A palpable excitement was hanging in the air when I arrived at the Aquatic Club of Germiston’s Victoria Lake during the weekend of the 15-17 April 2011. Not only was the excitement apparent, a competitive tension was also clearly noticeable. After all, this was the National Championships – your one shot for glory!
The 2011 O’Brien Watersports SA Wakeboard Open Championships had been thoroughly hyped up throughout the season, and with R20 000 worth in prize money and a shot at the national title up for grabs, the riders had to bring their A-game for the season’s finale.
There is very little one can do about the unpredictable Highveld weather. Although the weekend was met with overcast, rainy and chilly conditions (below 11°C at times), nothing was going to deter these wakeboarders from putting their best binding forward.
Hats off to the organising skills of O’Brien Watersports, who throughout the rain, had to arrange all the logistics (including prize money, trophies, stalls, etc) and ensure that the whole event ran smoothly. O’Brien has done a lot for the SA wakeboard scene of the last couple of years, and they pulled off yet another superb event!
Although the rain did affect the initial predicted turn-out of spectators, watersport enthusiasts and wakeboard fans still came out in large numbers to support the most anticipated event on the SA wakeboard calendar.
Much to the riders’ approval, the towboat for the event was Vaal Nautique’s vigorous Super Air Nautique 230. This boat is in a class of its own, and thanks to nearly 490 kg of integrated ballast, Nautique’s LINC system and Zero Off, the Super Air not only looks really good, she’s the ultimate wake machine.
“The acceleration onto the plane was insane,” said one rider. “Not only is the wake extremely clean, but she provides plenty of pop for the rider on the end of the line,” said another about the capabilities of the Super Air Nautique 230.
The qualifying heats and LCQ (Last Chance Qualifiers) took place on the Saturday and there was some serious competing in the Wakeskate, Pro Men and Open Men’s Divisions. Due to bad light, the Ladies and Junior Boys’ heat runs were postponed until the Sunday morning, but were also fiercely contested.
Two closely located roof rail obstacles meant that there was little or no room for error, and that a maximum of two tricks had to be landed successfully in between obstacles. Daunting as it may be, each rider seemed eager and up for the challenge.
Controversy was sparked when some of the right footed or Goofy stance riders felt hard done by the judges’ decision to tow on the right side of the obstacle, meaning Goofy footers had to hit the rail to the left – they felt it gave the Regular footers a slight advantage. Nonetheless, it was a slight technicality and riders were generally happy with the set up of the course.
Hordes of spectators from far and wide braced the chilly conditions and made their way down to Victoria Lake for the Saturday and Sunday showdown. Apart from the action on the water, there were food and drink stalls and even a jumping castle for the kiddies. O’Brien went all out, and even organised a live music band (The Mystery Hotels) to perform on the Saturday and continue the evening’s festivities.
As if a sympathetic sign from the weather gods, the rain stayed away on the Sunday, and the sun occasionally made a welcome appearance through the clouds. With no rain expected, an exciting day of competing and riding awaited the wakeboarders.
With 10 Junior Men and Boys entries, it’s good to see that young riders (some as young as eight-years old!) were coming out and ripping it on the board. “This is what makes it all so worthwhile, it’s amazing to see the interest from the youngsters, it’s what helps grows the sport,” said an experienced rider at the competition.
In the Boys’ Division (which is basically the Novice Division), it was Austin Stuart (14) from Bloemfontein who stunned the judges with his riding, that seemed light-years ahead of the division. He was followed closely by equally impressive performances by Dylan Lodge and Keenan Pilley.
In the very popular Wakeskate Division, the season-long showdown between best mates Matti Buys and Dylan Mitchell continued. Both boys are blessed with a healthy competitive streak in them! This time however, Matti Buys’ edged one over Dylan (2nd), and took first place at the Nationals with Dale Nieuwstad in third place.
A couple of new dynamic youngsters emerged from the SA Wakeboard Champs, including the likes of 16-year old O’Brien Team Rider Cameron Graham who took first place in the Junior Men’s Division. He also won the Gregg Faccio Floating Trophy for best up-and-coming rider. This lanky wakeboarder has had an amazing season.
