Country's best wakeboarders compete on Oklahoma River

Given the recent intestinal issues faced by athletes who competed in a May triathlon, it would be understandable if the WWA Wakeboard National Championships promoters might be having second thoughts about the Oklahoma River. But, competitors in the five-day wakeboard and wakeskate contest are undeterred and ready to plunge into the waters running along downtown Oklahoma City this weekend.

"It's not troubling the athletes," said Mike Weiss, World Wakeboarding Association event spokesman. "From what I understand, the problems came from prolonged exposure to the water, so it shouldn't be a problem. The athletes are in the water for a maximum of three minutes, so it won't be that bad."

After a successful world championship event last year in OKC, WWA organizers were eager to return to the Oklahoma River.

For the unfamiliar, wakeboarding is to water skiing what snowboarding is to snow skiing. Like snowboarding, a board is attached to the athletes' feet, which allows them to soar high into the air and spin quickly. Weiss said that crowds could anticipate riders soaring 15 to 20 feet into the air while performing tricks normally reserved on distant snowy peaks.

"There are close to 50 million wakeboarders worldwide, so it's a growing sport both with riders and spectators," he said. "Wakeboarding has developed its own identity with its tricks."

Like any other burgeoning action sport, there is always a hot, new move. Weiss said that a couple years ago, it was landing a 1080, which is three complete revolutions in the air after propelling off the wake created by the boat. The new horizon is the 1260, which is three-and-a-half revolutions. It was landed for the first time earlier this year.

"They are just constantly improving and increasing the limits of the sport," he said. "It is possible that someone might try the 1260, but going after the 1080s is hard enough, so it would be a rare instance if that happened."

In addition to the spinning tricks that make wakeboarding more like snowboarding, various apparatus in the water  will allow athletes to do tricks similar to those seen in skate park competitions. Weiss said there will be a "fun box," which a ramp rider will jump off of and try to land onto a separate rail. The "roof rail" is shaped like a rooftop, peaking in the middle.

Wakeskating will also be featured, reminding crowds of skateboarding since the athletes are not attached to the board. Because they can lift their feet off the board, they will be able to flip and spin it.

"Wakeskating is interesting to watch," Weiss said. "They aren't going quite as high or doing as wide a variety of tricks, but they are doing kick flips and other tricks you would see in skateboarding."

2009 WWA Wakeboard National Championships take place Wednesday-Sunday at the Oklahoma River. Admission is free Wednesday-Friday and $10 Saturday-Sunday.  "Charles Martin

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