Ride the wave to the Nautique USA National Wakesurf Championships

Pro Nautique team athlete Noah Flegel wakesurfs behind a Nautique boat. Photo courtesy of Nautique Boats.

By Adam Gibson | Sports Writer

Summer may be over, but this weekend the World Wake Association (WWA) and GM Marine Engine Technology are hitting the river for the Nautique USA National Wakesurf Championships presented by GM Marine Engine Technology from Sept. 28 to Sept. 30 on the Brazos River downtown at 202 S. University Park Drive.

The event will have multiple levels of competition with surfers of all ages and experience to come together, alongside the world’s top professional athletes.

Included among the athletes that will be at the championships this weekend is Amazing Race Season 19 participant and past U.S. Olympic Snowboard Tommy Czeschin. Czeschin is from Mammoth Lakes, Calif., and grew up snowboarding and eventually became a professional snowboarder. He competed in the 2002 Olympics in the half-pipe and has also competed in the X-games. Czeschin said being in the Olympics was an exciting experience for him and that snowboarding helped him with his wake surfing skills.

“It was definitely one of the best experiences of my life,” Czeschin said. “They take four men and four women every four years to the Olympics so you’ve got to be the best of the best and you’ve got to be on that year going into the Olympics … It was quite a deal to even make the team, and then to be able to be in my own country for the Olympics was pretty special … Any time you can spend standing sideways on a board is going to help other board sports. So if you snowboard, if you skate board, if you wake surf … any time you spend sideways is going to help.”

Having wakesurfed for about 10 years now, Czeschin said his biggest accomplishment is having his own signature board with Liquid Force and being a Nautique team rider and “helping Nautique with whatever I can.”

Czeschin will be competing for his first National Wakesurf Championship this weekend in the Pro Men’s Wakesurf division, and his Amazing Race teammate Andy Finch will be hitting the water Friday in the Masters Wakesurf division.

WWA executive director Corrie Wilson has been the executive director for about five years and helps to play a role in creating different formats, the rules and with the event production. The course for the weekend is set up on the Brazos where riders will have a couple runs to do different tricks with both styles, Wilson said.

“We have a course set up that is about 900 feet long with buoys on each end, so they will go down and back through that course and through that course they’re able to do whatever tricks they would like,” Wilson said. “They can surf on both sides of the wake if they want to transfer, if they want to surf different styles. It’s total freedom within the course and they have to pick ups. After the first fall they’ll be done, but they’ve got some room to try some things and get creative.”

This weekend, the formats of the competition are being shaken up from what they usually are. The two different styles that are usually judged are skim and surf. This weekend, both styles will be judged together for the first time. Czeschin said the difference between the two styles is the type of boards used, but in the end, it’s still wake surfing.

“Skim style, you’re riding boards typically with either no fin or very small single fins in the middle of the board like a tracking fin. Surf style you would be riding a twin fin or a quad fin and the boards going to be a little bit thicker,” Czheschin said. “It’s a little bit different style but we’re all wake surfing.”

By combining the two styles, riders who don’t normally compete against each other will do just that for the first time. This creates more competition between the riders, especially between some of the best riders in the world. Two of the best women’s riders, Jodi Grassman, the reigning National Champion, and Ashley Kidd, do not usually compete against each other due to one surfing skim and the other surf, but since they will be judged together, Czheschin said “it’s going to be like the battle royale.”

Other than the competition going on, there are many different things for the audience to participate in while watching the competition. Wilson said Nautique will have different boat models on display, some “swag” give aways, Rockstar Energy will have free Rockstars and GM Marine Engines will have some engines out on display. Wilson said people should come out because of the multiple activities going on at the same time for the audience to be involved in.

“We’re trying to encourage people just to come out and watch. We’ve got obviously the surfing on the water,” Wilson said. “We’ve got a jumbotron for people to watch as well for really good viewing. Then we’ve got some awesome sponsors and vendors that will be set up. We’re just excited to show people the sport of wake surfing that might not have ever seen it before…”

Another exciting aspect this weekend will hold is the use of the Super Air Nautique G23 boat the riders will surf behind. The boat is specifically made for wake surfing and designed for competitions just like this one. Czeschin said the Nautique G23 is “the cats meow” because it has “the best wave behind it. You push a button and go surf … having the best boat out here at the event is key to make this the best event.”

Wilson said the Championships are being held here in Waco because of how much the city has to offer with the BSR Cable Park and the Brazos River. In the past the BSR has hosted events for the WWA and that relationship encouraged the event to be brought to Waco.

“We’ve done other events in Waco before, and the city of Waco has just always been a real big supporter of wake events and bringing us here and supporting what we’re doing, helping us spread the word,” Wilson said. “So that’s something we look for when we go different places … Just a lot of support here in Waco and then the great river, downtown aspect of the Brazos.”

The Championships begin Friday morning at 8 a.m. with the Girl’s Wakesurf Semifinals and goes until 3:30, ending with the Veteran’s Men Wakesurf Semifinals. Saturday begins with the Women’s Wakesurf Semifinals and ends with the Pro men Wakesurf Quarterfinals from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday night there is also a beach party from 5 to 10 p.m. at BSR and is a “family-friendly event will allow you to kick back and relax with food, music, and the best wave pool on the planet,” the press release said.

All finals will take place on Sunday beginning at 8 a.m. with the Jr. Women’s Wakesurf Finals and ending with the Pro Women and Men Wakesurf Finals at 2 and 2:30 p.m., respectively to end the weekend.