The award for the best bail was a close call between Team O’Brien rider Kevin Goosen and Cape Town local boy Dylan Mitchell. But Dylan’s double-whammy faceplant during the Pro Men’s final not only secured him a mild concussion, but also the “Chad Award” for best wipe out.
The Open Men saw fierce competitive riding from future and seasoned contenders alike. With some high-flying grabs and rolls on display from the likes of Kevin Goosen, Shaun Meredith and Darryn Ridgeway, these boys know how to put up a show! But it was an excellent run from Justin Mitri that secured him top spot in the division, followed closely by MB Sports rider Craig Eygenberger (2nd) and veteran Justin Selby rounding of the podium.
The Ladies Division saw several of the younger girls competing and hustling to make name for themselves. With talented ladies like Courtney Scholtz, Megan Brocco, Tamarin Liebenberg, Melissa Colborne and Candice Bacon coming through the ranks, the ladies’ will soon be carving it up just as hard as the guys!
But the division’s two biggest stars, the sassy Deidré van Niekerk and classy Gina Faccio entertained the crowd with a good old’ fashioned showdown! Gina’s super run saw her secure first place for the third time this season. However, it wasn’t enough to beat Deidre’s overall 440 points tally, which secured the dynamic Deidré the 2011 Overall Ladies Champion of the season.
“The overall champion title is an amazing achievement for me, and I’m very proud of myself. Thanks to my sponsor O’Brien Watersports, who’s also did an amazing job organised this event,” said Deidré.
And then the race everyone was waiting for – The Pro Men’s Final! There was some rock-solid riding from the likes of veterans Andrew Bourne, Kevin Dry, Clayton and Morgan Krause and of course, funny man and Team O’Brien rider Jono Joseph (who reckoned that his run was good enough to be a career concluder).
However, Jono only managed a fifth position, not bad for the aging wakeboarder, who might have to enter the Masters (or Golden Oldies) Division next year! Just kidding, Jono’s a diehard, and if the knees manage to hold up, he’s still a force to be reckoned with in future competitions.
Ex-grom and previous rookie sensation, Dylan Mitchell rode hard, went big, and wiped out big time. But it was enough for the judges to award him third place on the podium. Another youngster, but with amazing ability was Ryan Durham, who rode solidly and ended in fourth place.
But the Pro Men’s Final was a showdown between the two Krause twins, who also experienced an amazing season, with only a couple of point separating the two. But a high-flying performance, which left most of the spectators going ‘ooh and aah’, gave Morgan Krause the edge over Clayton, who also put on an amazing run, especially on the obstacles.
Morgan was crowned the new 2011 Pro Men SA Champion and was delighted with his achievement. “It feels great being the champ, words cannot describe!” said an elated Morgan after the prizegiving. “This is definitely the best competition I’ve attended this year, really well organised and hosted. I worked hard on my riding this year, and it’s paid off,” he said.
And does the new champ have any advice for the youngsters? “Don’t ever think you’re not good enough to enter, come down to the competitions and learn, I ended second last in my first ever comp. Also, master one move, before moving onto the next big trick. Get your basics right and work on your consistency. Also, don’t forget to just go out there, and enjoy your experience”.
A big thank you to all the sponsors involved: O’Brien Watersports, Vaal Nautiques, Red Bull, Skull Candy, Germiston Aquatic Club and Premier Auto Germiston. The following individuals also deserve recognition for their efforts and contributions: Mandy, Sean and Graham Hartlett, Jolene Ghisleni, Tich Mitchell, Chris Lodge, Burt Grabe, Darryn Ridgeway and all the judges and organisers.
Thanks to everyone who made the 2011 wakeboarding season a massive success! For more information, please visit www.wakesa.com or call O’Brien Watersports on (011) 824 5666 or www.obriensa.co.za
“Nothing was going to deter these wakeboarders from putting their best binding forward”.
“A high-flying performance, which left the spectators going ‘ooh and aah’, gave Morgan Krause the edge over his brother Clayton”.