The Water Ski Podcast

hosted by Matteo Luzzeri

EP3: Ski Talk with Nick "The Yeti" Parsons



In this third episode of The Water Ski Podcast, Matteo interviews Nick "The Yeti" Parsons during the California Pro Am.

Join in as Nick discusses the origins of his water ski passion, his understanding of ski design, some of his breakthroughs, and his obsession for other cultures.

Definitely one of the most colorful characters on Tour, Nick got personal in front of the microphone and shared some of his knowledge and experiences.

Subscribe to the podcast on your favorite platform and let's keep the momentum going!

If you are enjoying this podcast, please consider a donation.




In this third episode of The Water Ski Podcast, Matteo interviews Nick "The Yeti" Parsons during the California Pro Am.

Join in as Nick discusses the origins of his water ski passion, his understanding of ski design, some of his breakthroughs, and his obsession for other cultures.

Definitely one of the most colorful characters on Tour, Nick got personal in front of the microphone and shared some of his knowledge and experiences.

Subscribe to the podcast on your favorite platform and let's keep the momentum going!

If you are enjoying this podcast, please consider a donation.


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SPEAKER: Nick Parsons
So Todd Ristorcelli, he was the editor of The Water Ski magazine for couple of decades or I don’t know how long it was. Ummmm…. He asked me one time what was the trigger? Like there's some sort of trigger that you had where like things change where you really get addicted to it and my addiction came from when I learned that I could adjust my equipment and I got better. Like I can feel the difference. Like I went out there and I felt the difference and I got better like I gained. I have Ski on more buoys or whatever, whatever it was when I realized that I was in control my own fate out in the course. That was the end all be all.
Matteo Luzzeri
Okay. Welcome back to the water ski Podcast Episode 3. I just landed from San Francisco California where I was there competing at the California pro-am 17th edition. I can’t remember. Maybe this is not my fourth time fifth time something like that but I haven't been there in a few years. We hadn't been in Brentwood in the regional side in a few years so it was us strong fun. We can water-skiing, aaaaa…. personally not very strong. I prepared pretty well I was skiing well and then I got there. Grab the handle to the thirty nine first pass and basically went to three with one hand and one wrist and so I ended up somehow zigzagging three or thirty nine and that tournament been like qualifying for the finals you need to have a strong average across the two rounds. So, I knew that score I was eventually out of the game and then the second round went even worse. But besides that aaa… I just got back from San Francisco aaa…. And on Saturday evening at a chance to interview, a very good friend of mine Nick, Nicolino, as we call him in Italy. NICK PARSONS Nick also known as the yeti is one great water skier, a lot of success under his belt. Few pro tournaments, World Cup stops wins. I believe he topped the 2010 elite ranking like the whole tour but nick especially is a super interesting character and I was very eager to do this interview since I knew he was going to be in California for the tournament and so we did this interview roughly around 9:00 p.m. 930 p.m. after the barbecue that Debbie and Greg that always put for the ski put up for the skier on Saturday evening we're looking at the lake just a few lights two camping chairs and we just started talking. This is I've known Nick for a lot of years and this is a very particular Nick that transpires from the microphone is not aaa…. the usual let's say aaa… extrovert and aaa… I don’t want to say loud but very out there Nick Parsons that all of us skiers know him for. He is a much more collected aaa.. and aaa… introspective Nick which I think makes these interview aaa… all the more interesting and hopefully all the more enjoyable for you guys who are about to hear this. Ummm.. so yeah. A few words before we get into this interview. Thank you so much for those who are constantly donating to the podcast. I am recording this and I recorded Nick's interview with uh my new microphone which I hope you guys enjoy the quality. Aaa… I'm also uh keeping track very systematically of how the podcast is doing across different platforms. If you are listening to this and you haven't subscribed please take Apple podcasts, Spotify, Google podcasts whatever you have whatever you use subscribe because that makes the podcast go up in charts and gives exposure to the sport which is really the whole point of why I'm doing this. Ummm… well yeah. Without further due, here's the interview with Nikolina parson. All right Nick. Well, welcome to the water ski podcast. Thank you for giving me this interview. Umm… excited to have you on the podcast.
SPEAKER: NP
Thank you.
ML
