When I was a freshman in college I really wasn’t sure what a wakeboarding team was. I knew how to wakeboard, but I did not understand the concept of wakeboarding as a team. The sport of wakeboarding is a very individualized sport but the more I looked into it, the more intrigued I became. The sport had its largest collegiate growth in the 90’s and early 2000’s, but as wakeboarding begins to crawl back into mainstream media, collegiate teams are resurfacing all over the country. Whether you are in Arizona or the Sunshine State, collegiate wakeboarding teams are forming all over the country, and they are forming fast.
Mississippi State was the first team in Mississippi to join the college wakeboarding boom, followed shortly by Ole Miss and Southern. These teams compete in the Louisiana Collegiate Wakeboarding tour and have been friendly rivals since 2012. Before the wakeboarding boom reached me, I was completely oblivious to a community of athletes who spend more time cracking jokes than training for competitions. “It’s like a giant family,” said Ole Miss founder Ben Burch. “Going to competitions is like going to a family reunion.” I once heard somewhere that a wakeboard competition was ‘ninety-nine percent fun, and one percent business,’ and I assumed that one percent involved your actual run.
The competitions reflect the attitude of the wakeboarding community, they are very laid back but still have electricity about them. Each team sets up their own tented areas (which closely resemble college football tailgates) as well as camping areas, a wakeboard competition is a weekend long affair. The teams consist of men and women, and each competitor has a specific division to ride in based on their skill level. There is also a wakeskate division that showcases the skaters for each team, but this group is a little bit smaller and more competitive.
The first time I went to a wakeboarding competition as a competitor, I went with five other guys. One year later I went to another competition with a team of almost twenty riders. In just a few short years college wakeboarding transitioned from a decaying social club to a booming network of fierce competitors. These men and women work hard on the water and behind the scenes to promote their sport and make a name for it. As a new year approaches for competition season big things are beginning to happen for collegiate wakeboarding.
College wakeboarders and their teams are usually self starters, and a lot of the teams pay out of their own pockets to keep their clubs alive. Through competitions like Florida’s WakeFest or the Bulldog’s back to school bash these men and women raise money to keep doing what they love. I did not realize the world of college wakeboarding was so complex, and I did not realize how much I would fall in love with the sport. It was never about winning, and it was never about beating the “other team.” It was always about growth, and what we could do as teams, and as individuals to further push our beloved sport further into the limelight.