By Breanna Nichols
While some may associate the sport of wakeboarding with hot summer weather or weekend trips to the lake house, a handful of Baylor students make wakeboarding a fact of life despite the season, pursuing the sport throughout the year.
These students comprise the Baylor Wake Team. Begun by Dallas seniors Patrick Hamner and Matt Johnson in the fall of 2009, the team became an official university-sponsored club this semester.
Hamner and Johnson, along with 2011 May graduates Caleb Kaker and Trevor Steward, would head to the Brazos River almost every day after class in order to do what they love most — wakeboard.
“It was our excuse to get away from everything after school, spend time on the boat with friends and shred,” said Hamner, the team captain.
At the time, the group would joke about wanting to become an official club team so “Baylor could buy us a new boat,” Hamner said, but the students never considered making their joke a reality.
That spring, the four headed to Beaumont to participate in the Empire Collegiate Wake Series Tournament, citing curiosity as their reason to enter. The four placed in three tournament divisions and qualified for a national competition that took place that April in Austin. After competing at the national level for the first time, the team was ranked fifth in the U.S.
“We went to compete more as a joke, and we ended up doing really well,” Hamner said. “It was impressive.”
After the national competition, the team of four returned to Baylor in the fall where membership exploded to around 50 members, Hamner said.
Since then, the team has continued to grow and place in regional and national tournaments all over the country, in locations like Houston, Oklahoma and California. In April 2011, the Baylor Wake Team competed for a national title in Long Beach, Calif., and ranked eighth.
Due to the growth of the team and the buzz it was generating, it gained a strong relationship with Red Bull and was able to obtain sponsorships from local businesses.
Together with the help of sponsors and fund raisers held by the team, the team was finally able to buy a boat.
“It was a big deal for us, because the boats we were using were owned by seniors who were going to be leaving at the end of the year,” said Christina Mastor, the team marketing director and new member coordinator.
Over the past year, the team has worked on becoming a university club. Hamner received word that the team achieved official club status on Dec. 13, the day before Christmas break began.
Currently, the team’s 67 members are preparing for the Red Bull Boarder Wars on April 14 in Fort Worth. This tournament will help prepare the team to compete in nationals on April 21 in Las Vegas.
The Baylor Wake Team is currently ranked 11th in the nation. The team will be holding new member tryouts for the spring semester on April 7.