Okay. So, one of the big reasons that I wanted to interview you is your passion about Europe and you've been coming to Europe to do a lot of tournament's. But before we get there I'd be interested in knowing how did you get into water-skiing?
NP
Okay. So, for me water skiing was Father based. My father got into water skiing free skiing. My father had a bakery and so my grandfather did well. So he had a boat and my father got into out free skiing and then he found a course and then what he found was a private lake. we're in the first manmade lakes, like in the US like 79 or 81. They built one in Utah and my father heard about this. My dad was a good priest gear and so he found this place and went out there like what he go around these buoys and you do this sort of thing is like yeah okay. So, at that time my father did well enough with his bake off the heat he had started post my grandfather's and he's like how do we get into this? And he got into it. So I was born here too and they did like I grew up with my father learning how to walk like my dad skied I learned ski together like.
ML
Okay. So, it's kind of like your dad got into the sport pretty much around the time that you started into it. Was it kind of like a joint venture you know like you guys first learned this skiing trade together?
NP
I was my dad's best buddy. Yes that’s exactly it was like. Like we progressed together. We learn together.
ML
Here you go and so tell me like when did you start skiing? What age? When you do your first tournament like what were the early years like?
NP
So, what up the rumours that I was told always was that. So, in 1982 my dad found out about this leg and it's out and you know the Wild West of Utah
ML
Right.
NP
So, he goes out there with my mom, was pregnant time with me you know is like we got to see this place like I heard this I can go out there. I can water ski about I wanna know about this thing where you go in the course, so he goes out there so he goes out there and he's obsessed with and so when I was been told what I was told is that yeah my dad does it. The day I was born from that point on how do I get into this? and so my dad found a way to get in there and from then on my dad and I have been skiing forever.
ML
That's pretty cool man and you know it's seems interesting how you know you're obviously from Salt Lake City, Utah and I'm from Italy. If I hear Salt Lake City, Utah I think no skiing. You know I don't think water skiing and yet your dad found a way to water ski and you follow all along. When you remember like your early days like your you know getting on one ski, trying the course for the first time that sort of thing.
NP
I very much more that I very much from that I remember our summers were short and I remember like progressing through skiing and everything and making all way the college level and thinking that water skiing was not international at all and then once I didn't make it to college level I met Canadians. I was like why are they skiing like Canadians like Are you kidding me? I'm like I'm from Utah and I'm already from the north. I can't even believe it's happening but collegiate water-skiing opened my eyes it like I had no idea water-skiing was a international sport as far as the tournament scene went. Yeah.
ML
And yet you've Skeet so many international tournament over the years right. Like you've been coming to Europe bunch and you went to World Championships around the world. You've got to do World Cups. You know like all over the world like what. I guess you know I was your competitor and so you're going abroad but to me it always seemed like for you was more than that. It was more than just like skiing six bouys in these remote part of the world in Asia. It was there was more to it.
NP
That was I mean there was an opportunist situation that happened like for me like I mean there was good water skis. The guy moved to Utah and I took advantage of that and that guy funded me to go across the world and I did the staff and there was the athleticism side of my situation where like OK I was good enough to like be funded and be an athlete and do well with that sort of thing. So there's people who move to Europe to the Florida and or they move to warmer climates and they did that and they, I was lucky enough to have both like that atheletism and the funding and it was yeah.
ML
Yeah and do you remember like your first international tournament the one where because you said you'd open your eyes to the fact that this sport, these happens worldwide. What was your first international tournament what you went you were like wow this is like a worldwide thing going on.
NP
So, I won, I had a semester at Arizona State and that was like maybe me I was 19. I was like my second semester of college and at that moment I had no idea that that skiing was an international sort of thing and we went to the collegiate nationals and that was at that time there was the guys’ bringing there as well Asher. What the guys were at that time do you speak English? Like I remember shaking his hand and he literally didn’t speak English and will ask reserve and Great Britain will England obviously and it was I like they beat me and like I'd like oh I didn't know that they existed.
