THE ROAD TO NATIONALS
Thanks to Dispensa-Matic Label Dispensers, Kirby was able to travel to Acworth, Georgia in July to compete in the WWA National Championships. Dispensa-Matic Label Dispensers is the premier sponsor of Kirby’s travel for the 2016 season. Wakeboard contests are becoming increasingly international. Without Dispensa-Matic’s support, Kirby could not feasibly attend most of the WWA contests. They are a huge blessing and we are so grateful for them.
This was Kirby’s first competition of the summer, an event we were excitedly awaiting. When the day arrived, we rented a car, packed a cooler full of snacks, stuffed in the wakeboarding bag and hit the road for Georgia.
WELCOME TO ACWORTH
Fast-forward ten hours through city traffic, skyscrapers, windy roads, and gas stations…we had arrived. Upon our arrival to the quaint town of Acworth, we immediately cruised over to the contest site. We slipped in the park with just enough time to look around before they closed. Walking around the sandy beach, we surveyed the course and navigated through boxed up vendor booths, viewing stands, and closed down food trucks. The empty site void of people would soon be buzzing with activity the next day. Kirby and I made our way to the starting dock just at sunset. We sat on the gently rocking dock to pray over the contest and all of the athletes.
Traveling to these events is a huge blessing. We feel called to be light and love to our friends and fellow competitors. It also gives us opportunity to connect with friends we only see a few times a year at contests. We also get to meet up-and-coming riders and their families. Nothing compares with getting to interact with others that share our passion for wakeboarding and advancing the sport.
Coming from the biased perspective of wife, I cannot express my appreciation enough for professional athletes and the lives they balance. They are constantly on the road, giving lessons (in Kirby’s case), many manage sponsorship events, training, and also balancing family life. For them to put on their game face and perform under such a high-pressure situation is truly amazing. There is no other sport I can think of where you travel so far, train so much, have all the focus on you, have many variables to manage (new boat wake, speed, type of boat, weather/water conditions, etc.) and have mere minutes to perform. Two falls or not enough points to advance can end your weekend within minutes.
Instead of telling you about how the trip went, I decided to do a short interview with Kirby so that you can hear about the trip from him personally. Check it out!
HEAR IT FROM KIRBY
Firstly, how do you best pass the time on a road trip? I like to listen to the wide variety of music I have on shuffle. I love when certain songs pop up that are nostalgic of past road trips with my family.
We saw the lake tour on your snap chat, what’s that about? Ha! Yes, these were lakes I’ve seen on the road for so many years traveling to Atlanta or Orlando. I always look out the window and see all these cool places to ride. I’m looking forward to a time in my life where I can just drop a boat in water and jump out for a run. I wanted to share that with my followers in case they ever get the chance to. Follow me on SnapChat: ksofwake
What are your essentials to pack for a contest? Um, my equipment, wakeboard, boots and extra boots (in case you have a blow out), rope and handle, vest, bubba keg (I have to have that ice cold keeping me water hydrated), cable board, foam roller, and protein.
Have you been to Acworth before? This was actually where I attended my first professional wakeboard contest in 2006. I remember it being so exciting and overwhelming watching the other pros go. I actually still get the same jitters. It’s neat to come back to this site. A lot has changed over the years. From first going as a high school kid to returning now being married and having a completely new set of priorities and expectations from my sport and my ride. I’m not going seeking sponsorships. I’m going to be a light to the industry, ride good, and represent my sponsors well.
What does the contest site look like? The contest is held on Lake Altoona. It’s a calm lake. A huge flotilla of boats line the course to watch the contest each year. It’s cool because spectators get the fun of being on their boats with their friends and just so happen to be watching the best wakeboarders in the world. A $40,000 purse was up for grabs, so the top guys were definitely giving it all they had.
What’s something people HAVE to do when they go to Acworth? They have to go to Henry’s Louisiana Grille! The restaurant is downtown and constantly packed full of people. We were able to stop by and grab dinner with my good friends KP Gagnon and Mark Heger from WakeWell, and the WakeWell chapter leader for Terminus Wake Park. It was a fun dinner and even a fun wait for our table running into all of our friends who were just getting into town for the event. A lot of excitement for the contest was stirring – it’s full of memories for many professional riders.
