Hialeah

On a Hialeah lake, athletes flip and jump their way to wakeboard fame

A wakeboader takes part in the "2015 Nautique WWA Wakeboard National Championships" at the Miami Watersports Complex at Amelia Earhart Park in Hialeah, Saturday, August 15, 2015. The event was hosted by Miami-Dade County Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Department in partnership with the World Wakeboard Association (WWA) and Rockstar Energy.
A wakeboader takes part in the "2015 Nautique WWA Wakeboard National Championships" at the Miami Watersports Complex at Amelia Earhart Park in Hialeah, Saturday, August 15, 2015. The event was hosted by Miami-Dade County Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Department in partnership with the World Wakeboard Association (WWA) and Rockstar Energy. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

Professional athletes from the U.S. and a handful of other countries gathered at Miami Watersports Complex at Amelia Earhart Park in Hialeah on Sunday to compete in the final rounds of the Nautique WWA Wakeboard National Championship —the largest wakeboarding event in the nation.

Two freshwater lakes, spanning a total of 90 acres in the middle of the park, were the center of the action. The lakes held the cable wakeboard course, where an overhead electric cable system pulled riders as they did flips and jumps on buoyant ramps, and the boat-tow track, where athletes were pulled by a motor boat while holding onto a cable attached to the vessel’s rear as they twirled and flipped in the air.

The WWA, World Wakeboard Association, established 26 years ago, is a rider-formed competitive organization promoting the sport worldwide.

“This is a great venue because we can do the cable park, and we can do the wakeboard behind the boat,” said Corrie Wilson, the organization’s operations manager.

Eighteen year-old Meagan Ethell of Illinois won both the cable and boat finals, scoring 89.33 out of 100 points for the boat-tow competition and 98 points for the cable course. Five-time world champion Harley Clifford of Australia, known for his “thrust jumps,” beat another Australian and four Americans to win the Men’s Pro Finals with 95.67 points.

From Wednesday through Sunday, more than 350 athletes competed on both cable courses. Groups included the”nine and under” division and a veterans division for people 40 and older, with both amateurs and pros in the mix.

In the boat-tow competition, three judges rode on the vessel that pulled each of the athletes, witnessing all of the flips, jumps and maneuvers up close so they could assess points accurately. They look for something called the “overall composition” — or overall best impression, when the athletes perform back and forth between a starting and ending buoy. “Spins, flips, intensity, difficulty are all point factors, but most of all,” says Wilson, “it’s who had the best run overall.”

Blake Hess, WWA chief judge for the electric cable side, gave advice for those thinking of learning how to wakeboard, as the Hialeah complex offers lessons to first-timers and beginners starting from $25 and up.

“Right here, the Miami Watersports Complex is the most ideal way to learn because you don’t need to own a boat, you can just come out here and wakeboard,” he said.”It’s open to the public, and they teach hundreds of people per week how to wakeboard that have never done it before.

“It’s much more efficient when you can be towed by a cable system as opposed to a boat,” he said. “It’s far easier to get involved and try out the sport.”

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