And I'm like I know existed. I didn't know Water-skiing existed outside the US and it was the most crazy, it was the most eye opening thing in my life. But what I realized is that like they knew that water-skiing was international and that they were competing against US guys
ML
Right.
NP
and so it was umm… I don't know. It reinvigorated my passion because I was almost borderline forced to ski because my dad did it and that's what we do. We go on. You know this is our summer. Me, Yeah.
ML
Yeah and yet you know you're getting to collegiate skiing which you know I'm sure there was an interesting time for you and then you got to meet all these international people who for better or worse that were doing the same thing that you were doing. You were trying to get through to red bouys and turn six and shorten the line and continue that until that didn't work.
NP
Mm hmm…But it was I felt like they were at Louisiana or whatever college they're at on scholarship because they wanted it and I went to Arizona State because I mean it was a family affair like we I grew up skiing with it. So, we do boom boom boom. I was just going with the emotions.
ML
Right and so by then you were a teenager getting in your 20s. You are already I'm guessing represented the U.S. at some tournaments.
NP
When I was 19 I think I went to the Under 21 worlds in Chile and 0 3 and I remember being completely unaware of that like I mean I went through a couple of tournaments out here in California and I'm like running mid thirty nine and swing the dog walking down the dog and not aware of what was going on. But the aaa… I forget his name but the coach approached me it's like you know Nick you're good enough to go down training on world, they're having them and they're in Chile … like I know there's a thing this good even existed.
ML
Right
NP
And I was like Yeah I like to go whatever. But so I had to sort that out and ended up going and but that those three years when I was like 19 or 21 were eye opening because I didn't I literally didn't know. Water-skiing was international.
ML
Yeah and yet it is right that can there's plenty of nations that compete in it. There's plenty of nations where you can go and compete at like or two and I think what is always striking me about you is that you've take it like possibly since you discovered that. You took advantage of that opportunity as much as possible you know like I'm from Europe. I was maybe like six eight years younger than you and I've seen you as so many European tournaments
NP
Or at that moment or I was at that moment when I figured that international water-skiing was international and I could attend them. It was like OK well now I'm learning something. Now I'm learning the culture, the language and like and like what's going on and like I'm learning different people and that I'm competing against Europe. I'm competing against people around the world like that. That was a different motivation than where I was where I was living at home in the U.S. and like you know my dad was quite as I forcing me to ski you know. So at that point that was a changing point my life.
ML
So basically skiing and correct me if I'm wrong you became something that you were sort of forced to possibly you enjoyed but kind of something that you were channelling into today and finding out this whole international side of things and now you have your own motive. I'm guessing too I guess explored the world.
NP
Well it's not necessarily exploring but it was at that point, it was like Man Ok. This is something new. This is new and this is new and like this is an equipment based sport, its international and I was learning something new that time. And so like that was a whole new life for me.
ML
And I want to get into that because like obviously you are one of the guys in my opinion that knows the most about equipment nowadays and you mentioned that like it was an international sport and an equipment based sport and you collaborated with the brand of skis for a long time which I'm guessing you learned a lot of the trade there. What were some of your initial sort of like I guess discoveries about the equipment we use because we are a bit of weird sport in my opinion like we're not skiing where there's like hundreds of millions of dollars investing in high tech research on the skis but we're not surfing where we're still hand shaping stuff. So, where do we stand? What were your early learnings about this?
NP
You know my early learnings were probably like you know we're here now in Diablo shores and like California and I'm watching a video where Andy Mapple and Greg Badal did a video or learning video or something about skiing and any map himself said he's like I tend to follow sports that are individual based, equipment based and not teams were based and it was eye opening for me like I watch. I mean I was 15 years ago and I was like wow he followed, he gave examples like Formula 1 or golf and somebody who's like I was like why does he follow? I don't get it like..
ML
You are like; we're not following like basketball.
NP
