Oops, they did it again! Malibu Boats and Axis Wake Research invited industry gurus, pro wakesurfers, surfers, wakeskaters, wakeboarders and even a couple of contest winners out to a private location where everybody was encouraged to put a few boats equipped with Surf Gate through their paces. The idea, dubbed Surf Gate Firsthand, was for participants to "get behind the boat, share ideas and network." This is the second year for Surf Gate Firsthand (click here to read about last year's event) and it was twice as good as last year. The beautiful weather was a big part of that.
This year, Surf Gate Firsthand centered around Pismo Beach, California and nearby Lake Lopez. Armed with a Malibu Wakesetter 23 LSV, Axis T22 and Axis A24, 26 participants were broken into four teams and challenged to see what they could do behind these Surf Gate equipped vessels with two days on the water.
The teams were assembled as follows...
|Team Go Boating
Day one was all about getting to know the boats. Every rider got a session behind at least two of the boats. Playing with Surf Gate was the main attraction as everyone tried to figure out the most creative way to transition from one side of the wake to the other. Although many were fans of the Axis T22 wave, I was partial to the Malibu Wakesetter 23 LSV. However, I might be slightly biased since that's the Official Boat of WakeWorld!
At last year's Surf Gate Firsthand, there was a brainstorming session in which we made suggestions for improving wakesurfing behind Malibu and Axis boats. One of those suggestions was to add lights to the audible beeps that warn the user when Surf Gate is switching from one side to the other. So now when the Surf Gate button is pushed, the rider hears a horn beep AND sees the tower lights flash with two short and one long beeps/flashes to let them know exactly when to initiate their transfer. Not only was it great to see our ideas put into practice, but I even got a check recognizing our group's effort in coming up with the idea!
The first day finished up on the sands of Pismo Beach at the volleyball courts. Although the four teams would compete on the water the next day, this evening was all about volleyball superiority. The four teams went head to head and, needless to say, the Silent Assassins dominated the dojo and came away with the championship.
Although I didn't think it possible, the weather for day two was even better than the first day. California's April heat wave came just in time for our days on Lake Lopez and the completely still air had us starting the day on a sheet of glass. Day two's morning and afternoon practice sessions were used to determine which riders would represent each team in the Surf Gate Firsthand finals.
Team 1 (they didn't even pick a team name) had some top-notch talent on board with two pro wakeboarders, a pro wakeskater, a pro surfer and one of the world's top wakesurf shapers. They also got the best water of the day taking advantage of the morning glass offered by Lake Lopez. Brian Grubb and surfer Pat Millin were definitely the stars on this team, but Pat Millin was the one chosen to represent them in the finals.
Team Go Boating's trademark was taking way more time for each session than they were allotted, thus pushing the teams behind them into breezier afternoon conditions (yeah, I'm still bitter). They also added a few props to their session when they stole a large towable killer whale from the marina. Team Go Boating were definitely the bad boys of Surf Gate Firsthand. At least they took advantage of all their extra time to entertain us with some double surfing and triple surfing attempts. Johnny Stieg was selected to represent Team Go Boating in the finals.
The Minions got some rivalry kicking with a trip to Wal-Mart to pick up team "jerseys" the night before the competition. Tight yellow tees from the movie Despicable Me were just what was needed for this team to bond. The Minions featured Mike and Jenny King who won a Malibu contest to win their trip to Surf Gate Firsthand. Chris Bank proved to be the top rider in this group, which resulted in him being sent to the finals.
The Silent Assassins were easily the best team at Surf Gate Firsthand (if I do say so myself). Who knew Cobe Mikacich had been secretly working on his wakesurf moves out at Freedom Wake Park? Josh Sleigh, who is always on his game, brought his surf style and even did a session on a skim-style board to prove that he's well-rounded. However, Trevor Fearson, the youngest participant at 15-years-old, was the surprise rider that proved he should be sent to the finals.
The finals went off as the sun set and the boats drove in and out of the shadows of the hills surrounding Lake Lopez. We would have to wait until the awards ceremony after dinner to find out the winner of the finals and several other Surf Gate Firsthand categories. And the winners are...
• Best Team - Team Go Boating
• Best Transfer - Chris Bank
• Best Trick - Brian Grubb
• Best Slam - Chad Borba (two years in a row)
• Most Improved - Pat Millin
• MVP - Corey Marotta
Surf Gate Firsthand Part Deux was an absolute blast and I'm honored and thankful that Malibu invited WakeWorld. Not only is it great to be able to provide feedback on Malibu and Axis boats, but for Malibu to put together such a classy event and take care of everybody so well, it really speaks to how much they value and appreciate the input we're able to provide. Hopefully, you'll enjoy watching the video and looking through the photos as much as we enjoyed taking them!