Welcome to the second installment of Wake Crew, a series that focuses on the bond and kinship that is created on the water when a solid group of riders consistently joins forces to offer support and encouragement while also managing the small details of boating life such as driving flagging, gas bills, towing and cleanup.
In the first Wake Crew: Nor Cal, I visited a group of riders from the Sacramento area that had their own private lake that they'd turned into a dream playground for wakeboarders.
More recently, I headed an hour south of Sacramento to the Delta to document a crew of riders that actually met on WakeWorld more than twelve years ago and have been roaming the waters of the Dirty D (aka the Delta) ever since. They have a passion for wakeboarding and good old-fashioned fun and the two activities join forces when they host the annual CIE Spring Ride event, which is a wake festival-life venue that has been bringing riders together for the last decade. The CIE crew consists of Evan Brown, Jarrod Ehlers, Allen Bischoffberger and Billy Tonis.
On top of being wakeboarders and event hosts, the CIE guys are also normal, down-to-earth guys with real jobs and families, so we squeezed in a weekend shoot with a short turnaround time. Jarrod and I handled the logistics and told the rest of the guys where to meet us to shoot.
We launched out of Orwood Resort, which is directly on the Delta near Discovery Bay. We had a meeting time of 7:00 AM and all the guys were right on time -- except for Allen. He had the bright idea to stay up all night and head over to the resort by 7:00 AM. His schedule didn't go as planned, but the fact that he was only 30 minutes late wasn't too bad after an all-nighter!
We loaded up the Malibu MXZ 22, which was fully equipped with ChuckTronics audio and a fantastic wake. As usual, with an early morning set, there was still a little chill in the air, so we had to rock-paper-scissor to decide who would jump in first. Evan took advantage of the buttery morning Delta water by taking the first set. His style is relaxed, and he has a handful of smooth tricks with grabs and all.
Allen may have been on a mission to get rid of his hangover with a healthy dose of wakeboarding because he was ready to jump in next. The best word to explain his riding is explosive! He charges through the wake and goes huge, throwing big tricks into the flats. He threw down a huge S-bend that made my jaw drop and knees hurt. Hungover and still ripping was quite an impressive show!
Speaking of impressive, Jarrod threw down some sick riding, flowing from trick to trick. He focuses on making every trick look good, whether it is a grabbed wake-to-wake jump, spin or invert.
You know what they say about saving the best for last? Billy Tonis is one of the best, for sure, as his riding and his overall vibe in general is pretty inspiring, to say the least. He throws down, goes big and does it all while riding with only one arm. He's fascinating to watch and definitely reaches the top of my all-time favorite riders.
The vibe in the boat provided constant entertainment. These four guys can have you laughing till it hurts! As we wrapped up the first sessions we met up with some of their friends at a little island on the Delta known as Ski Beach. Fortunately, it was pretty mellow and not as crazy as it normally can get. We hung out for a bit and chatted with some people before heading back out on the water for another set, but this time we had two more boats joining us. I admire the way these guys have created a community amongst other riders who frequent the Delta.
As we were idling back out to take one last set, I took a moment take in all the surroundings of where this crew gets to ride. It's surreal to be on the Delta with hundreds of miles of waterways going in different directions, endless access to flat water and some relaxing places to take a break and grab some eats that are right on the water, such as Union Point, Orwood and various little marinas. The Delta offers the water of wakeboarders’ dreams and these guys, this crew of CIE riders, who have complimented, encouraged and pushed each other through the years, are able to make that dream a reality every single time they set foot in their boat.