Yeah. For example perfect yeah basketball like was not followed like and it was, I mean it hit me and it was like I was like Yeah. Whereas he follows up and so like Formula One is a good example like there are those great equipment and there's great athletes and I find that very profound.
ML
Right and so you got into it and you had a chance to not only ski at a high level but also to be involved with the construction and development of the equipment that you were using. Right? And what were like, what were your eager to learn it because I'm assuming you got involved in you were like eager to learn certain things.
NP
So Todd Ristorcelli was the editor of The Water Ski magazine for a couple decades. I don’t know how long it was umm… he asked me one time was like What was the trigger like there's some sort of trigger that you had where like things change where you really get addicted to it and my addiction came from when I learned that I could adjust my equipment and I got better. Like I can feel the difference. Like I went out there and like I felt the difference and I got better like I gained I Skitter on more buoys or whatever it was when I realized that I was in control of my own fate out in the course. That was the end all be all for me.
ML
Right. So not only you were taking charge of your like in control of your destiny as an athlete like your moves and your technique but also like you had opportunity to control the equipment that you were on.
NP
Yes.
ML
Right. So that was the I guess that was the first realisation but let's go a little bit more in specifics like what are some of the initial things that you wanted to learn today. I'm guessing you learned.
NP
What were some of the initial so say that again.
ML
So like you know I'm guessing shapes, battles like the technical stuff like flex rocker. Like what were you eager to learn at first and what were some of your initial discoveries?
NP
Well I think I was very eager to learn like what the previous generation knew. So I was always very aware of people that were older than me that I was starting to beat like I realize there was a point where like people had been in the sport for a decade or more and I was still young but still beating them. I was like Why am I beating them? What's going on? Am I better than them? Or is it my knowledge equipment? What is going on and I mean to be honest I think it was almost knowledge of equipment. It was and the equipment was evolving itself and yeah it was a good question.
ML
Yeah and so I'll try to probably a little bit like you were working for Dave Goode and like that brand at a lot of what I would consider revolutionary or out of the norm shapes like there was a lot of experimenting for a few years that good going on where like there were new shapes, new things that people had never seen and I'm thinking like the wide ride or you know like very strange things that were coming out of the brand and nobody was really I guess trying as hard. What was your involvement and did you learn anything from that experience?
NP
I was fortunate where there was Rossi. Chris Rossi who had worked with Dave Goode before me and pretty much I found skis that were modified or worked on that were basically in the trash or in the trash pile and I went in the back factory and scoped them out. I was like why are these here what's going on. Why are these like this and I put the effort in to go out and try them and learn from those and build on those things. So I mean since he used an evolution I learned from my predecessors and moved from that point.
ML
And I guess one of the interesting thing to me about skiing is like about skis. Sorry. Is that maybe you sometimes try to narrow down your attention on one characteristic say rocker. Let's take one rocker and then you change something but then it's like it's funny how it's like all a senior jet ride like it. It's never just one thing that would determine a better or worse feeling right. Like there's always like it's hard to isolate variables that's what I'm trying to say. So when you're thinking of a new shape because now you're with these three skis right. When you're trying to come up with a new ski or you're trying to better a ski team you guys are really producing what is your process like what do you go through in order to come up with a new shape?
NP
So I ski for Goode skis for years and then the biggest like growth with my whole knowledge of like what is under my feet was changed to a different company and how they produce skis and at the point now where I'm at is like I am in a better place than I ever was like I have a complete understanding of what's going on the feet currently. But it's a group it's a joint effort and so I'm not the driving force. There's multiple driving forces going into a ski and what people want and that's how it is with their company and it's what is interesting is to speak with different people from different companies and their points of view because sometimes they can get very secretive which bothers me. I mean you want to have a conversation with people from other companies and it's like Oh we're on secret stuff. You mean we can't talk about that. I don't know.


