As we prepare for this year’s Toe Jam, kicking off Thursday with the winch jam, it seems like a proper time to take a few minutes and reflect on the season prior. 2008 truly was a breakthrough year for the sport of wakeskating and here’s why: The Byerly Toe Jam took over. Things went international for the first time, and from the first event to the last event, the riding got bigger and better, more varied and more exciting. New riders emerged, older riders showed they have no plans to back down, and the “it” generation continued to re-raise and re-set the bar.

After three days in September spent trekking from the Projects to the OWC, the finals were over and there was one name you needed to know: Reed Hansen. The redneck ripper from Groveland had won the boat, park and cable competitions, becoming only the second rider to do so. It was only in the rail jam, where Clint Tompkins stomped a backlip 270 shuv, that Reed did not walk away with the top spot (he settled for third.) But a new Sea-Doo and a place in history still belonged to Mr. Hansen.

At the end of 2008, things had gone so well, Byerly and crew planned to expand things even more. There was talk of taking the event overseas, to the Philippines or maybe even Europe. Yeah wakeskating is that big! But then something happened. You’ve probably heard about the current world economic situation, some sort of major credit crisis is making it tough for everyone in 2009. Never fear, wakeskating will not be a casualty of some bad bureaucratic decisions, and even though this year’s Toe Jam will stay in Florida, things are just going to keep getting better. But for now lets look back at some images and get psyched for what’s to come!

As much as wakeskating grows and progresses, some things will never diminish. Brian Grubb proved that even after many years, he is still the boat rider to beat. In 2008 he added another element of style to his riding, tweaking grabs farther than ever imagined possible. Though a subject of scrutiny, his often-imitated shindy (that’s wakeskate speak for Shuv-it-to-indy), was the still the trick that he just does better than anyone else.

The first event at the Orlando Watersports Complex was the “winch” jam. Scott Byerly & Aaron Reed had spent all week creating a massive pool gap with two impressively long boxes on either side. The gap ended up in the OWC beginner lake, but the opposing shoreline was too far away to hold the winch. The winch jam ended up pulled by a Sea-Doo, but it all worked the same. This picture is of Chris Kallas, who is a whole-nother-story. The young Aussie showed up in the States, spent the season riding with Brandon Thomas, qualified for finals at the Canada stop, and put his name on the map by riding solidly all weekend with tricks such as seemingly effortless 540 shuv its (not pictured here.)

Prior to 2008, Nick Taylor seemed to suffer from a case of bridesmaid syndrome. Event after event, he would make the finals only to finish second. But in 2008, he finally figured it out. At the first event of the season he beat out Clint Tompkins to win the rail title, and in Texas he took the cable title. Though he was back to bridesmaid (or worse) at the final event, this switch 180 Madonna was quite the crowd pleaser.

The paparazzi and one happy champ – this photo needs little explanation. An interesting aside, however, is that Reed already owns one Sea-Doo named Charlene that happens to be his pride and joy. When asked what he would do with his brand new Sea-Doo Wake Edition he said, “I’m going to go really fast.”

Reed started off the Toe Jam season with a boat win and by landing the first wake to wake finger flip anyone had ever seen. He charged all season, winning Worlds, Nationals and then of course, this boat competition as well.

For winching, hurricane season in 2008 was great news. But record rainfalls didn’t really help the rail jam of the Toe Jam finals. Everyone showed up to find formerly tall rails at the Projects partially submerged. The rail event became a “park contest” and riders’ scores were weighted equally on rail tricks and flat water moves as well as their use of the course. The good news was, the high water level made it easy to cool off on the start dock.

For even more images from Toe Jam 2008, check the gallery and stay tuned for Alliance Wakeskate for up-to-the-minute coverage of this year’s event!

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