approach tournaments. I think, because it was a long process, you know, Alex was this little girl. She was so young and so tentative and now look at her she's aggressive and she's killing it. Taylor turned out to be more a jumper than a slalomer, but still can run 39. He ran it in a tournament. So yeah, I say them, because it was probably the most long period of time that I spent with somebody. And it was every day.
Matteo Luzzeri 1:08:16
Yeah, exactly. That's what I'm saying.
Thomas Degasperi 1:08:20
Yeah. So I kind of got included into their family a little bit. And it was fun for me to see them growing from little kids, to kids, to teenagers and now almost full grown adults, yeah. So yeah, definitely, that was pretty fun for me. That was like I I took them kind of under my wings and got close to them. Still close to them. Yeah. Great kids. Great, great people.
Matteo Luzzeri 1:08:53
Yeah, that’s cool. I think you had a chance to like, you know, like young skiers so you can shape them. Also every day. Not just the occasional ski school ride.
Thomas Degasperi 1:09:03
I have other stories I have a lot of like, kids and stuff like that. But that probably is the longest period of time to spend with somebody. So that was good.
Matteo Luzzeri 1:09:12
What about like, because we get them at our ski school at home sometimes, those cases, and I think they're the most fun, when they come in, and they've struggled with this thing. And you just find kind of like, the little lock and then, boom, you change a summer.
Thomas Degasperi 1:09:30
All the time. Yeah, and I always say, I can't change your ski, your improvements so much in one set, you know?
But you can give them something to work on. But that's the thing. If I find that key that unlocks, you know, their positioning better on the ski, then I think the person automatically he's gonna look - seek for that good feelings that he had. When I tell them to do something and it works instantaneously, then it's very rewarding because you see the results right away. And they get so happy. Yeah, it's just so rewarding.
Matteo Luzzeri 1:10:16
Yeah, I don't coach as often as you do, but when you do get those moments and you help…
Thomas Desasperi can see people just smiling.
Matteo Luzzeri
Yeah, exactly.
Thomas Degasperi 1:10:26
I did something good today!
Matteo Luzzeri 1:10:31
Yeah, it feels good. It feels good.
All right, so 2020. I know we started with that, but let's get deep into it. Like a lot of tournaments this year. Yeah, a lot of tournaments.
Thomas Degasperi 1:10:40
Lots of tournaments. Starting Moomba, we got probably the Travers Grand Prix again. I think that's gonna happen.
Matteo Luzzeri 1:10:50
Yeah. In the fall, maybe I think.
Thomas Degasperi 1:10:53
Oh, not in May? Oh, yeah, you might be right. Yeah. Okay. So we go Swiss Pro Slalom, if I get to do it, because I never got to do one because I was always hurt. Then we got Masters. After the Masters is Lake 38 and after Lake 38 there's Malibu Open.
Matteo Luzzeri 1:11:14
I think there's Bennetts this year too. Pro slalom and pro jump. The weekend before Malibu Open. I think it’s like Lake 38, there's a weekend off and then it's like seven: Bennett's, Malibu Open, French Malibu, Seseña, San Gervasio, Kaiafas, Andy Mapple Pro-Am, Fun Gliss. Europeans somewhere. They don't know yet.
Thomas Degasperi 1:11:42
I don't even know where they are, the Europeans this year.
Matteo Luzzeri 1:11:46
Nobody knows. It was supposed to be Greece and now it's not Greece and they don't know where they are. So to be defined.
Thomas Degasperi 1:11:57
Yeah, lots of tournaments. But that's good because, we had a phase of where a lot of tournaments were happening in the US and nothing really happening in Europe. And then a guy that I know started a tournament in San Gervasio. And I think it kind of started another wave of getting people excited about tournaments. And so my hat goes, hats off to you. I think you're doing a great job. You promote this sport very well with the kids and with us. Yeah, and as I said, it started a new kind of enthusiasm into the people to open the doors to more events and get sponsors, get more people involved, and bring it back to where it was. And now there's like, way more events in Europe than in US.
