Collegiate wakeboarding erupted back in the early 2000’s in the southeast region with the University of Florida winning the very first title. Back in the early stages of collegiate wakeboarding they were just considered titles, not nationals because they were invitational events mostly taking place in Florida. After a few years of this, word of the collegiate wakeboard scene spread across the entire country like wild fire. Schools from Carolina to Washington to Wisconsin to Texas started getting in on the action of this amazing sport.
The first true nationals were held at Lake Havasu, Arizona in the spring of 2005 where Western Washington claimed the first national title led by Mike and Nick Ennen. The Collegiate scene has brought up many other big name riders through the years such as Josh Palma from Rollins College, Bryan Hutton from Southern Florida, Scott Hopkins from University of Florida and Jimmy Wolf from Arizona State, just to name a few. Every year collegiate wakeboarding is growing bigger and bigger with fewer teams folding because of bad management. There are now two different leagues, Empire Wake (Collegiate Wake Series) and USA Wakeboard (Alt Games), which are helping the sport grow to the next level.
This past year I have noticed how many amazing riders there are in collegiate wakeboarding, with few of them getting the recognition that they deserve. I decided to create a list of this year's top 10 collegiate wakeboarders to give credit to their great riding and help them receive acknowledgment from the wakeboard community. In creating this, I have talked to team presidents from all around the country to compile a list of shredders that are deserving. After a long time of contemplating, I have finally compiled the top 10 collegiate wakeboarders of the 2012-2013 school year.
#10 - Joel Wagner
Joel is a senior this year at Virginia Tech University and has been shredding the wake for 12 years at Smith Mountain Lake in his hometown of Moneta, Virginia. He is sponsored by Liquid Force and Wake Zone Watersports and rides the Watson Hybrid with Watson Boots.
Joel has been a big name in the collegiate wake scene for the past few years and has always been a contender at Nationals. With his whirly, switch whirly, Moby Dick and switch tantrum to revert, to name a few, he is a tough contender in any competition. Any trick that Joel can do regular he likes to try to take it switch, which is a tough challenge for most people, but he has been pretty successful at it so far. This year Joel is trying to get back 5’s and toe 7’s down to add some tech spins to his bag of tricks. Joel was not able to attend any of the collegiate competitions this year, but you can plan on seeing him as a tough contender this year at the Alt Games Nationals in Shreveport, Louisiana.
#9 - Justin Payton
Justin Payton is a junior at Chico State University. He is out of Discovery Bay, California and has been a big name in Nor Cal wakeboarding for the past few years. Living in Discovery Bay means he gets to shred the California Delta, which is without a doubt one of the best wakeboarding spots in the nation. Justin is sponsored by CWB and Jetpilot, and rides the CWB Marius with Faction bindings.
Justin has great style and a lot of great tech in his riding. He can do many different mobe variations from dum-dum's to KGB's and can land them all consistently. Justin is an amazing competitive rider. He can stick the big tricks when it counts. He killed it at the USA Wakeboard Western Regionals this last fall, landing five different mobes in his finals run! Justin also led Chico State to a National title last spring at the Collegiate Wake Series Nationals at Lake Las Vegas, having stand up runs through the whole competition. Plan on seeing Justin again in Vegas as he attempts to help Chico win back-to-back titles.
#8 - John Zdeblick
John is a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison majoring in Electrical Engineering with a 3.8 grade point average. He is from Middleton, Wisconsin and has been wakeboarding for nine years. John's sponsors include Ronix, Redline Watersports and Backside 5 clothing. His boat of preference is any MasterCraft X Series and he rides the Ronix One set up.
John has a huge bag of tricks and is arguably one of the best collegiate competition riders around. No matter how solid a competitor's run goes, he usually finds a way to top it. John loves throwing his nose grab back roll, Pete Rose and nose grab heelside backside 180. He also has a heelside and toeside 7 and a batwing to blind. When the ice thaws in Wisconsin, John wants to start working on Pete 5's, whirly 5's and heel back 7's.
