After the rather uncharacteristic stretch of heat, Indiana students can finally pull out their sweaters and commemorate the delayed change of seasons. But for the Waterski and Wakeboard Club, the turning of the leaves marks the inevitable end to the team’s time on Lake Lemon.
With the cold front of November looming, making the most of the coming weeks, whether in practices or competitions, is paramount.
These notions of maximizing time were never more prevalent than last spring in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. With 12 competitions canceled, the team was left desolate and scrambling for solutions.
Indiana senior Jacob Torres, club president and captain of the wakeboarding team, said he saw room for a brand new opportunity.
Torres met with Mike Dowdy, a professional wakeboarder, and told him he wanted to do a virtual wakeboarding competition.
“The dynamic college aspect of wakeboarding allowed this to happen where basically I pitched it to him, and he was like, ‘Yeah, let’s do it,’” Torres said. “We got it sponsored by Red Bull and Shady Rays and other wakeboard-specific companies, and we made like $30,000 in sales.”
Torres’s efforts have transformed the landscape of collegiate wakeboarding. Last spring, 30 colleges participated and a majority of competitions took place virtually by sending clips of tricks to judges. He also notes the benefit of the sport’s loose governing system, which contrasts that of the club’s waterskiing counterpart.
While wakeboarding competitions generally consist of throwing as many stylish and advanced tricks as possible in a given time period similar to an NBA dunk contest, water skiing is a bit more complex.
There are three types: slalom, where competitors utilize one ski to ride back and forth between buoys; jump, where a boat pulls the wakeboarder to a ramp and the furthest distance of jump wins; and trick, a smaller ski where difficult spins and flips gain the most points.
Waterski and Wakeboard Club has cultivated a positive image around campus and are well known for its free spirits and enthusiasm. Torres said he hopes this will help further exposure and participation.
“I want to be able to create a brand image for the wakeboard and waterski team, where people think these guys are super cool, super fun,” Torres said. “That’s something I wanna be involved with.”
Indiana senior Syndey Akers, a four-year member of the club, said she became hooked her freshman year at Recfest. Akers said she holds nothing but fond memories of relationships built during her water skiing tenure.
“My favorite moments have been going to waterski tournaments with my best friends,” Akers said. “Laying in the sun, watching people waterski all day has been an absolute dream. An amazing memory was when I landed my first jump this year. My whole team came sprinting down the bank to hug me and celebrate with me as I got out of the water.”
Yet, the team has to worry about a darker aspect of wakeboarding and water skiing: injury. While planning on wakeboarding after college, albeit more as a hobby, Torres said wakeboarding truly lives up to the name of extreme sport.
“I plan on chilling it back a little bit because when I am training, when I am going hard, there’s always that risk of seriously hurting my body,” Torres said. “I’m at that age where it’s not worth it anymore, and I have to think about it more.”
Torres said one trick he had been chasing is a normal flip but incorporated with a 180-degree turn. When watching it back, he was relatively unaffected while detailing his nasty headfirst plunge into the water. The falls are part of the sport.
Wakeboarding and water skiing both are expensive sports, requiring boats, skis, boards, suits and other gear. Setting up the future club members with resources, assets and capital is a key focus of the team’s leadership, Torres said.
As the fall season comes to a close, the practices and competitions on the water may be stalled, but the winter hiatus will surely be filled with team events, and the club’s energy won’t go away.