PRO MEN RECAP: It was a great way to kick off the 2016 season in the heart of Melbourne, Australia on the Yarra River with absolutely perfect weather all weekend long. Two new rookie riders made their professional debut, Joel Bartley, and the incredible Nic Rapa who won almost every event he entered on the Junior Pro series last year. Nic got himself to semi-finals and suddenly found himself in one of the most difficult semi-finals heats you could ever think of. Knowing the situation he was in, Nic went out attempting to throw down the most difficult run he was capable of but unfortunately couldn't stand up his run and finished tied for ninth.
The finals featured "The Big Three" - three riders you will see in finals together A LOT this year (Harley Clifford, Cory Teunissen, and Mike Dowdy). We also saw Shota Tezuka, who took 2nd at this event last year but had two unfortunate falls in finals, finishing 6th. Parker Siegle had a great run in only his second finals appearance of his career and we're sure he was happy finishing 5th, tying his career-best finish. Dean Smith also threw down, going massive on almost every trick as he always does and just missed out on the podium with a 4th place finish.
The Big Three all threw down, Mike Dowdy landed a solid Double Back-Roll, and Cory landed a 1080, only the second one in history, but ultimately it was Harley Clifford who came out on top throwing down a nearly flawless run. Congratulations to him and the rest of the riders in this event. The next event will be the first stop of Wakeboard World Series at Wake Open in Orlando, FL April 21-24 where all of these riders will be back together in an even larger wakeboard event.
PRO WOMEN RECAP: The Women's Qualifying rounds were not scheduled to start until 7:30pm just as the sun was setting which means all women had to ride in the dark, which can be a very difficult thing to do as your landings become harder to spot and riders can sometimes be distracted by the lights reflecting off the water. It was obvious that the dark conditions influenced the riders, as there were more falls than usual and many girls struggling to land tricks cleanly.
Meagan Ethell dominated the first heat with a stand-up pass showing that's she'll be the rider to beat at this competition. Larisa Morales struggled in the qualifying round but put down a solid run in the LCQ round to make it through onto Semi-Finals.
The big story here is 12-year-old Zahra Kell competing in her very first pro competition and it couldn't have gone any better as she won her very first heat and in the dark no less. It's unknown if she's the youngest female to ever compete at the pro level, but we know for sure she's the youngest female to ever win a heat at the professional level. We're excited to watch this super grom compete the rest of the seaon!
The big surprise of the night was Amber Wing, failing to make it through to semi-finals. This was Amber's first competition back after having her first child and taking the entire 2015 season off. She's a legend in the sport, having won multiple titles and landing multiple tricks no other female has ever landed. It seems as if the nerves got to her this night, as she fell twice in her first pass and then fell again in her LCQ run. We have no doubt, however, that Amber will bounce back at the next event and return to her dominant ways.
Zahra had unbelievable debut performance, making it all the way to finals and ending up with a solid 4th place finish. We're definitely going to see more of this female prodigy throughout the year. Erika Lang, who has had countless podiums in trick-skiing, had a solid run in finals earning herself her first podium of her career in the pro wakeboard division. Raimi Merritt finished 3rd and Meagan Ethell won her 4th consecutive boat event, dating back to last year. We're excited to see all these women back in action in Orlando for Wake Open!