ML
Right. Right, umm… Yeah and I guess you know competition and you know I want to try to sell more skis, then the new guys and all that sort of thing but like I can't see from someone like you who really values equipment and what you know like even just the evolution of what would be a better ski that’s gonna be a little blocking right. Like you want to try to absorb what others are experiencing and that might not be viable all the time.
NP
I mean yeah the older I get the less I see the more of the athlete in the actual athlete as I do see what's underneath their feet. I mean maybe. I mean maybe I'm being pessimistic. I don't know but I see what's underneath their feet and I see more of what the athlete is doing across the course.
ML
Yeah and I guess you know like you'll talk with I mean any athlete or any skier I will tell you Like the equipment is crucial. Like in every skier will recognize it but then eventually we all fall into you know I need to change my gait or I need to move my hips here and there. What as he seems you are able to stay very much focused on what's under the feet and the equipment that we're using
NP
You could take it from a consumer perspective like I want to buy the best product that gives me the most buoys. So what is that product? I mean like whatever is inherent in the athlete, I need to try everything out there and learn from that perspective. So, it's a two dimensional sport. It's the athlete and it is the equipment Yeah.
ML
So let’s go into a little bit more like I guess specific details what was there a ski in your career that you tried and you went what's going on here? There is something to this. I need to understand it like positive you know like one ski you tried you went like whoa this is, there's something to these that I need to understand.
NP
There's been a couple skiers, there has. So let's see. There was the H.O Monza. I’ve been there to try this ski, the H.O Monza was the first I think the first ski like I ran like thirty nine or ten or your friends like back to back. I was like how is this happening why? Why? What is like? That was eye opening for me is like what has changed? All right my feet that I'm running more bouys. What? Why? And it was because I am changed so it was fascinating to me like the small differences can make such a huge impact. So H.O Monza and then I remember trying, well there's good work ski’s not to promote that brand. Umm… Sighs. Yeah. Interesting topic.
NP
Interesting topic. Let's see. I mean lots of words but you know at the time there was, we made some wild rides with Goode and I ran a lot of 39s but that was a different speed control system and things have changed since then.
ML
Yeah like this and that's the other thing about our sport. Like there's so many variables that at the end of the day skiers are gonna test skis and skiers have to deal with everything else that changes boats, skiing different sites speed control systems. So it's always hard to isolate. Right. It's always hard to say OK it's these the next thing alright, is this gonna make me round more buoys or is this what's going to make I guess as a person who works for a company whatever that is. Is this was going to make a lot of people on lot more buoys, So that we can sell skis. Right.
NP
So, I feel fortunate to be like in circle where I can communicate with say Dave Wingerter who is programming and designing skis for H.O or I work for a guy named Bush and creed who are designing skis for D3. And you know we can communicate freely and I'm not sure where he's going but I'm glad I worked my way into this where I, like I've learned [Inaudible at 00:28:41-00:28:45] I'm not sure.
ML
Yeah, No. Look I'm just happy to talk to you man because I think you are one of the most complete skiers that I know, in terms of interest and you know I talk about skis and I heard you like just to give some context where the California prime. We're sitting on the side of the lake we didn't ski very well today. So we don't get to ski tomorrow and we're here just talking about skiing and one of the things I really wanted to talk to you about is your knowledge and your journey to understanding equipment better. Right. The other side that I want to know is let's face it, compared to most American skiers you ski a lot of tournament's abroad and you have a fascination with ski beyond just U.S. Right. And just share with me some of your best memories like best memories some tournament that you did in Europe or Australia or Russia that stayed with you. Obviously you went back home but you cherish them.
NP
So my father and we grew up like kind of idolizing like individual sports. You know like it's not like I grew up in Utah like Utah like snow ski racing and all this stuff is just like Italy where it's like you know you see that leap. You know it's an individual based. So, when I finally got the opportunity go to Italy to try to Europe and ski there is like you know like I'm gone I'm going to, I'm going to Europe. To me that time is big time like big time. I'm like I'm leaving the country to go do the sport that I learned how to do and so that it’s a big thing for me to get out, break out, learn a new language or I didn't learn language. I mean to experience the language experience what goes on water skiing wise outside the U.S. So
ML
Yeah and I mean let's not forget you had quite a ton of success abroad like you had. You had some wins. You finished one year where you were like no. 1 ranked skier in the world. I mean yes some solid success but more personally like what are some of the episodes that stand out like for instance like when every time you come to ski this sounds your visa program you landed in Switzerland and you drive three [Inaudible word at 00:31:24] and you know I know there's much easier ways to get to my site. You could fly into Milan like everybody else. What is this fascination with Europe?
NP
