Wake up call for 'boarders

GERRY MODDEJONGE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:33 AM ET

Bored? Time to wake up.

A handful of the top wakeboarders in Western Canada are competing in the West Edmonton Mall's World Water Park during the inaugural Wake Wave from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Sunday.

Billed as the world's largest indoor wakeboard festival, the competition will be surrounded by beer gardens, DJs and a beachfront market.

But all eyes will be on the wave pool, where riders will be towed into the surf alongside a 13-metre slider rail that will raise 1.5 metres out of the water.

"We've never done anything like this before," said co-organizer Trevor Bamsey, Coors Light Alberta's director of party operations, who is bringing in his team of sponsored riders who will go head-to-head for the ultimate prize - a mini fridge.

"We've got 2,200 tickets and I guarantee it will sell out."

The Coors Light Wake Team consists of Edmonton's Brad Buskas and Kyle Dupuis as well as Carter Moore and Fraser Snell of Red Deer, and Kelowna's Chris Canuel. They will be judged on trick execution, degree of difficulty and personal style.

"It's up for grabs. Anybody can win that mini fridge. They'd love a mini fridge," said Bamsey.

The early favourite is Buskas, who won silver in the inaugural wakeboarding competition at the Pan Am Games in Rio de Janiero, Brazil, in 2007.

Buskas, who began wakeboarding 10 years ago once he finished high school, has returned home after spending six years in the wakeboarding Mecca of Florida.

"Out of everyone here, I've probably wakeboarded the most out of them all combined," said Buskas, who has collected a fleet of 40 boards over the years.

Being able to wakeboard throughout all seasons in the sunny south, Buskas said he rode over 300 times in one year. That's three times more than he can squeeze into one Canadian summer. But still, he's back up north.

"Customs and Immigration had a little bit to do with it," said Buskas. "Once something's put in front of you, it's the old saying, 'Too much of a good thing.' "

Although he's in it to win it, if Sunday's Wake Wave was a popularity contest, Buskas would gladly step aside to let the sport take the podium - especially in front of the next generation of wakeboarders.

"We need to get the little groms out there," he said.

"We're running out. They're our future. I can only ride so long before I'm in a wheelchair."

The balmy confines of the waterpark bring the crowd up close to the action, which typically takes place way out in the middle of a lake.

"I think this is going to revolutionize the wakeboard scene," said Bamsey.

They have brought in a winch especially for Wake Wave that can pull a rider at a top speed of 50 kmh from a standing start in just three seconds.

"This is the new direction of wakeboarding in North America."

Now, instead of having to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a wakeboard boat, the winch brings the wake to the boarder.

"Just last weekend, the crew tried it out in a slough of shallow water.

"Ocean, river, anywhere there's water," said Bamsey, pointing out the World Water Park is well suited for wakeboarding.

"In Alberta, you rarely get to wakeboard in warm water."

And the facility is well equipped to provide a challenge to the contestants.

"There's lots of turbines back there," said mall events co-ordinator Lindsay Lloyd. "There's so much power back in there, they can't even turn it on full or this place would just be washed out.

"It's great, it's local and with us being the Festival City, being able to add an Edmonton-based wakeboarding festival, it's a great opportunity."

Tickets are available at any West Edmonton Mall guest services location for $10 in advance or $20 at the door.


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