Matteo Luzzeri 1:12:51
Which I never envisioned. I mean, my goal was to bring pro skiing back in Europe because the last tournaments I skied that were in Europe was the Alizee Cup, and Princes Pro-Am I got to ski once, but then we had three or four years with a drought. There was no tournaments in Europe.
Thomas Degasperi 1:13:11
Nothing. I remember we were going like two months with nothing.
Matteo Luzzeri 1:13:13
Yeah. And I remember like, to me, I like... I ski my first pro tournament in 2009. And that was Bubu really telling me, ‘If you want to become a good skier, you've got to go to pro tournaments.’ And you were telling me too, ‘You got to go there, you got to learn, you got to be on the dock with the big names.’ And then I did it for a few years, and we had nothing in Europe and I thought, but what about young kids in Europe? There's so many great skiers in Europe, they don't get to have this experience, right? So I kind of want to see if I can provide it to them. And I started the first two years, I was by myself. I mean the first three years in fact, we were just us. And then fourth year, the fifth year, five. Last year, six. This year, six. So someone like say, Robert or I mean… Robert or Brando, six years ago you have those kids now, they're going to get a shot. Like Philipos, the guy from Greece. A massive dude, skis 3 at 41. If they weren’t tournaments in Europe, he would have never got a shot of skiing against you, you know? And that's kind of what I was hoping. But if you tell me six years ago that I would envisioned a tour in Europe? With his own points? I mean, this is crazy. You know, so no, thank you. Thank you. That's kind of why I started it. But this year, like lots of events in the US as well. You know, it's like a busy season. How do you manage it? Because obviously, last year, there were a lot of events like, do you taper down your practice sets? How do you sort of approach something like that?
Thomas Degasperi 1:14:54
Well, last year after the Masters I came back home… I got into a car wreck right before the Masters, like a couple of weeks before the Masters. Again, was a little bit hurt, but I got there so I was happy. But there was two tournaments in France that I skipped in June, Fundless and Beresch. Whatever their name was, I don't remember.
And then I competed in Spain and your tournament and then England and Lacaneau. During tournaments it's hard because you finish on Sunday, you probably rest on Monday. You ski maybe on Tuesday and Wednesday, then you got to start traveling again. So you get to ski more in a tournament than in practice. That's why I think the preseason is so important, to get dialed in and work on your movements or your technique on your equipment. So when it's time to go, you go and you just attack and you just go for it. And you don't have to work on stuff. So I’d rather pre work before everything started happening. And then just go with the flow and attack there.
Matteo Luzzeri 1:16:08
Yeah, for sure. Yeah, it is challenging. I mean, I remember when I interviewed Wade, he was saying how he had to figure out a routine, because when he was in the pro tour, I mean, the tournaments were every weekend. I mean, granted they were almost solely in the US but like, he had to have a schedule of like, Okay, this off, my first set is this. My second set is this, you know? I guess, when you started to ski the pro tour, it wasn't a tour really anymore, was it?
Thomas Degasperi 1:16:38
When I started it wasn't... my first pro tournament was in 2002 in Charleston, I think. And kinda, it went on for another couple years but it was kind of fading, but it still was a pro tour. It was still full on like cameras and stuff like that, sponsors and... It was combined with wakeboarding. So we tried to push together. But then we had, we hit like dry for many, many years. And then it came back in 2008 with a master pro tour. And then the economy crashed and that kind of went bad. And then from then on, it was like just single events here and there. Like, Malibu Open, then another tournament here, but it was never like a combined tour.
Matteo Luzzeri 1:17:26
Yeah. And then, I say, what we see with more pro tournaments...
I've been defending in the last two or three years, there has been a resurgence of skiing. Would you agree with that? Do you see more skiers?
Thomas Degasperi 1:17:46
I think water skiing is coming back a little bit. It’s definitely not losing.
