The Nautique Wake Open presented by Rockstar is the Wakeboard World Series’ (WBWS) annual homecoming event. With nearly every professional rider based out of Orlando, FL for most of the year, an element of comfort and community is at play with the presence of family and friends on the shoreline along with the extended family of wake’s amateur competitors. Serving as stop two of the WBWS after kicking things off in Australia, the Nautique Wake Open set the pace for the season in a race to the top of the rankings.
There has never been a better time to be a wakeboarder. A statement that may very well seem crazy to some; after experiencing the energy at the Nautique Wake Open, the exciting current state of the sport cannot be ignored. The level of competition has never been higher, the bond between riders has never been stronger, and the new order of wakeboarding’s elite have taken the reigns on a mission to redefine the sport to something entirely their own.
With Harley Clifford back in the mix, riders are forced to play a different game. The simplicity of who stands, who falls, and who lands one banger to set themselves apart will no longer be enough to win. It may not even be enough to get on the podium. We saw the master at work in the final not only off the wake, but in his decisions on the dock to tailor his run to the moment.
As the boat settled into idle after the final rider was down, the gravity of the sport’s current state became very real. In less than ideal conditions, the podium came down to a margin of who stood up in runs of double flips, 1080’s and mobe 5’s. Harley Clifford played a game of strategy after Mike Dowdy went down with series leader Cory Teunissen on the dock behind him. Clifford put the pressure on with two stand-up passes that kicked off with a double tantrum and held back on his crow 7 and double half cab into the wind for a front mobe 5 and a blind pete. Rolling the dice in the chop, Cory went for a 1080 on his first trick and went down, leaving him with just enough real estate for two more tricks in his first pass. Pass two was do or die as Teunissen came out swinging with a backmobe 5, crow 5, and a heel 9 before going down on the 1080, once again putting him just off the podium in fourth. Always game to play the spoiler, Noah Flegel had gone beast mode earlier in the heat with two 9’s and two mobe 5’s in a power move for third. Dowdy’s clean double flips landed him in second, and the king returned to his throne with perfect execution in first.
Heading to Brazil this week for the third WBWS event of 2017, the pressure is on the top seven to maintain their momentum and stay in the hunt for the title. Failure to make it out of a semifinal round will kill any hopes of winning the overall series, putting the stakes in ever heat at an all-time high with six events remaining on the schedule. Stay tuned-in this weekend @TheWWA on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook for updates from Campeonato Mundial de Wakeboard 2017 at Clube Serra da Moeda in Nova Lima, Brazil!