Tell us a little bit about your run. I came out of the gate with a perfect moby dick with a lot of height and a good grab. On my second trick, I messed up my approach and did a toeside indy batwing instead of a toeside indy batwing to blind. Right away I was mentally dealing with the fact that I had missed my opportunity to have the perfect run I was training so diligently to achieve. On my third trick I did a stalefish backroll to blind and that didn’t go quite right. I popped around to come in for my toeside 720 for my last trick. I’ve been really working on this trick to correct my axis to spin more efficiently. Because of that, the pressure of a contest setting caused me to do a blend of my old way and new way causing me to fall.
On my second pass I got up and did a stalefish backside 3 to the flats (that was really good). I’m extremely consistent on my second trick, a pete rose. Unfortunately, I got grabbed on the wake and wasn’t able to do the full rotation. All I did was a single flip without the 360. I was really bummed because that never happens, but I was able to come back in and do a backside 540 which went really smooth. Coming in for my last trick I went for my toeside 720 and really messed that up.
Coming back into the dock on the Jet Ski after all of those highs and lows, I realized that I messed up every toeside trick. It was just a weird deal. I’m not really sure why it went that way. I had to get my emotions back under control once back on the starting dock. I’d put so much energy into preparing that run for this contest. It was devastating to not perform my run to the smallest degree of what I felt like I was capable of.
To regroup and refocus, my plan is to head home and try to recreate the pressure of a contest. I plan to do my run right out of the gate each time I go out to train and then judge my run. My hope is that I will be able to see my scores improve throughout the month before the World Championships.
What was Terminus Wake Park like? It’s action packed with a lot of obstacles. It’s a small lake with six towers, so every couple hundred feet or so you’re going around a turn or hitting an new obstacle. It’s very energetic. I jumped out and put some laps in with my buddy KP, and Jesse Foushee [Kirby’s School of Wake team rider], and an old student from Georgia, Dalton Purcell. It was fun. I like that fact that if the contest doesn’t go well that there is a park in the area to enjoy with friends.
Was Jesse the only team rider to attend the event? How did he do? Yea, he was our only team rider to attend the event. He did well; he rode in the quarterfinals of the Jr. Pro division. He has a couple tricks he’s just now learning and trying to work into his run. Fresh tricks under pressure are tough though. Contests tend to bring out the imperfections in your ride. He is working hard to get those tricks 100%. I’m excited to see him accomplish that and have success in that division. Hopefully he will move up to the pro division within the next year or two.
Are WWA events only for professionals? How can people get involved? The WWA events stem from a regional circuit. Therefore, riders qualify to attend the WWA events from all over the country. They have divisions from jr. boys and girls to teenage divisions, young adults, and veterans where people can come test their skills against other riders in the sport. The WWA does a great job of organizing fun events for the riders at contests. At this contest we had dinner and our awards ceremony at Andretti Indoor Karting & Games. They let us play unlimited arcade games and race the electric karts all night. Find the nearest WWA contest to you and come out to show your support.
What does ministry look like in this contest scene? Outsiders often find themselves shut off to the wakeboard community. Wakeboarders tend to travel in flocks. They have their group of friends they are comfortable with, ride with, and party with and tend to be hard to connect with past a surficial level. With persistence and being faithful to where the spirit was leading us though, we were able to just wait for God to lead us into conversations. That opened up the door for opportunities to give our friends in the wakeboarding industry the Wake by Faith Devotional, which is a booklet that we wrote last winter. This is our way of planting seed and sending off our friends with all of the tools they need to see success.
If we can encourage people in their walk whether they are new believers, on the verge of being a believer, or have never even considered it than it’s a successful weekend. With being faithful to where the spirit leads, we can hopefully impact lives and be a part of helping to water those seeds. As a result, it creates an inroad to be able to speak into their lives if they open up the door to that.
What’s the next contest on your schedule and how will you be preparing for that? The World Championships in Toronto Canada is my next contest. It’s scheduled for August 25-28. My performance at Nationals didn’t reflect the hours I dedicated to training. However, a new direction for my mental preparation for the World Championships is exciting. I’m learning to surrender the results to God, no matter the outcome.
“Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” – Matthew 11:29-30