Some of the world’s top wakeboarders and wake surfers came together for a star-studded weekend at the Sparks Marina to show off their amazing talents on the water.
As the first stop of the 3-event Malibu Evolution Pro Series series, WWA President/CEO Shannon Starling was more than happy to launch the world-class series in Sparks.
“We were looking to do something on the West Coast and Malibu wanted to put on a pro event,’’ Starling said. “Instead of the WWA and Malibu doing two separate events, we decided to come together for one. The [Sparks] Marina ran a study asking guests what kind of events people wanted to see here and wakeboarding came within the top five.”
Starling said the Marina proved to be a good site for the event because it has a curved stadium effect and is easily accessible.
“As the brainchild of Malibu and the WWA, the Evolution Pro Series was created to elevate the level of the sport,” Starling said. “We want to put on a good show and do this for the athletes. It’s all about taking wake boarding’s top 15 men and women and putting them on a pedestal.”
The series, which is set to be aired mid-October, by NBC Sports, also showcases the lifestyle of a region
“For this episode, we went tubing down the Truckee River and did some gambling,” Starling says. “Malibu tries to promote that boating is a lifestyle. It’s about getting kids away from the TV and their smartphones. We work to put people on the water.’’
As crowds got bigger throughout the day on Sunday, a patriotic-adorned crowd watched big names in wakeboarding like Chad Sharpe, JD Webb, Dean Smith, Amber Wing and Melissa Marquardt launch off of the massive wake provided by Malibu’s new M235 towboat. The day started off with pro surf and skim finals before getting into the meat of the competition- the pro men and women wake boarding semifinals and finals.
Pro wakeboarders were throwing crow mobes, frontsides to blinds, 720’s, 900’s, heelside double backrolls and more to score points.
Each competitor got two passes that ended with a double-up. At the end of the event, Nicola Butler won the pro women’s wakeboarding division with Tarah Mikacich in second and Amber Wing in third.
Nicola Butler, the winner of the pro women’s division, said that it was probably her handle pass KGB that edged her out ahead of her competitors. “I landed it so clean and big,” Butler said. “We haven’t been back here for a few years and this place is a lot of fun. The water is deep and calm, so the wake’s good,” she said.
In the pro men’s wakeboarding event, Raphael Derome from Montreal, Canada, clinched the win followed by Mike Dowdy in second place and Tony Iaconni in third.
“I’m really happy; I didn’t have high expectations for this event,” Derome says about his win. “But the conditions were amazing and I’m thrilled about the finals and the way I represented Malibu.’’
Derome competed in an event at the Sparks Marina before, but he said that in the 2016 Sparks Pro he did much better. Derome says that he enjoys the Sparks Marina because it is a private site without any other boats on the water and whenever you get bored you can go to the casino.
“I think it was the double-up that won it. I had a stand up run and didn’t fall. I played it smarter and to my advantage,” he said.
The Sparks Pro was hosted by Malibu Boats and the World Wakeboard Association (WWA), along with Rockstar, Billabong and Full Belly Deli, Smoe’s Alaskan Fish Bar, and Wrapped Up food trucks.