On a 90-acre freshwater lake at Amelia Earhart Park in Hialeah, small groups of athletes lined up on a starting dock, grabbed hold of a rope, jumped on their wakeboards and got pulled onto the water with an overhead cable system. They glided on the clear water, flipping and spinning in the air as they hit ramps and other obstacles in the lake. Fellow athletes looked on and cheered as the wakeboarders jumped off the ramps and made it back to the dock.
One hundred athletes from all over the world converged in Hialeah this weekend to celebrate the opening of South Florida’s first watersports complex and compete in an international wakeboarding tournament.
The Miami Watersports Complex had its grand opening Sunday with the South Florida debut of the 2015 Monster Energy WWA Wake Park Triple Crown, a three-stop cable wakeboarding series.
Wakeboarding, a cross between waterskiing and surfing, has been a popular sport in South Florida for decades.
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Omeir Saeed traveled from Abu Dhabi to participate in the competition. He started wakeboarding at 13.
“My friends took me to a wake park one day and I just got addicted,” he said. “When you’re on the cable, you forget everything.”
Saeed, 17, said he can only practice wakeboarding on the weekends because of school. He studies finance at a university in Dubai and planned to return on a 20-hour flight home the same night of the tournament. “I have a lot of homework to do,” he said.
The Miami-Dade County Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Department partnered with Aktion Parks, which owns and operates the Miami and Orlando watersports complexes, to bring the boat and cable park to South Florida.
The complex is equipped with two cable systems and offers cable and boat wakeboarding, waterskiing, wake surfing, knee boarding and paddle boarding.
German engineer Bruno Rixen invented the cable system for water sports in 1960.
Rixen, 83, came from Germany to attend the grand opening. He also gave the cable system a test run Saturday morning.
“It was very good,” he said. “I fell after the second lap. But if you fall, you fall.”
Michael and Paula Fay, co-founders of the watersports complex, started wakeboarding eight years ago with their children Merrett and Marla. The Feys saw an opportunity for a family-friendly watersports complex and wanted to bring it to South Florida.
“We knew this would be a wonderful draw for the community and an international draw as well,” Paula Fay said.
The complex, which cost $2 million and took five years to complete, will host other water sports competitions in the future, including the Nautique WWA Wakeboard and Wakepark National Championships in August.
Coaches will ride with and provide instruction for beginners. Advance watersport athletes can also be coached to improve their skills and can ride the cable or with a wake sport boat.
“We want to show people that that anybody and everybody can get into this sport,” said Shaun Murray, a four-time world champion wakeboarder and head coach for Aktion Parks. “We love for people who haven’t heard about the sport to try it out and realize they can do it.”
If you go:
What: Miami Watersports Complex
Where: Amelia Earhart Park, 401 East 65th St, Hialeah
For more information about the Miami Watersports Complex, including hours of operation and rental costs, visit http://www.aktionparks.com/miami/miami-hours-and-directions/.