John took first place at the Alt Games Nationals in Oklahoma City last spring in wakeboarding and wakeskating. He is the first collegiate ride to ever accomplish that, and then he did it again at the Midwest Regionals in the fall. John’s biggest wakeboarding achievement was taking first place at Worlds this past year in the Men 1 division. John is a very talented rider who is improving at a phenomenal pace. Expect to see him as a main contender at Alt Games this coming spring on the board and the skate.
#7 - Kevin Wipplinger
Kevin is a senior at Florida Gulf Coast University and has been wakeboarding for 14 years. He loves riding at Mill Pond, Markham and Revolution Cable Park in his home town of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Kevin is sponsored by Liquid Force and shreds the Super Trip, which he is super stoked on. His favorite wakeboarding memory is learning his first invert behind a 15-foot Boston Whaler.
Kevin has definitely come a long way since then with boat choice and tricks. He goes big on all of his tricks like his grabbed Pete Rose, stalefish to late blind and his heel 7 off the double-up. He also has great concentration on all of his grabs, being able to make them look exactly how he wants and poke them out in different variations of style. He is a very fun boarder to watch ride.
Unfortunately, Kevin tore his ACL and had surgery last February, so he was out of commission for a while. Nevertheless, he was back in time to ride in the USA Wakeboard Southeast Regional event this past December. Kevin also won the USA Wakeboard Nationals back in 2010 and hopes to claim the title again this year in Shreveport.
#6 - Thomas Olson
Thomas is a senior at Central Washington University and has been one of the leaders of the wakeboard team for four years now. He is from Gig Harbor, Washington and has been wakeboarding for 11 years. Tom's favorite place to ride is Lake Steilacoom, Washington behind the Nautique G23. He is sponsored by CWB, Proline, Imperial Motion Clothing and he shreds the CWB DB9 with the JT bindings.
Tom goes HUGE on all of his tricks and has super clean riding style. He has beautiful toe 9's, an ideal method crow mobe and his hoochie glides off the double-up are out of this world big. For being 6’2”, he sure does make all of his tricks look easy.
Thomas competed in the USA Wakeboard Western Regionals in the fall. He landed a good-looking big worm in the finals, but had some very unusual stumbles, giving him a 4th place finish. Tom also took second at Alt Games in Oklahoma City last year, which is very impressive considering all of the great talent that was there. One of his most notable wakeboarding achievements was winning the Bakes Northwest Invitational Double-Up contest a few years back with a toe 9. Tom, along with the rest of the Central Washington team, will be at Alt Games this year, with hopes of winning their first team title.
#5 - Chase Schuster
Chase is a senior at Texas State University majoring in Business management with a 3.89 grade point average. Chase is from Priddy, Texas and has been wakeboarding for eight years. He loves riding on his fiancé’s Super Air Nautique 230 on Caddo Lake, a hidden paradise, rocking the Watson Classic and Watson Boots.
Chase competed in two collegiate competitions this year. At Red Bull Boarder Wars he was in second going into finals, but he pulled his pectoral muscle, so he was not able to ride to his full potential in the finals. Chase also competed in the Empire Wake Dallas stop where he took first in the worst conditions ever. He was able to stick his KGB with ease in 25 mph winds and terrible white-capping water. Chase is definitely a hidden talent that most people do not know about. He has big tricks, such as a skeezer 540, heel 7, switch roll to blind, big tail cab glide and many more. He is even starting to work on the very challenging whirly dick, which very few people can do. Chase currently has no sponsors, which is insane, so companies get at this kid because he is getting real good real fast!
Chase also runs a wakeboard school in Texas called Wicked Wake Lessons, so check it out at wickedwakelessons.com. Hopefully, everyone will be able to see his talents at Collegiate Wake Series Nationals at Lake Las Vegas this spring!
