Who says lightning doesn’t strike twice in the same place?
This weekend, the World Wake Surfing Championship returns to Pineview Reservoir for a second consecutive year, marking the first time in the event’s 24-year history that it’s been held in the same place twice.
Clearly, somebody had a good time last year.
The 2019 World Wake Surfing Championship will take place Thursday through Saturday, Sept. 5-7, at the reservoir’s Cemetery Point Beach, located as far west as you can go on 1st Street in Huntsville. The event features three days of competition, as well as a beach festival with vendor booths, food, drink, and sport demonstrations — including boat demos. Admission is free, but the U.S. Forest Service charges a day-use fee at the beach.
Wake surfing is a fast-growing addition in action water sports. Boats take on ballast or use special plates to displace more water, which creates a larger wake. These boats then slowly work their way through the water as the wake surfer rides a surf-style or skim board on the wave produced.
Tony Duffy, an Ogden Valley resident who is project manager for this year’s World Wake Surfing Championship, said the sport isn’t nearly as hard on the body as the more high-speed water sports like wakeboarding and water skiing.
Indeed, Duffy calls wakeboarding a “hurt sport.” He’s torn major ligaments in his knee, broken ankles, and suffered various other injuries in his wakeboarding career.
But wake surfing is more like the golf of retirement water sports.
“Wake surfing allows for a lot of cool, intense tricking, but you’re going 11.2 to 11.8 miles per hour, and when you fall it’s whimsical and you can walk the next day,” Duffy explained. “I’m 50, and I’m an aging action sports athlete, but this is my retirement. I went from wakeboarding to wake surfing, and with this I can still progress at 50. I have no intention of stopping this sport, ever.”
Duffy said this makes wake surfing suitable for the entire family.
“You literally have kids in single digits being able to compete,” he said. “It shows mom and dad, kids and grandparents, that this is a sport the whole family can enjoy.”
This year’s World Wake Surfing Championship will feature 140 of the sport’s top professional athletes from all over the world, vying for $50,000 in prize money. Overall, it will include more than a dozen divisions, ranging from youth to masters.
Duffy said spectators will see some incredible wake surfing tricks this weekend.
“It’s gotten to the point where we’re seeing things that I didn’t know was possible on a wave created behind a boat,” he said.
Why was Pineview Reservoir chosen twice in a row for the World Wake Surfing Championship? Duffy says it’s an ideal venue for the competition — a nice beachhead, plenty of physical improvements, and a great place to view the competition up close and personal.
“Because it’s a slot canyon there, they can run the competition close to the shore,” he said. “For the sport, it becomes very intimate to the spectators on the beach.”
And Duffy says organizers have tried to make the whole weekend “very audience-friendly.”
““It’s a long day — 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day — pulling riders,” he said. “But we have food and music on the beach, a live stream broadcast, lots of vendors and other things to do. I’m preaching an end-of-summer day at the beach.”
Other activities will include Social Axe Throwing, Frisbee, Nerf and water-gun wars, a slip-and-slide and other beach games. Free bicycle tuneups will also be offered.
Duffy estimates last year’s event drew 3,000 spectators on Saturday. He said wake surfing is a niche sport, but that there’s also a “ravenous culture” for it here in the state.
“Utah is a hotbed for it,” he said. “Even though it’s a short season, they’re focused about it here.”
This year’s event is sponsored by Centurion boats and GM Marine, sanctioned by the Championship Wake Surfing Association.
“It’s a three-day beach bash to take summer out with a bang,” Duffy said. “And it’s right here in your backyard, with lots to do and lots of free stuff — and some amazing athletes to watch compete.
“Besides, a day at Cemetery Point swim beach sells itself.”
For more information, visit wakesurfchampionships.com.