Part two of my Nautique Wake Games weekend experience starts across the lake on the cable side of the Orlando Watersports Complex with the Wake Games Draft. The OWC staff hosted athletes, families, and sponsors and treated everybody with a good old-fashioned grill out. When the draft started, the top ten riders from last year’s King of Wake standings got to pick their teammates from the riders who qualified into finals and semi finals going into Saturday.
Saturday morning started with pretty nice conditions. I saw some great riding from amateurs and pros! Some standouts include Connor Aguilar in the adaptive sit-boarding division and his big clean wake-to-wake 180’s. Texas’s Kat Laird took home the title in the Veterans Women’s division. A lot of young international talent certainly stood out as well all weekend. Riders from Australia, Asia, and South America were all repping in amateur finals, and the future is bright for these kids for sure! Jr. Boys, nine and under was won by Brazils Gabriel Benetton. Australia took honors in Girls 13 and under, plus both Boys and Jr. Men, covering the 10-18 year age bracket. Aussie Zahra Kell made her US debut and impressed all. Her teammates Sam Brown and Cobe France were stoked to win big for their homeland as well. Probably the standout moment of the day, for me, was watching Darin Shapiro ride his first Saturday on tour in a decade. He busted out of the gates with the biggest Vulcan (S-Bend to Fakie) I had ever seen. Unfortunately Darin fell twice, most likely due to snapping his board underfoot. He rode through and just couldn’t put it back together. But, I believe there is a good chance we will see Darin Shapiro podium at least once this summer.
Following Saturday’s event on the water, a lot of the families and riders headed out to Yellow Dog Eats, a favorite spot for BBQ here in Orlando. Erik Ruck was on hand jamming live music along with the keyboardist from his band, the Stereotype. Free brews and good tunes set a great vibe, and was the perfect end to a great Saturday.
Sunday morning came quickly! The morning started with a few finals including Amateur Women, where Mexico’s Carolina Rodriguez captured her third Wake Games Championship. Men’s 2 and old school ripper Mike Vincz took first, a great way to start his season after winning last years Worlds in Wisconsin. Again Australia really shined Sunday starting with Cory Teunissen and his win in Jr. Pro Men. Amber Wing podiumed in Pro Women, but Meagan Ethell in her return to the Wake Game after a season off due to injury, took the top spot on the podium. In Pro Men, probably the biggest upset of the weekend happened when Dean Smith eliminated Phil Soven in the semi-finals and earned his spot along with Austin Hair, Josh Twelker, Daniel Powers, Harley Clifford, and Rusty Malinoski. The two run format added to the excitement of the incredible line up of riders. In round one Rusty Malinoski was the only rider able to stand up two clean passes. In round two Dean Smith set the tone with some of the cleanest and most explosive riding I have ever seen. Rusty was clean, calculated, and intense, while Harley threw down tech, with three mobe 5’s. In the end it was all about the “Deansanity and Dean Smith took the win at the first King of Wake event of the year!
Enjoy the photos and check back next week, as I bring you photos and words from North Carolina and the Overton’s Battle of the Brands!