With 231 competitors and 16 countries represented, the Vans WWA Wakeboard World Championships on Oct. 8-10 at OWC in Orlando was the largest ever. Two first-time World Champions were named, one already being possibly the biggest wakeboarding legend ever and the other just topping off her rookie season.
Darin Shapiro, who had won nearly every wakeboard title in the sport except a world title, was enthusiastic and relieved at the same time that this title finally landed in his hands. Although Darin fell on his speedball, he still managed to ride hard enough to beat out Brannan Johnson, who rode very clean, threw mobe after mobe and stood up. The two have very different styles. Although Johnson's tricks were very difficult (he stomped a whirly 5) and as clean as they could be, he doesn't take his tricks out into the flats too often. On the other hand, Shapiro came off the dock like a raging bull and threw a Vulcan that made the crowd suck every bit of available oxygen out of the immediate area.
“I'm really happy. I really needed this victory,” said Shapiro, 25, who recently moved to Orlando, Florida. This victory also gave Shapiro a $10,000 bonus for winning the Vans Triple Crown of Wakeboarding.
Maeghan Major, 15, was the surprise winner in the Pro Women's division. Major, from Clermont, Florida, had a stellar season in 1999, also winning the X Games championship earlier this year in San Francisco.
Some remarkable accompaniments to the weekend were the young rippers and the international riders, who were in high attendance and came through with some quality wakeboarding. 15-year-old Daniel Harf of Orlando, is going to be one of the next superstars. A handle-pass KGB and heelside 720 off the wake helped Daniel to capture the Junior Men's title. Trevor Hansen, of Groveland, Florida, won the Boys division while his brother Reed took first in Junior Boys, making them the first brothers in the history of the sport to each win a world title in the same year.
New Zealand's Glen Fletcher won the open Men's division with a couple of very clean passes. Another good surprise was to see France's Rodo Vinh-Tung going off in the finals along with Canada's Chad Sharpe.
Vans held the WWA Wakeboard Worlds VIP party on Saturday night, which included an awards presentation and an end-of-the-season video release. Surprisingly, the required “upscale casual attire” was respected. Shaun, Parks, Chase and Wake Boarding magazine editor Tony Smith managed to put on displays of public speaking that absolutely brought the house down. Brannan was presented with the keys to his new $42,000 Nautique for winning the World Cup, and numerous awards were handed out for excellent achievements throughout the season. Results are as follows:
“Rookie of the Year” Award — Shawn Watson
“International Wakeboarder of the Year” — Brett Eisenhauer
“1999 U.S. Junior Series Champion” — Danny Harf
“Rookie of the Year” — Emily Copeland
“Newcomer of the Year” Award — Mike McLin & Maeghan Major.
“Most Improved” — Chase Heavener
As an added bonus to spectators, a double-up competition took place on Sunday after the finals with a prize of $3,000 for the winner and $500 for the best crash. By the high amount of diggers, you would have thought that it was $3,000 for the best crash though. As the event was coming to an end, Shaun Murray grabbed the microphone and apologized to the crowd for the meager display of riding. Soon after that, Parks managed to stick a 900 and claim the $3,000 while Shawn Watson spun himself all the way to the bottom of the lake to be awarded the best crash.
Following the Wakeboard Worlds, the Orlando Watersports Complex will also be hosting the Cable Worlds on Tuesday and Wednesday, and all of the big guns should be there. Rumor has it that Brannan was seen killing it on the cable after Sunday's finals.
Worlds 1999 drew in a crowd of over 13,000 people who witnessed a display of riders that were really going for it. This resulted in a lot of falls in the finals, but it also showed the world that there is no rider out there that is so far ahead of the rest that he or she can take it easy and go with pure consistency for the win. This is good for the sport, and the riders that train hard in the off-season will definitely have the advantage next year.
We'd like to extend a special thanks to all the international competitors who traveled long and far to help make this event so astounding! Keep riding hard!