By Jeff Barton
He wakes up without assistance at 7:30 on the button. A man of routine, he does things in an orderly, organized fashion in the name of consistency. But today isn't a routine day for Rusty Malinoski. Today Rusty begins his pursuit of the 2009 King of Wake Crown.
This is a day that's been weeks, months in the making. Since the last event of the 2008 season Rusty's been thinking about getting the 2009 campaign under way. I had the chance to ride with him last Thursday at his home in Clermont, Florida. He was simply dropping hammers at will, tossing six 720 variations and complementing them with four different 900's. He rode like a man on a mission. "Rusty's been riding so rock solid," commented training partner and fellow competitor Trevor Hansen. "The way he's riding right now, the moves he's throwing, he's going to be untouchable if he rides in a contest the way he rides at home. He'll be unstoppable."
Back to today: he hops out of bed, hits the shower. That's when he starts planning his attack on his first heat. "I was getting a lot of 'what ifs' in my head," Rusty said. "What if I fall, what if someone kills it. What am I going to do." It's not concern, more crisis management. "But those thoughts last about a second. Then I begin to focus on what I can do."
His normal "routine" would involve raising his one-year-old son Marek, whether it's waking, changing or feeding. But on contest days his wife Lindsy takes over the domestic chores, allowing Rusty to focus on the task at hand. "I headed out to the boat and took a quick set this morning, just to get loose," he went on to say. "I came in, took out the garbage, and headed to the site to go to work."
When he arrived at "work", the contest site, Rusty soaked in the site, taking notice of the wind direction and intensity. "Hard tricks with the wind, easier tricks with the wind," he commented to no one in particular. He then made his way over to the athletes tent, shaking hands, doing the "what's up" to all those assembled. He's on site hours before he rides, just to take it all in. "I don't really start bringing up the energy until I'm six or seven people from riding. That's a good amount of time to start building the plan, the focus. I shut everything else out and get ready to go do what I can do."
Finally, his time to ride has come. He's in a three man heat, last to ride among the group. He sits back, watches his fellow heat riders, then goes to work. It's prototypical Malinoski riding, technically superior and rock solid. He handily wins the heat, only to give a slight grin of contentment. "Oh, the first one's under my belt, let's keep it going," are his only words of that moment.
But his level of energy is instantly brought back to a fever pitch when the heats for tomorrow's semifinals are revealed. Rusty will be facing young Aussie Pro Harley Clifford and his chief rival, Phillip Soven. If you can't see it in his face, you can hear in his voice his excitement to get an early shot at the defending King of Wake champion. "Oh, it's on tomorrow, I'll tell you that!" He says with heartfelt conviction, determination and focus. "It can't get here soon enough. It's on tomorrow!"
For Malinoski, today's journey started some five months ago. But all that time, hard work and progression is now in the past. Rusty is now living for tomorrow.