I mean, I'm not trying to speak bad about other sports. But I think when wakeboarding came around, you know, it took away a lot from skiing for sure. Because it's easier, you can do it anywhere, any body of water you can do it. You don't need a slalom course. But even that was maybe a phase and it's kind of like - I'm not saying that is dying of course, because it's still a big sport. But for sure the sales of waterskiing - water skis are almost surpassing the sales of wakeboards, now boards.
Matteo Luzzeri 1:18:31
Which is insane.
Thomas Degasperi 1:18:35
It is insane. Unfortunately not in the boat industry because boats are still I think 90% wakeboard or surf boats, compared to waterskiing. But as far as people getting involved into the sport, I think a lot of people is coming back to it.
So they're bringing also younger generation to the sport.
Matteo Luzzeri 1:18:56
Yeah. Yeah, I would agree with that. Like a lot of guests I’ve had. I think and just by... we have a ski school in Italy, you have a ski school here, you go to tournaments. You do see more and more people. It's not a ka-boom, but like every year a bit more and a bit more and bit more, and a bit of like, I won't buy a wakeboard boat this year, I’ll buy a ski boat. Which obviously I'm super stoked about, you know? I'm a skier, I love to see that. What do you think? It's just your opinion, like, what could help that growth even more in skiing?
Thomas Degasperi 1:19:37
I mean, the best thing would be we back on TV. But also nowadays people don't watch TV anymore. You know, the days of ESPN and the 90’s are over, they’re different now. Now with technology with phones you can watch tournament why your driving down the road.
Matteo Luzzeri
Which you shouldn’t!
Thomas Degasperi
(Laughing) With your eyes closed!
By no, yeah it's a lot easier to get access to watch a tournament now. Back then it was on like, you gotta be on watching TV. I mean I'm pretty sure TV has its strength still. But as far as bringing it back to... I think we just got to bring it back to where events are in public places. We don't have to be worried so much about conditions. But we have to worry about more - Let people see it. Bring it to like Moomba Masters. Last year, and I'm not exaggerating, I read the stats: Over a million people went to the Moomba festival over the weekend. Insane. And people that don't know what we're doing, they're gonna stop and look. And I think bringing more to, where there's more people, just walking around on a park or they're not there just to come watch the tournament, then I think that will help. Another way to help grow the sport, get involved with kids. Getting kids involved in the sport. Let them try, see if they can, you know if they like it.
Media nowadays everything. I mean, media is everything nowadays. But I think it’s growing back to, not where it was, but it's slowly coming back to it.
Matteo Luzzeri 1:21:44
Yeah, I think you're bringing a good point. That's one of the points that Jay brought up when I interviewed him. He said, we need to stop looking at those days. It's a different world. And how do we grow it right? And his big thing, which I agree, at least in the US, like a great way to do it is collegiate. Right? Those young professionals, they're gonna become young professionals. They're gonna buy a boat, they're gonna buy skis, they're gonna eventually have kids, they might get a membership at a club and then the whole sport proliferates, right? Including those that were on campus and found the sign, “Hey, come ski.” Come with us, right? They weren’t even skiers.
Thomas Degasperi 1:22:25
It has to be fun, you know, for the kids or for... it can’t be I think... it can’t be just like, competitive and that's it. Has to be fun and has to have the fun side, because that's why those kids in college love it so much. Because, yeah, they got to ski but they got to party. They get to meet new people. And that's a good combination.
Matteo Luzzeri 1:22:52
Yeah. And I know that the question is hard. I mean, there's no formula you want to talk... There's a lot of variables in competitive water skiing. When you try to wrap your mind about how to grow a sport, the variables are 50 times more, right? But it seems to me like a lot of the markers if we want, or the stats are heading that way. I talk to ski school owners, they say, Wow, and now we have bookings, like we used to have. Or Pro Shops, they're selling gear. You go to a local record tournament, you see more skiers, you know? So there's a lot of indicators that are saying, well, maybe there's growth here, you know? And I think the wakeboard point you brought up is good. Like, it's not that wakeboard is dying, but they're experiencing what we experienced 20 years ago. You know, a bit of a decline for whatever reason. Who knows what reason?
