Parks going after the Gong

Last night one of the most progressive, mind-blowing, and all around cool events in the history of wakeboarding took place. This event wasn’t out on a lake or a river, though. Nor was it at a hallowed location like the Projects or a cable park like OWC or TSR. This event took place at the International Swimming Hall of Fame in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. Taking a cue from its sister event Wake the Line in Cologne, Germany, Red Bull made use of the Hall of Fame’s huge swimming facility and had one of the coolest parks ever made set up for all the guys to hit. Big props to Pat Panakos and his crew for designing, building, and installing the madness.

Thanks to the use of the ever-versatile System 2.0 cable, the riders were able to hit two sets of obstacles that linked the three pools, then at the end they could hit a full quarter pipe, or a transfer/stall ledge. The first set of obstacles leading out of the start pool consisted of a long incline box and a kicker that threw the riders right into the most popular jib feature at any wakeboard even ever: the Red Bull Gong. Riders could slap this giant piece of metal with their boards, make some seriously loud noise in the process, and subsequently get the crowd screaming.

The transfer from the second pool to the third left the riders with lots of options: a handrail on the downside, a gigantic piece of corregated tube, and a sort of A-frame handrail on the right side. Then of course, at the end, was the infamous and somewhat intimidating quarter pipe. Basically the place was set up perfectly for the guys to both shred and push the sport in new directions.

The head-to-head battles throughout the night were intense and very fast-paced. This was easily one of the most fun wakeboard events I’ve ever witnessed because of how quickly the riders were hitting the course, how insane/fun the course looked, and how close the action was to the spectators. In each heat the riders would get three shots at the course — this meant one pass up and back from the start dock. The rider with the best overall pass would then move on to the next round. Judging for this craziness came down to a few guys who know a thing or two about riding a board: Collin Harrington, Erik Ruck, and Scott Byerly. The riders knew they were gonna have to throw down to impress those three.

Some of the highlights of the action were JD Webb karate slamming the Gong every time he rode, Shane Bonifay’s smooth style and total domination in the quarter pipe, Raph Derome’s murdering of the A-frame hand rail, Ollie Derome and Steele Lafferty getting all the way up onto an extremely high roof transfer line at the end of the course coming back toward the start pool, and Nico Von Lerchenfeld’s insane abilities at every hit, jib, bonk, transfer, and obstacle the entire park had to offer.

By the end of the night the final round came down to three very capable riders: JD Webb, Kevin Henshaw, and the aforementioned German shredder Nico Von Lerchenfeld (who had placed 2nd at Wake the Line in July). The finals saw some insane action from all three of the guys, and after they each had their three passes, it was the kid from across the Atlantic who took home the top prize. On the wakeskate side of things Reed Hansen once again stepped to the top of the podium, along with Andrew Pastura and Nick Taylor.

Overall the night was a huge success. It was insane having such a progressive event be so accessible to so many people. Somehow that is just what Red Bull seems to do best: bring the best riders in a newer, progressive format, and allow them to do things the likes of which the sport (and its fans) have never seen before. Stay tuned to for more coverage from this event, as well as to an upcoming issue of Alliance Wakeboard Magazine for a full story with photos.