by Nicole Brodzik
After a successful 2016 outing, the 2017 Minnesota Wakesurf Championship is amping up fan favorites from last year and adding new events to attract even more people to the lake.
Last year, the competition introduced a new adaptive division meant to showcase the talents of wake surfers with physical disabilities. It was sponsored by an organization called Wiggle Your Toes that aims to help individuals who have lost limbs to thrive. Minnesota native Mark Mann is the director of sports and activities for the organization.
Three years ago, he was in an accident that cost him the lower portion of both legs. He’s since recovered and is back on the water as an avid wake surfer and spends his winters a member of the United States Paralympic Snowboard Team.
Mann reached out to Minnesota Wakesurf Championship Organizer Andy Weigman to see if he would be willing to have an adaptive division in the yearly competition on Lake Minnetonka. Weigman was immediately on board.
“We really don’t want the amputees to feel defeated,” Weigman said. “We really want them to feel like their lives are not over.”
Last year, they held a demo day that allowed amputees to come out, try on waterproof prosthetics and get out on the water for the day. On the day of the full competition, there was also an adaptive division that showed off just how impressive these athletes were, even with missing limbs.
Mann said the demo day was especially powerful because of the people they were able to introduce to the sport after serious injuries.
“A lot of them hadn’t heard of it and never tried it before,” he said. “Out of the 15 participants, 14 of them got up on the board. It was the highlight of my summer.”
This year, those events are making a comeback and Weigman said he thinks they’ll draw even bigger crowds now that people have seen how impressive these athletes are. The demo day is set for Thursday, July 20 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and the adaptive wakesurf division of the competition will take place on Saturday, July 22 during it’s 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. schedule.
This year, the group is aiming to help out more genres of wakesurf newcomers. They’re adding in a full day for serving United States veterans to give back to those who gave so much for their country.
“We’re working with a group called Wake for Warriors to make this happen,” Weigman said. “They use water sports as a way to heal the emotional wounds of veterans. It’s a day about our vets, but we want everyone to come out and hang with us.”
Wake for Warriors Veteran Surf Day will start at 9 a.m. on Friday, July 21st at MarineMax Excelsior and run until around 2 p.m.
For more information and a full schedule of events, visit the Minnesota Wakesurf Championship website at www.mnwsc.com.