Thomas Degasperi 1:23:44
Maybe it is expensive, I don't know. Maybe cost could be, I don't know, maybe danger. I don't know. I don't know.
And nothing wrong with wakeboarding. I mean, I did it a few times, and I love those guys. I'm friends with many of those guys. But yeah, I talked to some people that actually designs and sells water skis and in the same company they have a division that does wakeboarding. And they said, well, actually this year, we sold more water skis than wakeboards. Which is huge.
Matteo Luzzeri 1:24:19
Yeah. It's, I mean, it surprises me. I mean, I'm a skier so it surprises me for the better.
Thomas Degasperi 1:24:26
Yeah, of course. Of course.
Matteo Luzzeri 1:24:32
Wow. Well, Thomas, how long do you think we've been going for?
How long do you think we've been chatting in front of the microphone?
Thomas Degasperi 1:24:39
For one hour?
Matteo Luzzeri
Yeah, and hour and a half.
Thomas Degasperi
OK. Are you guys tired of me?
Matteo Luzzeri 1:24:44
(laughing). But it’s like one of those things. I people think, ‘Oh, yeah, 30 minutes.’
Sweet. I don't know. Should we wrap it up? Well, first of all, what a pleasure. It was fun.
Thomas Degasperi
My pleasure.
Matteo Luzzeri
Yeah. Anything we didn't talk about? Give us some shout outs.
Thomas Degasperi 1:25:00
Oh, for sure. Like my, my parents. My parents have been probably the best tool for me to define who I am now.
They always supported me on everything I did. And you know, every decision that I made was always… always ask them and talk to them, discuss… Hey, should I do this even like leaving Italy to go to university? Of course my parents didn't want me to go because you know, but...
Matteo Luzzeri 1:25:37
Yeah, neither did mine.
Thomas Degasperi 1:25:39
...of course for our parents seeing their kid going on the other side of the world and not be there in case they need it. It's not easy. I understand it now. But, you know, they always look after me and what was the best decision to make for me. And even now, I still call them and ask them, Hey, should I do this or should I not do this? Should I wait? What do you think? You know, and then we created this bond for sure throughout the years and you know, because they're so involving water skiing. I'm so involved in water skiing.
We're so much close, so close, you know?
So yeah, definitely my parents. My sponsors: Malibu Boats first of all, they've been supporting me for many, many years. They’re great people.
A lot of good, you know, and... Thomas has been a new addition and, yeah, yeah, yeah. All those people that supported and believed in me and stuck with me throughout the years. Through the ups and downs. The Italian Federation definitely helped me a lot. Always be on my side. Good and bad. So yeah, that's for sure. Family, friends, sponsors. Good people around me.
Matteo Luzzeri 1:26:55
You don't get there by yourself, do you? I mean you or anyone.
Thomas Degasperi 1:27:00
No, no, of course. You got to create your own circle of people that you know and through my ski school in Italy or here, I always get to meet good people. It's always good people that is involved in our sport, you know? Of course there's the occasional jerk, but it's usually good people.
Matteo Luzzeri 1:27:22
And they're skiers right? Like it's so funny how that works. I alway say in the podcast like you meet someone I don't know what, Publix that you don't know, and you figure out they’re skiers - bond. Like he's a skier, or she's a skier. Yeah. He's in, he’s part of the gang. Like, you know, immediate trust.
Thomas Degasperi 1:27:39
Yeah, for sure. Yeah, sure.
Matteo Luzzeri 1:27:42
Well, Thomas, this was a true pleasure. I'm glad we got to do it.
Thomas Degasperi 1:27:44
Thank you so much. It was my pleasure for sure.
Matteo Luzzeri 1:27:46
Want to go for some dinner?
Thomas Degasperi 1:27:48
Let's go. Yeah.