USA Wakeboard Collegiate Nationals Brings Spring Break in September
By: Dano the Mano
All photos by Christian Skarli
The 2016 USA Wakeboard Collegiate Nationals happened this year on the Florida-Alabama border just outside Gulf Shores, Ala. and Pensacola, Fla. on Perdido Key, Fla. Fifteen-plus teams from all over the USA represented with a total of up to seven competing athletes each. Many of the teams brought a few extra people from wake team members to supporters and fans. The Collegiate Wakeboard Nationals had representation of all abilities from beginner to what I would classify as semi-pro.
Mens and women’s, Wakeboard and Wakeskate disciplines were showcased in the three day event which originated on the white sand beach in front of the famous Flora-Bama Ole River Bar and Grill. Aside from just the individual title, the schools were battling for the overall title as well, which coming into the event, was held by The University of Florida’s Gators Wake Team.
All three days were live web-casted on AllianceWake.com. Bobby Sutherland and the crew from Get Funky Media were able to produce a pretty flawless broadcast, reaching wakeboard fans and enthusiasts all around the world! An estimated 9,000-plus viewers saw the action as it unfolded live from the Flora-Bama border.
On day one of the contest, close to 100 competitors battled it out in some quarter and semi final rounds. You might have recognized a few of the riders who hit the water at some of this summer’s biggest grassroots and pro/am contests, but the turnout of athletes who were competing, were in their first or second contest, which was evident. It was great to see many new faces out there, and just shows wakeboarding is still growing and gaining popularity within a demographic some think is starting to lessen.
Day two started out super stormy, followed up by a three-hour rain delay. As soon as it was rideable, the students were more than ready to hit the water. Conditions were not as good as the previous day, but for the college rippers, any opportunity to ride is a chance to show their skills, have some fun and represent their school and club. Day two capped off with some finals and in true college form, the after party was one for the books! Local club, Live Bait hosted an EDM-style party, as many riders were already set to celebrate victory!
Day three was also quite rainy, but as the weather cleared up, the beach began to fill. Passersby’s stopped and beached their boats, alumni riders came to cheer on their alma maters, and locals and wakeboard fans alike showed up for an opportunity to see the action as it transpired on the waters of Perdido Bay.
Some of the highlight rides of the day came from defending overall team champions University Of Florida Gator Wakes, Heather Bouchard, who was able to mix in a solid run of style and inverts. On the wakeskate, Dale Milican, from Mississippi State University, was just edged out by Central Washington University’s Cole Osborn. Osborn was able to navigate the rough conditions and successfully get some big wake-to-wake airs, grabs and flat-water shuvs. Gators Wake, Shelby King, stepped in last minute and competed against the boys in the Men’s D division, where she dominated and put some big points up on the board for the defending champions. Michigan State’s Andrew Fialka helped his team earn an overall third place finish with his first place finish in the Men’s B final. Fialka’s run of spins and inverts was punctuated by his huge air raley, floaty and fully extended. The Main Event was the Men’s A division. Final podium saw Michigan State’s Josh Edwards in third place. Ohio State’s Danny Collins took second place with some stand out tricks including a backside 540. Earning his second collegiate title was Jacksonville’s Colby Bernier. Bernier was able to throw down a mix of Mobes, Glides, and a 720 to solidify the win.
Overall, Michigan State edged out Central Washington by two points! Arizona State’s Wake Devils took second and the Florida Gators took home the title, making them back-to-back USA Wakeboard Collegiate Team Champions. The collegiate riders really seemed to be amped on everything from the “biggest Wake we’ve ever hit,” behind the Supra SE450 provided by title sponsor Abita Inboards to the Pro Demo put on by event judge and wakeboard veteran rider and coach Sean O’Brien. According to Texas A & M rider Becca White, “this years Nationals have blown away pretty much every past collegiate event to date.”
USA Wakeboard’s Collegiate Nationals have been going on since the early 2000’s; this was year 13 and the turnout was bigger than ever. Event Organizer and founder of the Louisiana Collegiate Wake Tour, Nick McDonald, said, “we wanted to provide a fun environment with good competition and a webcast unlike any other wake event before. It was a success and we look forward to 2017.”
Be sure to keep your eyes on alliancewake.com to find out more about next year’s event, which is sure to be an even bigger contest and party!
Dano the Mano, the Noise of the North, is a regular in the wakeboard world. His voice can be heard streaming the airways of the world’s largest pro wakeboard events. He also hosts a podcast exclusive to towed water sports that airs twice monthly at www.NoiseoftheNorth.com.
Presented and hosted by Louisiana Collegiate Wake Tour
Abita Inboards – Abita Springs, LA
Flora Bama Bar and Lounge – Orange Beach, AL
Gulf Shores – Orange Beach Tourism Bureau
Southbound Design – New Orleans, LA
B&L Marine – Monroe, LA
Hogwild Beach BBQ – Gulf Shores, AL
Ambush Board Company
Live Bait Restaurant and Bar – Gulf Shores, AL