by Casey Mommer
Wakeskiing Makes History at the Inaugural Wake Ski Open
Sept. 5 made the history books as the first-ever professional wakeski event. Skiers from around the world made their way to the world-renowned Orlando Watersports Complex (OWC) to compete for $2,100. The first half of the event was held behind an Air Nautique on OWC’s boat lake. Each skier was given four passes in the preliminaries and was allowed three falls. The finals included Chad Buechler, Pete Kuhlmann, Ryan Jones and Brian Robbins. In the finals, each skier was given two passes, was allowed one fall and had one chance to hit the double-up. Some of the tricks hucked behind the boat included rolls, gainers, front flips, seatbelt glides, 360s, 180s and raleys. The two big double-up tricks of the day included Robbins’ under whirlybird (nearly landed) and Buechler’s roll to blind.
The second half of the tournament was held in OWC’s cable park. This is where the sport truly progressed. Each skier was given three passes to hit the sliders and kickers in whatever manner they saw fit. There were four heats of three skiers, and the top two skiers in each heat advanced to the semifinals. It was not an easy task to make it past the semifinals, as only four skiers advanced to the finals. Buechler, a finalist, says of the caliber of competition: “The level from all the skiers was impressive. Everyone really stepped it up for this tournament.” The high caliber of riders speaks to the talent it took to qualify for this event. Qualifiers included: Bjorn Jokerud, Buechler, Kuhlmann and Robbins.
On hand to check out what all this wakeski buzz was about were pro wakeboarders Parks Bonifay, Shaun Murray, Chris O’Shea, Erik Ruck and Keith Lyman. Some of the tricks performed off the kickers included whirlybirds, rolls to blind, grabbed raleys, switch 540s and a couple of double front flips (nearly landed). Equally, if not more, impressive were the skier’s technical abilities on the sliders. Stereo wakeskier Jokerud of Norway was a crowd favorite and a very stylish skier, as he brought his snow ski style to the water. Jokerud stole the show in the semifinals when he gapped the up ramp onto “Nessie” (OWC’s biggest slider) with a counter transfer, 450 out. Jokerud himself could not believe what he had just done. He says of the move, “Everything just went perfect.” This run placed Jokerud as the top seed going into the final round. Veteran and HO-sponsored wakeskier Buechler, who has been on the skis for two years, was not going to let the Norwegian phenomenon take him down. Buechler says, “After I saw Bjorn’s transfer, I knew I had to transfer to win.” This would not be a simple mission for Buechler. He attempted transferring to Nessie in the semifinals and nearly caught the rail between his legs. Although this awarded him the Best Crash trophy, he knew he would have to attempt Nessie once again in the finals. Buechler stomped the transfer onto Nessie and landed his back half (gainer with a handle pass to blind). Buechler says: “I knew I had to land my back half perfectly. I was the only one doing it.” This ended up being Buechler’s best run of the day. Jokerud, who went last, would have to stomp another clean run to take Buechler down. He started well, but went down on a misty 540 off the Stereo kicker. After this fall, Jokerud knew he would have to do something that had never been done before, so he attempted the unthinkable: a lazy boy (a full-body lay-down on a slider) over Nessie. Jokerud invented the lazy boy, and he stomped it perfectly over OWC’s biggest slider. Although this was impressive, Jokerud’s fall proved too costly for the win. In the end, Buechler pulled out the big win and rightfully claimed his place in the history books as the first-ever professional wakeski champion in both boat and cable.
|1st Place||Chad Buechler||$500|
|2nd Place||Pete Kuhlmann||$300|
|3rd Place||Ryan Jones||$200|
|1st Place||Chad Buechler||$500|
|2nd Place||Bjorn Jokerud||$300|
|3rd Place||Brian Robbins||$200|
|Ryan Jones||Raley off the Wake||$100|
|Chad Buechler||inches away from upside ramp face plant|