This year the best wakeboarders in the world will get down to business at the annual Pro Wakeboard Tour. The 2005 MasterCraft Pro Wakeboard Tour opened its season with a new head-to-head format for the finals, and it proved to be a winning change for 15-year-old Phillip Soven. The Longwood, Florida rider took the men's title, beating the #3, #4 and the #7 seeds in the head-to-head competition.
For the first time, the Pro Tour took the final eight riders and put them in a bracketed system, where the final champion would have to beat three riders head-to-head to win the event.
Soven defeated Danny Harf and Chad Sharpe before beating Australia's Josh Sanders in the two-man final match up to take the lead on the Indmar Performance Award season points chase.
"I was really confident with my riding this weekend," said Soven. "The head-to-head match ups set up well, because I was the second rider in the elite eight and final four, so the pressure was on the first rider. Then in the final, I set the pace by knowing what Josh had the capability to throw."
Also in head-to-head competition in the Pro Women division, Dallas Friday remained the best rider in the world for the women. She easily beat Melissa Marquardt in the final, 83.33 to 53.33.
In the junior men's division, Jeff House took the victory with a score of 71.22. Canadian Aaron Rathy who won the World Championship at this site last year finished second with a 66.67.
In wakeskating, Brandon Thomas upset defending Tour champion Phillip Basino 70.00 to 56.67 to get a leg up on the race for 2005 championship.
The MasterCraft Pro Wakeboard Tour is a five-event circuit organized by World Sports & Marketing of Orlando, Florida. Powered by Indmar Marine Engines, the Pro Tour has the support of such companies as Sea-Doo watercraft, Verizon Wireless, Hyperlite, Infinity Marine Audio, Liquid Force, Gator Boards, and CWB.
The next stop for the Pro Wakeboard Tour is Ft. Worth, Texas May 21-22. While there they'll have a chance to let down their hair and grab some serious air at the Big Air Double-Up Contest pre-event party, where up to 10 Pro and 10 local wakeboarders will compete for big cash prizes. Open to the public, the Friday night event will showcase the top Pro and local wakeboarders beginning at 6 p.m. under the lights at the private lake of Texas Mastercraft and Chaparral, conveniently located at 2161 E. Loop 820 North.
For more information, go to www.prowakeboardtour.com.
Then there is the AWA Collegiate Wakeboard National Championships. Sanctioned by the American Wakeboard Association and USAWaterSki, and with the support of the World Wakeboard Association, the competition features top wakeboarders from colleges and universities all over the United States. Last year's Championships even featured a wakeskate competition.
Due to the momentum generated by the growth of collegiate wakeboarding over the last few years, another exciting event this year will be the Tommy Bartlett Collegiate Extreme Championships.
Last year MasterCraft and the International Water Ski Federation (IWSF) became partners in the creation of the world's largest water sports tour: The Water Ski and Wakeboard World Cup. The World Cup makes several stops on its world tour, and each stop offers an unprecedented purse of up to $100,000 -- the largest per-event purse in water ski history.
These days even local wakeboarding events have become big news. Last year the Texas Wakeboard Tour hit the 3 Palms Extreme Sports Park in Conroe, Texas. Top riders from around the state competed in both amateur and professional classes for more than $15,000 in prize money.
"We're expecting capacity crowds," tour organizer Bill Geiger said at the time. "This facility is beautiful and its central location will draw fans from across the state. The action on the lake will be something special. We've got firm commitments from Chris Ramirez, Joey Bradley, Brian Sasser, Dustin Swafford, Gabe Lucas, and Joey Arcisz, just to name a few, so I know the action will be insane. Lot's of big air for sure, these guys like to go off."
With all of these new competitions to choose from -- and with more being created every day, it seems -- wakeboard events pitting the best and the brightest against one another is picking up steam for sure. Provided these new competitions remain true to the sport's essence, this rising interest can only be a plus for the recreation of wakeboarding.
If you're a wakeboarder, or if you've been thinking of becoming one, it's without any doubt the time to be alive.