Wakeskating stars put on a show in Port Edward

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Quintin van Jaarsveld

This past weekend saw eight of the country’s best wakeskaters gather in Port Edward to compete for the crown of Backyard Sessions champion and promote the participation of South Coast youngsters in the sport.

The third annual event, hosted by Umtamvuna River Lodge in association with Red Bull, saw children of all ages getting on the water, whether it be accompanied by one of the riders on a board or by themselves.

Aside from wakeboarding and wakeskating, the kids were also given the opportunity to learn how to skateboard on the half pipe or just have a good day on the water slide and jumping castle area.

Backyard Sessions 16 03The event featured a junior and senior kids final, as well as the much-anticipated pro final.

Eight-year-old Ashton Dry went up against 11-year-old Dane in the junior final. Both riders showed incredible control and composure in their finals along with some amazing progression throughout the day, with Ashton just sneaking in with the win.

The senior final saw best friends Hano Scholtz (14) and Kierra Booker (14) going up against each other. Both these youngsters were on a wakeskate for the first time and riding at an extremely good level. The final did not fall short of excitement, with Hano taking the win with the last trick of his last run.

Then it came down to the main event. After all eight riders went through a qualifying process from Friday to Saturday morning, four riders – Darren Turner, 16-year-old Sean Bacon, Kaylib Louw and defending champion Matti Buys – advanced to the super final.

Buys pulled out what he exclaimed as the best run of his career, earning him a score of nine and seeing him retain the title.

Bacon came out blazing with two runs scoring him in the high sixes and followed this up with a 7.25 to secure him his first second place finish in the event.

The third place battle was one of the more exciting duels of the day with Turner and Louw battling it out for the bronze medal right into their last runs. Teen ace Turner finished the stronger of the two and snatched the lead at the death.

Backyard Sessions 16 04“The event was a great success for the organisers and competitors alike. Having the youth there and learning the way they did was the ultimate goal and everyone feels like they achieved that,” organiser Kevin Dry told eHowzit.

Port Edward-based Dry is one of South Africa’s most decorated wakeboarders. The former Red Bull athlete competed on the US Pro Tour from 1998 until 2001 and on the European Pro Tour from 2000 until 2003.

His most significant win on the international scene materialised in Ireland, where he beat the legendary Parks Bonifay in the 1999 Red Bull Air and Water, while he was the runner-up in the WWF Open Men’s Cable Wakeboard World Championships that same year.

It’s his passion for wakeboarding and developing the sport that prompted Dry, who retired in 2004, to launch the Backyard Sessions event in 2014.

“Being in the wakeboarding scene for over 20 years, my house is constantly full of professional athletes from around the globe.

“Having young kids myself, I really wanted their friends to have the same opportunity my boys have, constantly being exposed to a board-rider’s way of life, and Backyard Sessions has become a starting point for kids and families to get involved.

Backyard Sessions has grown in stature each year and Dry believes it’s going to continue getting bigger and better.

“I’m pleased at the way the event has grown over the past few years but I think we still have a lot of room to grow and make it even better. I will say, however, that the progression of the kids has been unbelievable.

“Seeing them go from strength to strength every year to where we had all the kids either standing up on a board alone or with a pro is great. We have a lot of talent on the South Coast and it’s great to see them taking part.”
Backyard Sessions 16 01 Dry said the South Coast boasts a plethora of top riders and hopes more locals take up the sport.

“Countrywide both wakeboarding and wakeskating are very big as a recreational activity but competitively we are still trying to get those numbers up.

“Fortunately enough, we on the South Coast are blessed to have some of the best riders in the country residing here and training at both the lodge and Boarder Post, so anyone who wishes to get involved and take advantage of this situation is more than welcome to come and see us and we will show them the ropes.”

Stepping up his developmental efforts, Dry has established a wakeboard and wakeskate club for kids powered by the Boarder Post and Umtamvuna River Lodge, with the first event set to be held this weekend.

“The club will allow kids to spend time on the water, for families to spend a morning/afternoon at the lodge and hopefully up the level of competition at next year’s Backyard Sessions event,” said Dry.

For more information on the club, phone 039 305 3024 or 039 311 3583.

Photos by Tim Woodley (action) and Clint Cunha.

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