#4 - Nick Vaccari
Nick is a sophomore at Louisiana State University from Covington, Louisiana and has been wakeboarding for nine years. His favorite place to ride is the Tchefuncta River behind the X-Star with the Harley set up. His sponsors include Liquid Force and Rukus Board Sports.
Nick rode in Wake Games this past year and took fourth place in Jr. Men. He also competed in four collegiate competitions this year including a second place finish at an LSU spring comp and three first place finishes at Red Bull Boarder Wars and two Louisiana Tour stops. Nick has some beautiful style with all of his tricks, grabbing everything! He has sick late grab heel back 5’s and heel off-axis melon 180’s. He is also currently working on a crow 5, whirly 5 and a switch back mobe!
Unfortunately, Nick recently suffered a shoulder injury, so he will be out for a little bit, but he should be back in time to ride in the Alt Games.
#3 - Ben Allbright
Ben is a junior at Southeastern Louisiana University and has been shredding the bayou for 10 years. He also loves riding on the Tchefunte River behind the Malibu MXZ in his hometown of Mandeville, Louisiana. At the age of 11 he landed his first back roll and has been sold on the sport ever since. His sponsors include Hyperlite and Rukus Board Sports and he has been switching off riding the Byerly AR1 and the Hyperlite Franchise with System bindings and AJ boots. Some of you may have heard his name before at a few Pro Tour stops.
Ben has awesome style with his methods and grabbed toe back 3's. He can take just about any trick to blind and land it like a normal wake-to-wake jump, like his whirly 5’s. Ben is currently working on getting his toe and heel 9's more consistent and has just started breaking into the rewind tricks. He competed in two collegiate wake contests this year, one at LSU and the USA Wakeboard Southern Regionals, taking first place in both of them. As you can see, Ben Allbright and Nick Vaccari have a lot in common and are really fun to watch compete against each other!
#2 - Nick Kamper
Nick is a senior at the University of Central Florida. He is from Fort Lauderdale, Florida and has been shredding the wake for eight years now. Nick rides for Hyperlite and Attain Clothing. This kid has style for days with some of the sickest glides around. His toeside 9's are super clean and he has a beautiful roll to late blind.
Nick also kills it on the cable, working at Orlando Water Complex and riding there all the time. He is definitely the best collegiate cable rider out there right now with his mobe 5 and S-mobe. Nick took first place in the Empire Wake cable competition at OWC this past December and also took first in a collegiate boat competition at Ski World. You can plan on seeing Nick at both Nationals this year helping Central Florida try to get more national titles under their belt.
#1 - Freddie Wayne
Freddie is just a freshman at the University of Florida and, arguably, the best rider to hit the collegiate wake scene so far. He is originally from Orlando, Florida and loves tearing up Lake Whippoorwill. Many of you may already know this skilled rider from the Junior Pro King of Wake Tour where he placed at multiple stops. He also killed it at Wake Games the past few years!
Freddie rocks the 137 Murray with System bindings and Webb boots and is sponsored by Hyperlite, Malibu Boats, Performance Ski and Surf, Body Glove, Shred Ready and Liquid Sports Marine. He attended three collegiate competitions this year and absolutely destroyed it. He took first overall in Empire Wake’s Atlanta and Orlando stops and also took first at USA Wakeboard’s Southeast Regionals. With Freddie’s big nose grab heel 9, toeside roll to blind, backside 7 and all of his great style and tech, he is hard for any rider to take down. He is currently working on an indy double tantrum, which is one of the most difficult tricks in the sport. You can definitely plan on seeing Freddie at the Empire Wake nationals in Vegas and at the Alt Games. This kid is definitely going places in the sport!
There you have it, the top 10 collegiate wakeboarders for the 2012-2013 school year. Due to some colorful song choices, I couldn’t put up some of the riders’ best edits, so I will leave it up to you to search for them on Vimeo and YouTube. Thanks for reading!