So I mean I realized that people were flying into Milan. That was like an hour and a half away from the site where we're going skiing your place and what I realized is that you could fly the Zurich for example or Munich or you know like and it was three and half hours and you could drive through. I mean three languages like maybe at that point I realized I'm weird like I wanna see the mountains. I wanna eat the cheese; I wanna talk to the people. Yeah I mean and I realized I was a weird guy when I said that. Like where do you find Milan for your own. I don't know we're only a half hour away or hour away and you like No man I flew in Zurich and drove three and hours down. It's like why would you do that? I was like Well I mean I'm taking advantage of the situation but didn't really take advantage of situation, you made your advantage worse. I mean I don't have an explanation for it but like I was out to see.
ML
Yeah and I mean I think that's brilliant. You know like let's face it where part taking into a sport where you're not gonna be millionaire for the rest of your life but you get to travel around the world and you're working nearly as hard as any other athlete to you know improve and be good at what your craft might as well see a part of the world that maybe you hadn’t seen before or that you're very passionate about or that you want to learn more from. You know like I think it’s very honourable, honestly.
NP
That is my passions like how can I see the world through water-skiing and be a water-skier. So like that was how do I do that? Well I figured that out. That's it.
ML
Yeah for sure you have and what are some of the places that you enjoyed the most. That you got to see through skiing.
NP
You know what. There was Ukraine. Ukraine was wild. I mean that was out there. I mean any like Russian speaking terms like Ukraine or Russia and then there was you know Korea was wild Korea. I went there at least five times. So I went over there the first time and then I was I kind of met up with the ski school that had a like a barge like on the river there and I came back every year for at least five years and it was amazing.
It was a really good situation and I'm an explorer, eater I guess. I mean that's a term for but some people aren't in the US so yeah.
ML
Oh yeah. Not for sure. I mean like one of the first things that you said when you came to send your vices here was understanding [Inaudible at 00:34:38-00:34:39] right like in the French Quarter. Which is one of the most famous vine regions in the world like which you know again. My thought was you're almost an hour from the site but then knowing you're like No I'm stoked to be here. You know that's what I want to be.
NP
I got to Italy just for skiing man.
ML
No I bet, I know a lot of people come to Italy beyond for like reasons beyond skiing. You know.
NP
This I in my vision its borderline rule that you would come to different country and experience of culture so.
ML
Well then you have experienced a lot of then. I mean from South Korea to Russia to Italy guess you've been to Australia, you've been to Australia?
NP
I've been in Australia, I've been Australia
ML
Was it for the Moomba.
NP
Yeah. Well obviously Moomba. Yeah
ML
Right. No. So, I mean I think that's a fascinating way of using our sport to you know to explore the world, you know like there's people that don't even get to do that ever. You know like not just American people, European people too you know.
NP
Yeah.
ML
So, what's because you know, you've been doing this skiing thing for a while. You know what's something that keeps you going? Like what is something that makes you wanna go out to lake and ski. Is it equipment still is it? What brings you to lake every day?
NP
I'd say 95% reason I'm here is because of competing and then the other 5% is camaraderie. I mean like my friends are here and the friends I keep are come right every, Sorry alright like equipment base regarding camaraderie that makes sense. So for example like I have Terry Winter and I have I mean I'm aware of the friends I have and that they like to adjust their equipment.
ML
Yeah that's cool. Yeah I know. I can see that. You know like you guys share a common passion it's still with these skiing, you're still skiing at super high level by the way and yet the really interesting is how do I make this piece of carbon and BBC a little bit better.
NP
As simple as it is. It's not that simple like I mean like there's always something to improve you're always learning and like it really keeps your brain moving, it's crazy that like there still is improvement. It's wild man. It's wild.
ML
Now I'm sure and we see it every year which you know like brands of skis keep releasing your products and then trying to push the game and making wild changes and then going back to what they used to do and then just tweak it a little bit and I think yeah I think it's enough of a change in changing ever changing environment where you can stay not only stuck with it but like Stay passionate with it.
NP
So I ski along with Chris Rossi and we live in Utah together and he works for Radar Water Skis and he's you know he'll tell me like his new stuff and like what he did and isn't that like man and at the time I can get jealous and he will say something like you know like you know dude I'm working in real time like man I like, we just cut this I'm ready for the next one and you know in my mind, I'm like man that sounds like the real deal is like I would love to be working in real time it’s like boom kind of all learn boom kind of boom learn but real life situation is like moles of aluminium expensive, really expensive and you make a skii and it takes a whole summer to learn, you know so a decade of evolution is key is I mean could be shortened very quickly but it's not unrealistic it's why it's sad but interesting in the same token.
ML
Right because I guess you know the good I was thinking well maybe if we sell most ski’s then it would be more viable but I guess the price of moles is not gonna be dependent on how many skis you sell.
NP
Yeah.
ML
Right. OK. So Nick I just wanna thank you for this. I just started podcast. I'm doing it for the growth of this board which I'm pretty sure you're passionate about as well, see more people skiing, see more people on the water as we watch someone you know walking by the lake. Thank you so much for doing this. I hope we can get you back on the podcast in the future and yeah thanks a lot.
NP
[Inaudible word at 00:39:43] Anytime